Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Weekend Assignment #324: The Future, Unwritten

Weekend Assignment #324: America 2062

Next Tuesday is my birthday, I am not quite 50 yet, but when I was a little girl I liked to sit and imagine what the world, more specifically, America, would be like when I reached 50! Having nearly arrived at my goal age, I am now aiming for another 50 years! So, in honor of my 48th birthday, I want you to search your imaginations, and tell what I can expect in the year... 2062!

Extra Credit: Tell me, is the world anything like you imagined it would be when you grew up? What's different? What's the same?
I guess for me, the short answer is, "It will be like this, only more so, with some surprises."

My friend S. gets out of a flying Delorean - at a Universal Studios
special effects show in 1990.

When I was a kid, I drew my own flying car, sort of a mobile home style, antigrav-capable flying saucer with wheels and a relaxed attitude toward facing forward. I've always kind of resented the fact that The Jetsons and other sf tv, movies and books promised all sorts of fun things that we haven't gotten yet. On the other hand, in the realm of computers and hand-held communication devices, we are either on track or way ahead of schedule. Perhaps in another 52 years, we can get the other fun stuff up and running as well. You have to want it, people!

Sure, there are a few prototype flying cars out there, such as the one pictured above, driven by its inventor, Dr. Paul Moller. Notice, through, that this picture is from three years ago, and I'm no closer to seeing one for sale at my local Jim Click car dealership. Like Avery Brooks ten years ago, I want to say, "I was promised flying cars!"

A Back to the Future Delorean at Universal Studios California in 1990.

Heck, according to Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale, we're only five years away from hoverboards to replace skateboards, and hover conversions for our vintage Deloreans. Oh, and printed books with dust jackets will be kitchy collectibles.

While we're at it, where's my hoverboard?

There's a book about all the innovations promised us in 20th Century fiction that never arrived, Your Flying Car Awaits.  I like that a lot.

So what do I think will actually be around in 2062? I expect that the easy stuff - better, smaller, faster tech toys, solar power and other alternative energy sources, etc. will all continue to be designed, refined and readily available. The energy thing has been on America's and the world's back burner far too long, and I believe that will start to change in light of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, President Obama's priorities and other factors. The other, fun stuff, the flying cars, personal robots and so on, will depend on what's possible, cost effective and provides a benefit that people want. Is a humanoid robot better than a Roomba? Would flying cars scooting around the sky have even more accidents than cars on clearly-defined, well-marked roads? Probably, unless you got really clever with programming them. Maybe monorails for distance and slidewalks or People Movers for short hops will be more practical, but I suspect people will always want the autonomy of their own individual vehicle whenever possible.

Judging from the evolution of social attitudes in the 53 years since my birth, I expect that by 2062 we'll be much further along in issues of tolerance, with nearly everyone finally according equal rights and respect to others regardless of ethnicity, religion, sexuality, etc. I'd like to think that the rest of the world will also improve in this respect. But I have little hope that will actually get past the whole idea of wars, not in a mere 52 years. It's not easy to change attitudes and responses that are pretty much hardwired into the human brain, or encoded at every level of human society. Still, we have to try!

Unfortunately, I'm not expecting time machines, faster than light travel, Transporter and transmats and other sf conveniences, even by 2062. There's actually been progress toward matter transmission, but I doubt very much we'll ever be able to "beam up." There are some things the future can't fix, and the laws of physics are high on that list. Darn it.

Happy belated birthday, Carly! May your future be a fun one!


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