I, Mr. Robot

While I’m on a kick of updating my site, I should include a link to a Medium essay that I wrote a while back on software, the past, the future, and a particular TV show.

When I watch Mr. Robot, it’s like I’m watching dystopian sci-fi, except holy crap I actually live in that world on the screen. As I sit there on the couch I think back to 2005, before the iPhone and Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and Tinder and Instagram, before we all jumped feet first into “the stream”, and I watch the show through my pre-stream eyes. This practice triggers for me the novel sensation of having suddenly woken up in the future, and that sensation is part of the reason I enjoy the show. It’s like the inverse of virtual reality’s “presence” effect — I know that the world on the screen is real and that I’m actually in it, but I somehow don’t quite believe it.

This is what makes Mr. Robot so utterly compelling: it’s dystopian sci-fi about the right now, and it works because so much of “right now” is so new that it still has the potential to blow our minds when we grind it up and snort it in little 43-minute lines.

For those of you who watch the show or plan on watching it, I want you to borrow my 2005 glasses for at least one episode. To help orient you and jog your memory, here are some things that were true about the world in 2005…

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