What: Wired magazine’s end-of-book Found page, featuring a heavily Photoshopped photo of an artifact from the future. Here is May 2007’s “Fido Fusion,” clearly the best way to procure a dog. I mean, who wouldn’t want a dorkie?
Why: Wired’s editors figured out Photoshop before anyone else. They realized that it could not only make things prettier, but also that it could make things. So each issue, they concoct an intricate vision in their virtual workshop. Look at the slides from this 2013 Happy Meal. The burger is vat-grown Kobe beef. The box has a mini-fryer, a disposable iPod, and a diabetes warning. The Coke has a tunable flavor infusion system and a free sample of Flintstones Ritalin. Welcome to the future.
Impact: The artifacts take our measure like nothing else on earth. Walking a laser beam between winsome and terrifying, the pieces are masterworks of plausible deniability—plausible, because they could happen, and deniable, because, ha ha, I mean seriously, we’re not going to let it go that far, are we? Well, are we?
Personal Connection: My phone rings a lot. When Wired’s Chris Baker called early last year and asked if Lone Shark could help them and producer J.J. Abrams transform the May 2009 issue into a festival of puzzles and mysteries, we said yes. Then Wired’s Nick Thompson asked if we could build a manhunt to chase reporter Evan Ratliff across the country, and we said yes to that too. We’ve been saying yes a lot to Wired; on one day this week, I worked on four different Wired projects, including the mind-exploding Repo Men hunt we did with Universal Pictures on wired.com. Sadly, I haven’t yet gotten a chance to envision an artifact, but I hope to eventually. After all, the future is soon.
Other Contenders: Martin Gardner’s long-running column on mathemagical distractions in Scientific American; Harper’s Index, a logical way of looking at a world which defies logic; Games’ influential fake ads, a trick which I’ve copied more times than I can count; Highlights’ coolly moralistic Goofus & Gallant, the adventures of two boys who could not be more different; Mad’s fold-in, a near-certain method of destroying your issue’s resale value.