Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Back to the Future, Ahead to the Past

According to Back to the Future II, 2015 should have hoverboards, flying cars, twin neckties, self-lacing Nikes and double-digit Jaws sequels. It doesn't, and although director Robert Zemeckis has said that he didn't really believe the future would have all of the things he put in it, the real 2015 still looks a lot more like 1985 that it does like the movie 2015. Give your average '80s teen dude a couple of months to catch up and cut his mullet and he would fit in pretty well. And given that Walk the Moon's Nicholas Petricca sports said hairstyle in the hit "Shut up and Dance With Me" video the trim might not be needed either.

There are a lot of folks who surmise that 2045 is going to be vastly different than 2015. There's the possibility of The Singularity, or a moment when computers tip over from simply being very fast calculators into being actual artificial intelligences. There's the possibility of robots becoming able to do things people do now, but doing them faster and better. Or of technology being integrated into our bodies allowing access to a virtual reality that we'll direct and create ourselves -- and which, given the way some folks are, we will hope stays hidden from others' views.

Or it may be that 2045 looks a little different from now, but only by about as much as 2015 looks from 1985.  Longtime science journalist John Markoff says all of those gadgets and advances are possible and may even happen in the next 30 years. But they may also not, and they may take quite a bit longer.

For all of the hooraw about the nearness of AI and agile or possibly deadly robots, Markoff notes that in a recent robotics contest, few of the machines were able to open a door. This might explain why Arnold had to smash into the police station with a car in The Terminator: He couldn't work the knob.

Even after reading Markoff's comments, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict what will happen in 2045: It will get here. As for what life will be like, well, meet me then and we'll find out. But make it a weekend. Given what the last 15 or so years have done to the economy, I'll probably be flipping burgers to pay for my Polident.

1 comment:

fillyjonk said...

Yeah, actually, if you watch the various robot-competition "fail" videos on YouTube (like the DARPA competitions), it seems that robots are easily defeated by things like stairs. Kind of like "slow zombies."

My personal favorite robot fail video is the one set to Yakety Sax.