Dec 26, 2011

Welcome to the future

by  Nikki Logan

2012... the 'future'.

I'm still waiting for the jet-pack I was promised would abound in 'the future' back when I was 9 years old. But here we are--just days away from the future--and no jet-pack. No hover-craft. No waterless-showers or roast dinners that you make by putting a capsule in some kind of re-hydration machine.

Back in the early 70's, 2012 seemed like an utterly impossible date. Even movies only stretched their imaginations to 2001 (A Space Odyssey). So if we had space travel and computers-gone-rogue in 2001, surely the world (or at least civilisation as we know it) would be well over by 2012.

The Mayans thought so; except they didn’t really—all the palava over the end-of-the-world is greatly overrated. At best the Mayan calendar forecast a shift in consciousness around this time. The end of the world as we know it, not just the end of the world. Apocalypse in the true sense of the word (‘lifting the veil’ ‘revelation’), not an apocalyptic event.   

We’ve already had the Rapture-fail this year when one-out-of-six people suddenly didn’t de-materialise and leave piles of clothes where they stood and their friends blinking in confusion. I don’t think I’m up for another cosmic disappointment so soon.

And so…as we approach the dawn of 2012…I wanted to look for evidence of the future here in our present. It may not look like fiction would have us believe but there certainly are signs that the future did come as promised.
RoboVac cleaning my office for me
I may not have a single, Jetsons-esque robot maid to do my bidding but I have machines to do most of my more onerous chores. As I sit in my office and write, a machine washes my clothes and another would offer to dry them for me if I didn’t live in the world’s most natural-dry conducive city, a machine washes my dishes, a machine slow-cooks my dinner, a machine does my vacuuming without me. Another machine cools me (or warms me depending on my needs), while another helps me to write much faster than I ever could by hand.  

I don’t have re-constitutable dinner capsules but I have a machine that can cook in a fraction of the natural time and another one that can freeze-dry and vaccum seal meals for my later re-hydration.

The first public flight of
the Martin Jetpack
(Airventure 2008, Oshkosh)
Creative Commons
We don’t move through our cities Bladerunner style in levitating hovercraft but someone does, in a lab somewhere, and scientists have managed to replicate genuine levitation and get a gold sphere to rise on its own. Surely hover-craft can’t be far away.

We may not have amphibious vehicles as the movies portrayed them, but we have snorkel-bearing off-raod vehicles and—surely—they’re just as good and just as useless?

We may not be able to beam ourselves around the place at will but entertainment beams to us—streaming movies, games, online entertainment. You’re reading this now because I was able to create something and, effectively, teleport it somewhere else so you could read it. In fact, scientists have been able to genuinely transfer information from atom to atom—and over vast distances like 1m—without any wires or connections whatsoever. Actual teleportation.

We have the internet—god help us all—and it’s every bit as dangerous and amazing as author Orson Scott Card conceived back in the seventies when his characters used the Ansible to communicate on a wirelessly/time-immediate network between planets. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a tangible living entity just like Card’s Jane. At all.

So, while none of it looks like I imagined the future would back when I was nine, I guess we have facsimiles of what we were promised in fictional form. Maybe we’re not doing so badly at all for only a few decades.

It stands to reason that if we only have a facscimile of the techonology of the future then we should only have a facsimilie of the doom of the future. This time next year we may only experience a warm fuzzy feeling in lieu of global shifting and mass extinctions. I’m certainly ready for some new enlightenment on the part of the masses. I think we’ve banged sticks and shouted at each other long enough.

Though a small part of me will be a bit disappointed come December equinox--I was looking forward to watching the apocalypse from 400m in the air on my jet-pack.

What were you expecting the future to look like when you were nine years old? Has it exceeded or failed your expectations?


  1. When I was nine I had no notion of seeing past the next day. So totally self-absorbed at that age. So unaware of the BIG picture. I did grow out of this, thankfully.

  2. When I was nine I watched the movie Soylent Green (loosely adapted from a novel). The future was depicted as very grim; humans hadn't gone forward but rather had destroyed practically everything.
    I'd grown up with The Jetsons and loved the way they whizzed around on space highways, and dirty clothes went in one side of a machine and came out clean and pressed on the other. Heaven, or what!!
    But since Soylent I confess I've had a fascination with dystopian views of the future.
    Yep. I liked The Hunger Games =)

  3. Nikki, I hadn't thought about our advances that way until you pointed it out. I guess because technological developments happen incrementally, we get used to them, but if you look back, we really have got some amazing things!

  4. At nine I was obsessed by Enid Blyton and Biggles -- don't think I was looking forward at all, just back!

    We certainly have advanced, though, when you list it like that. I think at nine that we still had a hand wringer washing machine and we only had TV for a few hours a day. Things have certainly changed!

  5. Nikki, I love your RoboVac... alas I'd have to de-clutter my office before the poor thing could find it's way around! Maybe that should be my New Year resolution... I don't usually make one but... ;)

    I'd love a car that folded into a briefcase a la Jetsons! No more parking fines or searching for parking spaces!

    One of the things that stands out to me is someone saying that one day every home if not every person would have a computer... at the time I couldn't see that I'd EVER want a computer! How things change!


  6. Ah Marybelle - so true. I do remember thinking 30 was *so* extraordinarily old...

  7. Maybe that's the thing Robyn.... the likley future is so miserable we fixate on the cool things as a distraction. Id forgotten about the clothes washer. Awesome!

  8. Rachel & Emily - its so easy to take it for granted, isn't it. Yet once you start thinking about it....

    I'd be in some real trouble if judgement day (terminator style) came. All my machines would rise up and enslave me!

  9. Sharon, that's up there with my favourite Bill Gates quote from around 1991 - "64k should be enough for anyone!"

    I wonder tho whether whoever visioned every home having one could have conceived of every home having multiple and every person carrying one around with them in their pocket.

  10. Very interesting post. I was 9 in 1957 and TV was just coming on strong. My grandmother had one but we didn't. Our neighbors still came and used our phone. I don't think I thought about the future much except that I wanted to fly somewhere. I've done quite a bit of that and I still want to do more. It took my husband and I a long time to buy a computer but now I don't know what we would do without one. Had our internet provider go down a couple of times between Christmas and New Years ~ It was a bit unsettling.