Dispatch from 2050: A Day in the Life

Monday was a day like any other. I felt my alarm go off inside my head, courtesy of my jawbone implant. It has been there since I was a child and I often forget it even exists. The sounds and voices that I hear seem to come from inside my own head.

The sound I hear this morning is that of birds singing, and I slowly wake from my dream. It was a good dream; I was I was with my friends enjoying a cold and satisfying McFlurry® with OREO® cookies. (I never paid to have ads removed from my implant, but I don’t mind the sponsored dreams. They’re actually rather pleasant.)

I prepare for the day while the voice inside my head runs down my schedule. It counts down a timer during my shower, reminding me of how many carbon credits it will cost me if I take longer than the prescribed two minutes. By the time I was dry and dressed, my breakfast was ready. I quickly ate my insect soy patties as the voice in my head reminded me of how nutritious it was and how every ingredient had been ethically sourced. I tried to pretend it tasted good.

My podmates all finish their morning meals at about the same time. Everyone is staring straight ahead, catching up on the news and social media through text and images broadcast straight onto our eyes. Sure, we are aware of each other, but there is nothing requiring any interaction between us. As soon as we finish our meals we put our masks back on as we have been trained since birth to do.

I put on my coat and secondary mask and headed out the door, just in time for my regularly scheduled Uber. I glance out the window as the self-driving vehicle takes us down packed city streets. In the back of my mind I have an inkling that the real streets are dirty, dingy, and strewn with trash, but the imagery on the inside of the windows looks so real that I almost forget. I watch peaceful scenes that make me think of idyllic times, such as the 1990s, times I never knew but assume must really have existed.

We stop, and exit the vehicle in an orderly manner. I look up to see where we are: the clinic. Yes, it is Monday, which means our weekly vaccination appointment. We shuffle forward into the line, as screens all around remind us of how vaccination is our civic and moral duty. I look into the camera at the checkpoint to verify my identity, hold out my arm for the masked and visored nurse, feel a pinch as I get the jab, then walk out the exit. Another driverless Uber waits to take me to my job, where I’ll be posting on social media on behalf of my employer all day.

Sometimes I wonder if this is how humanity was meant to live. This really is a utopia, no crime, no poverty, no hunger. Everyone is happy – the self-scored wellness surveys always show 99.9% satisfaction. Yet something my grandfather said before he died has stuck with me all this time. Years ago, in an unguarded moment, he complained that the system had turned humans into animals, or enpeecees, as he said. He told me that when he was my age, people could go wherever they wanted, and had the freedom to think. But what about crime and poverty, I asked him? He said those were just facts of life, part of the human condition. I felt angry with him at the time, and dismissed his rant as just one of those things believed by older ignorant people. OK Millennial, I said under my breath. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe he knew something I didn’t, that there was something we had forgotten.

A buzzing noise in my ears brings me back to reality. I blink my eyes and return to the present, and focus on my work. Feelings like that always pass. Nobody else seems to have such thoughts, so I know I am probably wrong. The old human was greedy, wrathful, violent, and unhappy. The modern world is truly a utopia, and I am lucky to be alive to live in it.

Dispatch from 2050: The Sailor’s Letter

Friday, January 7, 2050

Dear great-grandson,

Congratulations on your enlistment in the United States Navy. Despite the upheaval of the past few years, I still believe in the Navy. It is the greatest force for peace in North America. You are following in the footsteps of many of your ancestors. My own grandfather served on a destroyer in World War II over a century ago. He used to tell me stories of those days when I was a small boy. The Navy was legendary back then – launching the Doolittle Raid, fighting the battles of Midway and the Philippines, the Marianas Turkey Shoot, supporting the Marines at Iwo Jima, Saipan, and Okinawa. Those sailors faced unimaginable horrors but so many became heroes, larger than life.

I served in a more peaceful, yet more uncertain time. Your history books nowadays say that the 1980s and 90s were the beginning of America’s decline, but it didn’t feel like it at the time. The US Navy was supreme in those days, sailing to every corner of the world. Did you know we once had more aircraft carriers than the rest of the world combined? I remember WesPac 83, with ports of call in Australia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Japan. We spent a lot of time in Hawaii too – it was part of the USA back then. Life aboard ship was hard work, but what a great way to see the world! The Navy today doesn’t sail quite as far very often. I guess that’s good, because you won’t be away from your family for too long. Besides, nobody sails in the South China Sea anymore, except for China. Maybe if you’re lucky you might get to cross the ocean, at least, maybe on a humanitarian mission. There is nothing like the feeling of standing on the deck of a mighty ship cutting a path through the waves toward the horizon, with nothing but endless sea in all directions.

Once the Soviet Union fell, we felt invincible. Maybe that was our undoing, though. Without another superpower to fight, we lost our way. All the brass and military contractors had spent half a century building this great Navy and they wanted to find somewhere to use it. China was the obvious choice, I guess. But the hardest enemy to fight was the terrorists. I remember in the late 90s when a couple of terrorists with a skiff blew a hole in the side of one of our advanced destroyers. Killed a bunch of sailors. I had a bad feeling in my gut when I heard that news. What’s the use of a trillion-dollar warship if a bunch of ragged terrorists could sink it with a homemade bomb? Then came the drones and the hypersonic missiles. The brass were too slow to change. One of the reasons we beat Japan in the second world war was because they built their fleet to fight the last war. They built a huge a fleet of battleships to control the seas, just like Mahan taught in the 1800s, but they were obsolete in the face of air power. Our leaders didn’t learn the lesson though. They were obsessed with building the biggest aircraft carriers and the most advanced missile cruisers. By the 2020s, we forgot how to build solid ships and instead wasted money on over-engineered boondoggles. They didn’t believe the game had changed, and it went pretty bad for us for a while.

I don’t mean to dampen your spirits. The US Navy you are joining today is still the best in the world, even if it has changed since my day. I remember the first time I crossed the equator the veteran crew put us through some crazy rituals. King Neptune and all that. They don’t let you do that anymore. Maybe it’s for the best. It’s not like you cross the equator much anymore anyway. Back then you rarely saw women on board. They really started pushing integration of the sexes when I was near retirement, it caused all sorts of problems. Now I hear they have all-female crews. Maybe that’s for the best too. I remember when they court-martialed a girl for letting her ship collide with a freighter out in the Pacific. That sort of thing used to be rare, believe it or not. I’m just glad the whole transgender thing is over. For a while you couldn’t tell men and women apart. It probably seems crazy to your generation, but back in the first quarter of the century you actually had men in the service getting surgery and dressing in women’s clothing and demanding everyone treat them like a woman! Can you believe that?

Always remember that when you put on the uniform you are putting on 300 years of tradition. It’s too bad they don’t have the crackerjacks and dixie cups anymore though. They looked kinda silly, I guess, but they really made you feel like a part of something much older. It was tradition. Oh well. When you salute the flag, you are saluting the men and women who served in years past. The fifty stars don’t actually represent each state anymore, but they did once, and that’s what matters. I heard they are going to open up the officer ranks to white men again in the future. I hope so, for your sake. The sky really is the limit in this great country.

Best of luck to you,

Your loving great-grandfather

USN Retired