Thursday, November 19, 2009

Futures of Days Passed

What the hall happened to the Future, anyway?

I know this is fairly well-worn territory here - at least for people of my generation - but every so often I look back at some old piece of science fiction or remember childhood trips to COSI or the National Air & Space Museum, and wonder about this. Where are the rocket backpacks or domestic robots that can do more than sweep the floor?

The other day it was a list on Topless Robot: The 10 Greatest EPCOT Attractions That No Longer Exist.

It wasn't just the vanished exhibits that got to me, though. (I already went through that a few years ago when we took the kids to Disney World and discovered that EPCOT, while still a lot of fun, just wasn't as cool as it was back when I was a kid.) More than that, it got me thinking about the loss of a sense of optimistic wonder I remember from my childhood. And it's even worse now, as I'm approaching 40, and my kids are growing up. I feel like my generation has failed theirs in some indefinable way.

Growing up in the late 1970s/early 1980s, when we heard the phrase "the Year 2000" it sparked something magical. I remember believing that by that time we would be living in a Jetsons-esque technological wonderland featuring robotic housemaids, flying cars, instant communication via wrist-watch and vacations on the Moon.

What do we have, instead? The ability to post 140-character messages to mostly strangers in real time, and to publicly compare one another to Nazis because of our opinions regarding TV shows we've watched on our computers - often featuring dancing people who are barely famous for something other than dancing.

What a ginormous let-down!

Now, don't get me wrong - the internet and smart phones and, pausing/storing live television programming is cool. I mean, after only a few weeks with it, I quickly realized I could never go back to life without my DVR. Same with my iPhone. But we're far from where I thought we'd be by the time we got to the year 2010!

Now, here we are knocking on the door of the year 2010 and there are still no humans on Mars, and we haven't even sent anyone back to the bloody Moon in 38 friggin' years. Worse than even the fact our adolescent visions of the future never came true, though is the fact that any hope for it seems to have disappeared.

The other morning I asked one of my kids if he thought that in 20 to 30 years he'd have a robot at home that would clean up, cook, do laundry ... that sort of thing. Or if he thought he'd be able to take a vacation on the moon by the time he was my age.

He actually laughed at me. He was shocked to discover that I had ever thought such things would be real by the time I was 40!

So ... what the hell happened? Well, that's a topic for a whole other article - one that probably requires some research, and is thus beyond the scope of this blog.

I don't think that the vision I had for the future when I was 12 is going to come true any time soon, but dammit, I want that feeling of hope back. I want to believe that even if I can't have a jet-pack in 10 years, at least my kids will be able to vacation on the moon. I want them to believe that, as Dan Quayle once said, "The Future will be better tomorrow." (I'm not saying I want my kids to be retarded - just that I want them to have hope.)

All I can say now is that I want my future back!

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