Signs of the Future

Remember those spooky science fiction shows when you watched the actor (and yourself) walk into a dense, mysterious cloud where something unimaginable will occur? Well, dear reader, we are at that moment in real life. You, the mariner, and every other speaking soul, approach a dense cloud where everything will be different.

What does this cloud look like? Not just a water vapor cloud or a disrupting chemical cloud – this cloud is a montage of things, behaviors, environment, and different lifestyles. Okay, it doesn’t look like a “cloud.” It looks more like a roaming, tumbling garbage dump with zombies roaming around; nevertheless, the mysterious unknown will envelope you. What will you become?

From a distance, we see in the cloud a disappearance of written and spoken language capable of specific expression and defined meaning. With the use of text abbreviations, compressed spellings, and rolling enunciation, much of our speech will be comprehensible to seals, whales, beagles and subordinate primates – but it will not be useful for finite, articulated ideas or correlations of fact. What seems probable is an erasure of the history of speech – leaving us expressing little more than our ancient predecessors to express emotions, satisfaction or dissatisfaction, and pain.

Back in 1980, as the mariner’s son was being born in York Pennsylvania, mariner was working as a project consultant in Roswell New Mexico for a small group of men who wanted to build a new jail. Typically, a consultant would have to prepare about five wordy documents to describe in detail the goal, scope, cost, staffing, project plan and delivery dates. In Roswell’s case, even a blueprint would be appropriate.

These men wanted none of that. The general attitude was “I wouldn’t read it if you wrote it” and “How is doing that building a jail?” These men were brick and mortar types with trowel in hand! After a lengthy meeting discussing how in a productive manner we should move ahead, we arrived at the use of one document to handle the ideological and regulatory aspects of building a jail: the blueprint itself. Instead of articulating the purpose and description of a space, we had a discussion which reached consensus and agreed to move a room’s wall two feet farther to the west. Room by room, door by door, plumbing fixture by plumbing fixture, regulation by regulation, we finished the design to the point it could be turned over to the builders. Notes about the blueprint process were on the margins of hundreds of previous versions of blueprints; every meeting started with a newly updated blueprint. Call the process “document writing via storyboard” or “social dissolution of a conundrum;” however unusual, the jail was built on time, under budget and ready to function;” a project consultant and five men in Roswell couldn’t be more proud. It is in use today.

What mariner did not realize was that he had participated in creating and using a hieroglyphic with three-dimensional scripting. The Egyptians, Syrians and Hittites had nothing on the Roswell project! The Roswell team had abandoned letters and words for glyphs! We had gone back in time 4,000 years – and Hawking said it couldn’t be done.

It was then mariner realized he had an experience near ‘the cloud.’ People would speak and write something like ‘LOL,’ even speaking it. Not a true Egyptian hieroglyphic – it required some knowledge of word usage and spelling. Soon afterward, words, letters, even paragraphs were unnecessary when emojis were created. Mankind was moving deeper into the cloud.

Will we become an illiterate creature – depending on monks to document our lives and articulations? Will we have to draw a picture to ask for Pseudoephedrine? (What will the emoji be?) It is true that the mariner had a mother-in-law many years ago who drew a stick figure of a man, a plus sign and 2 eggs on a piece of paper so her husband would not forget to buy mayonnaise. This was necessary because, despite the wise woman she was, she was illiterate. Hmm – aren’t we all….

Ancient Mariner

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