FICTION: IN SPLENDID ISOLATION
I havn’t seen Jonni for several days now. I’m beginning to worry if he’s getting enough nutrition via his drone deliveries.
But his door display still showed ‘NO CONTACT’ this morning as I passed by.
His study sessions seem to be going well enough though, I just checked their status on my wall screen. He’s now reached Level 8a Sem. II in Global History, and for a kid of 9 I suspect that means he’s pretty precocious.
No doubt he’ll show up when he’s good and ready. There’s no cause for alarm I suppose...
His sister Kitty’s door screen shows ‘AVAILABLE ON REQUEST’ so at least I can get to see her if I have a good enough reason. Woe betide me if she doesn’t agree it’s high priority, however!
My name is Jo by the way... I’m talking to you from the future.
I hope you are finding some way to get something out of your isolation, or at least survive it without fear or anxiety. Here we have kind of become used to the changes that arose from the time you’re living through now.
So much is done remotely now that it’s difficult to know where to start to tell you how things have changed.
We’re only 35 years ahead of you but it feels like the equivalent of light-years when we watch the documentaries of life in your time.
I’ll try to explain.
We each have what we call our ‘pods’ now, we needed a new word rather than room to give a more descriptive name to them. They are self-contained and if you felt like it, you could survive in yours indefinitely. You have everything on screen... that is, your wall screen.
The wall screen was patented in 2029. They consist of molecule-thick coatings for each wall that take any image, video or interactive displays (they can cover ceiling and floor too if you want a fully immersive environment, to swim among the stars or camp in the Kalahari).
Usually, you will designate a certain portion of one wall for your main screen. Of course, you can simply use the screens for artworks or wallpaper, or basically any display you wish. But for day to day ordering of food, watching movies, accessing your bank account, phoning, tele-med, studying, ordering stuff and just playing games you can use whatever part of your wraparound screen that’s most convenient.
Jonni has my access view to him switched off as you might expect. Kitty too.
Most of the above is achieved by voice command, pre-programmed or through the diligence of your online p.a.
We don’t switch off now by the way. Emergency services monitor our vital signs and they need constant access for that.
We vote online, we donate online, we chat, learn, and all the other stuff I mentioned above.
Now and again we feel the need to get outside and stretch our legs. For that, we have a few special things to wear you don’t have back then. It wasn’t what you’re going through with Covid-19 that resulted in this, it was the pandemic after. Believe it or not, the one you experienced was relatively mild.
The other day I hit upon an article from your time that put what you’re living through in context. Let me paste a couple of paragraphs from it here below for you:
‘The plague of Justinian struck in the 6th Century and killed as many as 50 million people, perhaps half the global population at the time. The Black Death of the 14th Century – likely caused by the same pathogen – may have killed up to 200 million people. Smallpox may have killed as many as 300 million people in the 20th Century alone, even though an effective vaccine – the world’s first – had been available since 1796.
Some 50 to 100 million people died in the 1918 influenza pandemic – numbers that surpass the death toll of World War One, which was being fought at the same time. The 1918 flu virus infected one in every three people on the planet. (Read more about how the 1918 flu changed the world). HIV, a pandemic that is still with us and still lacks a vaccine, has killed an estimated 32 million people and infected 75 million, with more added every day.
If these numbers shock, it’s because today epidemics are rarely discussed in history classes, while in the not so distant past, they were simply a terrible fact of life.’
I learnt quite a bit from that article. Like the fact that the average life expectancy at the beginning of the 19th century was around 29 years. This due to various diseases carrying people away at a young age. Infant mortality was also very high.
The virus you are living through is SARS-Cov2 and the disease, Covid-19 which, broken down, is: 'CO' corona, 'V-I' virus, 'D' disease, '19,' 2019.
The one that hit us was much worse in that there were no exclusions, Covid-19 spared the kids and those who were reasonably fit. Covid-31 could potentially affect everyone... and it’s still out there. And what’s more, it can survive for weeks airborne.
So we need to wear our suits when venturing outside. Everyone has one. It‘s in sections for cleaning via the household unit we have for this purpose. Air supply comes in from a lightweight backpack that doubles for outbreath venting. Unfortunately, conversation person to person tends to be more effort than it’s worth these days so we tend to do that screen to screen these days.
As you can imagine, dating and meeting with friends or family have become difficult. Leaving our homes has become rare since home working became the rule rather than the exception. So many died you see. An estimated two hundred and fifty million with 755 million infected, mostly in what you would know as the developed world. These figures continue to rise daily.
Since a universal basic income began to be initiated in one country after another, there has been, in theory, no pressing need to work at all. However, many still seem to want more of what they have plus the latest models, etc etc and still log in to some form of work.
Those working hardest physically of course are those who treat us in situations that call for face to face attention… when we’re born, when you get very sick and of course, when we die.
Naturally, most everyday medical problems are dealt with online through smart services.
Drones bring our medicines to us along with all our other purchases, including food.
How do we survive this sanitized form of existence? Mostly through ‘immersion’.
As I said before, we can “transport” ourselves by means of a wraparound room and virtual reality.
The choices of experience are almost infinite all the way from the completely factual to the outrageously fictional and everything in between. Trekking in the Himalayas. Climbing Mount Everest. Travelling to the stratosphere, the Moon, or Mars. Visits to Rome, Paris, Berlin, Moscow and anywhere else in fact. Play games. Learn immersive languages. Study art history or anything you wish in fact. Then there are the distinctly “below the belt", less highbrow immersions that I will leave to your imagination.
So this is how we live.
It lacks the natural out-and-about open-air existence you still have a taste of back then.
But it’s better than risking a lousy death in one of those isolation clinics that are in every community now.
Isolation is a way of life for us, unfortunately.
Finding partners has become an almost exclusively online experience.
This, in combination with an extremely invasive medical check. Romantic it is not.
Yet we survive. Somehow, we survive. We make do as best we can. What else can we do..?
I wish you well. Enjoy the freedoms you have, such as they are. Count yourselves lucky you can’t foresee the future. Live life to the fullest you can... and perhaps think of us here sometimes?
Excuse me now, I must ping Jonni and risk his wrath.
Whatever he’s doing and whatever I am interrupting, I think a parent ought to check in on their kids at least once a week... don’t you?