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28 July 2017

Visiting the Future in Scandinavia

To travel Scandinavia using AirBnB is to visit a version of the future. A clean, well-designed, if somewhat aseptic, future. You need hardly meet another human being. After booking (which is entirely online), I received instructions by email. There is no reception of course; check-in is by a code to unlock a key-box (a miniature safe), and collect a key, which then unlocks the front door. It's like an escape-the-room game (only in reverse: get-into-the-room). Payment is seamless, handled digitally in the background.

There's a definite AirBnB chic, and it's nice enough but generic. Posters from warehouse outlet stores, especially those with universal quotes. Interior decor by the numbers; it could have been designed by a machine.



At Vielje Fjord, we are met by a robot lawnmower - a roomba-style contraption that trundles autonomously around the garden, before returning by itself to its charging bay. This meeting with our robot overloads made a great impression on the younger generation. Fascinated and a little nervous, their garden games centred on it: Escape from the Robot Lawnmower, and Robot Lawnmover Will Eat Your Pizza. The object of this attention calmly continued on with its tasks, unperturbed.

I have the sensation of my family as a small bubble of humanity, travelling effortlessly through the landscape, our path mediated and managed by bots.

As we leave the cabin at Vielje Fjord, we notice the robot lawnmower has failed. It navigated itself into a narrow patch between a fence and some garden furniture, then stuck, it's sensors reporting no safe way out, until it's batteries drained. The future is impressive but it's still a work in progress; expect glitches.

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