When Gary Shteyngart wrote about the äppärät, an iPhone-like device that could stream our thoughts and conversations, while monitoring our popularity in real time, the idea seemed like a cynical parody. The gizmo plays a central role in his 2010 novel Super Sad True Love Story, and on my first read I found out it distracting, cynical, and implausible. I never thought the iPhone would come so close to the äppärät, let alone do so within half a decade, but with Meerkat and Periscope, reality is taking its cues from fiction.
Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post's review of the novel:
"In these pages BlackBerrys have evolved into something called an äppärät, an irresistible multipurpose device for shopping, scanning and "verballing" our pornographic lives in real time over the "GlobalTeens" network. Only the youngest children actually speak before "retreating into the dense clickety-clack äppärät world of their absorbed mothers and missing fathers." Privacy, of course, is as quaint as a Victrola — sexual preferences, credit ratings and cholesterol levels are broadcast nonstop — and everyone continually rates everyone else on an 800-point scale for personality and sexiness in the most salacious terms imaginable. I'm tempted to "friend" Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and "message" him these scenes one by one."
Super Sad True Love Story also eerily predicted events similar to Occupy Wall Street. The thing the novel predicted incorrectly? The rise of onion skin jeans. According to Racked, this spring it's the '70s that are on fleek.
To learn more about live streaming, I invited The Verge's live streaming expert Ben Popper to tell me about its origins, and what our future looks like on and off camera.