Monday, December 12, 2016

Tomorrow's Tech -- Today!

 Tomorrow’s Tech … Today!

Many futuristic inventions have come to pass, while some may never be realized.


          You might call this concept a parallel universe to hold your leftovers.  Official Marvel Comics doctrine is that shapeshifters send extra mass or energy there and bring it back at will.  After a 1986 reboot of the entire DC universe, John Byrne hand-waved a “pocket universe” into existence to preserve the big-selling Legion of Super-Heroes title, and Superboy’s presence in it (since Superboy had been doctrinally removed). 

          This is familiar to many folks as a videogame trope, an endless backpack from which to pull weapons or other tools whenever your points or energy are high enough.

          While it’s a nice theory, there’s no current science that suggests how to access these hypothetical supply closets, or even their possible existence.  Asimov’s 1972 The Gods Themselves  points out one danger inherent in tapping a hyper-dimension for supplies:  What if the other side is leeching from you, too?  For that matter, what if they want their stuff back?
          And even more important, wouldn’t it be great if, instead, you could take a “pocket nap”?


           Peg legs, Captain Hook, and wooden dentures aside, IRL manufactured organ replacements began with the Jarvik artificial heart, first implanted in 1982.  

         A decade earlier, Martin Caidin’s novel Cyborg started the fictional trope of replacement parts, developing into Star Trek’s Borg and Luke Skywalker’s replacement hand.  On this Earth,  limbs are easier to replace than organs, with some hand models possessing grip facilities detected by nerve impulses.  

          However, there’s no foreseeable future for a brain-in-a-jar running machinery, as in The Ship Who Sang and many Golden Age SF tales.  It looks as if Dr McCoy was right when, in “The Menagerie,” he talked of the medical difficulties involved with jacking into the human brain.


           Star Trek TOS had “food processors.”  They were called “replicators” in TNG, and were byproducts of transporter technology, converting bulk materials into a desired molecular pattern.  “Earl Grey, hot,” anyone? 

          3-D printers have been available since the early 2000s, but are presently limited to nonorganics.  In 2005, researchers reported success in using “cell jet printers” to print first bacteria and even mammalian cells.  A company named Digilab sells the “CellJet Cell Printer.”  Stay tuned!


          One of the fond ideas of the Industrial Revolution was concentrated food, usually called “food pills.”  William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land (1912) is one of the earliest examples of this, with food tablets as well as "dehydrated water" (!) in the far future.  In The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913), Professor Wogglebug has invented Square Meal Pills.  Other literary references include Ray Bradbury tales, and Stephen King’s The Running Man.  In films and video, 1964's Santa Claus Conquers the Martians  includes Ice Cream or Cake food pills.  Star Trek’s Kelvans used food pills, and similar things appeared in a few Lost in Space episodes.  Food concentrates are also familiar from The Jetsons and Futurama.

          But, as a 2010 article about failed predictions points out, given a standard adult 2000-calorie diet, present technology would still require you to choke down a pound or so of pills a day.  And besides, who would rather pop a pill than eat a knish or a hamburger?

See you Thursday!

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