Tomorrow Doesn't Wait

ASKED TO FORESEE three major trends that will characterize where we are headed in the nineties and beyond, today’s futurists may be expected to glance more and more characteristically over their shoulders and foresee Three Major Trends, according to a recent, rather smirky, “post-futurist” study. Sometimes four.

Since these major trends are not always the same three, or four, from futurist to futurist, there has been a tendency until recently to dismiss, on grounds of getting on with it, the last several trends cited overall, say emerging experts in the rapidly expanding field of critiquing prescience as such. But a growing demand for less predictable, more overtake-resistant trends has led leading futurists to take a closer look at—well, at their reflections the next morning, for one thing.

Futurists. . . The thing is, you’d have to know futurists. I might have been a futurist myself, but I married young, had children to support. I chose trade journalism and occasional plaintalk commentary. No regrets. Let me tell you something about futurists.

Futurists aren’t accustomed to being dwelled on, as such.

And when they are, they are just like everybody else, believe me: a long time getting over it. Especially when it comes to futurists (don’t call them prognosticators), a breed unto themselves. A kind of frontier ethic . . . and then when you start breaking it down to the neoor near-futurists, the nextualists, the due-time crowd, the by-and-by boys (not all of them boys anymore)—the squabbles, the hurt feelings, the things best left unsaid. • Continued overdiversification of software.

Is usually one of them. One of the major trends. In the view of futurists. These young Turks see it a little differently. To them, everything can be reduced to . . .

Let me ask you something. Do you recall a time when all there was was hardware?

You may well be too young. You perhaps belong to that class of people which one well-known eventualist terms “teenage lawyers.” Plugged into some manner of meta-leverage mergerware deal where already you are conjuring buying power out of thin air, to a far greater degree than the recognized experts or frankly (I have never sought to capitalize on inside knowledge, for reasons . . .) I am, aren’t you? It’s all right. No, it is.

The days of only hardware. Literal nuts and bolts. You’re too young. Even to imagine.

Ah, but that’s just it: in those days we had to imagine, we didn’t have the dreamware, the museware. Used to go down into the basement, take a chisel or a twenty-penny nail and stir around in Pop’s toolbox, making a noise like scrarglesgggrklblnkglgnk, until something emerged. Something magical, because our minds made it so.

Unless what emerged was Pop. He didn’t like us in his tools. And see what it leads to. New tools.

Warmware, dourware (which isn’t all that dour, if you knew dour in the old days), wistfulware (which . . . oh, well), sweetware, hotware. You take for granted wares that experts in the field only a few years ago could not have predicted without feeling queasy for a moment.

But those blushful days are gone forever. say the post-futurists (let’s call them that, for now).

That’s what the futurists said, in another time, about bathing suits with skirts and navel coverage. You can forget about ever seeing big bathing suits again, they said, and how warmly that foresight was received! Talk about your backslaps after work, in the bar downstairs! That you may not know. I was there.

You do know of course that navel coverage, broader coverage generally, in swimwear is resurgent. Oh, yes. Baby Boomers are spreading, and learning shame. A waist, as they say, is a terrible thing to mind. And now: affluent people younger than Boomers. Here is where it gets interesting.

Trends in the future, some of the new breed suggest, will not just loop back upon themselves, as in the past, but will tend to shimmy.

Shimmer is the term some seem to favor, but that is as may be. The market, as always, will be the judge of shimmer. But shimmy, now.

Grown-ups don’t shimmy. Not grown-up men.

Of course, more and more, as we know, trends are gender-vague, and so be it. But I’m just saying. I suppose professional male dancers shimmy when so directed, in the workplace, but—we won’t get anywhere, here, going into sex differences, because we know what that leads to. Many of the most provocative post-futurists, in fact, are female, and far be it from me.

But I’m just saying, as one who has been around for a while, when you talk shimmy, strictly speaking, you’re talking one of two things: the front end of a motor vehicle or the hips and shoulders of her sister Kate.

Bur you wouldn’t remember that song. I don’t remember it either. I remember people who remembered it.

I spoke with one futurist insider the other day; I won’t give his name, but it would be familiar to anyone who wasn’t born yesterday. And he tossed a copy of the new counterjournal Seer Seen onto the table with such force that it overturned the pork skins. And he said, “I should have seen it coming. Right? Right? So sue me. I don’t need this. Right? What do I need with this?”

I studied the face of that man, who had said so many then-unheard-of things before, and it occurred to me to hope that we will not lose sight of the good old seat-of-the-pants feel for how it looks down the road a piece, as best we can say from where we stand.

The other day I asked a man how old he was, and do you know what he said?

“I’m seventy-two years old already.”

Things happen.


• A greater need for essential trust, mixed with readiness to forgive, in the eyes of the beholder (and a corresponding shortage of it), than ever before.

• A recognition, in terms of the market, of the need to lead the bitter to the sweet—as we used to say—rather than, as in the past, the other way around. Though back before that, it was the same way around then, too, but that’s going way back, oh, I don’t rightly know how long. It would’ve been before Binnie died, because he was with Tocomeco and they had that logo back then, remember, old man Blodwold drew it? With a felt-tip pen? No, wait, we didn’t have felt-tip pens. Drew it with an old smudgy Rapermate ball-point that you clicked in and out.

You don’t see those much anymore, do you, those wonky ball-points that click in and out. Little spring in there. I remember one time in school, I was sitting next to Bird Noles and he sat behind Lianne McGehee, who was so prissy, and Bird, you know, he talked like he had his finger up his nose—excuse me—even when he didn’t, and Lianne was wearing this summer dress that revealed quite a lot of her back. And I could see old Bird looking at it, and looking at it, and thinking to himself, and thinking to himself, and clicking that old ballpoint pen of his — they were new then—in and out, and finally he just couldn’t stand it any longer. He tapped on old Lianne’s bare shoulder and she rolled her eyes the way she did and kind of halfway looked around at him, and he said, “Err. Snrrk. Kin I draw uh eeeagle on your back?” Said it just like that, you know. “Kin I draw uh eeeagle on your back?”

The things we remember. Of course she didn’t let him. Not Lianne McGehee. She would be forty-eight now.

• Buy. Buy something. It doesn’t have to be much. That’s where a lot of people get sidetracked. It can be just a tiny handful of micro circuit breakers, or whatever you call them, no larger than an active person’s hand. But if you don’t buy, then I don’t buy, she doesn’t buy, he doesn’t buy, and it snowballs and builds until there goes the future. Let’s don’t say a handful of micro circuit breakers. Let’s say a handful of dreams. I don’t think I can impress this upon you enough. By that I mean I believe I can say with confidence that if I end on this note, with a rising intonation, you will like it. □