November 30, 2011

November 30, 2011

In the Year 2000

Traveling to the future is one of mankind’s universal dreams. If offered the chance to see what civilization is like in 20, 50, or 100 years, who wouldn’t be tempted?* Soon after we figured out how to use technology to travel in space, we started trying to use it to travel in time.** Because, you just KNOW the future is full of really cool crap, right?

Here is the video that inspired me to believe that humanity has hope after all, and that by Jove, anything is possible!

Chills, people. CHILLS.

After watching this things, I made a list of stuff I hope to see when I travel to 2112**:

- A cashless society. Or at least one free of checks. I’m not talking a full-on “mark of the beast” situation here. But can’t we relegate checks to history, like telegrams and the Postal Service***?

- Video calling everywhere voice calling is available. It could be turned off, of course, but I pretty much want teeny webcams on every phone, computer, and device in existence. My dry humor is even more impressive when it come with a complete lack of facial expression.

- Teleporters. Self-explanatory when you spend 3 hours a day in traffic.

- Medical treatment based on genetics. As I understand medicine today, we seem to be playing a lot of defense. Once we’ve sequenced the genome or what-have-you, we should be able to pre-treat everything with fancy drugs, right? (I would also like these drugs to be available as gummies. They’re fun.)

- Free Diet Coke for everybody. Not necessarily a technical advancement, but y’know.

I was pretty optimistic that this was all possible. It was a new feeling for me.

Then I saw a similar video from back in 1993. I can only assume that it too made people All Excited:

Is it just me, or do we have all of these things already? And while we are technically living in what the people of 1993 would have considered the future, it doesn’t seem full of cool crap at all.


Now my only hope lies with Oprah, and I’m not at all comfortable with that. Sigh.

* Though this question is intended as rhetorical, I understand that “Mayans” and “the Tea Party” would both be acceptable answers.
** Oprah told me that The Secret is to think positively, and positive things will happen to you. I am POSITIVE that Oprah could pay to build a time travel machine. It’s one of my favorite things, O!
*** Too soon?

1 Fish in a Sea of Diet Coke:

Cashless society: Practically already there, the only thing left is for old people to die off. Checks are basically just paper receipts for electronic transfers for everyone our age anyways.

Video calling everywhere: With more and more people going with cell phones only or as their primary phones, we're sort of "there" except that video calling is an unrealistic goal - the benefits of voice-only (and text-only, too) communications is that you can be doing several things simultaneously, and it's asynchronous - ie doesn't rely on *both* participants being focused primarily on that action. I've tried video calling a few times, and while it's a neat idea, and we can already do it to a very fluid level (see: Skype) it's still a very niche service. I doubt you'll see much penetration beyond videoconferencing (video provides a large aid when there are several participants, as opposed to just two people, in that you can see who is speaking, especially if it's among people you don't know very well) and intimate/personal communications which are often already done via Skype.

Teleportation: One of those ideas that works in our imaginations because we don't internally have accurate models of physics. In reality, teleportation would be a two step process. The first would be creating an otherwise identical clone of you in a different location (ie same brain connections and everything, not just the same genetics like a twin). The second step, would then be disintegrating the initial copy of you. In essence, every time you teleported, you'd be committing temporary suicide. (There was some movie about this, with magicians and Tesla and crap, I think. The Prestige, if I recall correctly.) With *huge* advances in nanotechnology, it might theoretically be possible (though limited to the speed of light, so it'd be roughly as fast as, say, an email, but not faster for interplanetary travel.

Another option would be wormholes such that you'd basically have a Narnia-like portal between places that's always open (ie your office and your home would have linked closets or something like that). That'd avert existential crisis inducing teleportation, but is likely a much more difficult (and probably dangerous) process. This is more likely to be invented for intergalactic spaceflight when you need/want to exceed the speed of light (which you'd never actually do, you'd just be taking a shortcut, basically - like building a highway through the center of the Earth rather than flying along the outside to get from New York to China).

Genetic Medical Treatments: Another slight misconception. In popular culture, genetics is waaaay more powerful than it appears to be in research. For a specific example, there's a specific genetic test for a certain type of breast cancer, which something like 90% of people who develop breast cancer have. However, your odds of developing breast cancer, given that you have this gene, is only 5-10% higher than the average, because developmental factors (ie everything you do and all of your surroundings throughout your entire life) affect so many things that it's practically impossible to isolate individual causes in genetics.