A brief history of the future

According to scientists, mathematicians, and educators - hopeless nerds, all - the future hasn't happened yet. These so-called "intellectuals" insist that "the future," by definition, is always one step ahead of us.

Elitist poppycock, I say. If we believe the nonfiction documentary "2010: The Year We Make Contact" - and I don't see why we shouldn't - John Lithgow, the late Roy Scheider, and a bunch of Soviet cosmonauts led by Helen Mirren are, at this moment, sitting in a spaceship orbiting Jupiter, learning that communists and capitalists really can get along, if they'd just listen to each other. Even hopeless nerds have to admit that's pretty futuristic.

If we look around, we can see plenty of other less dramatic, but equally obvious, signs that the future is now. Some of these signs are terrifying - cars that parallel park themselves, for instance, and the breakfast menu at Subway - but the future has at least one thing going for it: everything is sleeker than ever before. And, as commercials have taught us, the sleeker any concept or item, the better.

I'm not just talking about tennis rackets, aesthetic philosophies, and famous actresses' evening gowns, either. I'm talking about America's most beloved form of entertainment, on which we spend literally quintillions of dollars annually: the semi-weekly newspaper column.

Take "The Shallow Observer." You might notice that this week's edition - the first in a while, because I've been on the lecture circuit all spring, denouncing scientists, mathematicians, and educators as hopeless nerds at colleges across the country - is shorter than usual. Shorter, yes, but so much more potent that children and the elderly should consult a physician before reading it.

Indeed, if the old "Shallow Observer" was a 24-ounce energy drink, the new "Shallow Observer" is a two-ounce energy shot. It might not taste as good, but it won't leave you feeling bloated, and your head will still be spinning five hours from now.

So welcome to "The Shallow Observer" of the future. If its awesome power doesn't crush your mind like so much rubbish in a trash compactor, you just might learn to like it.

Dan Leonidas makes shallow observations. E-mail him at dpleonidas@yahoo.com or read his blog at theshallowobserver.wordpress.com.

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