Thursday, January 5, 2012

This week's column

Dude, where's my hover board?
It’s 2012 and many of you might be asking, “Where’s my flying car?”
A good question indeed.
If you are a fan of the science fiction genre, there are many things you might have expected to have by now. For example, when Marty McFly goes into the future in “Back to the Future II,” he goes to the year 2015. That’s only three years from now and we were expected to have flying cars, hover boards, self-drying clothes and automatic lace-up shoes, among other things. As of now, that doesn’t look much like a reality in three short years.
We’re not powering our flying DeLoreans with garbage either. The closest we get to that kind of “green” technology is the electric car, which in reality has been around a while; it’s just been improved a bit.
“Blade Runner” takes place in 2019, also featuring flying cars. While that’s still seven years into the future, too, it might be a stretch. Will we also have human-looking replicants, clones or androids, and will they dream of electric sleep? If you got that reference, you have my nerdish respect.
What about “2001: A Space Odyssey?” We don’t have major space travel, hyper sleep or Hal. Computers have come a long way but not to the state of Hal. Well, maybe that’s a good thing.
Not really given a 2012 creation date in sci-fi films, we also do not have food particlizers, time travel, laser weapons or any sort of robot that looks like those in the movies. And without holographic messaging, how in the world could anyone let Obi-Wan know he is their only hope?
Sci-fi films also often gave a somewhat bleak picture of what our world would look like in 2012. As in “12 Monkeys,” a virus would have wiped out most of mankind by now. And in “The Matrix,” the machines took over in the early 21st century and humans became batteries.And don’t forget “The Terminator” and Skynet. The computers would have become self-aware, eventually taking over in 1997, 2004 or 2011, depending on which timeline you follow.
Maybe I should be nicer to my computer.
In more modern versions of sci-fi, the threat of a world destroyed by nuclear war has been replaced by a view that the world will be destroyed by some sort of man-created natural disaster.
But we do have a few things seen in sci-fi in the past. We have communicators that can fit in the palm of our hands and flip open to talk to anyone. They’re called cellphones. Anyone else out there remember the early days of mobile phones that were in a bag you had to get out of your car to use?
Think of the technology that’s held in the palm of our hands. The data that used to be stored in computers that took up entire rooms now can be carried around with you. It’s mind-blowing.
We also have hands-free voice commands. While the intelligence and independence of Hal is not a realization, we literally can talk to our computers, cars and other devices with voice-command technology. We can sit in our cars and tell our radio to come on or tell our phone to dial a number.
The technology that reminds me most of a sci-fi film is touch-screen technology. Not that long ago, sci-fi films showed a future where you can move and transfer data on a screen by touch. My iPod Touch makes me see the reality of how the creative minds of past sci-fi films could see the possibility of the future.
It’s kind of cool when you think back.
We might not have flying cars yet, but ten years ago I didn’t imagine a touch-screen tablet as a reality either. Who knows what 2012 or the near future can bring?
Maybe one day we will teleport, travel to the far reaches of space — if NASA gets funding again — or ride on hovering skateboards? According to “Star Trek: First Contact,” we’ll have warp drive by 2063. Well have to check back on that one in 51 years.

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