Future diaries: 30 March 2015

Holiday. I love holiday. It's been a busy few weeks getting together our look at the year 2020 on Pocket-lint. It's been quite fun going through the Future Week work we did 5 years ago as well asking the same experts to take another guess at the future to come.

Work's become a little different since Stuart sold out 2 years ago. Funny being part of a multinational, especially now that I'm editor.

Just finishing sending a last few e-mails from my phone before I switch off the work profile for a couple of weeks. It's not that I can't get a connection up in the mountains. It's doctor's orders, not that I needed Dr Strauss to tell me. I could see my stress building up in the mirror every morning, the pressure in my brain notching up and up, if I ignored the signs, my insurance wouldn't cover Connected Concussion - especially after all the warnings through from the NHS each day. I've no desire for a semi-permanent headache caused by screen dehydration and I certainly don't fancy spending a few weeks on a lumbar drip to get by spinal fluid back to the right balance. So, that's where I am. That's why I'm here. It's either a little R&R or face becoming part of another report on the dangers of the modern world.

Funny it had to take a health warning to get my act together to go and do something I love anyway. I suppose it's harder to remove yourself from work these days. All those flexi-hours and working from home sounded like a great idea when the government encouraged us all to switch, but it does rather blur that line with free time.

I'm looking forward to meeting Jen and the kids out there. With all the 2020 future gazing I've been doing, it's nice to know that some things won't do much changing. Skiing is still skiiing and thankfully they've banned powerboard hacks to stop the kids strapping on small motors to their decks up in the Trois Valley. The state of the piste would be awful this time of year if they hadn't.

Sitting on the EuroStar, I gaze with half my brain looking at the mag tracks they're beginning to lay down for the EuroBullet while my mouth runs through the motions of the last few e-mails I'm talking into my phone mails. Sure, I could have flown but I'm getting near the top of the next carbon count bracket and it's going to save me £5000 in tax if I can toe the line for just one more month. I can always splurge the family's budget on a summer holiday after April.

I squeeze send, switch my work profile off and stream a few episodes of the new HBO hit from my cloud space onto my roll-out OLED, wait for the ticket inspector to scan my phone and doze off until the train pulls in at Lyon.

From there I pick up my hire car. It's electric, of course. The acceleration is supposed to be better than it was when these things first arrived, but I don't hold out much hope for a record time up those windy mountain roads. Still, at least it's got HUD with an infra-red map and traffic overlay, so no worries about what's coming around those bends when the conditions get bad.

A few tedious hours of steering this way and that while brushing up on my language skills with those French lesson FLACS I've got stored up in the cloud and finally I arrive outside the challet in time for lunch. I've been dreaming of fondue; dipping some wine-soaked squares of semi-stale bread into a bubbling cauldron of five kinds of cheese. Instead it's some toast and a chocolate wafer waiting for me on the counter of our self-catering cabin.

I've barely had time to wipe the crumbs off my chin and Jen's throwing my ski clothes at me, pointing at her watch and waving at the sun like a bee in a pollen dance. It's the first time she's ever been out on the slopes. She was an exercise freak long before the NHS Connected scheme began but, since we've been monitoring our vitals each day automatically - on the scales, on our phones, in front of the mirror - and it all connecting back to the clinics, the reports of improvements in her health have almost become an addiction. It's hard to complain when it's obviously making her feel so well and if it means she's all the keener to come out here, then so much the better.

I grab my salopettes, which I can't believe have come back into fashion with all this retro ski/anti-snowboarding movement going on, but they seem to look marginally less silly on me now than they did when I was 12. We leave Ollie and our 3-year-old with a nanny - I wouldn't feel comfortable leaving them with the Fisher Price Virtual Sitter set up out here - and trudge over to the ski lifts.

The RFID chip embedded in my wrist beeps the gates open and I hop on the bench with Jen. I'm convinced I can feel a tingle every time the implant registers. No one at Pocket-lint was up for trialling this tech, so, in the end, we all agreed we'd test it out for a month. It was pretty nasty going in. The actual pain from the chip gun was fine but there's something undeniably horrible to get used to about subcutaneous circuitry in your own flesh - especially when you can push it around a little bit. Minging really but once the redness disappeared I began to get used to it. I still find myself scratching at it absent-mindedly, but I suppose it's only been a week. I haven't quite dared to link all my finances to it but I'm happy to give it a whirl for stuff like ski passes and the odd gym membership. It certainly saves faffing round with my phone.

At the top of the lift we meet Manu, Jen's ski instructor for the morning, and, as much as I said I'll take part as well, I'm bored after an hour or 2 of talk about "releasing your edges" and leaning forward into your boots and I go off on my own to see if I can remember a few things I was taught all those years ago.

I switch on the power to my new mark II Nike Sports shades. There's enough of a charge in them to keep them going all day especially with the extra juice supplied by the nanowires patches in my clothing. The passing air should certainly get them working up some current at 10mph and over.

The display on my glasses kicks to life in front of my eyes. Heart rate coming at a steady 75bpm as measured by the arms at my temples, ground speed at 0mph, stop watch yet to start. Away we go. Turning my skies parallel I start off straight down the mountain arcing this way and keeping my speed at a steady 20mph. Heart rate up to 110. I start to get a little confidence, feel myself loosen in my boots a little and push it a little further. Skis straight down again, 25, 30mph and my blood really pumping now with adrenaline and exercise. Let's see how high I can get these numbers to go.

Coming up through the thirties, I can feel my heart pounding in my chest as well as seeing it shooting up and up on my glasses. 37, 38mph and this is feeling really pretty damn fast as the snow whooshes past me, the cold air fresh on my cheeks. 39mph and my legs are beginning to shake a little. I'm not sure if that's my nerves of the patchy, trodden surface of the piste. Further, harder, faster, the wind a gale in my ears. 40! The magic figure pops up red in the corner but before the whoop can leave my mouth, I feel the tip of my right ski make a sickening scrape on the ice and I look down just in time to see it lock underneath the middle of my left and register the terrible horror of what's about to happen to my body.

I remember the moment my knotted skis beneath me jerked to a stop. I remember the rest of me paying no mind and the laws of physics taking over. I remember the feeling of complete freedom for a second as my whole frame left the ground. It would have been beautiful if the mountainside hadn't been waiting for me. Then the last thing I remember before waking up, who knows how long later with more sore bits than I can count, was the 190bpm reading flashing away in my glasses.

My glasses. No, I don't appear to be wearing those anymore. In fact, it's very bright, a vast eyefull of backlit bright white with even brighter spots swimming around in my field of view. Concussion? I'm not sure. I reach out for, well, for anything - my glasses, my own hands, anything. My gloved fingers find deep snow either side of me. I can hear the gortex crunch on loose packed powder and realise my whole body is stuck fast. I've landed somewhere off the piste. No one will be skiing past here. Worse still, I can't feel my legs and as my heart starts to pound again, suddenly I'm glad I'm not wearing those glasses any more.

I stop bothering trying to take my weight on my elbows and let my back drop down into the snow. Just the clear white of the sky and the fresh cold smell of the air to keep me company while I rummage around inside my pocket for my phone. There's a strong signal from the WiMAX tower in the resort (how else would they be getting their broadband out here?) and I've just about the presence of mind to activate the Mountain Rescue app - one of the few useful ones of the 1.2 million on the Android Market. I hold the phone close to my chest, just breathing heavily. The screen's making me feel sick and my head starts to swim before a voice pulls me from my half dreams.

"'Allo? 'Allo?"

I want to make a gag about the old 80s sit-com, but don't have the strength to face explaining it to the person on the other end of the call. I tilt the display up and see a member of the Alps emergency team looking back at me. I explain my predicament, he reads my GPS signal and patches me through to the hospital in Geneva.

A doctor appears on the screen. I can see the ceiling moving past her furrowed expression. She must be talking to me on a medi-pad as she does her rounds.

"Do you have any sensor pads with you?" she asks.

"No," I reply. She stops and gives a sharp sigh.

"You should always carry them on the mountain, you know this?" she lectures. "It's not like they weigh anything at all. Okay, we'll have to do it the hard way. Put your phone against your wrist".

She takes the reading of my pulse.

"Now open your suit and put it under your arm."

She takes my temperature.

"Now, I can't measure your brain activity", I hear her mutter something about there probably not being any anyway, "so, just take a photo of your eyes for me and send it over".

I've barely pressed the shutter and the doctor is already tutting in the way plumbers used to give an estimate before the Augmented Reality for Maintenance and Repair scheme took off.

"You are concussed. Okay, so you need to be very very careful for me here. Just stop and say you can't if begin to feel sick. I need you show me your legs. Hold your camera out so I can see them".

I sit up as slowly as I can and try to keep my hands still while I point my phone towards the end of my body that I can barely face to look at right now.

"Okay", the voice comes back. "According to my medi-pad, it looks as if you have a clean break to your right fibula but I suspect you might have a hairline on your tibia as well. If you've got pain in your left leg it's either going to be some nasty bruising or possibly some minor damage to your ligaments or tendons, but we can get a better look at that when you get here. The rescue team is on its way to your position. They should be there in in 20 minutes but you can track them if you like".

If I was going sit and stare at a screen until I'm picked up, I'd probably prefer to stream the David Attenborough tribute season of HD nature specials from the cloud, but I've a feeling I'll be throwing up all over that nice crisp OLED instead of enjoying the show. Still, I've got a funny feeling our family storage space is going to be choc-a-block full of CBeebies and endless recordings of reality shows instead. Must remember to password protect my programmes.

I could voice call Jen and tell her what's going on but she'll only panic. I'll be alright. At least I think I will. Maybe I can use another voice to keep me company. I don't know if my bluetooth nanoset is still in but let's give it a go.

"Sasquatch", it's my voice activation keyword. They did say pick something you're never likely to use in normal conversation. "Sasquatch. Play French Lesson 3".

The phone does a double soft buzz to confirm recognition. It was hard getting to know all the new subtle haptics on Android, but it's like a second language once you get the hang of it. My FLACs kick in with the sound of the polite French tutor somewhere about my locale. 

Damn it, I'll never find that tiny thing in the snow. That'll be the third nanopiece I've lost this year. Ah well.

"A is for argent - money..." says the voice as the lesson begins.

Yes, money. Money for another nanopiece. Still, maybe I can call one in for review instead. I'll ask Chris. I wonder how close the medical world is to gene therapy? They'd have me running again in 5 weeks if they could switch on the right parts of my DNA at will. I should imagine that one's got another 5 years of bouncing the ethics around Brussels before it gets to the public. Still, I'm sure the NHS will get me up and going again with hydrotherapy sessions. There's plenty of money in the service since the government forced the NHS Connected monitoring scheme. People bitched about privacy but it certainly saved spending all that cash on people who weren't keeping up with drug and diet regimes.

"...C is for casser - to break..."

I wonder what they'll use for my cast? I've never really paid much attention to plaster of paris technology. I don't suppose d3o is much good for this kind of thing.

The fog about me starts to shift and I swear I can hear someone hoovering the piste around me. Maybe that's how they clean the mountains these days?

Wisps of cloud swirl overhead as the hoovering rises to a peak and a shadow comes out of the mists over my head. Am I looking up at the Spinner from Blade Runner? How did they go and invent the flying car without me hearing about it? I catch site of the tiny shopping trolley wheels as the sun streams through and catches the red cross on the side of this flying vehicle.

I don't believe it. It's an X-Hawk. I'd forgotten all about those things. I suppose it makes sense to have a VTOL craft like this without a big old helicopter blade to get in the way when you're trying top land on the side of a mountain. Those fans probably keep it from sliding down the slope as well. Ha, never thought I'd get a go in one of these.

"I hope this isn't included as part of my carbon count", I mutter as two friendly faces appear and roll me onto a stretcher.

"No, sir", replies one in a thick French accent. "Zis baby runs renewable".

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