Tomorrow’s Tech … Today!
Many futuristic inventions have come to pass, while some may never be realized.
[Some of this was used as content for the Program Book of SoonerCon 24 in June 2015. Hope you like the idea!]
From Star Wars to The Jetsons, from Back to the Future to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, flying cars seem to be everywhere but in Mr and Mrs Modern Citizen’s garage.
In 1929, Henry Ford demonstrated a “sky flivver” but gave it up a couple of years later. A true flying car made it to concept model for Ford in 1956, the Volante Tri-Athodyne. Other enterprises, from the US Army to Boeing, have proposed personal flyers, but the idea just hasn’t made it off the ground.
Until 2013, that is, when an American company called Terrafugia announced that the first consumer flying car, the TF-X, should be available from them by around the year 2025.
As a concept, flying cars embody the glittery, unrealistic expectations of populism’s consumerist future, to the point that “Dude, where’s my flying car?” has become a near-catchphrase, appearing as a cover story for a 2008 issue of Popular Science. A 2014 NBC poll reported that most Americans surveyed expected flying cars within 50 years.
One wonders if these optimistic souls have considered the extrapolatory eventuality of the combination of flying cars and human stupidity. If you think impaired driving is a problem in two dimensions, just wait, you optimists! Or, imagine a car lot visited by a dozen radicals who want to take test drives with explosives secreted in their backpacks. The disaster-laden scenarios are endless!
Until HG Well’s 1895 novel The Time Machine spread the meme, the only travel through time in storytelling was one-way, as exemplified by Rip Van Winkle, or those who visited Fairyland and returned home to find a hundred years passed, all in a summer’s afternoon.
The idea of traveling into the past feeds into the narcissistic notion, “How would my life be if things happened differently?” Voyages into the future tend to halve themselves between “We got smart — problem solved” or “We got too smart — everyone’s doomed.”
Tech for traveling may be as simple as a wish (Somewhere in Time) and as complicated as a TARDIS. Whole series of Superman stories involved sending one character into another’s past and shunting their history to a side channel; Marvel likewise had an entire series, What If?