Welcome to the 24th century

time-clocksOver the past 60 to 70 years humanity has leaped ahead technologically in what can only be described as a wild ride. The easiest way to notice this is to read science fiction books or watch an older TV series.

Have you noticed how some of the advanced futuristic gadgets used seem like yesterday’s stuff?

I’ve recently watched all of Star Trek TNG on Netflix with my son. This gave me the opportunity to observe more closely how things are portrayed on the show, from a 21st century perspective. I noticed, for example, how on an episode which showed their school, all the kids in class were using a tabled with the approximate size of an iPad mini. The same sort of device is presented all throughout the show, with people reading and making notes and complex calculations on them.

Star Trek’s replicators have always seemed like a form of magic. Rearranging matter at a subatomic level to create whatever you want would certainly be amazing, but consider that with 3D printing we’ve already started down a path which will very soon allow you to, seemingly, create objects out of thin air.

Not so long ago, when you wanted to watch some form of video entertainment you would sit in front of a bulky TV and flip through a TV guide to see what would be on, on which channel. Now, you connect your incredibly thin, but large screened, TV directly to Netflix, through the Internet and choose what you feel like watching.

These changes have moved in on us, at an accelerated pace, though not all at once. We are so used to these novelties and have become so used to the incredible rhythm of innovation, that some things just pass us by. When you actually stop a moment and look around and really observe, you see that you are living in a world of wonders which we routinely take for granted.

The greatest example of something amazing that we simply don’t even think about anymore has to be the smartphone. Think about it!

Martin Cooper, who’s credited with creating the first mobile phone, has stated that he was inspired in his work, by watching Captain Kirk of the original Star Trek series talk on his communicator. Well, Captain Kirk’s communicator didn’t give him his precise position on the planet’s surface, the weather forecast or tell him how traffic was flowing on his way home. Most smartphones in the market today do all that and a lot more, such as allowing you to target green pigs with wingless birds that are propelled by a huge sling.

I’m writing this on an iPad mini, and having the text automatically synced to my Mac through Apple’s iCloud. This little tablet weighs just a bit over 300 grams and probably has a couple of hundred times the raw computing power of my first PC. I routinely use the mini for all my email, most of my Web browsing and pretty much all of my reading.

I really like paper books and the experience of going to a good bookshop to browse through the new titles. Still, I almost never buy a paper book for myself. Why? First because I haven’t got the space to store them. Second, because just about everything I want to read is available in digital form, which ends up being much more convenient to carry around. Actually, living in Rio and reading a lot of books in English, the digital option gives me instant access to titles which would only be available on local stores several weeks later.

This instant access to all forms of content, books, music and video through such handheld devices, takes me again to the more recent Star Trek series. At the same time it makes me reflect about all the other stories in which such devices or their successors are nowhere to be seen.

Our way of life is changing and instant access to information is something people are more and more used to. It seems hard to believe that we will re-adapt to living without this convenience.

Not even the most creative science fiction writers could foresee just how fast technology would evolve and how it would change the way we do things. We are already living further in the future than we think.

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