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Technologies we should have by now: Where's our flying cars?

Technologies we should have by now: Where's our flying cars?
By Humanrobo via Flickr.com

It's been 80 years since the Golden Age of science fiction, when the Space Age beckoned and we saw great technological advancements on the horizon. Soon, these futurists promised, we would be zipping around in hoverchairs, communicating through telepathy, and bathing in luxury every day. Well, turns out they were wrong. Sure, we have iPhones, but where are the no-water instant-clean showers, and the laser pistols, and the zipping around the galaxy in a space-Mustang? Here's our top 10 list of technologies that we ought to have, if only scientists weren't obsessed with boring stuff like finding a cure for cancer and ending poverty.


Food replication

Ever since Jean-Luc Picard first ordered an Earl Grey from a slot in the wall, our mouths have been watering at the idea of instant replicated food-on-demand. The thing can construct molecules out of base material, so presto chango a grey block of crap becomes a turkey dinner. It's the pothead's ultimate wet dream. But it's also not gonna happen anytime soon, because scientists are also slackers. The closest we've gotten is this crappy project called Cornucopia: Digital Gastronomy being designed by a couple MIT grad students. Maybe if they spent as much effort into food replication as they do putting lunar landers on their academic buildings ?


Flying cars

Near-future fiction has been promising us flying cars "within the next 10 years" since the '60s. Now we're a decade into a whole new millenium, and the closest we have is some noisy prototypes that burn as much gas taking off as your car uses in a month. Come on, scientists; stop doing research into dumb stuff like "Why are people so interested in sex?" It's high time our morning commute ended with gliding elegantly into our 80th story office air garage.

Virtual reality 

VR has been promised as the next step in interface technology since the invention of computers, but all the prototypes so far have involved bulky goggles and gloves. We just want a couple of electrodes on our forehead, and then we want to be immersed in the most real-feeling video game we've ever experienced. Is that so much to ask? Of course, with VR World of Warcraft, we're pretty sure we'd never come out of our parents' basement, so maybe this isn't a bad thing.

 

Technologies we should have by now: Where's our flying cars?
By Liz Henry via Flickr.com

Digital immortality 

Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts a world in which computer technology will eventually make humans immortal. Kurzweil calls this merging of man and machine the "Singularity." People will download their consciousness onto a giant mainframe, where they will live forever in a real-life version of the Matrix. If this sounds as far-fetched as a sci-fi geek's fantasies, consider Kurzweil's track record: he foresaw the explosive popularity of the Internet and predicted that a computer would beat a human at chess by 1998 (it happened in 1997). The only problem? According to Kurzweil's calculations, the Singularity won't come about until 2045.


Robot Maid - More bloopers are a click away
Robot maids
Nevermind the fundamental flaws of the Jetson's Rosie the Robot -- she
inexplicably balanced on one leg, speeding along with a precarious
wobble, and for some reason needed to use a separate vacuum cleaner
despite being built to spiffy up houses -- we've long fantasized about
having a cleaning robot all our own. Especially a matronly, rotund
little bot that dispenses advice and judgment between dustings and
moppings.


Space resorts
When Conrad Hilton dressed-down Don Draper on Mad Men for failing to depict one of his hotels on the moon, we felt his pain: how many times since the Apollo landing in '69 were we told that one giant leap for mankind would be followed up by high-class vacation spots sprouting up on the lunar surface, where anyone with the cash to spend could play low-gravity golf just like Alan Shepard? But so far all we've gotten is the chance for the occasional billionaire to sleep in a cramped space station -- a far cry from the jet-set luxury of Cowboy Bebop's swanky casino satellites or Kubrick's high-class, Strauss-soundtracked orbital lounges.

 

Technologies we should have by now: Where's our flying cars?

Fusion power
It's been hailed as the answer to all our energy prayers: By fusing atoms together instead of breaking them apart like fission reactors do now, we could produce clean-burning, virtually unlimited power from materials we can get from seawater. No global warming, no radioactive waste, and enough energy to last for thousands of years. Scientists have been working on fusion since the 1950s, but a commercial reactor is still decades away. All they have to do is re-create the power of the sun and contain it within a magnetic field. Really, what's so hard about that?


Telekinesis
In the sci-fi world, aliens are often often given telekinetic abilities to signify advanced intelligence. It's no wonder then, that we mere mortals have not yet mastered the skill of moving things with our mind. Sure, there's an old lady in Russia who can bend spoons, but we'd be more impressed if she could move heavy equipment, or you know, help us get that damn TV remote from across the room into our hands. The technology is still not quite there, though Mattel's Mindflex toy suggests that it is a possibility. For now, we will have to stay content with spoons and moving ping pong balls.


Jet pack
I remember seeing an ad for a jet-pack in the back of Mad Magazine like 15 years ago. It looked a little sketchy, sure, but I figured it would only be a matter of a couple more years before they'd work out the kinks and we could get these things at Wal-Mart for $50 a pop. So what's the hold up on this one? Perhaps scientists took Terry O'Quinn's sage words to heart from his 1991 portrayal of Howard Hughes in "The Rocketeer" and realized the sinister possibilities of such a machine, super-villianwise. You may have saved millions of lives, Mr. O'Quinn. We will never truly know.

 


Sex dolls
Every man on earth who can't seem to find a real human female dreams of the day when someone with their similar creepiness creates a robot that does everything they want in bed without the awkwardness of actually meeting and courting a lady. Or maybe it's the morning after that's the problem. Either way, for all the technology we have in life, our sex dolls just aren't doing the trick just yet. Every "new" development that makes them a better plastic mate seems to take the industry a step back. Take Roxxy for example. She's 5'7" and 120 pounds and has C-cup breasts. Realistic already! To top it off, she can hear, speak, listen, sleep, and react to her "owner". Nothing like owning a woman who speaks in robot voice and gives you the "dead look" while you are trying to get your groove on. To make her even more "humanlike" she has five personalities! Just like a real girlfriend! Wild Wendy, Frigid Farrah, Mature Martha, S&M Susan, and "barely 18" voice. That's cute. Maybe finding the bar leftovers at 2 a.m. doesn't sound so bad after all.

Full-body grooming machine Every girl who watched the Jetsons remembers Judy's wardrobe machine that squashed all of the tediousness of getting ready in the morning with one simple but rather large contraption over a conveyor belt. Think Cher Horowitz's closet in Clueless, only it does your hair and makeup too. One can dream.

Technologies we should have by now: Where's our flying cars?
aussiegall via Flickr.com

Time Travel No trope has provided more fodder to sci-fi narratives than time travel. But don't expect this technology to arise anytime soon. Or at all. Our reasoning: until we meet a time-traveler from the future with proof of his or her origins, we're going to go ahead and assume the human species went extinct before anyone could get their flux capacitor (or whatever) off the drawing board. Unless, of course, those slender, bug-eyed creatures we call "aliens" are in fact highly evolved humans from the future, in which case, touche, you sneaky Grandfather Paradox-evading bastards. Touche indeed.


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