Wednesday, December 27, 2006

An Unfulfilled Future

The other day a co-worker commented on how she can't believe it's almost 2007. It got us reflecting on how popular culture in the '60s, '70s and '80s portrayed the early 21st century and just how different it actually is. While last year Ask Me Later brought you a list of the Ten Things That Should Have Happened In 2005 But Didn't for it's New Year's offering, this year we'd like to give you something in a bit broader sense. So without further adieu, I present you with a list of things promised to us by now for which we're still waiting.

Personal Transportation
We were promised...
Small, personal, commuter aircraft buzzing around cities, landing on rooftops and parked in our driveways. If Philip K. Dick's/Ridley Scott's vision was in any way accurate, at least law enforcement would be zooming about in Spinners chasing down replicants (see below). And let's not forget jet packs, rocket boots or Marty McFly's infamous hoverboard!

We have...
For people who just don't want to limit themselves to wearing fashionable head gear only when biking or like to look like giants magically floating through crowds, we have the Segway. Those who don't care what others think and find themselves strangely attracted to Danny DeVito will enjoy the Smart car. Hippies have hybrid cars, and if it's true what they say about someone's vehicle making up for other shortcomings, they finally can compensate for all that patchouli induced air pollution they've caused by driving an environmentally sound auto.

As an aside, and just so readers don't think I'm complaining without ever having offered my own contributions to the advancement of personal transportation, when I was about ten I had plans to build my own hovercraft. The basic design entailed a ceiling fan attached to an overturned refrigerator box. When I shared this idea with my father, he told me I couldn't even clean my room so how could I expect to build a hovercraft. Thanks for the support, dad.

Mass Transportation
We were promised...
One word: Monorail.

We have...
City buses where your co-passengers have an overwhelming tendency to smell like wet dogs whenever it rains and the drivers who always look like their one stop away from navigating the whole operation into the nearest body of water. Light rail propositions that really amount to nothing more than buses on tracks. A nationwide passenger train network operated on leased tracks so undermaintained that in some stretches on the east coast trains can't operate at speeds over 30mph. In all fairness, some places outside of Disney World or Vegas actually do have monorails, but are you really willing to risk your life in downtown Detroit just for a glimpse of what the future doesn't hold?

Space Travel
We were promised...
According to Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, by 2001 major airlines would be running flights into space where we could check in to orbiting hotels. Other futurists envisioned a permanent moon-base, if not an entire colony.

We have...
Travel limited to either government-run space programs and astronauts or billionaires financially propping up those programs just for a chance to hitch a ride, all using vehicles with 30-plus year-old technology. Moon sand.

Fashion
We were promised...
In general, 20th century concepts of 21st century fashion fell into either one of two categories: The jumpsuit or black leather. The jumpsuit is traditionally gray with a colored stripe running down one side indicating one's social status, profession, etc. I would imagine it is also made of some high-tech material that requires little washing, maintains a comfortable temperature, is stain resistant and contains a tracking device so the government can find you anywhere on the planet. Associated hairstyles with this outfit would either be bald or circa 1974. Leather, on the other hand, is more typical of a renegade or "cool" future. Considering it's the future, my guess would be that it isn't truly leather, but rather a PETA-endorsed substitute made of something like Soylent Black. If wearing leather, picture Flock of Seagulls hair.

We have...
Let's face it...this is one of the few items (save for high tech material or Soylent Black) that we probably could have right now if we really wanted. Hoping to get things moving along, I even considered just wearing a jumpsuit with a stripe and establishing myself as a real trendsetter. The downside was I couldn't decide on a stripe color. Then I lost interest.

Robotics/Computing
We were promised...
Ultra-human-like replicants a la Dick's/Scott's Blade Runner. Bavarian killing machines traveling through time to change the past, all started by a computer becoming self-aware in July of 2004. HAL 9000. Haley Joel Osment. Robin Williams.

We have...
Admittedly, many of the androids, robots or supercomputers cited above were from an unspecified "not too distant future," but it is a little disappointing to know that the average consumer today is limited to things like the Robosapien, an animatronic monkey or the Roomba. But when you think about it, maybe that's for the best. After all, super-advance robots come with all sorts of problems. Frankly, I'm much happier to see Arnold Schwarzenegger serving in office than chasing down Sara Conner. And if there ever comes a time where I can buy an android Haley Joel Osment or Robin Williams, I'll seriously consider becoming a Luddite.

Alien Invasions
We were promised...
Well, alien invasions! Stretching back to the 19th century, if you were to take with confidence the visions of countless authors and film-makers, Earth should have been invaded several hundred times by now. For the most part we would have successfully fought off these invasions by either infecting the alien computers with a virus or giving the aliens themselves the common cold. Everyone on Earth would rejoice and there would be global peace and harmony, having joined forces to fight a common enemy.

We have...
Unless Men In Black was actually a documentary, zilch. Even if you consider the events at Roswell in 1947 to be alien in nature, that wasn't so much an invasion as a wrong turn and a bad landing. All things considered, it's probably for the best that we haven't (yet) been invaded by hordes of little green men or giant flying saucers destroying our most recognizable landmarks. But if that day ever does come, rest assured that Will Smith will, in some capacity, be there to save the day.

_________________________________________

The optimists out there will look at this list and try to argue for all the wonders we have seen come true in the early 21st century. Me, I want my damn hovercar.

2 Comments:

At 12:00 PM, December 28, 2006, Blogger Nick said...

You were born a little too late.

You could've had an Avrocar, or even an Aerocar.

As for the jet pack, the Mythbusters struck that one down pretty soundly.

 
At 11:24 PM, January 01, 2007, Blogger Messianic Gentile said...

I am trying to start "a movement" - you know, like FREE HUGS or something, to get our Jet Packs.

It's not taking off so well yet, but I invite you and your readers to join.

Get in on the grass roots of jet pack deficiency awarness at Messianic Gentile...

 

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