Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Future Is Now

This week was spent on the road for work. Not really what you’d call an interesting topic, but as I was driving an interesting realization came to mind.

While I was driving I was listening to a book on CD. The book was “I Robot”, by the late great Isaac Asimov. Come to think of it, the book may have proven to be a catalyst for my train of thought.

It was time to change the CD, and I watched the CD eject magically from the player, and I placed the next CD in the slot and the player robotically sucked in the new disc. I couldn’t help think that not too long ago that one task would have looked like science fiction.

Next, my cell phone rang and I flipped it open like I was Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the starship Enterprise. Not only can I speak to people around the world on my little communicator, but I can also access a wealth of information from the global computer network, or send and receive written communications on the same device.

Were we all asleep when science fiction became science reality? Stop your fast pace life for just a second now and ponder what we have achieved.

People from the Earth have landed on the moon, drove a dune buggy and played golf. We have orbiting satellites that can be seen outside the window of the International Space Station. Our neighboring planets are becoming tourist attractions as we send spacecraft after spacecraft to beam back holiday snaps from their distant journeys.

While you were worrying about which diet to try this week, the medical scientific community was learning how to replace almost every body part there is, and how to cure or relieve many diseases. Let’s not even get into Viagra and similar such enhancement products.

Are you watching survivor this season? Did you see the contestant that was competing right along with everyone else with an artificial leg?

Watching television in my hotel room a commercial came on with the newest version of that robot that vacuums your floors, and returns to its recharging station by itself. Last week I saw Honda’s Asimo robot go up and down stairs, dance, and interact with Regis and Kelly very much like a real person would.

In my house I have loaded my CD’s onto my computer and can stream anyone I wish to my entertainment center in my television room, or play all of my country or classic rock CD’s in random order like a jukebox on steroids.

Speaking of television, mine is fed by a satellite where it comes into my house and onto a digital video recorder. This allows me to pause live television, record shows through a schedule, or rewind and fast-forward any show we are watching. No more stacks of videotapes, which makes my wife happy.

When I climb into my scuba gear and dive down to 80 feet under the ocean, my time, air consumption and a variety of other factors are monitored by a computer. In my car I know the outside air temperature, how many more miles I have to go on the remaining gas, and can adjust the temperature internally for two different zones, while the kids watch a DVD and adjust their own temperatures.

At the movies we are now being entertained by movies completely generated by computers, or with special effects so real that an entire film can be shot in front of a “green screen” and the locations added by a computer later. They can even make a film where the same actor plays multiple people, show them in the same scene, and we can’t tell the difference.

Although I can’t afford the one I’d like, you can buy a huge television that hangs on your wall like a picture, and upload 80 digital pictures you took from your digital camera to a picture frame in your house. You can plug a USB “thumb drive” into your computer and download gigabytes of data on it. Does anyone use floppy disks anymore?

Technology has allowed us to track down our dogs, and family members who may need it. If your car gets in an accident a system will be notified instantly and help will be sent quickly to your location.

Why not load hundreds of songs into an MP3 player and go on a run? Or subscribe to a satellite radio station and listen to the same station from one end of the country to the other.

In the near future we will be answering more questions on things like genetics, cloning, robotics, colonizing nearby planets, and hopefully more cures for what ails us. We’ll be able to checkout of a supermarket by pushing our basket through a scanner that will total everything in it at one time, or using the same technology our refrigerator and cupboards will sense when we are low on an item and either create a shopping list, or actually order more from the store.

What was the point of taking you through this romp down a technological memory lane? I guess it was to share with you the fact that we are living in a scientific world. We are living in the fantasy world of our parents. Can you imagine what the world of our children will be like? I think you can.

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