What other city is so enamored of 1960's-ish retro futuristic junk? Think of it: it's basically a big glorified swivel chair. Does it recline? Does it have a vibrator? Does it wash your feet? I don't think so. So what good is it? It was Captain Kirk's glorified swivel chair, that's what.
Of course, even though Seattle has the stupid chair, and even though I hang in Belltown within walking distance of it every day, I will never be able to confirm that it doesn't do those things. That's because Seattle isn't Star Trek world, where they eliminate money and people fight Klingons purely for self-fulfillment and the opportunity to have sex with space aliens. Instead, Seattle is Paul Allen world, where you need money more than ever, and I'm several billion dollars short.
I'm not blaming Mr. Allen for it, just holding him up as an excellent example of a Seattle-variety futurism junky. He embodies the disease, what I like to call futuritis. That would be, namely, the desire to immerse oneself in a world full of toys that would have represented the future if found lying around the place in say, 1962, while not even bothering to try to realize any of the social advances associated with the science fiction that popularized said toys.
It doesn't matter if the toys are really advanced technologically or not. They only have to be associated with futurism. So, for example, a monorail is just a pigeon-toed articulated bus driven back and forth on a dedicated, narrow, elevated, road. The technology is more than 80 years old. But make it shiny and run it through buildings instead of around them, like those transport tubes on the cover of 1940's science fiction magazines, and you've got something that scratches the futuritis itch.
What concerns me is that in the future there's a handful of ace pilots, engineers, and rich space-tourists, but nobody's sweeping the streets. Paul Allen is going to be able to rocket-man himself from West Seattle to Ballard in less time than it takes to fry an egg, but the rest of us will be living in the cardboard boxes the rocket packs come in.
Five beautiful illustrations of what I speak are provided by our new space-age gleaming robot toilets.
They're self-cleaning, when they work. When they don't work they need to be fixed. This can keep maybe a handful of specially trained hotshot automation maintenance experts pulling down the big bucks. That's great, until you consider that if the toilets didn't clean themselves we could spend the same money supporting a team of 15 or 20 janitors and their supervisors to clean them around the clock after every use.
But no, that wouldn't be futuristic. Janitors don't gleam. Anyway, we're Seattle, city of hotshot engineers and technicians. You have to care for your own, right? Let the janitors get work in Pittsburgh.
Besides, in the future we're creating, anyone working here as a janitor won't be able to make enough money to live. That's because we'll make sure that all necessities come only in shiny, gleaming, expensive, packages. So if you're not one of the highly paid professionals we favor, you won't be able to afford the life we shaped for you. No problem for us professionals: the toilets will clean themselves.
In Star Trek it all works because the Federation passes out energy-matter materializers like our government used to pass out cheese. Give a man a piece of cheese, he eats for a day; give a man an energy-matter materializer and an endless supply of dilithium crystals to power it, he can eat for life and also materialize slippers and jockey shorts whenever he needs them.
It's just the opposite of what futuritis gets us. In Seattle, science costs money, and technology doesn't make slippers.
It's all about priorities. We'd rather spend millions connecting West Seattle to Ballard, than making them each better places to be. We'd rather pay one technician than five unskilled laborers. We want a future full of toys, with no more people than absolutely necessary.