One of the presents in my stocking from Santa was The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. I’ve long thought that his epics, The Baroque Cycle and especially Cryptonomicon address some of the fundamental issues of our age, especially the impact of technology on culture. This passage from The Diamond Age, published in the mid-1990s, seems prescient of our computer culture, our obsession with gagetry (“guilty, your honour”) and the vogue for cosmetic surgery. It also made me laugh:
You could get a phantascopic system planted directly on your retinas, just as Bud’s sound system lived in his eardrums. You toild even get telaesthetics patched into your spinal column at various key vertebrae. But this was said to have its drawbacks: some concerns about long-term nerve damage, plus it was rumoured that hackers for big companies had figured out a way to get through the dedenses that were built into such systems, and run junk advertisements in your peripheral vision (or even spang in the fucking middle) all the time – even when your eyes were closed. Bud knew a guy like that who’d somehow gotten infected with a meme that ran advertisements for roach motels, in Hindi, superimposed on the bottom right-hand corner of his visual field, twenty-four hours a day, until the guy whacked himself.
(Hat-tip to Roger M for the book recommendation).