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So Where Are the Flying Cars?
Sunday, 2005 May 15 - 11:45 pm
It's 2005. Aren't we living in The Future by now?

Back in the 1980s, we looked ahead to 2000 and figured we'd have robot assistants and flying cars, like in the Jetsons.

It's probably just as well that flying cars haven't become a reality, because we also invented cell phones, and I don't want someone crashing through the roof of my house because they were trying to retrieve their voice mail.

We're actually coming close on the robot assistant thing; witness the Roomba, and the Aibo. The robots aren't very sophisticated, but we've solved most of the basic technological problems. It's now just a matter of someone getting serious about making these things more intelligent and useful. Of course, robotics will never really take off until someone makes a sex robot, because porn is the driving force behind everything.

Here are some of my predictions for future important technological and scientific milestones.

2015: Ubiquitous online access. We'll be constantly connected to the Internet via a PDA/phone device. E-mail, voice-mail, text-messaging, and video-chat will converge. We'll be able to call up a virtual "assistant" to buy movie tickets, make restaurant reservations, get driving directions, etc. via our PDA/phone.

2020: Semi-intelligent robot assistants. "Dumb" robots like the Roomba will be commonplace in as little as five to ten years, cleaning our houses, mowing our lawns, and keeping an eye out for trouble. Soon afterwards, as robots become more nimble and intelligent, we'll see robotic cashiers and waiters, robotic police, robotic garbagemen... many low-wage jobs will begin a slow but inevitable disappearance.

2025: Holographic video. Hollywood has been trying to figure out how to deliver 3-D to us for some time, but it's the rise of computer gaming that's really driving the desire for 3-D technology. For a while we'll futz around with simulated 3-D, using special glasses or multi-angle monitors. But true holography will eventually become practical and affordable, and that'll start a whole new entertainment market. (The first adopters, of course, will be in the porn industry.)

2030: Invisibility. We're playing around with active camouflage systems now. The military is very keen on stuff like this, so there's a lot of money in it. We'll have ground vehicles, airplanes, and uniforms that are capable of providing a limited level of invisibility.

2035: Bionics. We're starting to make strides in connecting electronic and mechanical devices to ourselves. This is an evolving technology that will advance rapidly with the development of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS). We will soon be able to make artificial limbs that can be controlled directly via electric impulses from the nervous system, and artificial sensory organs to replace eyes and ears.

2040: Personal flying vehicles. There are companies out there that are planning to market affordable flying vehicles, but it'll be another ten years before they're really affordable, and another twenty before we establish the necessary laws to make them practical and usable. Heck, in some cities, we can't even drive Segways anywhere yet.

2050: Artificial organs. By this time, biotechnology and MEMS should have advanced to the state where we can create artificial hearts, livers, and kidneys.

2060: Realistic androids. Robotics, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and the porn industry will converge to allow us to make very convincing humanoid robots. The whole fabric of society may change as a result of this.

2070: Lunar colony. Some president will make a big deal about putting a permanent colony on the moon, despite the enormous cost, just so we can say that we did it. It will eventually be seen as a good idea, though, because it may make interplanetary travel possible.

2080: Human cloning and genetic modification. We'll eventually get over the ethical and theological issues, just as we did with in-vitro fertilization.

2090: Grand Unified Theory. If you're a physicist, you'll be excited about this.

2100: Personal space travel. I'm putting it so far off not because we won't have the technology to do it, but because we simply won't have the money. Space travel is very expensive, and it's somewhat pointless if we don't have anywhere to go.

In the far-off future: Telepathy. We may eventually gain enough understanding of how the brain works to make this possible, but it'll be enormously difficult to implement.

Not in the foreseeable future: Time travel. And if we do figure it out, somehow, it probably won't work the way people expect.

Not in the foreseeable future: Teleportation. There are issues with basic physics (like, the uncertainty principle) that make this theoretically impossible.

Not in the foreseeable future: Faster-than-light travel. We might figure out the principle, but we may never be able to generate enough energy to make it work.

Not in the foreseeable future: A decent on-line dating service. Hence the need for the sex robots.
Permalink  6 Comment   Bookmark and Share
Posted by Ken in: interestingscience


Comment #1 from Melinda (Guest)
2005 May 16 - 11:21 am : #
You mean I have to wait until I'm in my fifties for the holographic video. :(
You left out ASIMO. I saw ASIMO hanging out and dancing on some talk show. It was awesome he(?)was actually a pretty good dancer.
Comment #2 from Speaker (Guest)
2005 May 16 - 1:18 pm : #
back to the future didn't predict flying cars until 2015, there's still time, i tell you! STILL TIME!
Comment #3 from Ken (realkato)
2005 May 16 - 3:18 pm : #
Well, what do you know...
Comment #4 from Speaker (Guest)
2005 May 16 - 3:37 pm : #
when a german scientist says "hold on to your hat!" you HOLD ON TO YOUR HAT!
Comment #5 from Nicholas (Guest)
2005 May 18 - 8:20 am : #
This guy discusses things like this all the time.

He started, he also lives in Raleigh.
Comment #6 from olafandyjon (Guest)
2005 May 20 - 9:47 am : #
You know, I just caught 2001: A Space Odyssey the other day. They were way off.

Comments are closed for this post.

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