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Five reasons to believe the future has arrived

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All too often, people get so hung up on the fantastic future we didn't get that they can't focus on the even-crazier one we did. You know the complaints: "Where's my flying car? Why can't I live forever? When do I get to visit the moon?" But flying cars are the worst idea ever (most people can't drive a car in two dimensions, you want to add a third?), immortality means you'd be stuck with the same people you already hate for eternity and space is cold, empty and, really, pretty goddamn boring. Besides, today is way cooler than we ever imagined.

Don't believe it? These five reasons should convince you. And if not, keep holding out for that flying car...

5. Virtual Reality: Okay so it isn't the silly goggles-and-gloves version of virtual reality we were promised in the '90s (thank god) -- but virtual reality has arrived. At this point, we all know someone who is hopelessly addicted to World of Warcraft. I'm willing to bet most of us know someone who spends more time in-game than in what us old-schoolers like to call the real world, and weird, crafty people are hard at work creating such ridiculous things as this life-sustaining WoW pod. You also have all those niche nerd worlds like Second Life, and even your mom is probably playing Farmville on Facebook. Plus, augmented reality is just around the corner, probably by way of our fancy phones. How long before all of us are spending most of our time in one kind of virtual reality or another?

4. Infinite reach and powerful creative tools for all!: Right now, with about ten minutes of downloading and installing free software, the computer you are reading this on can become a virtual music studio several orders of magnitude more powerful than the one the Beatles used to record Abbey Road -- not to mention a platform for distributing the results worldwide. Music not your thing? The same principles hold for movies, animation, even good, old-fashioned writing -- pretty much any creative endeavor you care to try your hand at. Talent, naturally, is not included, and you still have to get people's attention -- arguably harder than ever, since everyone has the same tools. But that's just it: Everyone has the tools, so what are you waiting for? Your one-woman, electronic-music opera about your love affair with Cheetos isn't going to write itself.

3. Free media for all!: Even though this is inextricably linked to the previous item, it's worth pointing out that in our digital future of now, you don't really ever have to pay for any media again. Obviously, there are legal issues, but with services such as Hulu and Crackle, the preponderance of artists giving away music and the number of free e-books available from places such as Project Gutenberg, you can keep yourself busy for the rest of time and stay on the straight and narrow with the law. At some point, we're going to figure out a way to support artists in this model, too, so you won't even have to feel guilty about it anymore -- not that most of you do, anyway.

2. Cyberwarfare: What, you didn't think it was all sunshine and jellybeans here in the future, did you? No, it has its issues, too. Like the fact that your computer could very well be compromised and controlled remotely to do anything and everything from selling bootleg Viagra from India via spam to becoming part of a giant botnet used to disrupt U.S. government IT operations in a giant DDoS attack heralding the start World War III. That's why Uncle Sam is hard at work at putting together a branch of the military to counter this craziness (the second thing, they aren't too concerned about counterfeit boner pills). You can do your part, too: Make sure your firewall and antivirus software is up to date, an don't accept any invitations to join anything called Skynet, okay?

1. The magic answer box: It seems strange to think there was a time not so long ago when you couldn't answer pretty much any question by simply typing it into Google. Okay, so it doesn't work so well on the big questions of life, like "Why are we here? Is there a god? What is up with the resurgent popularity of skinny jeans?" But if you want to know what film that one lady has been in, how far it is between the Earth and the moon, what the difference between a leopard and a jaguar is or how tall Jon Stewart and tonight's guests are (seriously, I used it for the last questions yesterday), the answers are just a few keystrokes away. It's become such a normal thing that we don't even notice it anymore. But think: Just a few short years ago, those kind of questions could plague you for months, or require a trip to the library. Crazy! And yeah, sometimes we get bad info -- but as more databases come online and more info is cross-correlated and double checked, it gets better everyday. Besides, who's going to argue about Jon Stewart being 5' 6" if the Internet says it's true?

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