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The Future Already Happened

8 February 2012

This would turn your average 1950s civilian's brain to goop.

I was reading an article the other day on all of the stuff sci-fi told us we were supposed to have by now and really don’t — flying cars, virtual reality, guys named Snake Plissken. I like pointing out where science fiction has gone wrong as much as the next guy, but what a lot of folks seem to forget is that we didn’t fail to live up to the sci-fi dreams of our ancestors. We got our own dreams instead.

Consider this — I give you license to time-travel back to 1949 or so. You can interact with a random citizen there, and tell him about the future, and you can tell him whatever you want. You can even lie and tell him about flying cars, or pills instead of food — basically confirming all of his wildest sci-fi dreams.

But I give you another option — and that is, telling him nothing, but handing him a fully-functional smartphone from 2012, complete with data connectivity (yeah, I know, the network didn’t exist back then — we’ll just assume the device is connected through the same fictional means that allowed you to travel back in time).

Which do you think would shock our 1949 resident more?

I tend to think that the technology we’ve actually achieved is far more impressive than the stuff we haven’t. A lot of the sci-fi devices our ancestors envisioned was actually pretty impractical, even downright useless. I could go into how flying cars would probably kill off 2000 people a day in this country thanks to midair collisions, or how virtual reality would make us retreat even further from society.

Or you could read this blog — essentially a collection of random thoughts from a guy you probably don’t actually know — then go back to seeing what someone you met in the fourth grade is up to today on Facebook, or interact with an all-star running back on Twitter. And you could do all of this from a cheap device weighing less than a pound that can do about a hundred other things.

So, as we have a history of predicting things wrong, I’m interested to see where we go next. What’s going to be the next big innovation to our mobile tech? What could someone from 2075 bring back and show us right now that would completely break our brains?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. 8 February 2012 1301

    When I first saw an iPhone, I was floored to say the least. In my hand was an invention of importance on par with any other big thing that came before. I know many will disagree with me, but we’ve moved beyond transportation being the magical thing it once was. Today we complain about traffic, even though, when you think about it, it’s a remarkable thing — all these vehicles taking people places where they do things. Some of us to jobs we like; others, not so much.

    I grew up thinking, “Man, the wrist watches in the Dick Tracy cartoon would be the COOLEST!” not thinking about how they would be almost too small to function well. In the smart phone, we got that and so much more. While they’ve become a source of distraction for many, smart phones and tablets have made the world accessible right there. Pilots no longer have to pull their shoulders out of socket carrying a bag full of manuals; doctors and nurses can have so much more information available to them. And yeah, we can kill time playing Angry Birds or Cut the Rope.

    What I love most about smart phones is how — while many blast them for making people less social — how they add to real life conversations in ways I never dreamed of. Sitting around with friends and saying, “What the hell was that obscure song by that band in ’85?” and there’s our answer. I can show people a view of the house where I grew up and they can do the same. More than that, as somebody who’s had to reluctantly travel for work, smart phones make things not so lonely. I hated that the first time I saw the Pacific Ocean that my wife wasn’t at my side. But being able to write Christopher [Heart]s Cynthia in the sand at Cape Lookout State Park in Oregon, taking a photo, and sending it to her…to be able to shoot video of the hike I did past the sign warning me that I was in bear country and being able to share it…it made the moment a bit more magical. I wasn’t so lonely because of an iPhone. Not that I’m one who doesn’t enjoy a certain degree of solitude, but being able to have some sort of connection during those times on the road when I did feel alone was a future I could have never imagined growing up.

  2. 8 February 2012 1307

    I tend to think that the technology we’ve actually achieved is far more impressive than the stuff we haven’t. A lot of the sci-fi devices our ancestors envisioned was actually pretty impractical, even downright useless. I could go into how flying cars would probably kill off 2000 people a day in this country thanks to midair collisions, or how virtual reality would make us retreat even further from society.

    Well.. That MIGHT actually be a good thing. (at least depending on where the accidents occur). If my car (STILL on the ground) has an avoidance system for the debris from the morons, I’m fine with it.

  3. 8 February 2012 1358

    As for breaking our brains from 2075, I’d say them bringing back videos of a multiple party political system where they all “agree to disagree” in a civil manner would fry most people’s brains.

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