Annie in Wonderland
- a science fiction story about
how we will get
experiences about history and archaeology in
Annie is an 18 years
old London girl and has a great interest in history. She likes the
Romans and the time of the Roman Empire. She is reading the old Roman
texts, the poems, Gibbon (also for the English), watching pictures of
sculptures and mosaics in books and on Internet (now called Ultranet
When she was little her father used to bring her to the British Museum.
Still this museum has a lot of exhibitions in the traditional ways;
there are objects in vitrins, small texts and actually it is mostly
working as museums have done since the middle of the 19th century.
In year 2010 a big Roman temple was opened in central London, not far
from Piccadilly, and it function as a real Roman sacred edifice. The
congregation has more then 3000 members, most of them young people. Here
are all the Roman ceremonies, the gods Venus, Jupiter and Mars are
worshiped, holy fires are burning and even some odd mystery religions
have their place here.
Endless of discussions and scandals preceded the opening of the temple.
BBC had discussions on peak time. The archbishop of Canterbury lost his
temper in a live transmission after some one remarked that the
Christians should by definition show respect for others. Main sponsor
for the temple is a famous British computer genius, who donated 5
million £ in year 2024. He also started a working Roman gambling house,
as the Romans once enjoyed this pastime.
Annie visits the temple now and then, but she is still too shy and
afraid to join the congregation. The atmosphere there, the strange
songs, the smell, the dresses, the secrets fascinate her and they give
her fantasy a lot of impulses. “I am a reincarnated Roman woman”,
she says to her brother who laughs to tease and irritate her.
She is using a service on Ultranet called 'Make-on-Demand'. At the
computer at home she is designing Roman pieces of jewellery like silver
brooches and bronze arm rings. There is a catalogue with pictures on the
net of original objects, where she can get inspiration for her own new
design in Roman style. Some times she makes a little anachronism by
adding an Egyptian cathead, "because they are so cute".
Annie sends the design by Ultranet to an automatic factory, which moulds
or manufactures the object, and in a few days she will have it back in a
real version – if the Post delivery not is on strike. Since the
robotized factory makes thousands of different objects every day it is
cheap and a little brooch cost about like three Coca Cola. But many
young people also are working with different handicrafts in the
traditional ways, in fact more now than 30 years ago. Silver smiting is
popular because the tools are simple and cheap and the work could be
done at home.
Annie, like many young girls and nowadays even boys, likes to play with
the “Snow White”- machine, named after the fairy tale. The
interesting mirror, (like “Mirror, mirror on the wall…”) does not
speak but gives the possibility to easily change and try different
dresses. It is a big cylinder and the asking person is standing in the
middle. By giving a computer instructions you can have a projection on
the walls of yourself in different dresses.
the five buttons: “Roman”, “50 AD”, “18 years old”, “Woman”,
”Elegant”, the machine projects the dress on the person so Annie
look like she were dressed for a evening party in Rome at 50 AD in stola
and pallium. The effect is like in a 360-degree mirror and she
can see herself from all directions and even record the image.
By pressing the button for make-up and chose from different variants
even the face will be colorized in Roman young-girl style. Now she needs
no ornatrix, a Roman hairdresser, who makes the coiffure. By
pressing perfume-button the cylinder will be filled with actual smell of
Roman perfumes. (Real copies of Roman perfumes are sold in shops in
London with names like Gladiator Sweat, containing synthetic hormones
The 'Snow White'-machine also gathers all information for producing a
complete dress in traditional textiles. It takes some minutes for the
robots to produce the dress. It is obvious that 'Snow White' also has
changed the whole structure of textile production over the world for
daily clothing. No bad fitting clothes any more.
The re-enactment movement, which became popular in the 1990-ies, has
been growing all the time. Often the borders between reality, fantasy
and history are blurred. In the streets of London one can today not only
see people in traditional dresses from far away cultures like India or
West Africa, but also from distant historical cultures like Hellas,
Golden Hoard, North American Indians and even 'Neanderthals' are now and
then seen lumbering along Oxford Street.
Sometimes the whole family goes out trying to find a Roman restaurant,
which is serving the old menus with exclusive ingredients like swan
tongues. There are dozens of Roman restaurants in London. As the much of
the meat comes from rare or almost extinct animals, most of these
restaurants started first after 2013, when new methods for cloning was
introduced. It became easy to for example clone a swan thong – just
put the original (or cloned original) in a little can and add the magic
liquid and wait for some days. Cell by cell is cloned – a little bit
expensive but better then breeding swans and kill them. Also more
appropriate for a young girl who thinks about the animal's rights. So
Annie has in fact eaten ‘the same’ menu as Cleopatra once did.
Apicius' cookery book is in daily use.
VR-helmets where one can look into virtual worlds have been on the
market for 25 years. The old ones had problems with low frequencies,
which made the spectator dizzy and also gave the feeling of being tipsy
after the removal, are now solved. Most of regular fiction films are
produced for this media now. Some are interactive others not.
Of course historical films (or 'lings' as they are called now – an
acronym) are popular. Annie has one called 'Lydia', where she can walk
around in the Roman empress home, give the servants and slaves orders,
re-furniture rooms, listen to poets, poising some enemy and much else.
She can spend hours with the helmet on and have an ambition to learn
more Latin language to ‘really’ feel how it was once upon a time.
Her brother has secret ‘lings’ in his wardrobe called ‘Roman baths
and comparable establishments’ and also one called ‘Follow the
Vikings on a Night Tour in Kiev the Year 966 AD’ with unknown content.
The turn over of the ling business in Europe is now bigger than that of
the mobile phone industry. (This happened first in year 2023 and has
been so since that.)
Since the beginning of the century the pendulum of impact, economy and
science has swung from North America to the Orient. Many of the best
laboratories are now situated in China, Korea, India and Japan. An
Indian/Sri Lankian professor named Da Silva constructed some years ago
the first good working ‘feeling transceiver’ – FTV. By putting a
lot of electrodes on the head – mounted in a special cap – it is
possible to transmit specific feelings from one person to another and
also possible to measure the intensity of the feelings. Of course the
feelings can be recorded on any appropriate media and transmitted like a
radio or TV signal.
The first electroencephalograph was invented already in 1903 (by Willem
Einthoven and the test person must keep the feet in bucket with salt
water to be grounded) and developed as a medical device for more than
hundred years. In 2021 De Silva succeeded in finding the methods of
influence the right centers in the brain with the correct frequencies
and effects. Many sci-fi authors have predicted this device; one well
known was Arthur Clarke.
So, now it is possible to really feel how other people feel. Soon
certain artists started to work with this new media and made
compositions of 'feelings' that went direct to the nervous system. It
was now not necessary to go the way over for example music, operas,
film, religion or drugs.
If someone got especially good feelings when listening to Mozart the
reaction was recorded and could be loaded into the brain of an other
person. Soon whole 'symphonies of feelings' was created, and even
connected with historical events. The most brave experienced the
trenches of the First World War; others liked to feel like Stalin for
some minutes. Some like to feel the euphoria of being Olympic gold medal
winner in 100 meters sprint, or being a mammoth hunter for some minutes.
Annie preferred a recording called 'Like a Roman Girl' by one of the
most famous composers. Her brother likes 'The Gladiator Five Minutes
before the Fight'.
As a variant of this feeling transmission the geneticist are making
experiments with drugs. The problem with the reversed electrocardiograph
is of course that no one really knows what Stalin felt; the compositions
are after all fake. By extracting some DNA from a lock of hair of Stalin
the geneticist believe that they finally can create a tablet that gives
you the personality of Stalin for some hours. Annie is dreaming of
feeling like Cleopatra, but it might still take fifty years before that
could be realized.
For some reason human beings seems to be attracted of historical places.
They want go there and experience them in reality, even if it is nothing
or little to see. "Here was the Battle of Hastings in 1066",
says the guide and people seem to be content to look at the
unpretentious fields of the village Battle in Sussex. This binding to
places is strange and can be a biological heritage from the territory
behaviour of animals.
Already in the first years of the 21st century different techniques was
invented by the computer industry to convey messages from historical
places. Various techniques built on GPS and Bluetooth interacted with
hand held computers and gave the owner continuous information about
places. Annie likes to go out on Sundays and study the old Londinium,
the Roman London. Often she walks randomly around and let the computer
tell and show her the story of the early Roman city.
Now it is possible for Annie to give her hand held computer the main
instruction: "Guide me to and show me all Roman remains in Londinium,
during the 1st-2nd century A.D." She is then able to get
information from thousands of pictures, texts and links. It is also
possible to connect it with the FTV and ling techniques to get maximal
experiences. In fact she can 'see' the old Londinium from the
place where she stands and also follow the changes over time.
Of course the process of change from traditional museums and techniques
to high tech was not wholly bloodless. The traditionalists considered
the new technique as blasphemy, and outburst of feelings characterized
the debate. 'The Times' editorial wrote in 2009: "It seems that the
main preserving agent used by the traditional museum curators seems not
to be synthetic chemicals but human venom, with a concentration not less
than in the glands of medieval dragoons."
Around 2006 investors found the branch of history interesting and it
yield a good money return. After that the development of new technique
increased exponentially. The starting point occurred, when new
technology was used for information about historical places. Still the
traditional museums have a role to play as keepers of the originals,
which people still want to see.
But ordinary young people in year 2030, like our Annie, has better
possibilities to understand and get insights in Roman history than any
erudite professor of antiquity through the centuries before her.
4 April 2002