Remember all the exciting things we were promised? Back when the year 2000 seemed unfathomably distant the future looked rosy, by now we would be living in a Star Trek like world where robots would do all the work and we would be able to spend all our time on leisure pursuits. A world where diseases and even the common cold would be a thing of the past.
Now here we are, nearly ten years into the 21st century, where is it all? Where is my jetpack, my electric flying car, the underwater cities and the day trips to the moon? What happened to being able to control the weather?
Instead, we have a growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots and the technological wonders that would bring our new peaceful, prosperous society have not appeared.
Our cars are still grounded and powered by fuel extracted from the earth at great cost (both monetary and politically) not electricity. The electricity which by now was supposed to be “too cheap to meter” instead of increasingly expensive and still generated by pollution spewing power stations burning a dwindling supply of fossil fuels.
Even some of the things that have materialised are disappointing, the household robot is here after a fashion, but it’s really just a vacuum cleaner. The jetpack is here too but you won’t be going to work on one anytime soon.
Recreational space travel might be on the cards but it’s not going to be the ubiquitous, even routine image portrayed in the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey for a long time, if ever.
So what went wrong? Well I think a lot of the time, investment and talent that should have gone towards bringing us these things has been squandered on military development, procurement and war. The oil companies and others tried to strangle the electric car at birth for their own financial gain (at least this seems, finally, to be making progress again) and fear of nuclear power killed our cheap electricity. Maybe those were just more optimistic times too.
Sure, it’s not all doom and gloom; Computers, the internet and gadgets such as smartphones are bringing a different, perhaps unpredicted, slice of “the future of the past” into our present but it’s not for all, there is still war, famine, sickness and a huge percentage of the worlds population still don’t even have basics such as clean drinking water. Maybe William Gibson was right when he said “the future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed”.
At the very least, we’re more than a bit behind schedule and frankly, it’s all a bit disappointing really.