James Lileks
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If you go to the Minnesota State Fair in, oh, let’s say 2068, there will be 3-D printers that let you duplicate yourself in butter, which is sprayed on a self-­cooling robotic skeleton.

You can use this butterganger (as the Germans call it) to hold your place in the line for corn dogs. Buttergangers will not, however, be counted in the fair’s attendance figures unless they become self-aware. Even then, they will have to purchase a ticket and return the next day.

The Mighty Midway will be virtual. Sure, the old rides were fun, but they also were noisy and dangerous. Virtual reality headsets will reproduce all the thrills, disorientation, anxiety and nausea of the expensive, carbon-intensive rides.

The midway will consist of a large, dark barn where people wear headsets, lean back and forth, scream and desperately regret that deep-fried pickle with cream cheese.

The carnies will be virtual, too. They’ll still encourage you to try your luck; if you win a massive, pointless stuffed animal the size of a prize boar, you can rent a drone to carry it as you enjoy the rest of the fair. (Drones are also available to tote your buckets of cookies, so you can have hands free for turkey legs and French fry feedbags.)

If you have a yen to revisit the old days of the vaguely disreputable midway, just enable the Classic Carny Mode, which has adjustable levels of tattoos and teeth.

Since meat will be grown in labs rather than taken from animals, the animal barns will be occupied by genetically enhanced cows and pigs taking care of young 4-H members. Stop by and watch a terribly bored sow sitting by some slumbering kids from the remaining rural district.

In the barns, the fans will still be blowing, moving the animal-scented air and adding the white noise that puts you to sleep if you’ve had a beer or two.

On opening day, the time capsule from 2018 will be opened. It will contain a pound of Spam, which will be promptly sliced and served to dignitaries. It’ll be fresh and delicious.

Does that sound like fun? No. No, it does not. It sounds odd, and it also doesn’t sound like our fair. The Minnesota State Fair is low-tech. There are few, if any, computer screens. Everyone pays cash, which is nice. You think, “Oh, I remember this! It’s like 1992, or 1981, or 1975, or 1962, with fewer cigarettes and more tattoos.”

The fair is one thing we don’t want to change. In fact, we hope it’ll be the same in 2068, right down to the fake Televac 86000 handwriting analysis machine in the grandstand. At least I think it’s fake. Not saying it was hacked or anything, but this year it gave my personality audit entirely in Russian.

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks