Have you guys seen this list of 27 things that made the transition from science fiction to reality in 2012? I mean, they aren’t part of everyday reality just yet. But that’s okay. Some of these were big news for everyone (James Cameron’s adventure to the ocean depths, the discovery of the Higgs boson), but I had not heard about a few of these.
The short version of the list? Mentally controlling a robotic arm, robots crossing an obstacle course, silk that is stronger than steel, DNA photographed, invisibility cloaks, spray-on skin, reaching the depths of the ocean, stem cells may extend human life significantly (it worked on mice), 3D printer prints a house, legalized self-driving cars (in a few states; they’re just thinking ahead, really), Voyager I leaves the solar system, a human mandible was printed and given to a patient (as in, it’s part of his body and it works, now), rogue planet found floating through space, monkeys created from more than one embryo, artificial leaves that generate electricity, the Higgs boson discovered, inexpensive solar panels, diamond planet, optical implant to restore sight, Wales recorded the DNA of every flowering plant in Wales, an unmanned commercial flight docked with the International Space-Station, flexible glass, robotic exoskeletons (for NASA), human brain’s practical functions are observed, a planet with four suns, and Microsoft patented real-world virtual reality for games.
So, that’s just the list. You should really read the actual list and look at the pictures (and videos) and read the descriptions. So worth it.
But, for me, there were some definitely highlights. Um, stem cells dramatically extending human life. Obviously, “dramatically extending” is not the same thing as immortality. But, if this treatment is available and affordable within, say, three decades, then that gives me a very good chance of living long enough to, well, never die. This treatment does not confer immortality, but we all know that it’s …4
… possible. Cloning, genetic engineering, cybernetics, and brain-mapping? That means digitizing human minds—our memories, personalities, passions, intellects—and then “installing” our very beings in new, custom-designed bodies. You guys, I am going to be so beautiful. All shall love me and despair.
Almost everyone is going to be so beautiful. Plenty of people are going to be full of nonsense and choose to grow old and die, and some people will choose super ugly bodies for themselves (if the customized avatars that they choose for themselves in online multiplayer games are any indication. I mean, anyone who played an orc in World of Warcraft is probably going not going to choose to inhabit an Abercrombie model body in real life).
You know the nonsense that people say about illegal downloads (“You wouldn’t download a car, would you?”). That’s actually going to become relevant with 3D printers. Right now, we don’t have them in our homes. They use them in hospitals and for really geeky things, but we all know that that’s going to change. And while having a 3D printer that can print a car is probably farther off (basically, that will be a household item when a 3D printer no longer has to be larger to print out larger items). But what about when, with the right raw materials, people can print iPods or computer parts? That’s a lot more sophistication than we have seen so far, but current mobile phones do not resemble the “telephones” from when I was in elementary school in the slightest—and I’m, you know, in my twenties. What about when 3D printing becomes more sophisticated—acting at a subatomic level? Because at that point, you could print, say, gold. Which, eventually, might even become cost-effective.
For the record, downloading a song, which you can hear for free on the radio or, more likely, internet radio, is not the same as “downloading a car.” Music (and movies) are often enjoyed in groups. You should still buy it—to positively reinforce (reward) the good behavior of the artists and record label for producing the music—but it’s not the same as simply conjuring up a car for yourself. (Oh, and downloading TV shows? While you should still buy copies if/when you can, if you are already paying for the channel that it comes on, you’re not doing anything wrong if you use internet downloads to do what, 15 years ago, you would have done with a VCR. Though, legally, those are not viewed as the same thing).
Oh, and self-driving cars. Google has been working on these for a while, and test-driving them. Other states need to go ahead and legalize them. They should be for sale within the next decade (hopefully). You guys, I hate driving. I hate it. Not like I hate child-abuse or rape or whaling. I hate driving like I hate those gross little green organisms that grow in dirt. The ones that I was forced to eat a lot as a child and a teenager. Vegetables? Yes, those.
So I am all kinds of excited about self-driving cars. Because hiring a driver (assuming that I make enough from being a published author to hire one) sounds silly when your preferred vehicle is a glossy black Honda Odyssey (I don’t own one—that’s just what I want. I’d go with a colorful hearse, because I like the aesthetic and they have lots of storage space, but that might make me look desperate for attention or something. If someone ever said “that’s so metal” to me and was not referring to a literal material involved in my car’s construction, I would set fire to the vehicle). Anyway, yes. Self-driving cars. Yes.
I cannot wait to see what science fiction makes the transition to reality in 2013. Hopefully not any doomsday stuff. No alien invasions or gray goo scenarios, please and thank you.