Friday, 21 January 2011

Into The Future

Now that the 21st century has grown up a little, it's interesting to realise that we are now living in 'The Future'.

If you were to take someone from 1911 and drop them into 2011, they would probably be shocked at the speed of it all, intrigued by the little machines that everyone carries around it their pockets and no doubt very confused by modern dress sense.
It's strange how change can creep up on society and be taken for granted.

In 1911, few people would have imagined that one day we could be able to communicate with almost anyone in the world using metal boxes powered by electricity in our own homes, or connect with virtual communities that have no physical form. Yet here we are.  I am writing these words, and you are reading them: both making use of a technology that would have seemed impossible just 100 years ago.  We may never have met, but technology has allowed us to say hello.

Thanks to science fiction and the space race, if you asked a child in the 60s & 70s what they thought the 21st century would be like, many would have mentioned hover cars, jet packs, or colonies on the moon. 

TV programmes like Star Trek showed space explorers talking with communicators and scanning alien worlds with handheld devices.  But isn't that what mobile phones really are, here in our time?  We use 'communicators' every day; we make videos with them, send messages... we can even scan star constellations, download information and call up maps on them, along with a million other things.
I think that is amazing.

Now we have e-readers that can hold hundreds of books in digitised form, touchscreen tablets that let us access a world of information wherever we go, and there are thousands of satellites buzzing around in orbit above us transmitting down into our lives every minute of every day.  Earth even has its own international space station conducting global research, and people can see it crossing the sky if they look up at the right time.

We may not have hover cars, but futuristic technology is with us right now.  Astronomers are using ever more sophisticated methods to look deep into the universe, and in the next five years, Voyager 1, a spacecraft launched in 1977, is set to leave our solar system and head out into the unknown.  Who knows what the rest of this century might hold?  Perhaps the discovery of Earth-like exosolar worlds isn't as far away as we think.

Next time you use your phone, your ipad, or boot up your computer, think about what our visitor from 1911 would think of it.  Humans are an ingenious bunch, but we are easily bored.  Maybe we should take a fresh look at the scientific magic we are living with, rather than becoming jaded too quickly.
We are living in 'The Future', so let's make time to be amazed... let's allow ourselves to be fascinated by technological elements of the present that were once figments of someone's imagination.

Who knows what life will be like in another 100 years?  We may only be able to imagine it - just like our visitor - but we're already well on our way there.