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May 7th, 2013

A letter to me at age 20

Dear Guy,

I can picture you sitting in your room at Bexley Hall, MIT, putting off another problem set. Those problem sets are important, kid, so I won’t make this long. But I thought you might be amused by something I did last night, me, the you of 40 years into the future.

I was sitting in my lab... no surprise I have a lab, I guess; I always planned to stay in science and (with a few unexpected twists) I’ve done so, though you might be surprised that I am a data collector now instead of a computer modeling theorist. And I was on the internet. The “internet” you haven’t heard of, but you have already experienced it. Know that PLATO terminal in Paul’s lab at the Artificial Intelligence Lab over at Tech Square, next to the Polarioid building? Imagine, instead of a few hundred terminals like that spread around universities and military bases, there are in effect billions of terminals like that, in every home all around the world.

So, I am reading on one of the sites on the internet about two friends of mine who are editors at a big science fiction house in New York. I guess you might be surprised to know that I actually know people who edit – and indeed friends who write – science fiction. No, I am not one of them... that dream didn’t pan out. (Don’t worry, a lot of other ones did.) But I do have friends who work in the business. Why not? It’s a small world, and if you hang around it often enough, like I have, eventually you meet a lot of people.

The cool thing is this: my friends were interviewed about their life and work and it sounded like an interesting enough article that I decided to buy the electronic version of the magazine where the interview ran, to have it downloaded to my computer. (You saw 2001, you can picture reading a newspaper or a magazine on a computer screen.) So, for a mere $5.50 (inflation, I know!) I gave them my credit card (just like a Harvard Coop Card only it works everywhere) and I got an electronic copy of a glossy, 72 page magazine full of color photographs, interviews, detailed articles, and pages and pages of news briefs about the world of... science fiction. Yes, science fiction is big enough to have trade magazines like this.

Here’s the part that will blow you away. This glossy color thick magazine? It’s Locus.

Yeah, that Locus. That mimeo rag that showed up at the MITSFS now and then? It’s big time now. Who’d have thought?

By the way... the MITSFS is still going strong. Polaroid went out of business in 2001. We still don’t have artificial intelligence, not really. And my lab is in Rome, Italy. Actually, at the Vatican. I’ll explain that in another letter...

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