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Will the future ever deliver?


Are you sick of waiting for the future to deliver on its promises?

I’m bloody sure I am. Forget Hybrid cars. Ever since the release of Back To The Future in 1985 I’ve been waiting for a practical flying car to be delivered. The Moller Skycar is about as close as we’ve come and Mr Moller is about 15 deadlines overdue and still nothing.

Well, not quite nothing. He’s had some prototype bobbing around on string a few times and uploaded some tantalising video here and there. He has a web site proudly declaring that the project is going nowhere, or as they put it “in a holding pattern”. In case you are wondering, I’m laughing on the inside.

Nonetheless, it looks pretty cool and unlike most promises there is something tangible about it. Well, they’ve built one haven’t they? Even if it doesn’t work.

Teleportation is another one of those carrots that gets dangled in front of us as nearly being real. Can you imagine being able to fax yourself from one place to another?

Some estimates have teleportation as close as a generation away before practical applications are seen. At the moment they can move photons of light about, so they say.

How they knew it was the same photon of light and how they picked it out from all the others is beyond me. I mean really, do they expect us to believe that they actually did this? Even if they do expect us to believe them, and they didn’t really do it, then the amount of work required to prove them wrong would be phenomenal.

The proof is all so transient and microscopic that they could tell us that they saw a tiny picture of Elvis (or Michael Jackson if you’re feeling topical) on the photon and we’d still be unable to disprove it.

These same scientists have also beamed some kind of “light fog” across a room. To you and I this is as impressive and useful as the single photon trick. To the pencil heads it is more exciting than a trip to Las Vegas to go on Star Trek The Experience, which I’ve heard was pretty damn impressive while it lasted.

If they ever do invent a real teleporter, would you step into it? As a disillusioned consumer I am dead sure I wouldn’t. Think about it. This man-made thing would run on software written by Microsoft, Google or Apple. Even the most dedicated of zealots wouldn’t seriously proclaim that their favourite vendor’s software is perfect, would they? At a minimum, I require my teleporter to be perfect.

How likely do you think it is to work properly and be safe? You don’t want to get a virus popping up just as you disassemble yourself on Windows 2030, the battery failing on your iPod Shuttle or the resolution being too low on your desired destination in Google Earth. You wouldn’t want to try it only to find out you should have downloaded the latest patch from the internet first.

No, if the teleporter is ever invented it will have to be put to a more realistic and less dangerous use than transporting anything alive.

I see a great use in waste disposal. I’m thinking of a teleporter toilet. Anything you dispose of would be instantly teleported to somewhere else. Originally I thought that the sun would be a good place for our waste. Then I realised that if humans did this for a few hundred years the Earth would be slowly eroded away and the sun would get bigger. Bloody hell, we might even snuff it out if we weren’t careful.

Sadly the teleporter toilet would probably end up being used for evil by the dominant world power of the time. Speaking of Google, did you know they are venturing into space? It is old news now but still so cool you just have to see it. Check out the Blue Origin web site and make sure you go to the updates page and watch the videos. As far as I can tell they’ve acquired old McDonnell Douglas technology from the DC-X project. That is worth Googling and hunting down videos on YouTube as well. Suffice to say this thing has to be the closest candidate for delivering the future that the Space Shuttle didn’t. But still, their first and last launch was on the morning of November 13, 2006. Not much progress in the future is there?

All the good future stuff seems to be hidden from us at places like Area 51 or only used in Formula 1 racing. The Area 51 stuff gets used to kill “the enemy” and then revealed to we consumers once it is obsolete (read something better already exists!). The Formula 1 innovations for this year include KERS – Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems. In case you don’t know what that is, KERS is either a battery or a flywheel capable of storing the braking energy of the racing car. Yes, you heard right. A friggin’ flywheel. They were last used to store energy on steam engines!!! Give me strength. Will somebody please deliver something genuinely innovative and cool! Something big for the masses. Not smaller – I am sick of smaller. That is easy to do.

All this disappointment is our own fault though. We let the boffins get away with announcing stuff, taking our money and then hiding. Our generation X and Y attention spans mean we forget to hold them accountable. Oh look over there, something shiny.

David Moore has 24 years experience in the computer industry and is now Principle PC Hater at ihatemypc.com.au

Photo: Thomas Duchnicki