Saturday, July 09, 2011

When Fiction Becomes Fact

Back when I was in college I had a very wise English Literature teacher who said something that made me a very passionate futurist-observer. He said, "I grew up listening to stories about Buck Rogers and his adventures. He used to fly around in space in a rocket ship, had a laser gun that he'd used to help him fight crime and criminals. Fast-forward to the present, we're seeing lasers in nearly all facets of life as we know it." The comic stories took their turn at maturity, from paperback to radio to TV to the silver screen, all the way from the 1920's to the 1970's and early 1980's.

I suppose that's what got me hooked into reading about Scifi in general, thanks Doc! :)

Think about it. A cartoon character invented in 1928 foretold an age when lasers, personal air transport systems and rocket ships are a normal fact of life. This is how Science develops science fiction into scientific fact, along with some very innovative and intelligent people, and lots of funds. If strange-looking alien was your first image of a Sci-Fi theme, consider this;

We have IR-controls for our entertainment devices, single-seat & 'wearable' air transport systems, GSM & WIFI for our communications, lasers and other directed-energy weapons for anything from medicine to military uses, even semi-autonomous robots. We're living in a "Buck Rogers" style of world today, for intents and purposes. In fact, I'd go far enough to even admit that we're living in a "Star Trek" age.

Still boring & ho-hum? Okay, consider this:

When NASA launched their Apollo 11 mission in 1969, the on-board computer that was trusted with sending the astronauts to the moon and back had only a fraction of the processing power of today's high-school scientific calculators!

In 1991, mobile phones were large, expensive, bulky and completely unwearable, with spotty local coverage, and had a maximum of 3 hours of battery time, if you're lucky enough to own a battery set for it! They had no Caller ID, no call-forwarding, no voicemail. All you had was basically a wireless radio set connected to the battery of your car! And we were happy!

Then, in 2002, 3G was introduced to the world, and the world was happy. Mobile internet basically skyrocketed from that point onwards, We gradually got to use basic email, Roaming voice & data services, and download some funky ringtones. And we were happy!

We're in 2011, ad the things that I can do with an iPhone or Android-based phone today can only be described as 'futuristic'. Geo-location has given rise to 'geo-caching' and 'geo-tagging', thanks to the GPS chips in smart phones (which, by the way, were as large as an early 1990's mobile phone when they were first commercially released!). 

A tablet-based computer is increasingly becoming more powerful and connectible than even last-year's mobile laptop!

Keep in mind that whatever we, the consumers, are exposed to in terms of technology today is already tomorrow's 'historical usage data' for other things to come.  In fact, even as consumers, we become futuristic in our brain's nostalgia trips; A 2002-era upmarket vehicle with an on-board GPS navigation system gets one thinking how did we all manage to drive around without a touch-screen or a USB port or Bluetooth connectivity in our cars.

So the next time you see Captain Picard switch on his tricorder to search for an alien life-form, or press onto his comms badge to speak to his spaceship flying high above him in space, thing about where we were, where we are and where we're going to be just 10 years from now. Hopefully you'll being to appreciate why exactly "Trekkies" love Star Trek :)

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