Friday, November 30, 2012

Context

Watching last night's Elementary (a perfectly mediocre Sherlock Holmes show). The start of the show shows a web design company, a small group of men in an office full of computers. A beeping starts and they take no notice except to ask whose phone it is. After a moment one man hunts down the beeping, somewhere deep in the air vent. The beeping, of course, is a bomb, which is the mystery of the week.

It occurred to me to wonder how far back in the past one would have to go before that scene would be completely without context to an average viewer.

  • The very notion of a web design company would have been beyond thought before about 1990.
  • The notion of a technology company as opposed to an engineering company (like IBM would have considered itself in the 1940s) probably began no earlier than the garage companies of Gates and Jobs in the 1970s, and largely outside of general awareness for another decade after.
  • The sort of office environment these men worked in would likely be unfamiliar to most before the 1940's, though not completely alien, as professional groups of accountants or lawyers would have worked in analogous spaces at least as late as the Renaissance.
  • The air vent holding the bomb would have been an unfathomable feature to anyone around before the construction of the Dubois House in 1906, and most people for decades after.
  • The explosion would have baffled any European born before the Battle of Mohi in the 13th century, and most of Europe for centuries later. No medieval or earlier European would have ever seen an explosion in their entire lives.
  • Curiously, the internet provides no source for when clock activated bombs were invented, though surely it is a Victorian era invention, since the reliable and inexpensive clockwork necessary was not around before then. Meaning that a ticking time bomb scenario would have been completely alien to anyone before then.
  • The very language spoken would be nearly incomprehensible in Chaucer's time (1400AD) and completely unknown as William the Bastard landed in Pevensey Bay.
  • Of course, the notion of a group of men, aged 20-35, banding together to engage in cooperative economic activity outside the home would be unquestioned around the globe any time after urbanization, and likely well before.
It then showed me an advertisement. The advertisement features a little league game, a fixture of American culture for a hundred years. It shows a somewhat clueless umpire asking his telephone to explain the strike zone. Now, it is possible that my perceptions are skewed by nostalgia and such, but I feel like fifty years ago it would have been exceedingly difficult to find an American man in his twenties who did not know what the strike zone was, and would have been regarded by audiences as unreasonably ignorant.

There exist people (I have met them, I swear) who have told me that they would not like to live forever because they would get bored. Those people are fantastically stupid, and this sentiment is one of the few that a person can express that will make me think significantly less of them. Because we live in the goddamned future and there is still more to come.

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