Friday, April 20, 2012

Five Things on Friday - Living in the Future Edition

You know, this was once amazing
and bizarre technology.
As you know, I read a lot of Sci Fi. My passion for Sci Fi is the balance of what changes and what stays the same. The human condition is a constant, whether we're in Renaissance Venice, modern-day New York City or a colony on Mars. Humanity will be consistently beset with the same issues and tribulations - the fragility of the human body and mind, the balance of compassion and self-preservation, the moral ambiguity of everyday life.

What changes is not us, is not ever us. What changes is our interaction with the world around us. The technology that is developed, or sometimes lost, changes the way we live, but not who we are.

Sometimes, I am struck by the reality that I am, in a very real way, living in the future. We all are. We have, chronologically at least, surpassed 1984 and 2001: A Space Odyssey and more and more checkpoints are passed by every day. And yet, in some ways... well, in some ways, we are still watching 90210 and Dallas, so we can't be making that much progress.

All the same, though,

Five Things We Have Now that Could Have Been Wild Speculation Just a Few Years Ago

1. Holographic Performers - Okay, obviously, everyone has heard about the resurrection of Tupac, via hologram at the annual Coachella whatever it is. But, hey, did you know about Hatsune Miku? No, neither did I until this morning. Here, watch this, then return to me, my minions of YouTube. Confused? Hatsune Miku is a completely holographic, fictional performer who plays sold-out shows in Japan. Really, there's no person here. Her voice is sampled and run through some obviously voodoo computer program. Her lyrics and music are crowd sourced, written by fans and posted to YouTube or the Japanese equivalent. There is no human element. She's all made-up and all Live and In Concert. I can't decide if this is amazing or truly creepy. That's kinda what makes for good Sci Fi, though, so I'm a-gonna roll with it.

2. Cell Phones - I know this is wicked obvious, but just take a moment to soak this in: you probably have, in your pocket right now, a computer more powerful than the first computer to ever browse the Internet, with more memory than one of the early roomful of computers. Faster than the teacher's computer in your first Apple IIe computer lab. And here's the thing - chances are you've already reached at least one limit of it's power, run out of storage space and complained more than once about how slowly it loads video. It's a minuscule little powerhouse that just happens to also make calls, take pictures, check your email and function as a Star Trek worthy comm device. Plus, it's voice activated. (At least mine is - ha ha suckers - and I don't even have to call it Suri.)

3. E-Books - Trust me, I am the absolute first to insist that real, paper books remain a part of our world. There shall always be libraries, book shelves, the smell of paper and the annoyance of dust jackets, so long as I rule the world. (Shh. Don't upset the crazy lady.) But, seriously, as someone who is a book hoarder and has moved her entire library across the country and across town, I can say with absolute conviction, walking around with 27 books in my purse, like I am right now, rocks. Being able to whip out a couple of never-before read books in the doctor's office or a traffic jam to amuse a whiny kid rocks. Making margin notes and covering the pages with post-its, without literally making margin notes and covering the pages with post-its rocks. And I won't even get into how great it is to be able to go to the library at 3 a.m. FutureBooks - we has 'em.

4. Smart Appliances - The Smart House is something that pops up again and again in Sci Fi. In fact, on the fabulous show Eureka, airing right stinking now, Sarah is the sheriff's smart house (and more this season, hehehe). And yet, have you seen this fridge? It keeps track of what you have, tells you what you need to buy, what you can cook with what you have, connects to the Internet and scolds you if you take too many brownies. (I'm not sure about that last part.) And that's just the start, smart ovens and stovetops aren't far behind and there's even been a preview of a smart washing machine. Is it really that far fetched that we'll get them all to talk and maintain one "house" computer that knows everything that's going on? I think not. Exciting in a Sarah sort of way. Terrifying in a Skynet sort of way.

5. Reality TV - From The Running Man to Death Race to The Hunger Games, reality TV is an important part of our future. It's the struggle for humanity itself as people watch with awe as other's are injured, tortured and even killed. This is the "there but for the grace of God," version of the future. Or you could look at the example of Idiocracy and compare it to Jersey Shore. Whatever. It works either way.

I'm still waiting for the teleportation device, though. What are you amazed that we have? Or, what are you still waiting for?


Joni said...

Oh my stars! I'm gonna have nightmares now about the creepy holographic Japanese singer!!! WTH?????

To answer your other questions, though, I am continually amazed at the technology I use all the time but have absolutely no idea how it works. I don't know how I can hear my mommy's voice in the telephone even though she's talking on the other side of the globe. And now I can see her face while we're talking on the computer! How??? And how does an airplane get me from there to here??? And how does a microwave cook my food??? I don't know any of this, but I sure do like it.

I'm with you, though, the single biggest thing I'm still waiting for is teleportation. As awesome and mystifying as air travel is, it still takes a dang long time to cross an ocean.

Strangeite said...

I have given this a lot of thought over the last couple years. While many describe the Singularity as just the Rapture for the nerds, I am becoming more and more convinced that it is not only a possibility, but inevitable.

Think about the the gold standard vision of the future for people of our generation. Back to the Future 2.

Playing video games without a controller. Check.
Hundreds of TV channels with picture-in-picture capability on large flat screens. Check.
Individually targeted advertisements. Check.
Video Conferencing. Check.
Biometric security locks. Check.
Popularity of horrible 3D movies. Check.
Cameras everywhere in public spaces. Check.

These are just the ones from Back to the Future.

Siri is getting very close to having your own virtual personal assistant (think Jane from Speaker for the Dead). Google has developed the self-driving car (most estimates say that in less than 10 years, the technology will be standard in all new cars). Great chance that tomorrow James Cameron and Sergey Brin are announcing a plan to mine asteroids. Wikipedia has become the defacto repository for all human knowledge (and the contents of same, fits onto my 3 year old phone for offline access. Yes, that is the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy). The Navy is scheduled to outfit their fleet with lasers by 2020. DARPA has built a prototype of their God Ray (it projects sound frequencies wherein it appears that you are hearing a voice inside your head).

I could go on and on and on.

p.s. While we don't have transporters yet, we have developed quantum teleportation and quantum entanglement at a distance. I am doubtful that this will lead to transporters in the near term, it is very likely that it will lead to the ansible (like in Ender's Game). Speaking of which, I just read an article the other day from a MIT PhD candidate who outlined how the Little Doctor from Ender's Game could be built. Obviously, he stated that it would be a bad idea.