Life After Screens
Screens connect us to our closest friends and strangers. They let us experience other people’s stories and tell people ours. Screens are how we work, play, create, and talk to each other. They bridge gaps in knowledge, time, and space. Screens are windows into other worlds and canvases we fill with the brushstrokes of our lives.
But they’re going to die.
Our brains are constantly tricked into believing that tiny little rectangles of colour are actually words, pictures, and videos. That’s all anything digital is: an illusion.
Screens will be replaced by even more convincing illusions.
Our visual senses are incredibly effective at consuming lots of information quickly, but a rectangular form factor is inherently limiting. The world is not rectangular. We don’t experience the physical world through a rectangle. Why should we experience the digital world through one?
Like parked cars on a city street, monitors and screens sit idle most of the time, taking up space in your life when they’re not in use. A television or computer monitor spends most of its time as a black mirror.
The screen is a big rusty nail doing an elegant screw’s job.
The technology that replaces the screen will move information closer to the best graphics processing unit in existence: the human brain.
Instead of lighting up flat, sometimes bendy, sometimes foldable rectangles that our eyes interpret as patterns, we will one day paint the digital world directly onto our brains.
The story will go the same way it always does:
It’ll start out clunky and look like a toy, schools will ban it, parents will fear it, talking heads will bemoan it, and boring people will feel superior for not wanting it, until one day, it’s as normal and unremarkable as the book.
Picture the desk of the future. Instead of being a clunky monitor stand with a keyboard on it, your desk will be a complement to your digital life; a surface you can touch, store things on, and manipulate at will—an actual desktop, if you will. Instead of living inside a stationary black rectangle at eye-level, your information will surround you.
You won’t spend half of your workday swapping between screens and managing several windows. You won’t fumble with a device in your pocket. You won’t have to buy extra monitors just to comfortably have more than one thing open at a time.
Video calls will evolve into lifelike holograms that can make your brain believe that your relatives abroad are literally in the same room. The ceiling above your bed will become your personal, private movie theatre, or it will open up so you can see the stars above in realtime.
The entertainment industry will explore dimensions and dynamics that aren’t even imaginable today. Entirely new kinds of games will be made possible. Concerts will wrap you up entirely, and you’ll be able to capture exactly what you see instead of watching the show from behind your phone. Movies will actually feel like they leap off the screen.
You’ll be able to leave virtual notes that will persist in place and time—remind yourself to take out the garbage with a note on the door, or that the highway is closed with a note on the steering wheel, or write “Let’s go here!” on a restaurant you want to visit with your significant other.
You’ll form entirely new connections to the world around you. Your communication, your entertainment, your workspace, and every part of life you currently experience through a screen will spill out into the real world.
The internet is going to get really exciting when our digital lives outgrow screens. There will be new paradigms for design, new platforms for development, and entirely new possibilities to create and explore.
The only limits will be the speed of light and the laws of physics.
Screens will never completely disappear. They’ll still be the cheapest, easiest, or most intuitive solution to a few specific tasks, but their role in our lives will be smaller, quainter, and much less important.
The internet is bursting at the seams. Let’s free it from the shackles of screens.
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Life After Screens
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