Trending Tomorrow

People are talking about this spoof Twitter bug report, which describes a problem with a bot using Twitter’s API:

Let’s just say that I’m convinced that, somehow, @timebot is pulling not only tweets from the past, but tweets from the future.

It’s a very cool idea, using the bug report mechanism, and the implications are fascinating, with the suggestion that there are no more tweets AT ALL after a certain date…

It reminds me of a short story I read in a tatty yellowed pulp collection by Lin Carter (who went on to write new Conan stories) called Uncollected Works, about an inventor in old Paris who develops a mechanical machine that simulates the old “million monkeys and a million typewriters writing Hamlet” idea. The machine starts out printing gibberish, but then the inventor starts to recognize patterns. He takes the printouts to a linguist, who realizes the machine is printing the earliest known Sumerian writing. The machine is working its way up to Hamlet by way of everything that came before it! It then works its way up through Greek, Roman, and so on, up to the present day.

But then it doesn’t stop, and the inventor is able to read the written works of the future. The story describes him listing the great novels of the future, and ends with the narrator lamenting that he didn’t find out where this eccentric man lived or worked.

I recently used Twitter’s archive download feature, (click ‘Request your archive’ at the bottom of this page) which allows you to generate and download a ZIP file containing a database dump CSV file containing all of your own tweets. I opened it up, and read through a bunch of stuff dating back to August 2007, when I went back to living alone. It feels weird to read these old messages, like it was a different life. I wonder if messages from the future would be as weird? Mentioning names, objects and concepts that don’t exist or mean anything yet is one thing, but the future doesn’t have any emotional overlay on it yet. Hindsight gives you that depth. Foresight is flat.