When people make predictions about human life in the distant future, I’ve noticed they tend to be a little too wildly optimistic about our capabilities for innovation and our interest in advancing technology just for the heck of it.
Take these predictions from Isaac Asimov, uttered back in 1964, envisioning life in this very year.
Now in some ways, the man was on the right track. But I feel he failed to understand human nature: Why spend gobs of money on moving sidewalks, raised above traffic, to enable “short-range travel,” when there’s a lot of money to be made (and virtually no travel required) in creating virtual reality? Why innovate ourselves into a permanent state of crushing boredom?
Some of the most common predictions (or maybe they’re more rightly called assumptions) about the future also fail to account for the reality that just because we have the capability to do something doesn’t mean we want to do it.
Here are 10 common portrayals of the future that I’m just not buying.
1. Form-fitting uniform jumpsuits for everyone
I just don’t understand why we keep making this assumption. Why in the world would we all want to dress the same? And even if we did, why would we choose a drab costume that looks good on so few of us?
2. Capsule meals
While this actually is possible today (see the unwisely named new Soylent food capsules), I can’t see it catching on in a big way.
3. Regular contact with alien life forms
I gotta say, I just don’t see this going smoothly. For one thing, a creature from another planet is likely to need a very different environment for survival. And it’s pretty clear at this point that even our immediate celestial neighborhood is not very hospitable to human life. So intermingling for long periods of time would be seriously challenging. Where would we hang out?
The other thing is, we have trouble getting along with other humans. How chummy are we likely to get with multi-eyed, slimy, reptilian, tentacled, big-headed creatures who communicate via brain waves?
4. Alien attack
On the other hand, we regularly play with the idea that a group of aliens will someday appear in our sky and descend on us with malicious intentions. But when pressed, no one has yet offered a really sound explanation for why they would do this. I’ll acknowledge my imagination may be too limited on this point, but it’s hard to picture a race of creatures more intelligent and technologically advanced than humans and yet more ruthless and prone to predatory behavior with no real motive.
5. Colonies on other celestial bodies
Moon colonies, Mars colonies, floating space colonies…they all have one very big thing in common: they’re terrible places to live. Visit? I can see that some people would want to do that. Live? I don’t envision the crowds flocking to move to a pressurized bubble on the dark side of the moon. As for me, I like earth and enjoy oxygen.
6. Exclusively thin and beautiful people
TV shows and movies are fairly universal in their portrayal of future humans: fantastically gorgeous, fit, and svelte. Maybe this is based on the assumption that we’ll be on the food-capsule diet by then, but I gotta tell you, this is not the way I’m reading the trend line.
7. Life in space
My reservations about this idea are similar to those related to colonies on other celestial bodies. I just fail to see the appeal. I’ve noticed humans seem to like a certain sense of permanency and comfort in their dwelling places. Oh, and regular intervals of sunlight.
8. Routine cloning
Now, perhaps someday we’ll have the ability to clone ourselves…but will we want to? Sure, we sometimes joke around about cloning ourselves so we can get more done. But we’re making a big assumption–that our clones will want to work for us. What if, instead, they’re the laziest versions of us? What if they have their own ambitions? And what if we don’t get along? If I put three versions of myself in a room, I’m pretty sure the room would quickly feel way too small, if you know what I mean. Maybe humans will be content to be one of a kind.
9. Flying cars
Perhaps I’m thinking too small about this one, but doesn’t it present some serious traffic-control issues? Are we really going to want the mess that is rush-hour traffic (with its attendant congestion and crashes) going over our heads?
10. A world at the mercy of machines
There is much I don’t understand about the way technology works. But I do know this: everything needs a power source. And if the computers and the robots start getting out of control, can’t we just unplug them?
© 2014 Amy Simpson.