2004-07-15

"Alien"

I just saw Alien on TV. Not the best experience (particularly with ad breaks), but I had to accept that I wasn't going to see it on the big screen. (The re-release wasn't shown round here.)

The story didn't really grab me, so I was in my usual sci-fi grazing mode, looking at the stuff.

What struck me the most was that it was a very 70's future. The tech wasn't very high even by today's standards (with the exception of the android), and the fashions suggest that there's been another 70's revival whenever this is set.

I found it particularly interesting that there were no tattoos or piercings on any of the crew.

Now, in 1979, I was 4 years old, so I don't think I'd have had any kind of opinion, but I'm pretty sure that even if I'd been old enough to have an opinion, I wouldn't have guessed how mainstream tattoos and – to a lesser extent – piercings would be, just 20 years into the future. And now I'm in that future, I'm left with two questions:

First, are tattoos and piercings here to stay? They seem fundamentally different to items of clothing; clothing changes, but we're all still wearing clothes of some description. Will tattoos and piercings change in a similar manner to clothes, not going away, but changing in design and location? (Please, no more dolphins!) Or will kids in 40-50 years look at my generation and find all that body decoration as quaint as we find old people who still wear hats or driving gloves?

Second, what's the next big thing? And how would you predict it? I'd guess it won't be solely decorative, but then I'm a geek. So if I try to imagine the future, I think of computing power integrated into my body. Not so much a piercing as an insertion. But I'd never have predicted tattoos or piercings. I'd never have either on my body, so why would I imagine anyone else would?

If I try to think of something without function, I end up at variations on themes we already recognize. Stick a light under the skin, and it's still something you could class as a tattoo. But then it's mostly pure chance whether any "new" thing gets a new name, or gets classed as a variation on an old theme. And it'll depend on its success and ubiquity whether any particular variation actually comes to stand for the original. Contrast the move from "electronic mail" to "email" to "mail" with the way the term "voice mail" isn't going anywhere because the technology sucks.

But don't get me started on how bad telephones are... I have to get some sleep.