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The Dilbert Future

by Justas (19 October 2004)


As we're already talking about books and I promised to logg this one soon, I shall now be telling you a little something or another about this most magnificent creation that I have recently acquired - "The Dilbert Future" by Scott Adams.

Now, for several weeks after receiving "Molvania" from Pstonie (along with a legal copy of Starcraft he had bought for me so we could play it online), I considered it to be the most amusing book I had ever read. Of course, I haven't read a whole lot apart from compulsory literature at school, which generally has a negative aura surrounding it simply for being compulsory. But the celebration of my birthday was nearing and people asked me what kind of a gift I would like to get from them. I didn't have any special requests, but shortly after answering something along the lines of "I don't have any particular wishes. You'll have to improvise." to one of such inquiries at school, we had a social studies class. Among other things, the teacher described "the rise to the level of incompetence" and noted that this phenomenon is often ridiculed in the Dilbert books. Being a big fan of the Dilbert comics and TV series, it didn't take me too long to figure out that this was what I wanted for my birthday, and so I got it.

At first, I doubted whether Scott Adams' humorous predictions of the future mixed with a comic strip here and there would be an experience as enjoyable as watching an episode of the series on TV. A few days later I was convinced that they were and the book's level of amusement quickly assumed a slightly-above-Molvania rating on my scale. The downside here, however, is that it is an Estonian version of the book and I can see that a lot has been lost in the translation. The translator's name indicates her to be female and apparently she doesn't know a whole lot about computers or Star Trek. For example, "to stun with a phaser" is translated to something along the lines of "to scare with a switcher" and of course, "Vulcan" becomes "volcanic".

But to answer a question that you've probably been wondering about during the last few sentences: yes, the book has a whole chapter about Star Trek. More specifically, it describes his Prediction #7: "Life in the future will not be like in Star Trek"1 by bringing examples such as "If holodecks were real, they would be the last invention ever as nobody would ever want to come out of one" or a dialogue describing what it would be like if we could have sex with aliens:

Me: "Can I touch that?"
Alien: "That's not an erogenous zone. It's a separate alien lifeform that has been attached to my body for six hundred years."
Me: "That's cute. I wonder if it would let me have sex with it?"
Alien: "That's the same thing I asked six hundred years ago."

And as if this wasn't enough, I'm now going to quote a whole two paragraphs from an entirely different chapter of the book (once again translated from English to Estonian by a 'professional' and then back to English by a me), to furtherly demonstrate the author's brilliance:

I feel completely helpless among all my broken junk. I can't fix anything myself. There's a dead lightbulb right in the highest spot of my ceiling. I can't figure out how I am going to change it. I don't have a ladder that is long enough. Even if I did, I wouldn't want to risk my life just to replace a lightbulb. I wouldn't want to die while changing a lightbulb because this is what people would remember me for. Nobody would say: "I'm going to miss him." No, they'd say: "How many cartoonists would it take to replace a lightbulb? Ha ha ha!" Even if I did have to die while doing a household task, I wish it wouldn't involve any lightbulbs.
There's a tool at the hardware store for changing lightbulbs. It's a long rod with a device on one end for grabbing the bulb. In the manual, it says that it can only be used if you used the same device to get the old bulb there in the first place. Now how am I supposed to know what the previous inhabitant used to install it? For all I know, he could've used a trained monkey taped to a broomstick. If I were to buy this device, it would lead to me pointlessly beating the bulb, getting unbelievably frustrated and not achieving anything. And it would take an entire afternoon to fail such a task.

1 - Every time he reaches a solid conclusion in the writings, there's an emphasised box with a summary of the prediction. For example: 'Prediction #2: In the future you will wish that I had never made you think what it'd be like if I did jumping jacks with an open kimono.' (actual quote).