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The Death of the New

The City of Broken Dreams is quite possibly the least subtle thing I've ever written[0]. That's deliberate, really: I'm not going to do a post of resolutions or hopes for the New Year because I don't really think that we're going to see a new year. We're in 2007, and yet it still feels fundamentally the same as 2002.

There's an obvious reason for that: we're still stuck in the 20th century. Everything we've been told about the future is coming true, but precious few people give a fuck. The FDA has approved cloned meat for human consumption in the US, and doesn't even require labelling which meat came from clones. This despite the hideous end of Dolly the Sheep, shitting out her own diseased organs. People are walking around with honest-to-$DEITY bionic arms and legs, replacing removed limbs. The advances that make the future are here now, but the mindset isn't.

The great flexible human consciousness is trapped in the 20th century. We're not looking forwards. As a race, humanity has proved that we can—hell, the 1990s proved that. From acid house to manufactured shite, from Commodore and Spectrum to Intel and AMD. Dialup to DSL. Things changed at a startling pace, and we accepted–embraced–that change.

Not so the last six years. The pace is slowing. The inventions and improvements are still happening, but nobody's picking up on them. Since the turn of the millennium (hell, we can all put a date on it but frankly I'm above that). People want to be comfortable, they don't want the wave of the new. They couldn't care less. This shows up as glorifying the past. Politicians pledge "traditional"[1] values and people vote in droves for them. People want to go back to the 1980s, for fuck's sakes.

It's a weird thing being nostalgic for the future. As an example: I need some cheap bookcases. Simple, thinks I. IKEA do this thing where people suffering the obvious curse of having no car[2] can have goods delivered (for an astronomical cost, but for the amount I'm considering spending it makes sense). I know what I want, I'll stick it on my credit card. It'll all be on the website, right?

The good news is that we're now able to launch the pilot of Shop Online! in January in some parts of the country - first Nottinghamshire, then the Midlands. Then week by week, we'll be covering more and more areas and our ambition is to meet the majority of our mainland UK customers by the end of 2007.


By the end of 2007, IKEA hope to have online shopping sorted out for all of the country. That's bullshit. Online shopping should take at most a month to add to their infrastructure—all it eliminates is the necessity of the aforementioned cursed people to take a day of their lives to venture into the crapholeshowroom. Mail order should be something IKEA sorted a long time ago, but six years in to the twenty-first century, the country's most popular retailer of obviously mail-orderable goods is still slacking.[3]

I'm nostalgic for the future, all right. I remember when the new was cool. Not any more. Now, people want to regress. They've seen that the 21st century means change—how can it not?—and they're scared shitless. People want to crawl back into the hole of the 20th, cowering among the wreckage. And that saddens me.

I don't think we're going to see a New Year for a while yet. The numbers will turn, but we're not moving. When it comes to fiction, Transhumanism shows how technology will change human nature and Cyberpunk shows how it won't. Neither really shows what happens when the world can move on but simply refuses to.

---

Speaking of nostalgia in a way that I kind of wasn't, everyone who isn't reading Kieron Gillen's excellent Phonogram should hurry up and start. It's a work of nostalgic beauty, and a quest for the dead goddess Britannia—born with the Buzzcocks' "Spiral Scratch EP" and died with the Kula Shaker's "K".

Phonogram taps into the same vibe I was after with my thoughts from an 80's club, channelling Kieron and the KLF's Manual. I didn't write it as well as they did, but it's something I'm going to revisit, I think. A style that I like but a topic that I've not touched enough. Another facet of the Death of the New.

Come on, 2007. Prove me wrong.

[0]: And that's saying something.
[1]: Lit. "Fuck the non-whites, the gays, and the women".
[2]: Fucking cager-bias.
[3]: A true cynic like yours truly would then go on to extrapolate that their business model isn't selling furniture but all the cheap tat with stupid markup that litters the crapholeshowroom floor in between the bits that people go in knowing that they want.

Comments

( 10 informants — We want information! )
zotz
Jan. 3rd, 2007 07:14 pm (UTC)
It's very difficult for Ikea to go into online ordering for one very specific reason: they're a franchise organisation, and each local shop is paying them good money to have a local monopoly. This rather precludes Ikea-central having any central warehouse - the shop owners would sue them blind for breach of contract. The reasons for the operation taking so long to set up are probably more legal than technical. Frankly, I'm impressed that they can manage it at all.
autopope
Jan. 3rd, 2007 07:15 pm (UTC)
As I understand it, IKEA don't do home delivery -- they franchise it out to other companies who rent space in their stores. That's why you are expected to buy your furniture then schlepp it to the delivery office and pay separately.

So I suspect they're having to add home delivery infrastructure for themselves, for the first time, in order to do online shopping.
digitalraven
Jan. 3rd, 2007 07:38 pm (UTC)
Wait... franchised delivery? In this day and age?

Fuck me, that's stupid.
razorsmile
Jan. 3rd, 2007 07:25 pm (UTC)
When it comes to fiction, Transhumanism shows how technology will change human nature and Cyberpunk shows how it won't. Neither really shows what happens when the world can move on but simply refuses to.

Mmmm.

*nods*
baronsamedi
Jan. 4th, 2007 01:00 am (UTC)
honestly, I think you have hit the nail on the head with some of your observations. We are in 2007 but most are screaming to get back to 1998 at latest. The blaseness to new inventions is astounding. Yes, I read about cloned meat for human consumption and nodded and went on, not said "holy fuck they are cloning food for us (for good or ill) now!" interesting.
razorsmile
Jan. 4th, 2007 02:18 am (UTC)
cloned meat

Very true. We're all so desensitized now, it'd probably take a total Crash or a fucking alien invasion to make us appreciate the future we had again.
galaxy_girl00
Jan. 4th, 2007 09:53 am (UTC)
Despite the IKEA rant, do you both still want to go there?

I was thinking of next weekend 13th/14th if your free?
spudtater
Jan. 4th, 2007 07:33 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't be so pessimistic.

Society's expectations of the future are always being repeatedly built up and torn down again, in new and interesting configurations. Think of all the excitement about space exploration and aliens and all that in the 30s–50s. It reached its peak at the height of the space race, and then started to die down again.

Cloning and genetic manipulation were high, romantic ideas in sci fi at one point, like time travel and BEMs. Now that we actually have them, they're less of a "what-if" and more of a "what-shall-we-do-about-that-then", thus making them less useful for (the classic strain of) science fiction.

We do appear to be at a bit of an ebb at the moment, but a new generation are growing up, and they shall create their own world-view, with their own ideals, their own hopes and fears. And they shall want to read Science Fiction.

8^]
purplerabbits
Jan. 8th, 2007 12:11 pm (UTC)
Did you ever read my small piece about Futurism? - http://purplerabbits.livejournal.com/268693.html
digitalraven
Jan. 8th, 2007 01:42 pm (UTC)
I didn't at the time because I didn't know you back in 2004. Reading it now, I find myself nodding along.

What was/am thinking, however, is that even futurism is slowing down. We had a lot of advances in fictional conceptions of the future in just five years—from 1999 to 2004, things changed just about every year—but since then things have stalled. People have real bionic legs and mental computer control implants, but the fiction is still about ubiquitous RFID tracking and surveillance societies.

Then again: Back in the 90s, when The X Files was popular and the Little Grey Men were out there, UFO sightings were at an all time high. Interest and fictionalisation of Fortean phenomena and what Gibson termed "semiotic ghosts" were at an all-time high. Since 2001, nobody cares. Not just about fiction, it was a trend and the trend passed, but UFO sighting numbers plummeted.

My point, and my lament, is that people have stopped caring about What Could Be. The what-could-have-been from 2003 is still good enough a future for them, such that nobody cares about all the additions to the future made in the four years since.
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