Well, here we are – 2010.
Since it is actually a proven scientific fact that 2009 totally blew, part of me is just happy that we are finally done with that awful year.
But another part of me, the part that makes it possible for me to write snarky Internet columns, can’t help but feel disappointed that we are 10 years into the 2000s and we still don’t have flying cars, hoverboards, lightsabers or any of the other cool stuff promised to me in the scifi movies I watched as a kid.
Growing up in the 80s, I was pretty sure that if the robot apocalypse hadn’t already killed us all, 2010 would be filled with robo-butlers and day trips to the moon. However, it seems like the best our society has come up with so far is iPods, DVRs and pancakes in a can. While these are all good things, we are still a long way away from those cool automatic sliding doors that make that cool whooshing sound when they open and those weird shiny unitards that everyone is always wearing in futuristic movies.
But I’m not here to dwell on what we don’t have. Instead, this week I’m going to share some technological advances that are currently being developed. They may not be on par with the average appliance found in the Jetsons’ house, but at least they are a start …
Using government spreadsheets, developers are beginning to create applications for mobile phones and the Internet that allow users to report problems like public transit issues, potholes and graffiti directly to the government. Residents can take photos of problems and report them and government officials can use the information to decide which areas are the highest priority to fix.
The goal is to provide citizens with a high-tech way of bringing about grassroots change. For anyone who has ever said they were going to make a complaint and then never followed through with it, these programs offer a great opportunity to do so in real time. There are also other applications that can tell you when the next bus will arrive at your stop or allow you to avoid high crime areas in your city when walking home at night.
Sounds pretty sweet, huh? I have to admit, I see a lot of potential in these applications. Then again, they are asking you to put quite a lot of faith in both your cell phone and your local government – two things that are notoriously unreliable.
A colony on the moon
I’m starting to think the world’s top scientists might actually be Bond villains. At least, that would explain why an international team of scientists recently announced that they discovered a “lava tube” – a 213 feet wide and more than 260 feet deep hole in the moon – which they believe is suitable for a moon colony or base.
The reason these scientist believe this lava tube would be perfect to build on is because it can offer protection from the moon’s harsh temperatures and meteorite strikes thanks to a thin sheet of lava. That’s right, lava.
So, if you weren’t scared enough about the idea of living on a moon, take comfort in knowing that your best bet for survival is being surrounded by lava. Add to that the fact that these same scientists probably believe the best way to get you to the moon is using space elevators and you have a perfect recipe for disaster. But if you have a death wish, you’ll be happy to know that NASA is reportedly planning on returning to the moon by 2020 so that they can establish a temporary lunar colony by 2025.
I’ve saved the best for last. How would you like to be able to communicate with your friends or play video games … with your mind? Or how would you like to learn kung fu or how to fly a helicopter Matrix style (having the information downloaded directly into your brain)? How about super-hearing or super-vision a la The Bionic Woman?
All of these things are currently being developed. Scientists are beginning to discover ways to harness the electricity in our brain, which is powerful enough to move things like wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs and robots if properly harnessed. Brain-computer interfaces (BCI) are already being used to treat the disabled, those with diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimers and even people suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. They come in two varieties – a non-invasive BCI that attaches to the outside of the scalp and an invasive BCI that involves attaching electrodes directly to the brain.
While the idea of controlling things with my mind and having bionic hearing and vision seem pretty awesome, I can’t help but wonder about the downside. First of all, I already catch enough grief from my family for not answering their phone calls; I can only imagine how much worse it would get if they could communicate with me telepathically using these BCIs. But worse than that, if we are really planning on harnessing the energy inside our brain and turning our minds into giant computers, I don’t even want to imagine how bad it will be when the Microsoft program running it all crashes. I’d hate to turn into a vegetable who sees nothing but a giant blue screen of death.
Still, I remain optimistic that these developments mean we are on the cusp of the future we were all promised in books and on television. Here’s hoping our cyborg brains, moon lava base and direct access to the government will be enough to fight off the robots when they rise up and attempt to enslave us all. And, if not, let’s just hope those robots are running on Microsoft.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.