Threshers and Drivers

This post is part of a series on nearline future technologies and how they might impact living. I hope that, in addition to being enjoyable to read, they encourage you to think about how technology will effect the people you work with and for.

The door of the assisted-living facility rotated briskly, releasing a wedge of conditioned air into the humid summer. Britney travelled through the wedge and into a long black sedan which had pulled to the curb moments before.

She began to mentally prepare for the next part of her day. The first part, visiting her grandmother, was the complicated part. Not that visiting her grandmother was especially troublesome or traumatic as it was for some of her friends. Just that it was complicated in the normal my-grandmother-is-aging-and-so-am-I sort of way. The move from the old house to assisted living had made things much easier.

Britney crossed the walkway and exchanged the heat and wet of summer for another air conditioned capsule, the door of the sedan quietly clicking behind her. Her tablet had already wirelessly transferred her destinations for the afternoon and the vehicle was soon in motion.

She had the car for a four hour stretch. It wasn’t cheap but having it reserved gave her a kind of mobile operations center. The city flowed past her windows, she tapped the vehicle’s inductive charging[1] to power her screen. She spread out some of her paper notebooks on the facing seats.

The passenger compartment, with two sets of seats facing each other, was just like the tacky limo her junior prom date rented with two other couples. But it did provide comfortable room to work and, in the event of traveling companions, was more comfortable for talking–assuming you weren’t 16 and on a triple date.

With her screen and old fashioned notebooks arranged, Britney settled in and observed the neighborhood as she approached the first house on her list. When her grandmother agreed to sell the old house Britney agreed to move close to the assisted living unit. Her grandmother was worried about living alone after being uprooted from her small suburban community.

Britney and Carl had been considering a move to the city anyway. Given the amount of trips to the airport he made these days saving time on the airport commute would make a real difference in how much time he could spend with the family. Of course, it also meant that Britney would be doing the majority of the work in locating the house. But she was alright with that. She preferred it.

The car slowed as it entered the residential neighborhood. Britney’s screen scrolled various stats about the neighborhood but she’d already looked through that sort of thing. She was paying attention to how the houses were kept, the people walking to the café on the corner, the quality of the sidewalks. The screen could give her a lot of data but there were still some things that human eyes did best.

Once stopped outside, Britney grabbed the notebook, rolled up her screen[2] and braced herself for another walk through the summer air.

When she returned, after looking at the house, she immediately began making notes on her screen. Carl would be checking them in the middle of her night—but his early morning—from his hotel in Antwerp. Britney and Carl had joked that they should just move to Europe for the amount of work he had to do there. The car gently moved on to the next house on her list.

When the car arrived Britney wasn’t quite done with her notes but wrapped them up quickly. Out once more into the summer.

Knowing that she enjoyed walking, her screen alerted her that the house on her list after this one was close. She could walk there in less time than her usual after-dinner stroll. The screen also noted the crime statistics though Britney wasn’t particularly anxious about that in this neighborhood.

When she was done looking around the house Britney sent the car on ahead to the next location. She walked, taking in the intangible and hard-to-turn-into-data aspects of the neighborhood; the pattern of life.

She took in the third house and again returned to the car. This was the last one she’d be looking at today. Britney wrapped up her notes and prepped the screen to send information to Carl on what she’d seen that day.

As the car glided past a small city park she thought again of change. There were still slides and swings and all the stuff she’d grown up with. But everything around had changed so much in recent years.

Thinking back to earlier in the morning, her grandmother had been describing what it was like growing up on the prairie. As a child she knew people who lived in houses made of dirt. As a young woman she served meals to a crew of farmers who used machinery powered by steam. She saw the power lines electrify her rural town. She had an old party-line telephone. Her older brothers told her stories of the first car coming to town.

Britney alighted from the sedan that had been her mobile command center for the afternoon. It quietly moved on to its next appointment. Britney remembered a time when cars had drivers.[3]

Further reading

  1. ^ BMW press release on inductive charging for electric and hybrid vehicles.
  2. ^ Rollable displays via Engadget
  3. ^ Autonomous cars via Wired

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    1. Thanks Ines! I have one per week like this scheduled throughout the entire year. I hope you find them fun and interesting.

    1. Glad to hear that Scott! I just hit publish on the next one. I have one scheduled every week for the entire year.

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