The golden age of science fiction predicted a world filled with flying cars, mega-cities gleaming with neon where the streets are unseen and robots walking freely among the populace. The 21st century was going to be an age of technological miracles, but what do you see when you look out your window? No gleaming neon metropolis, no flying cars, no robots. So what gives?
As Einstein would say, it’s all relative.
You don’t feel like you’re living in the future for the same reason that anyone born in the 90s doesn’t feel like it’s been over 20 years since the 90s ended. It’s difficult for us to feel like we’re living in the future because we’re only ever living in the present, but if we take a moment to step back and take a deeper, more complex look at the world around us it becomes quite clear that the world we are living in is full of what would have been considered futuristic 50 years ago.
One of the stalwarts for future-present comparisons comes from the cartoon “The Jetsons,” which, other than the flying cars and sky-high condos, seems rather quaint by modern standards.
Video calls, smart watches, robotic vacuums, flat screen TVs, “The Jetsons” is full of “futuristic” technology that we consider commonplace in the 21st century. And yet nostalgia and the show’s retro-futurist feel keep the comparison alive. If you really want to look at cutting edge technology, technology that makes you feel like we are living on the cusp of a truly futuristic world, consider some of the following.
3D Printed Food
In 2018, the first meat-free steak that perfectly imitates the texture and taste of real meat was made from vegetables using a 3D printer. The process has been around for some time now, but in the last five years it has been perfected to the point that restaurants devoted to the process have been opening across the world.
Anyone with a passing familiarity of the cyberpunk genre has likely heard of biohacking. In many near-future dystopias, biohacking is representative of a way to mold man and machine together. While it sounds like fodder for science fiction, biohacking is already here — and it has been for a while. Transhumanists, followers of the philosophical movements that advocates for enhancing the human condition through technology, have already begun implanting themselves with chips that allow them to do things like open doors or operate devices without the need for a fob or keycard. Others have argued for altering human DNA through CRISPR, a technology that can be used to edit genes.
We all know that computers are fast. My iMac boots up in about 10 seconds which is lightyears ahead of some of the first desktop computers. But quantum computers make even the most expensive computers on the home market look like fossils. These computers work off of quantum phenomena such as superposition which I won’t even begin to try and explain because I barely understand it myself. Suffice it to say, quantum computers, with their unimaginable computing power and speed, will likely lead to some major breakthroughs.
Near-Sentient Artificial Intelligence
This one is a bit controversial. I’ve written about AI in the past. True artificial intelligence, the kind that can literally think and reason on its own, is well and truly far off from where we are today. However, near-sentient AI, like your Alexa devices or Siri, is advancing every day and can already hold complex conversations based off machine learning. Right now there are AI assistants being tested that can carry on full blown conversations without skipping a beat.
While those are just a few examples of how futuristic our present truly is, there are plenty more to be found from advancements in augmented reality to nanorobots that can infiltrate the human body to scan for disease. So the next time you feel like you are missing out on the future promised to us by science fiction writers, take a look around you and recognize just how far we’ve come.
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