What happened to the science-fiction future?

If this is the future, someone forgot to stock it properly. Where are the personal service robots, the moon vacations, the self-contained cities rising out of the smog? What happened to all those sci-fi prophecies? In Where’s My Jetpack? (Bloomsbury), Popular Mechanics columnist Daniel Wilson moans that ‘it’s the twenty-first century, and things are a little disappointing.’ Wilson, the author of How to Survive a Robot Uprising, begs ‘all the scientists, inventors, and tinkerers out there’ to ‘please hurry up’ (emphasis in original).

Wilson shouldn’t be so moony. Fanciful futurist visions can obscure all the neat stuff we’ve accumulated, once-wild innovations that are far cooler and more functional than jetpacks. (Microwave ovens, anyone?) They also make it easy to forget that the ultimate responsibility for choosing which technologies fill our lives lies with us, the ordinary consumers, more than any rocket scientists. Take the titular jetpack. It exists-but no one really wants it. It’s a 125-pound monster with a flight time of 30 seconds, powered by expensive fuel. The dream of individual human flight was realized in 1961, and we haven’t been able to find any use for it outside of Bond movies, the first Super Bowl halftime show, and Ovaltine commercials.

Full Story: Reason.

See also: The prescience of Max Headroom.

1 Comment

  1. The majority of the world is literate, has access to potable water, lifespans are double what they used to be and safe and effective birth control is an option. All within the past few hundred years, all due to the advance of science. Anybody who can’t be thankful for these things every single day is lacking perspective.

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