TBD: appreciating a catalog of the banal gadgets of tomorrow

David already posted about the amazing TBD Catalog, which is filled with "design fiction" about the devices of the future; but I just read it and I need to rave about it.

What makes TBD so great is the incredibly layered and witty way that it comments on the hot technological questions of today by imagining a hype-ish, Skymall-esque catalog to sell them. Every bit of the book is brilliant -- not just the gadgets, but the ad copy (some of which feels like it was machine-generated or -translated), the spreads where all the art is glitched, or replaced with infringement notices stating the art isn't available in your region, to the delicious, delicious fine-print, each line of which is a cautionary tale about the problems, crises, opportunities and disruption that will attend a world where drones walk the dog and everyfuckingthing is crowdsourced.

TBD genuinely feels like an artifact from a semi-dystopian, utterly plausible, terribly absurd future. It's Terry Gilliam's Brazil by way of the home shopping network, with a dash of Ghosts With Shit Jobs thrown in for good measure. It's one of the best science fiction books of the year, and it doesn't have a plot, or characters.

This isn't just a brilliant antidote to banal futurists' forecasts -- it's also the most magnificent toilet-side reader since Randall Munroe's What If. It's $23, and worth every penny.

TBD Catalog

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