I had to have that title. I HAD to.
And it only works if “leisure” is phonetically spelled to match a thick Edinburgh accent amped up on cocaine. If you don’t know the Trainspotting reference, enjoy! (at 1:30, but the whole interview is classic)
As Spud says, IT’S GOT TO BE THE BEST, OR IT’S NOTHING AT ALL.
This is especially appropriate for my post today because we are going to the hotel of the future. A place designed to predict and fulfill your every desire before you even knew you had one.
And for the purposes of this trip, I will allow no technological melancholy or future shock about what we see. This is VACATION. We have permission from on high (just this once) to ignore all worries about human job losses, privacy issues, or AI run amok. This time, it’s all good.
I’m pretty pumped about this trip. I’ve never stayed in a really nice hotel before. No resorts, no four stars. Probably no three stars, either. About the closest I ever got to “nice” was a hotel for a company business trip to Vienna in 2007. All the furniture was oval-shaped and water from the bathroom sink shot up instead of down. But maybe that’s just Europe.
You and I are going on this vacation together whether you want to or not. Vacations are better with company, and this is the future, so we need all the in-person companionship we can get.
So here we go.
We step off the plane in Rome, pass through customs, and walk right to our flying drone taxi. The drone was sent by the hotel and personalized for us, with greetings, music, temperature, and flight route chosen by us in advance.
Drone taxis are already with us—and working—if not quite in use yet. Apparently, Dubai is going to be first out of the gate with these things, so if you are an early adopter type, head to the desert.
The drone taxi won’t necessarily be more comfortable than a regular ground vehicle, but it’s all about maximizing time and efficiency. A faster trip to the hotel means more time on vacation.
We arrive at the hotel in less than two minutes. The taxi sets us down inside a central atrium after passing through a retractable weather shield. Check-in would have been accomplished the moment we got into the taxi—or possibly even earlier. At the very least, an automated retinal or DNA scan would have confirmed our identity and accommodations on the way.
The moment we step out of the taxi, our robot butler is waiting to greet us and take our bags. The robot isn’t standard hotel staff; it is specific to us and has a gender, personality, makeup, and skillset we customized long before ever setting foot on the plane to get here. I’ve demanded—against your objections—that its voice be the same as C-3PO’s. I’m a geek, and I like Star Wars, so deal with it. I only learn later that the butler uses a different voice when he is alone with you and C-3PO’s when I’m present.
What will it look like? This depends entirely on how far into the future we are. I’m going to randomly pick twenty-five years from now and say it’s identical (or very nearly so) to human—unless we specifically chose otherwise.
You vetoed my request to have it look like C3PO as well as sounding like him, so our butler looks identical to your deceased cousin Avery. You knew him only sporadically, but have fond memories of the guy and thought it would be comforting. I find this somewhat creepy, but then I also chose the upgrade option for Blade Runner-esque inner-pupil glow, so I have limited space to complain.
Our robot butler takes us to our room. It’s predictably gorgeous, but we knew that through virtual reality tours prior to the vacation. We even used the hotel’s remote lucid dreaming program to experience a full day here through our collective dreams two weeks ago, and it seemed lovely.
I’m feeling like a nap after the flight, but you want to go to the pool for a bit. I ask the robot butler to tag you with a few POV cams and send the feed to my hotel-programmed lucid dreaming so I don’t miss out on anything while I nap. I lay down on the bed, which conforms perfectly to my body. A mix of sound waves, air pressure changes, and chemical relaxants (or my own synced, internal nanorobotic implants) get me into REM sleep almost instantly.
I wake two hours later (long naps are ok when you’re still part of the action) and meet you in the hotel restaurant downstairs for our first meal. We won’t need to choose our food; the hotel already knows. The AI kitchen prepares a meal with genomic food design based on our DNA profile and a mapping/analysis of everything we have and haven’t eaten over the last few months. It will match our needs and desires exactly without us ever having to look at a menu.
Next up is the spa. The hotel already knows everything about our physical bodies (and a ton about our minds) and programs the experience to match our needs and preferences and, of course, the value of the package we paid for prior to arriving.
You spent more than me, so you get the virtual reality experience that masks the robots working on you and puts you on the shores of a tropical beach.
Aside from all the normal massage and skin treatments, you’re getting about a year added onto your life (not that you need it) and a little brain scrubbing/dopamine regulation that will up your emotional intelligence a few notches. My own experience isn’t so fancy, and I only get to see the walls change into other environments instead of experiencing full immersion in another world.
After the spa, we tour the grounds around the hotel. A few other guests run past on their own adventures. Based on their erratic movements, some have clearly chosen to experience the hotel through full VR packages that mimic medieval Japan or 19th century New York or who knows what. We opted to see the hotel as it is; the VR in our own homes is nearly as nice.
That afternoon, we and our butler board one of the hotel’s flying cars for a tour of ancient Rome. The butler becomes our expert tour guide, programmed with all necessary history and a stylistic flair for presenting it. Each site includes more remote VR that can transform ruins into living versions of themselves. The ancient Coliseum becomes the living Coliseum, complete with tridents and tigers and fountains of blood.
We retire to the hotel for another specialized meal and a night of more lucid dreaming. Neither of us has experienced the natural, randomized dreaming of the human body in many years, and the thought of unmanaged sleep is fairly terrifying. Tonight we choose to share the same dream, a physical transformation into dragonflies that flitter about the banks of the ancient Nile and spy on the Egyptians about their daily work.
Five more days pass in similar fashion, each with a ten or twenty-minute Hyperloop trip to some great ruin all over Europe. On our sixth day, we reach the end of our time in the hotel. Leaving is sad—being here was like living inside a conscious being, and now it feels like exiting the womb.
To ease the blow of separation, our butler offers an array of virtual memory packages that will allow us to relive the experience on demand. The cheapest options is a simple VR projection of what our own POV cams saw, and the most expensive is a recurring immersive experience that lets us join a live VR feed of current guests who volunteer their own vacations for the enjoyment (and money) of others.
You pick the pricey package, but in a moment of uncharacteristic traditionalist sentiment, I decide to let this experience become natural memory. It stings a little (ok, a lot), but I’m told by the Butler that I can change my mind at any time. All I have to do is ask.
We’re home in Atlanta a couple of hours later. My house informs me of two unsuccessful break-in attempts and plays a retrospective of all the most adorable things my cat did while I was gone.
The end, back to normal future life, whatever that may be.
Much of the speculation in this post about future hotels and what they will contain was extrapolated from this Forbes interview of futurist Dr. James Canton by writer Katie Bell. Check it out!
My biggest difficulty with all this is knowing how many of these technologies will be specific to a hotel and not in people’s homes. It seems to me that if you have the income to vacation at a place like this, then you have the income for the same VR in your own living room. Likewise with the butler; you’re likely to have a house robot with most of the same functions. But the spas, the genomic dining, the robo-cars to tourist attractions—I can see high-end hotels having a vacation monopoly on those, at least for a little while.
What do you think? Sound fun or horrifying? Remember that I gave you permission to enjoy and forget about all the dystopian implications.
I did get a kick out of how uniformly positive Dr. Carton sounded in the interview about all these advances. Why so positive? He’s apparently on contract with Hotels.com, so draw your own conclusions…
Maybe I’ll get a job designing the VR scenarios.
My pleasure in other people’s leisure (UK pronunciation, please).