My local public radio station played a piece from a PRX podcast called “99% Invisible” this weekend about the history of pneumatic tube delivery systems. It was quite interesting. Unfortunately it contained the following howler, uttered by producer Sam Greenspan:
If you think about the kind of technology that we were promised by something like Star Trek, we have just about all of it except the transporter.
Has this guy ever actually seen Star Trek?
If so, then I am really excited because I guess I missed the latest Cyber Monday sale, which I assume now features:
- A real-time language translator that works from thought, and not just human thought, so it can translate alien languages it has never encountered
- Aircraft-carrier-sized spaceships with hundreds of crew (we can’t even do this in VIDEO GAMES)
- A shuttle that can fly from a spaceship to a planet and back with no chemical rockets
- “Shields” made of forces
- Tractor beams
- Food synthesizers
- Faster-than-light travel
- Instant communication across light-years
- Time travel via manipulation of faster than light travel
- Artificial fucking gravity
- Beds that can monitor all of your medical vitals with no probes or straps
- Near infinite, powerful clean energy from crystals
- Robots so much like humans you can’t tell the difference
- I’m not going to get into the holodeck, because that whole thing is completely stupid*
That’s really just the beginning of a complete list, and it ignores probably the most outrageously bogus prediction: the end of racism among humans.
So, Sam, either you need to send me some “Buy Now” links for this stuff or you need to calm down your tech triumphalist hyperbole about our current, really quite lame state of technology compared to Star Trek’s actual implicit promises to the contrary.
The much more accurate and interesting point is the very opposite of Greenspan’s sentiment: very, very few of the things promised us by 20th Century sci-fi have come true. Why is that?
(Oh, and let’s not forget the greatest expectation the producers instilled that we in glorious 2015 have failed to invent: world peace.)
*The holodeck is one of the stupidest concepts ever to be in a scifi show. And that’s saying a lot. It would only even theoretically work as a Matrix-style brain plug, but they portray it as a physical room, not particularly large, that can serve as a gigantic virtual world that is somehow much bigger. You can have a sailing ship of yore in it, complete with splashing waves and sail around the globe! It simply exists as a lazy convenience for the writers when they want to open up the show to places and times that it would otherwise be even more absurd to visit. If they had portrayed it as a brain plug, I’d actually be fine with it. It’s the only thing I mentioned that wasn’t from the original 1960s series, because I hate it.