We wanted flying cars. All we got were passenger drones, eventually.
We were hoping for limitless fusion energy; instead we got solar panels. Everybody did.
The future doesn’t always deliver on our hopes and dreams. We dreamed about cheating death, an elixir from the fountain of youth, that would keep us forever young. Instead we have developed CRISPR and stem cells that keep us healthier in old age, but we still get old.
That’s the thing about the future. Our sci-fi fantasies and high tech expectations are often beyond what can be achieved, though sometimes it’s the opposite, and scientific discoveries and tech innovations exceed our wildest imaginations.
Take Elon Musk and his reusable rockets for example. When they were first announced, it seemed an impossible dream; sending up rockets and space capsules that carried enough fuel to return to the launch pad and land, under rocket power. That can’t work, we thought, the weight of all that extra fuel would surely make the rocket too heavy?
To be fair, SpaceX did fail in the first dozen attempts to land a rocket booster after launch, but now they do it almost daily, as a matter of routine. More powerful computers and better sensors and software have made the seemingly impossible, routine business. And that was key to their perseverance – the business case for succeeding made the effort hugely rewarding, despite the tough learning curve.
And that’s it in a nutshell; it probably is possible to make a flying car that also drives on roads, but why bother? It’s not worth it; there’s no business case. Let’s rather have millions of affordable cars and drones that drive and fly themselves, and share them.
I guess that’s another thing about the future. We don’t always get what we wanted; sometimes we get something unexpected that’s far, far better!