Silver Lining

We’re launching our summer ‘near future fiction’ series with a short piece by guest blogger Madeline Lofberg.  Inspired by our Cooperative Technologies Initiative, Lofberg weights in with tempered optimism.  Enjoy!

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By far the greatest and most admirable form of wisdom is that needed to plan and beautify cities and human communities. 

— Socrates

The old man surveyed the landscape and smiled. He had lived in Los Angeles his whole life; though it felt like several lifetimes, watching the city change around him. Even now, LA took his breath away, and he had seen the changes occur. He had watched it go from concrete jungle/paradise, to a futuristic scene that nobody could have predicted. Although, he supposed, that was silly, given what humans are capable of. There were a lot of necessary changes that had contributed to this. Humans had ceased to use coal and oil and adapted to wind turbines and solar panels. Now there wasn’t a single house in the greater Los Angeles area that wasn’t powered by reusable energy.

Water levels had risen a remarkable amount, but he wasn’t too concerned. Some things are the fault of man, some things are the result of nature taking its course. Having said that, he sure missed Venice Beach, it looked a little different now. The iconic pier was gone, but in its place was an unbelievable underwater aquarium, put in place to teach children about wildlife protection and the ramifications of rising sea levels. He took his grandchildren there occasionally; their favorite part was walking around under the water with the fish. He smiled fondly at the thought of them.

“Alpha, take a picture, would you?” he said softly to his companion.

A robot ambled up to him. He still couldn’t believe that this little creature was made of a pile of metal, wires, and microchips, yet still contained the knowledge and personality of a human. Alpha was a member of the family, almost like a beloved pet, only he was exceedingly more intelligent, and didn’t require endless games of fetch.

“Consider it done sir.”

The man exhaled. When he was a young boy, he had loved science fiction movies, and now he was looking out at something that mirrored what he had seen as a youth. The buildings were tall and winding, that seemed to reach all the way up to the exosphere. In a few years, he wouldn’t be surprised if some of them would. The streets below were full of silent cars and buses speeding along.

“Does this take your breath away Alpha?” He asked his sidekick.

“I suppose. But this is not as foreign to me as it is to you.” Alpha responded.

“I saw all this constructed. It’s as foreign as you think.” The man said, a tad defensively.

“Yes, but you knew the old world. I never did, so this is nothing for me to marvel at, unless you program me to. However, I can appreciate it. It takes a certain ingenuity that very few species are capable of.”

Something whizzed by them, and this time they both gasped.

“Did you see that?!” The old man exclaimed, grabbing Alpha’s shiny plastic shoulder.

“Was that the flying car that they’ve been testing out?”, the robot asked, nonchalantly.

The man sighed. Alpha often reminded him of his grandchildren, unable to grasp the enormity of what had been accomplished in such a short amount of time.

“Yes, that was a flying car. Something we only dreamed about 35 years ago. The fact is, it’s only 2050. Do realize how different the world is now? You are the product of years of hard work that somehow developed quickly in my adult life!”

“Ah yes, the technological renaissance. Technically started in the 20th century, but I assume you refer to the period that was a result of a disastrous election. Ultimately it was what you needed, yes? To propel us forward.”

The old man smiled. Silver lining to every cloud.

 

Madeleine Lofberg is a creative writer living in the vibrant city of San Francisco.

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