SFWRITER.COM > Futurism > 2020 Vision > Virtual Visits
First aired 2 January 1998
Gillian Deacon introduces Robert J. Sawyer as a man in the Year 2020 who has just returned from his Christmas vacation. Rob looks well-rested and happy.
Gillian: Hi, Rob. Did you have a good holiday?
Rob: Oh, yes! It was terrific. I visited my brother in Calgary, my sister in Melbourne, my cousin in Texas, and an old high-school buddy who now lives in Montreal.
Gillian: Goodness! That's a lot of traveling. You must be exhausted.
Rob: Not at all. After all, I didn't actually go anywhere. Instead, I sent my avatars.
Rob: That's right. Virtual-reality versions of myself. I didn't really leave my living room.
Gillian: So you sent one computer-generated copy of yourself to Calgary and another to Melbourne?
Rob: Right. Since it's nighttime in Melbourne when its daytime in Calgary, I could easily monitor them both in real-time. But for the others, well, I simply flipped my attention between them.
Gillian: Like channel-surfing, but from body to body?
Rob: Right. It's great. My brother is forever showing boring holograms he took on his vacations; I just switched to somewhere else while he was doing that. Funny thing was that he wasn't really there, either he was off spending Christmas with his wife's family in Germany. It was actually one of my avatars visiting with one of his avatars.
Gillian: It all seems rather impersonal . . .
Rob: Not at all. You must have relatives you haven't seen for years, no?
Gillian: Yes, sure.
Rob: I don't; I see every one of my relatives and old friends as often as I like.
Gillian: Kind of like a high-school reunion anytime you want it?
Rob: Right. But it's better than that. See, if I went to a real high-school reunion, they'd see that I was losing my hair, that I'd put on weight, and so on. When I'm visiting with an old friend, I send an avatar with an athlete's build and a full head of hair. And, of course, when I'm visiting with my mother, I send a clean-shaven avatar . . . she never liked my beard.
Gillian: Isn't it all a bit dishonest?
Rob: People have always played different roles and adopted different personas depending on the social situation; this just lets you do that more effectively. And you don't put on weight when your avatar eats . . .
Gillian: Still, I think I like real contact real hugs, real handshakes better. And I get Frequent Flyer miles . . .
Rob: Well, it's as real as you want it to be. In fact, I'm not really here right now myself. I'm one of Rob's avatars; he's off watching a hockey game . . .
(and at this point, rather than his usual schtick of walking out of the frame, Rob just fades away, leaving an astonished Gillian looking at any empty chair)
Gillian: Well, that either was or wasn't Robert J. Sawyer, a holiday traveler joining us from the 21st Century. After the break, Robert J. Sawyer, the 20th Century science-fiction writer will join us . . . in the flesh, this time.
More Good Reading
Other "2020 Vision" scenarios