The future isn’t what it used to be
When I grew up, many years ago, Russia was called the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia was one country, Germany was two and America was putting people on the moon. I remember promises of permanent moon bases (even cities!) and the prospect of interplanetary tourism before the end of the century. Mars would be visited, conquered, colonised and perhaps even terra-formed within a few generations.
Add to that all the sci-fi novels, films and TV shows portraying a near future (or nowadays, a recent past) with flying cars, robots and space ships, and the future looked pretty damn exciting.
But here we are in 2011, and it’s like nothing has changed. The streets are still jam-packet with fossil-fueled cars, the sky filled with sub-sonic jet planes (most of which are more than 30 years old) and all major cities are still powered by old-fashioned fission reactors (or worse: coal fueled power plants). In fact, if you could transport people from 50 years ago and drop them into todays society they would probably feel very much at home. Sure, clothes, hairstyles and interior design has changed a little bit but is mostly stuck in retro-revivals; MacDonald’s still sell their original cheese burgers and Pepsi and Coca Cola are still slugging it out for world dominance.
If anything, things have gone backwards: NASA has more or less abandoned any future interplanetary space exploration, and with the Russians more concerned with low-orbit space stations than landing on the moon or Mars it doesn’t look likely we will ever see any permanent colonies off-world. Sure, other countries are entering the space age, but none of them seem capable or willing to pick up the slack and re-start the space race. It is like we’ve had our Concorde moment, and now we’re just trodding along making do with what we can afford.
That’s not to say there haven’t been any progress at all. Having a personal wireless telephone is quite cool. Also, that satellite aided navigation thing is rather convenient. And those internet-based social media networks are pretty awesome. But it’s not the kind of drastic “things will never be the same again” kind of changes we grew up expecting.
So, in spite of the latest technological advances I still feel cheated. It’s like we missed the window of opportunity and the future didn’t happen. As @lgalaviz so eloquently put it: “The future isn’t what it used to be”.