The Future: Expectations vs. Reality

I played the Wii today, hitting a fake ping-pong ball back and forth with a stubby animated black guy with an immense afro and Charlie-Chaplin-esque ‘stache. I realized suddenly that what I was doing was exactly what I dreamed of doing ten years ago. Back in the nineties, when I still played Super Nintendo, when the N64 first came out… I wanted a hands-on videogame. I dreamed of a future where we played interactive games with the Power Glove which had just been released. What? You don’t remember the Power Glove? Well, obviously you didn’t pay attention. The Power glove came out before I was even born, but I hope there would be a remake, something better. Something, say, like the Wii. In fact, the first interactive video game was created in 1977. A fishing game. You pulled at a rod to reel in a fish. We used to play on them when I was small at the county fair.

Here’s what the Power Glove looked like:

When I was about 6 or 10 or some similarly presumably-innocent age, I had a lot of ideas about the future. Such as what video games would look like. Or what the robots who would play video games with me might look like. I drew my inspiration from Transformers, mostly. Not everything turned out as I planned, despite the Wii. I don’t own a Camaro that can turn into a giant, fighting robot with laser guns. In fact, I drive a Saturn that will probably only turn into scrap metal in a few years.

There is one huge innovation that met my expectations. I wanted portable televisions, devices on which we could watch television and listen to music. And then Jobs gave us the IPod, which for me, is actually quite mind-blowing. This is our dreamed-up future, and we’re taking it for granted.

Thinking back now, living in huge steel apartment buildings precariously held up by metal stilts was probably not the best vision for the future either. Did The Jetson’s have it wrong? Where are I flying cars and housecleaning robots? I’m resigned to that fact that my children will not attend Little Dipper Elementary.

But how well does the future- well, our present- match up to our expectations? We’re not living on the moon. We haven’t even begun to colonize it yet, and to make matters worse, we’re discontinuing our current space program. We haven’t made contact with any aliens yet, which is also probably why we’re still around. Our society has not yet plummeted into an apocalyptic wasteland where people murder each other for bottles of water.

According to an article by James Berry in 1963, we would live in huge glass domes. Our public transportation would involve routine rocket rides across the globe. The fridges would automatically cook our food, the dutiful housewife needing not to heat a stove or work a microwave. TV’s covered entire walls. People vacation on satellites around Jupiter or in underwater facilities. Farmers grow crops in multi-storied skyscrapers.

Some of these visions have manifested themselves, such as the size of our televisions, but not everything has turned out as planned. What did you think the future would be like when you were a kid? Are you disappointed? Or are your surprised at how much and what has changed?

Quote of Day:“I was actually quite surprised how long it took me to decapitate her. I was under the impression that I could achieve it with a single swing. But I suppose people are quite too attached to their heads to lose them so quickly.”


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