First, a belated Happy New Year and a new decade!
Second, pat yourselves on the back that you do not have to fight against Skynet for your right to survive, as the nearest thing to A.I. is Google Assistant, and that fails to even set a reminder.
Third, feel bad that we majorly messed up our planet, and without any space faring technology to take us to a new one anytime soon, or you know, in case a A.I. overlord does emerge, or any of the other cool things we were promised in movies growing up.
Do not get me wrong though. Between, say, 1990 and 2020, the number of advancements we had is pretty spectacular by itself. Imagine having to live with 857MB for a hard drive; a single decent video quality episode of your favourite Game of Thrones is at least 500MB, meaning forget a season, you have to live the one-episode life.
The smartphone you keep in your pocket now has 100 times more processing power than any full-fledged computer back then, and the cell phone back then was about as big and heavy as a brick. Healthcare has taken leaps and bounds too, to the point we are now on the verge of radical genetic therapies to cure diseases in unborn children.
But, it seems, some other things did not turn out like the way movies and books foretold. Things like hyperspace travel, where you could jump to another solar system and another planet in a matter of hours, or robots living and working in society, or real flying cars — not the folding table-top collapsed plane things that people call flying cars — are nowhere near reality, yet.
So, with that in mind, let us look at all cool things we were looking forward to for 2020 that are still mostly fiction.
If you are wondering why we are warming up our planet with toxic fumes instead of using things like solar, wind, or more exotic things like antimatter, Mr. Fusion etc. for energy, well, then you are not alone. Our current sources of power are extremely polluting, and we knew that when we started using them.
The world had two chances in the late 19th and early 20th century to move from oil/coal power to solar energy via steam. Unfortunately, economics and war made sure that this technology never saw the light of day. And despite knowing of the effects of climate change very early on, we did nothing, relegating most of our solutions to works of fiction.
SPACE TRAVEL AND COLONISATION OF MARS
This was one of those predictions that we really hoped would come to fruition. If the movies are to be believed, we should have been already had advanced colonies of people on Mars and our own Moon for years now. Not just that, we would also have faster than light travel, exploring the corners of the Milky Way Galaxy, and finding newer planets to settle on.
The reality however, is beyond disappointing. Forget Mars, we have not even been to the Moon in 48 years, since the last Apollo mission. Sure, we have sent rovers and satellites to nearly all planets of the solar system, but that’s not really colonising or charting through the Milky Way, is it?
Imagine never having to go through the misery that is household chores because this is 2020, and we all have sleek and smart robots who does all the work for us, except we do not. This is still 2020, and the only things we have in terms of personal robots are unintuitive pet robots with such limited functionality that we might as well call them gimmicks. The only one we have that looks close to humanoid is ASIMO, and even that looks like someone in a bulky ’60s spacesuit ready to be sent off to space missions. While ASIMO is still a technological marvel in that he can walk and run, he is still far off from Sonny of ‘I, Robot’.
SELF-DRIVING AND FLYING CARS
Thanks to efforts from Tesla and Google, self-driving cars are nearly a reality. We are still far off from completly autonomous cars, but current progress is promising. So, if you are the kind of person who hates driving, rejoice, for in the near future, you can just enter your destination and take a nice nap, knowing the car will do a better job of getting there than you.
The second part of the car’s future however, is still quite far off from being real. Sure, we do have some special creations that technically fly, but to be honest, they mostly look like miniature airplanes with detachable wings, and that is not the flying car anyone envisioned.
You hear flying car; you immediately think back to Back To The Future Part II’s version of flying cars. Heck, you could even take your old Toyota Publica to get a flying car conversion, now that’s something to see.
Picture this — you walk into something that resembles a shower box, enter your destination, and suddenly you become a flash of light, and before you know it, you are in another shower box, located at your destination.
No more traffic jams, no more queuing at bus stops, or airports. Yes, you lose the excuse of ‘being stuck in traffic’ to your boss, or worse, have them give you a visit at home and catch you red-handed, but the benefits far outweigh a convenient excuse.
Unfortunately, this will remain a dream for quite the foreseeable future, despite books, TV shows and movies telling us otherwise. We have not even figured out how to lessen traffic, or follow traffic laws for that matter. While research in ongoing, do not expect anything in our lifetimes. For now, we will just have to keep adding them to works of fiction in the hopes that our great or great great grandchildren will be able to live the dream.
If you were expecting flying, or underwater cities, with sleek spaceship like buildings dotting the landscape, then you were not alone. Nearly all the sci-fi materials from the ’90s essentially guaranteed that cities would go through a revolution by 2010s and 2020s.
Unfortunately, the reality is that our cities have looked basically the same since the ’70s, minus a few new additions like expressways and subways. And it does not look to changing anytime soon either, so do not hold your breath too long on this one.