Shopping will be different in the future, although perhaps just as much fun. Here is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Lessons in Space, that describes the experience. I envision a planet encased in metal, in which people live in "apts" situated along corridors of plastisteel. But I think certain aspects of shopping don't change. Hope you enjoy it.
The commercial levels of Lower Manhattan Apts were very different from the residential zone. Clusters of holo-ads throbbed in eye-searing reds and oranges. Blues and yellows swirled through them. Music blared from every doorway.
People swarmed in the corridor, talking to each other or their comm units. I threaded my way through the crowds, careful not to step on toes while avoiding the holo-ads that swam above.
I had learned the hard way on my first visit to the markets. I had let my gaze linger a second too long on one of the ads. It had swooped down on me, enveloping me in color and sound. I’d only been on Earth a week then, so I wasn’t used to the commlens.
Every Earth Citizen has to have a lens. It’s the law now. Worldgov AIs decided to link the lenses to the holo-ads, so if you look at one for more than a second, it registers your interest and gives the ad permission to invade your space.
I had asked Jorey why the citizens voted for such a law. He said it never came up for referendum. The AIs decided that if it was good for business, it was good for the citizens.
My reverie had distracted me, and I hadn’t moved my eyes quickly enough.
“Yes, Ms. Mylla,” a soft male voice whispered in my ear, “this new model of the Super Zam skimmerboard is indeed a wonder. Improved gyroscopic controls—“
I blinked hard three times to banish the ad. The colors flew back to their perch high up on the wall, but a voice returned, crisper this time. “Citizens who purchased this item also showed interest in—“
I blinked again. The voice vanished. I breathed in relief.
A holo-ad from the store I was passing looked interesting. As I walked in a robo-assist rolled up to me.
“How can we help madam today?” The robo’s mellow tenor, neither male nor female, greeted me.
“The dress in the ad,” I said.
“Of course, madam. An excellent choice, if I may say. Would madam kindly walk this way?”
I hated robo-assists. They were all so subservient. On Sat5 we had very few of them, and they were all in the tourist sections, so I had little contact with them. I had never bought anything that wasn’t government issue until I came to Earth. I always ordered clothes from the replicator, the standard stuff, maybe in different colors.
But now I had credits rattling around in my account and a surprising need for change.
The robo-assist had evidently accessed my records. It became even more servile, if that was possible.
“I believe we can fashion just what you want, Ms Mylla. If you would just stand here. . .?” It gestured to a spot in front of a holo-screen. “Your favorite color is registered as blue. Be so kind to observe. . .”
My image appeared, dressed as it had been when I left my apt—beige suit, brown shoes. Suddenly it changed. Now I was wearing the dress I’d seen outside, a scoop-necked, fitted thing in a nondescript pale blue. It hugged my body acceptably, tight enough to be enticing but not so snug that it left nothing to the imagination.
“View the back,” I instructed.
The holo-view changed.
“The style is acceptable,” I said, “but not the color.”
The outfit changed instantly to a deep indigo. Better, but not—
“Red,” I said suddenly.
My image changed. The outfit was now a vivid red, the color of new blood. I looked awful.
“No. Mute it. A shade darker.”
And there it was, perfect. The shoes were the new anti-grav heel style that forced you up on your toes, but no heel was visible. And they were transparent, except for a slight outline of red.
Cinderella slippers, I thought, remembering a story I’d read a light year away, a million years ago.
I walked out of the shop with my purchases on a wireless leash behind me. I had made a significant dent in my credit surplus, but I could do a lot more damage.
The seductive colors of the market ricocheted off my eyes. I was starting to get a headache. Maybe it was time to go home.
I wove and darted toward the slidewalk. I was careful not to look up. It wasn’t just because of the holo-ads. The market, unlike the residence levels, was constructed of balconies that ran the length of the half-mile space. There was nothing above for six floors. You could barely see the ceiling. It was almost like being Outside.
The slidewalk was relatively empty. It took me quickly past row after row of identical apt doors to where an Express chair waited. Picking up my bundles, I moved across the corridor to an empty seat. Grateful for a chance to sit, I fed my destination into the chair and relaxed. It would automatically shunt me to the proper uplift. I felt the canopy close over my seat as it sped into the dark Express tunnel.
I couldn’t believe how much I’d spent. I never wasted credits buying anything, even for my apt. It looked exactly as it had when I first moved in. Well, maybe a little messier, but basically the same. Why didn’t I spend credits on furniture, or art? Most people had something to hang on the walls, or stand in a corner. A light sculpture, maybe, or a magnetic resonance icon. Something.
All of my stuff was disposable, even my clothing. It was as if I didn’t intend to stay here long and wanted to travel light.
I kept my glance down, so I wouldn’t attract any of the holo-ads drifting in the ceiling above, and examined the idea. I had never felt really at home anywhere, either here or in creche. The realization made me feel curiously weightless, like I had when the ship from Sat5 reached midpoint and for a moment we were outside any gravity wells. I could drift off anywhere.