“Time goes by so slowly, and time can do so much.” – Righteous Brothers, ‘Unchained Melody’
The Righteous Brothers had it a little backwards in that song, actually. Time moves incredibly fast, most of the time (except when you’re waiting for the microwave to finish reheating your lunch, or waiting on a bus). Days blur into weeks, and months go by so fast that suddenly it’s New Year’s Eve again and you’ve barely noticed Christmas passing. And then you wake up, stare at the ceiling, and wonder…
Is it really Two-Thousand Twelve already?
Every time I think about life in the Twenty-teens (or Twenty-tweens even) I can’t help feeling this strange disconnect. On one hand the world is as it is. Normal, banal. On the other hand it’s… the FREAKING FUTURE. And every year that flips by on the calendar just brings us further and further into the future without taking the weirdness away.
Everyone has made the joke, or at least thought it – Where are the flying cars? The rocket trips to the luxury vacation dome on the moon? World peace?
It’s the fact that we don’t have the obvious super-technologies from the movies and pulp science fiction novels that gives me such a jarring feeling. When I was a kid I was sure the post-2000-world would bring us intergalactic travel, robot servants, and definitely flying cars or teleportation devices. Society would have moved past most issues related to crime, hunger, greed, and illness. Even though these thoughts occurred to my young brain in the late 1980′s and throughout the 90′s, I just knew when that clock struck midnight on Jan 1, 2000, the world would *change*.
The truth is, though, that we have the crazy future-tech all over the place. Our experience of Television would astound the sci-fi writers of the 50′s and 60′s – the variety and absurdity of our programming choices, the crisp reality and brilliant colors of the picture quality, modern 3D technologies available in our own homes… not to mention the on-demand movement of streaming video services such as Netflix, Hulu and others. Our computers have shrunk from massive, room-sized machines with the processing power of modern scientific calculators, to thin, sleek, glossy laptops and tablets that have uses in every facet of our lives, every industry in our world. Our phones would be as indecipherable to Alexander Graham Bell as any enigmatic piece of alien technology from the pulps. And they might as well be supercomputers in our pockets compared to those room-sized computers of the past.
As for robots, there is that Roomba thing. And Google’s on the road to making a reliable robotic car (pun intended, thank you). There are people who are developing robots to make dinner, fold laundry, and do all sorts of household chores. There are robots on Japan that work as secretaries. And the Asimo is out there, learning and doing really interesting things, a promise of the robot servants foretold in the pulps.
Life isn’t magically transforming into some high-tech, pulp fiction Utopia, but we’re making progress. Lots of progress. The disconnect comes from the fact that we’re watching that progress unfold, small bit by small bit. Just like it’s hard to recognize the growth in a child you see every day, it’s hard to recognize the advances for the miracles they are because we use them every day. We’re accustomed to them. But that doesn’t make them less miraculous.
And this is the way that the future has come upon us – not in giant leaps of progress, but in the small steps of every day. But it’s still the future. And we’re still living in it.
May 2012 bring even more innovations and inventions… and maybe some of that world peace too.
Happy New Year.