Geeks love to complain about how disappointing the future turned out to be. That’s some bullshit. I mean, I’m just as pissed as anyone that we chose to make ourselves into a dystopian cross between Ayn Rand’s amphetamine-fueled delusions and Philip K. Dick’s amphetamine-fueled paranoia (seriously, amphetamines? Not even once, kids), but technologically speaking, we live in a pretty goddamn wild and awesome future, one that even most of the outlandish dreamers couldn’t have imagined, or at the very least didn’t imagine.
Consider all the things people whine about when whining about the future: “Ugh, where’s my jetpack and my flying car? Why can’t I have a robot assistant? Where’s my holodeck?” Consider that most of those things are real already, and people either don't realize it — probably too busy whining — or that the future that invention was posited in is still impossibly far off, despite the fact that the real technology is almost here.
Flying car? What you’re talking about is a personal airplane, and yes, you can have one today, if you have the patience to learn how to fly and the cold, hard cash (or sterling credit) to pony up for the thing. Consider also that most people can barely manage to control a car in two dimensions, and ask yourself how upset you really are that more of us aren’t flying around. That goes double for jetpacks — you can buy one, but they’re ridiculously inefficient and more dangerous than the meth that fueled Ayn Rand’s delusions.
Robot assistant? Sure, you still have to fold your own clothes and wipe your own ass, but when was the last time you had to look up a word’s spelling in the dictionary? Or come up with the name of a song when you only remember three words from the chorus? I’m going to say around 2002, when even your grandma learned the Google, and you finally figured out what that red outline underneath your terrible attempt to spell “parallel” meant, and how right-clicking would save you. That’s not even the future anymore, people — kids born that year are now infesting the food court down at the mall, staring at you sullenly from under the Bieberesque hair nightmare all tweens seem to sport these days. You can also get a robot to vacuum your floor, and one probably took your job in the past five years, too. Oh, and it’s just a matter of time until they drive your car, which means SkyNet is ready to do its thing any day now.
As for that holodeck … well, they didn’t get that shit in Star Trek until the 25th century, but Oculus VR or one of their competitors is going to be selling it just in time to give your kids something to cry about when you don't get it for them at Christmas. Have fun with that!
I carry around a computer in my pocket that’s better than the computer I had on my desktop at the turn of the century. It’s always connected to the Internet, and I don’t have to remember a damn thing thanks to it, much less talk to strangers at a bar. That’s some crazy future shit right there. We send remote-control drones to kill our enemies halfway around the world, and the only reason we haven’t automated that shit already is because even the dummies at the Pentagon aren’t that suicidal (yet). Cops carry electricity guns. We’ve populated Mars with robots. And have you seen those crazy-ass soda machines that have like 500 flavors?
The future is here, and it’s outlandish. It may not be awesome all the time, but neither was the past. The next time you hear some disaffected geek snarking about their lack of a jetpack, take their smartphone away and drop it in their beer, then see how well they manage our brave new world without their little robot buddy. That’ll teach them to complain about jetpacks.
Find me on Twitter, where I tweet about geeky stuff and waste an inordinate amount of time: @casciato.