The World of Tomorrow, Today

This day began as all days began, before dawn, with the sound of music.  It came of its own volition — it was not provided by a roommate or a relative with a phonograph to simulate the rooster’s crow; its source instead was a small box on the nightstand made of metals and organic compounds, which, by means of electricity alone, could keep track of the time of day and even the day of the week and would play music at an appointed hour in order that our protagonist might rouse himself in suitable time to meet his employment obligations.  Furthermore, within the box — not substantially larger than a pocket watch — resided thousands of songs (recorded not by cornet and trombone and tuba, but by strange, electrically-amplified imitations of guitars and pianos, providing complex syncopated rhythms and layers of distortion or clarity unachievable with conventional instruments), and yet only a select few, perhaps 500 or so, would be allowed to play for this important morning task.

Having so been roused, our protagonist lay for a moment in his bed; though mid-summer, the air in his housing unit was kept cold for him through a central Temperature Status Unit and would not be allowed to warm until after he had left for work, and his bed was warm and comfortable.  Suitably steeled against the prospect of the cold, he set to the daily routine of washing himself, so that he might be presentable to his employers and fellow employees.  Said routine included washing not only his face and hands, but his entire body, by means of a spray bath, with water running over the body and disappearing into a drain.  This means of self-cleaning might be employed not once, but two or three times during a day, and could be effected entirely within the confines of a person’s residence; indeed, despite living on the fourth floor (of a 10-story building!), our protagonist was able to summon water of a desired temperature simply by maneuvering a valve, whether in the bath or in either of the sinks in his housing unit.  If asked, perhaps he could have indicated whence the water came (“the river,” or “the rain,” perhaps), but he was never asked and in truth thought little of how it arrived or, after cleansing his body, where the drain sent it.

After drying himself and applying a deodorizing paste to his body, our protagonist set to dressing himself.  He selected from his closet a pair of pleated slacks and a button-up shirt.  His clothing was of sufficient quality that it would last through years of wearing and could be easily cleaned with modern processes, but he was not of sufficient means to have employed a tailor, which was seen as rather luxurious.  Instead, he had ordered these clothes through electrogram, having selected from a catalog of available fabric patterns (summoned and displayed in less than a second on his Personal Information Interface) and provided his personal measurements.  Clothing of a suitable size had then arrived 3 days later, though he had remarked about the seemingly interminable wait at the time — other electrogram services were offering same-day deliveries.

Once dressed, he grabbed a plastomer mug and, reaching into his electronic icebox (which operated similarly to his Temperature Status Unit, removing warm air from the interior and pumping it to the outside world), he opened a canister of milk, purchased some 10 days prior at a comestibles emporium and still fresh.  He poured some of the milk from the plastomer canister into the plastomer mug before adding his coffee, which had automatically brewed that morning, having been electronically scheduled to do so the night before, before returning the milk to the electronic icebox such that it might stay fresh for another 10 days.  Armed with his morning coffee, he grabbed his Personal Information Interface for work and set out the door and down the hallway of his housing complex to take the elevator to the subterranean autostables.

The autostables were constructed as successive floors up to 30 feet below the building, and his automatic carriage was stabled at the bottom, since he typically got home later than most of the other people in his housing complex.  His automatic carriage was similar to the others in the stable (of similar proportion, carrying up to 5 people with room for luggage in the back; propelled in a similar manner; of a similar height; with specific holders for his coffee mug), yet different (dark grey where others were black or white, or red, yellow or green; 4 doors where others had 2; smooth where others were angular), though they all subscribed to various standards of efficiency, safety, and proportion so that they might all use the same infrastructure.  Every morning, he drove his automatic carriage — powered by means of the combustion of carbon-based fuels (pulled out of the very Earth itself in astounding quantities) inside an engine contained entirely within the carriage itself — up the three floors, instructing the carriage directionally through a miniaturized version of a ship’s wheel and accelerating and decelerating the carriage with pedals located on the floor.

Exiting the autostables, he conducted his carriage to the autohighway (part of the largest public works project in the history of the world, a web of roads linking towns and cities across the entire continent, designed specifically to ensure connectivity across the country by means of autocarriage, which by its inception 60 years prior had become ubiquitous), which he would drive on for ten miles before leaving it to reach his office.  The autohighway was congested with other people’s autocarriages, as it typically was at this time, so the 10-mile ride took half an hour instead of the 8 or 10 minutes it would have taken with no such congestion.  During this time, he listened to publicly available educational messages, produced throughout the country and conveyed to him upon request through a network of electronic linkages known as the World Wide Electrical Information Network, ultimately leading to a series of hundred-foot-tall towers dotting the landscape, which wirelessly broadcast information through the air that could be picked up by his pocketphone.  This day, he listened to a message produced across the continent in San Francisco about the intricacies of designing buildings (frequently tens of stories tall) such that they were exited easily in the case of fire or other such catastrophe.

His office stood halfway between the city to the east and one of the aeroports that served its 6 million inhabitants to the west.  As he conducted his autocarriage, two-hundred-foot-long aeroships made of aluminum, departing from the port and carrying hundreds of people to destinations around the globe, thundered thousands of feet overhead, kept aloft not by flapping wings as a bird, but by the air flowing over fixed metal wings at the sheer speed at which they traveled — typically hundreds of miles in an hour — and powered to that speed through means of combustion of those same Earth-drawn compounds used to power the autocarriage, run through complex turbine systems, deriving the power of an entire steam locomotive.

Arriving at the turn to his office’s autostable, he turned on his turn indicator, which flashed a light on the outside of his autocarriage that other conductors would interpret as his desire to make a left turn at the next intersection of roads.  Sitting at the intersection (an automated system, optimized around efficiently and safely conducting autocarriages through the grid of roads whose standards were subscribed to by all conductors of autocarriages, indicated that he would have to wait by means of illuminating a red-tinted light), he thought about the day ahead of him — he was employed chiefly to find specific pieces of information on the World Wide Electrical Information Network by remotely accessing Information Interface Nodes and to instruct his company’s own such IINs to automatically access and store that information themselves — he dreaded the prospect of another boring day in the same boring world.


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