Promises Not Fulfilled

The future has disappointed me in some pretty serious ways.  Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the future looked like it would be a pretty amazing place.  Beginning with Star Trek and the possibility of many marvelous things to come, even though it was set many centuries ahead, there were still some inventions that could be happening as we moved toward the 21st century.  Some of those are being realized now.

Replica of the Star Trek tricorder, photo by

Things like the tricorder, which has a rudimentary version being developed now for medical diagnosis.  In fact, a very small one called Scanadu is now being tested that can quickly measure heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, oxygen level and provides a complete ECG reading.  That is a promise that is coming into being earlier than expected.

Now the transporter, that wonderful piece of technology that completely baffles anyone who contemplates it for more than a few minutes, is still a long ways off and one has to wonder if there is any way to move a body by breaking it down to molecules and sending it to a receiving unit?  According to quantum physicists, it may be possible.  But, we are a long ways from the reality of even transporting non-living items more than a short distance.

Block portable phone.
Block portable phone.

Communicators seem to be the technology that made the leap first and our modern cell phones and tablets are proof of how well that is developing.  In fact, we may be way ahead of the curve on the Star Trek style communicator. We can instantly communicate around the planet from a device we can carry in our pockets.  We can see each other on our tablet screens –  hello, The Jetsons – as we talk in beautiful living color through high-quality mini-cameras in our phones and tablets.  Pretty amazing.  Was it less than 50 years ago that this seemed like a distant dream for the future?   I was carrying one of the block mobile phones in the 80’s for my job!

KITT from Knight Rider

Where are the failures?  KITT is a starter.  By now, we expected the car from Knight Rider, the fully capable of driving itself, talking to you and monitoring your well-being type vehicle.  It has taken a lot longer than one might have expected, but the self-driving car is slowly emerging.  Mercedes has a concept car in test mode.  I know that Nevada is one of the states that has allowed testing of a “driverless” car, but I haven’t seen one on the road yet.  Chevrolet has a gorgeous concept design for one.  Still, it’s 2015 and we don’t have this marvel available at a reasonable price yet.  We do have some innovations, but they are a long way from KITT.

Speaking of cars, why are we still using fossil fuels to power our vehicles and many other things?  One of Tesla’s battery plants is going into production near Reno and the automobile is available now for a really high asking price of $75,000.  I believe Harrison Ford is driving one, but most of us can’t afford to put one in the garage.  We have several hybrid cars, but nothing that is like the car we were hoping to see by now.

Where the heck is Mr. Fusion and the anti-gravity car?  Back to the Future gave us hope for flying cars, which are sort of being developed by independent inventors with mixed success.  Although I admit, the idea of people zipping around in the sky with the lack of attention they sometimes pay to driving is a frightening prospect.   Even in BTTF they still went in sky lanes, not any which direction they wanted to go.  We don’t even have an anti-gravity skateboard yet.  Folks, there has to be a way to do this!

One more thing missing from the promise suggested by several movies and TV shows are the household robots.  A Roomba is a great little vacuum, but it does not a robot make.  I want the one that cleans the whole house, does the dishes, cooks dinner and walks the dog!  Again, slow to develop, but there are also strides being made in that department.  Some “robots” are single-function, like the Roomba.  By the way, iRobot also makes mopping, scrubbing and pool cleaning robots. There are complicated task robots like the ones used to perform surgery with precision or the civil defense and military units, also from iRobot, that assist with dangerous situations.  Not surprising that defense robots would become commonplace before any domestic ones.

Are robotic soldiers on the way?  Certainly, they are being considered and drones are part of that robotic army.  No one wants to lose human lives in wars, but what is gained in the my-robots-are-better-than-your-robots fighting?  Surely the avoidance of war is the only real solution to problems and in this area comes one of the biggest failures of the future.  We are still battling it out, still trying to force thoughts, ideas, religion, or what other propaganda we believe down other people throats.  World leaders are still trying to push for more.  The US Congress is failing miserably at managing the country.  Social media has become a platform for anyone to espouse their views, right or wrong.

But these are heavy subjects for another blog. For now, let’s just say some key things of the future promise of the mid-20th century have failed to be realized as we are mid-second decade of the 21st century.  I wanted the promise of those science fiction shows that offered a glimpse of a better world for everyone and a Mr. Fusion providing unlimited power from garbage. Is that so much to ask?

So tell me, friends, how has the future disappointed you so far?