The Future!

Happy new year!

It’s 2010! Isn’t that amazing? We’re truly living in THE FUTURE! (dramatic chord)

Yep, now that the future is here, I have big plans. This weekend, I’m gonna get up early Saturday morning, hop in my flying car and make my way to the local spaceport. From there, I’ll take an elevator up to our low-orbit halfway station before catching a transport to Luna, the Moon colony.

It should be a pretty cool trip.  I want to see the progress they’re making on the construction for the olympics (LUNA 2012 WOOOO), as some of the buildings, at least in drawings, look really cool.  I’ve also heard that there’s a pretty good vantage point where someone with a reasonably powerful telescope can watch progress on the construction of the Dyson sphere.  It’s gonna be done in about 5 years, you know.

What a great leap forward that will be for our civilization! I’m so glad we got together as a species and realized that if we work together, we can do great things, and fighting with each other is hyperfail. (Now that it’s the future, hyper- is the modifier of choice for strengthening adjectives.)  Ah, it’s good to be alive. Happy 2010!

… except NONE OF THAT IS TRUE.  What the FUCK.  I’ve spent my entire life waiting for the future — and not just any future. This SPECIFIC future.  Where could I have become so misguided into expecting a future (1) like this that would (2) be around now, in 2010?

The Usborne Book of the Future
"The Usborne Book of the Future", aka LIES LIES AND MORE LIES.

In THIS: The Usborne Book of the Future by Kenneth Gatland and David Jefferis.  I read this when I was in grade 4. And in grade 5. And in grade 6. And then someone stole the book from the library (and it wasn’t me, but it should have been), and so I couldn’t read it anymore.  I didn’t just read this occasionally. I would take it out from the library, read it cover to cover every day, renew my loan when my period was up, for as long as I could, and when I was compelled to return it, I’d pop in the next day and re-loan it.

This book is the source of my image of the future, my hopes and my dreams about what life as an adult would be for me.  AND NOT A SINGLE FRIGGIN’ PART HAS COME TRUE.  I’m a bitter, hate-filled individual who can’t feel happiness, and I BLAME THIS BOOK.  I don’t know if you could possibly understand the depth and breadth of my disappointment.  It’s all encompassing: no flying car, stalled space program, assholes still think that they’re more important than their neighbours, and so fight over fucking retarded shit like religion and gay marriage… there is nothing positive here!

Whenever I bitch about the future not coming, and how it’s 2010, it should be here, someone is always quick to point out, “Hey, your iPhone can do stuff that would have been completely unthinkable 30 years ago!  Isn’t that a sign that we’re living in the future?”

NO. IT ISN’T.  I’ll concede that, perhaps, it’s a sign that we’re living in A future, but not THE future.

Here is a brief list of things that were (not explicitly, but to the mind of a child) promised to be around by now, but which AREN’T:

  • tidal energy (though it does exist, it’s just not widespread yet);
  • nuclear fusion for energy (because the world is like OMG NUCYALER POWER IS SCARY ;_;);
  • giant sea-based ammonia turbines for energy;
  • liquid hydrogen as the main fuel for cars, aircraft, etc.;
  • space-based solar power (Japan, last year, announced that they planned to build these, but won’t have the first one operational until 2030… but I don’t believe that either);
  • space-based factories (we can barely manage to maintain the one space station we have, let alone build FACTORIES);
  • moon colonies, mining the moon, and shooting the collected materials to off-world factories via giant railguns;
  • mining the asteroid belt, and shooting the collected materials to factories orbiting “the capital-world of human colonies in the outer solar system”, Callisto. Patently ridiculous, but this was 1979, and they had no idea of the oceans of Europa, or even that there was water on the moon… which actually makes the moon colony even MORE ridiculous of an idea for them to have had…
  • mining Jupiter’s atmosphere;
  • space-based early earthquake detection, by satellite-based lasers focused on a reflector on the ground (there ARE space-based quake detectors, but they rely on detecting radiation and temperature increases);
  • giant space-mirrors used to focus light on the nightside of the planet, to light up areas suffering blackouts, or other disasters, or to help farmers see to work at night, so they can work even LONGER hours for even LESS return (there have been proposals for anti-global warming mirrors, and solar-power mirrors, but nothing real);
  • forest-fire-fighting robots (4-legged, self-righting, autonomous; not unlike this horrific thing, I guess…)
  • Red Cross “hoverjets” (think the vehicles from Minority Report) that travel at 450km/h, and move in to disaster areas when alerted by satellite-based early warning systems;
  • monorails to carry beef from the farm to the city; vacuum tubes (like those old-timey messaging systems) carrying grain from the farm to the city; “conventional trucks will be rarely used”;
  • underwater farming, with people living in beefed up versions of ConShelf Two, and where “aqualung-equipped farmers are helped by dolphins, the sheepdogs of this underwater world“;
  • spray-on synthetic skin for burn victims;
  • a ‘hoverbed’, where patients are suspended on a cushion of air, so that there is no chance of pressure sores for long-term patients, and burn victims heal faster;
  • curing headaches through electroshock (um, this sounds like some sort of 1890s “electricity is a wondercure!” bullshit);
  • mechanical ESP enhancers.  What the WHAT? Now we’re in the realm of pure fantasy. “;
  • a Star Trek-style “replicator”, which can fabricate anything at all from a pile of nearby elemental raw materials — this is explicitly supposed to have happened by 2000;
  • “space-mirrors, under strict United Nations control, begin weather-control experiments” — Oh, the UN is in control? I FEEL SO SAFE;
  • all the cars are Deloreans;
  • space elevator;
  • Olympics on the moon;
  • giant space cities built at L5, out of moonsoil;
  • terraforming Venus (though, this was based on an optimistic plan from Carl Sagan, so I can’t be tooooo critical, I guess);
  • Earth develops a Saturn-style ring, only of man-made junk, not rock and ice;
  • the destruction of Jupiter, using the constituent parts to create a Dyson sphere;
  • Soviet space greenhouses (the Russians haven’t done anything like that for the ISS);
  • first moonbaby born, signalling the start of an independent lunar civilization;
  • eugenics become popular, via genetic engineering;
  • personal jetpacks;
  • trains of the future will be coal-powered… what the WHAT;
  • dirigibles make a comeback (facepalm);
  • a probe  named Daedalus will be built in Callisto’s orbit, and then sent to Barnard’s Star, looking for a suitable planet for colonization, and when it finds one, a world-ship would make its way there and that’s how the world of Pern was colonized (or  not, since it seems to orbit Alpha Sagitarii… why did I think it was Barnard’s Star…)
  • teleportation in the Star Trek sense;
  • warp, in the Star Trek sense.

In the interest of fairness, a brief list of things that were predicted, and THAT WE ACTUALLY HAVE RIGHT NOW:

  • weather satellites (I don’t think this counts though, since they claim an ESA Meteosat was in orbit in 1977, and so it’s not really a prediction…)
  • artificial blood (but again, perflurocarbons were known to work for oxygen delivery as early as 1966, so… yeaah);
  • strength-enhancing exo-skeletons (though, it’s built by CyberDyne, aka the company that builds the Terminators…);
  • not a prediction as such, but a prescient and very true statement: “Civilization is becoming increasingly dependent on computers. As machines take over, society becomes more vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters. If power supplies are interrupted, industries and cities grind to a halt. Unless people retain basic skills and crafts, parts or all of civilization could perish. Perhaps groups of craft workers could be set up as an insurance policy against global disaster.” The truest statement in the book is also the grimmest, most negative scenario in the book. Fucking classic.
  • space-based telescopes, though they also speak of GIANT SPACE-BASED RADIO TELESCOPES, with the main purpose of listening for extraterrestrial signals.  A SETI wet dream, to be sure.
  • long-distance videoconferencing (though, they predict 3D-holoconferencing);
  • giant flat-screen TVs with STEREO SOUND WOOOO;
  • video cameras that don’t require film, only MAGNETIC TAPE (I’m not sure whether to give them this or not, since we’ve moved past tape, as well);
  • TiVo;
  • e-mail, sort of. They see it as conventional mail, that you scan into a machine at the post office, and then it gets beamed via satellite to its destination, where it’s printed out. It’s like a glorified fax machine in their view;
  • the wrist-based ubergadget — in reality, this is more like our smartphones of today, which most certainly aren’t wrist-based, but the spirit of this prediction has been met, what with their desire to be all things to all people, AND be GPS-enabled;
  • widespread wind turbines provide energy;
  • hybrid cars;
  • jet-ski/sea-doo;
  • maglev trains.

So yeah, happy new year! Welcome 2010, a magical year that always held so much promise, and filled me with so much hope, but which has turned out to be nothing but a giant steaming pile of excrement. And happy new year to you, Kenneth Gatland and David Jefferis. I hope you’re pleased with yourselves! Now build a machine that will allow me to jump Light Cones, and end up in THE FUTURE, instead of A FUTURE. Get to it!

(For those with an interest in this book, and who are not willing to drop $108+ on Amazon for it, a PDF can be downloaded here.)