ND – Grey, Raining, Blue
I grew up in the 1970’s and 1980’s, before modern gadget technology exploded, and with the imagery and imagination that 1950’s science fiction movies and writers painted as a backdrop to my burgeoning creative development.
During those two decades the notion of the 21st century and life on Mars seemed impossibly far off to me. We’d be living on foreign bodies, and have incredibly advanced transportation and widespread social reform, but it wasn’t all so romantic and the rise of the machines was thrown into the mix to balance things up.
Approaching the year 2000 was obviously a huge numerical stepping stone, but somehow the gloss was taken off by the promise of world Armageddon by the Y2K bug. That never materialised and we had the celebrations as the millenia flipped another digit and finally we arrived at…
Finally we’re in the 21st Century, but it’s tempered by the shiny new things we continue to build competing with the crumbling old.
2010 has been a real time for reflection as to the future however. Another decade gone, another film too. This date to me really now sounds like we’re in the future, but the promise of rapid travel to Jupiter hasn’t materialised. In fact we’re approaching the 38th anniversary of the last human steps on another body with no confirmed plans yet to try again.
But even though the appearance of the future seems elusive, there are signs that things are happening. For someone born early in the 20th century my mother has seen incredible change. Electricity in the home was a gateway to all of those labour-saving first wave of home gadgets, that then opened the door to finding the time to do other things. The Wireless (no, not WiFi), followed by the TV were communication revolutions, but largely 1-way for most people.
Undoubtably the Transistor, known by very few at the time, was one of the most transformational inventions of the 20th century. Without that one tiny step we wouldn’t have “WWW.” today.
The 1st proper web browser came out of CERN in 1991. The web slowly built during the 1990’s, but as far as the bulk of the world’s population is concerned it only became relevant to their lives, and explosively so at that, in the 21st Century. Yes, the seeds for eBay and Google were sown in the last decade of the 20th century, but Facebook has just surpassed 500 Million users, and that’s barely half a decade old as I type.
And what of our future in space? Space based telescopes, and subsequently better ground based observational techniques have discovered hundreds of planets orbiting neighbouring stars since the mid-1990’s. And in juxtaposition to those huge findings, another generation of physicists beyond those that built that first transistor are now using incredible technology, also from CERN, to find the smallest and closest building blocks to it all with the Large Hadron Collider.
The futurist Ray Kurzweil is a very interesting chap. I watched him at a conference keynote speech in 2008 as he reiterated the thrust of his futurology; that all forms of technological and biological advancement are either accelerating or are about to. If you extrapolate their advancement curves you can attempt to predict, in the relatively near term (next 3-4 decades possibly) where we are heading. These curves are certain, and if that amazing transistor can’t get smaller than a few atoms causing a clear roadblock, then that roadblock is only in that technological thread of activity, and it will be replaced by some new device that will be even more capable and will continue us on.
In a nutshell, following exponentially growing curves shows that the next 100 years will be far more scientifically prolific than the last 100.
Kurweil also claims that this thinking applies to our life expectancy, and with better medical and social care for everyone we will live significantly longer.
If I am amazed by what I have seen, what I continue to see, and what my imagination allows me to glimpse, then I can only imagine what this boys’ eyes will witness going into the 22nd century and beyond.