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Scenarios are not predictions, but illustrations of the way things might be. Written in the early 1990s, they project the consequences of today's choices into the future. Seeing the consequences graphically illustrated may lead us to change the choices we make in the present.

The scenarios presented here use techniques such as storytelling and illustration to show possible futures. The scenarios are imaginative constructions, but they are based on specific assumptions and hypotheses derived from current trends. These are neither utopias nor nightmares, but possibilities on which everyone can make their own judgement.


The Futures 4: Tablet journalism

Peter Smith is late for work. He didn't have time for a proper breakfast, and he had to run to catch his train. Out of breath, he sits down in the last seat in the carriage and contemplates the day ahead.

However he didn't forget to pick up his news tablet from the kitchen table, where he was catching up on the sports results while he took the quick bite that was all he had time for. It is a slim piece of plastic - full of electronics, no doubt - a bit bigger than a paperback book, but much thinner. The screen occupies nearly the whole of the front surface. He thumbs the on switch and puts in the cordless earpiece.

He sees the familiar spinning logo and hears the signature tune of the Chronicle - one of three papers he subscribes to, along with a small selection of magazines. The logo gives way to his personalised menu, with the familiar symbols: sport, news, fishing, celebrities... His tablet has picked up and recorded overnight, from the digital broadcast signal, the items which match his particular interests. He scans the sports results again. Yes, United were playing; the goals should be recorded.

Peter watches the video clip of the last goal, three times: a classic. He marks it for transfer to one of his permanent record discs when he gets home. Costs more, but that one's worth it. Commentary's not up to much, though: he could do better himself - and will, when he gets some time to edit it at the weekend. Two more games, and he'll have the highlights of the whole season on disc - with his own commentary, of course - ready to send to John in Canada. His brother never missed a United game. He'll be particularly pleased with this goal - John always did say young Davis had potential, though Peter couldn't see it before this season.

He scans through the national news - opting for text display. An item on the new traffic restrictions catches his attention. Peter requests more information, and a few seconds later he sees a map - downloaded from the broadcast signal. Reception on this part of the track used to be difficult, but they've recently installed a new transmitter. The map has an interactive feature which allows Peter to assess the implications for the journeys he's likely to make - and the charges he's likely to face.

There's also an item on yesterday's budget, and what it means for the man in the street. Peter requests the interactive tax planner, which appears almost immediately - they must be expecting a lot of demand for that! He fills in his personal details and sees displayed the implications for him and his family - with graphs showing when it will take effect. There's also advice on how to make the most of the new allowances: if he transfers some of his savings... Peter marks the item to be saved for future reference, and sets an alarm to remind him on Saturday, when he can do something about it.

He notices some of the other passengers &endash; the ones in business suits &endash;watching a videoclip of the Chairman of Eurotunnel being interviewed on the latest moves in the price war. No doubt they've also got their tablet programmed to tell them how their particular basket of shares is doing, minute by minute.

As he moves from one item to another, an advert for one of the latest cars demands his attention for a few seconds. He could have subscribed without the adverts, but it costs more.

Peter spends a few minutes doing one of the interactive puzzles - very popular, even more popular than the crossword nowadays. Then he moves to the Diary section, selects automatic read - female voice, one of the six available options - closes his eyes for the rest of the trip and just listens. One item catches his fancy so he marks it; the tablet will pick up anything else broadcast on that topic over the next 24 hours, so he can look at it when he has a spare moment. He settles down to relax for the rest of his journey.

©1996 Geoff Vincent



Other Scenarios