If I’ve learned anything from reading, and watching, science fiction all my life it’s that anything we can imagine we can eventually accomplish. For example, in the late sixties a show called Star Trek featured hand held communications devices that the crew of the Enterprise used to routinely communicate with each other wirelessly. Ok, so this wasn’t that far fetched. We had radio transceivers that could do that job. The were called walkie-talkies.
The thing that was missing was the infrastructure to allow the solution to scale to the point where everyone could have their own communication device, we call them cell phones, and could talk to practically anybody else on the planet. Not only that, but these cell phones now embody computers, cameras, music players, as well as no less than three radios on different bands for different purposes.
The cell phone exists because Gene Roddenberry imagined it and some engineer decided that he could build it. What’s next? We already have self driving cars. We are well on our way to building fleets of space ships with which to colonize the solar system.
Our electronics gets smaller and smaller. Intel just announced a CPU chip with eighteen cores on it. And while I sit here wondering what we’ll do with eighteen cores on a single chip, another part of my brain is remembering the old adage that applications expand to consume all resources available to them. The question becomes what will we be able to do with eighteen cores?
Artificial Intelligence is another area of rapid advancement. We have been predicting the advent of Artificial General Intelligence in science fiction for many decades. Now, it seems like it is actually going to happen in the near future. We have an entire stable of specialized AI applications. For instance, face recognition, sound recognition, pattern recognition, just to name a few.
We have Siri, Alexa, and Echo, all listening to hear what we are asking and searching the web, one of the more surprising developments of the last decade or so, for any and all knowledge know to mankind. Gone are the days of bar bets about who recorded what song and when? Or who played Billy Mummy’s big sister on Lost in Space (Angela Cartwright)?
In short, all of these wonders, even search engines started life in the fertile imaginations science fiction writers. If you want to know what new product tomorrow’s headlines are going to announce just dig out your back issues of Fantasy & Science Fiction or Analog Magazine. At the rate we’re going, we’ll have a hard time remembering what the world was like ten years ago, much less fifty.
Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.