4/15/10

What the Crap? Where's my Robot?

The movies make the future look like a shiny nerd playground. Fifty years ago, the greatest minds in popular entertainment pictured the next generation living in space, using personal robots, and teleporting long distances like Star Trek characters. More recently, our leaders have created plans for a moon base and futuristic battlefield hover crafts. What happened to the future we envisioned?  To answer that question we must look at how the past became the present and where new trends are headed.


The Rate of Innovation:
        For the last seventy years, innovation in science, technology, and business has been exploding. Every portion of the scientific field bursting at the seams with new computers, machines, and software. That pace has slowed as people find solutions that are both desired and optimal.  For Instance, people collecting data were eventually presented with excel, which debuted in 1985.  Since 1985 there have been tons of improvements, but the core concept remains the same.


Excel 2.0 in 1987:                                                           













Excel in 2010:
















   While science, military, and much of the private sector have found their " Excel " we peasants are still living without the amazing butler bots and flying cars we were promised.  Although the rate of innovation appears to have slowed, it has not.  It’s just that it is going to less visible areas like operating rooms, medical laboratories, and those hard to reach areas behind DARPA. 

Where's My Excel ?
  Under the sad but true category resources go, and have gone, where the money is.  The financial sector has been moving its efforts to computers for the last 20 years and is still on the bleeding edge of technology in almost every way, because they have the money.  Industries, that many argue are far more valuable like the medical industry, only started to implement serious technology in the last five to ten years while many businesses are still stuck in the fifties.  This newly acquired sense for rapidly changing technology has occurred for several reasons, one of which is government funding. At some point in the 90's the government decided it should start funding research for medicine and tools for saving lives. And with baby boomer’s reaching senior citizen status, many technology companies have finally seen a large center for profit in the medical industry. In the 2000's a war started, which has also generated massive funds for highly advanced medical research. So, you wonder what have we have done that's so special in the medical industry that we couldn't be building robots, flying cars, phasers, and a bunch of other neat stuff. 

Prosthetic Arms Now:


Prosthetic Arms Soon:

I think awesome solutions like the robotic prosthetic and life saving medical breakthroughs are well worth the futuristic garbage that will relieve us from our duty of chopping cucumbers.

Feasibility
   The other bottomless sinkhole into which our future junk disappeared is feasibility.  Many of the futuristic ideas that people had imagined were terrible ideas.  Why are we going to have people driving flying cars when they can't drive cars on the freaking ground?  I could give example after example of  concepts that are equally bad and would potentially harm public safety.  

  On the other side of that same coin are prices.  You could have a personal robot today, but it would cost you between $50,000 and $100 million depending on what you want it to do, and that, my friends, is not a market too many want to get into.

   Much of the futuristic tech that people desire falls into one these two categories.  The third category is the impossible.  Light sabers -  probably never gonna happen, traveling faster than the speed of light - not gonna happen, and me enjoying a romantic comedy  - definitely not gonna happen.

When Do We Get The Future?
    Predicting when something will occur is a tricky thing to do.  Several things need to happen before we start moving in the right direction.  The first and most important is that the medical industry has to improve a  lot. When medicine is able to fully utilize technology to save lives and bring the cost of care to a level acceptable for all people, that industry will stop using so many of our technological resources.  The second thing that will need to occur is something that cannot occur.  If public opinion and public dollars decides that there is an industry that needs to be radically infused with technology, the resources to do so will go there, and once again, not towards our super gadgets.  Finally, people have to want the stuff. If no one wants a personal robot butler, self driving car, or electronic paper, no one will make it.



Youtube video of the robotic prosthetic arm.

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1 Response to What the Crap? Where's my Robot?

Diz
April 15, 2010 at 10:59 AM

You don't enjoy romantic-comedies? Not even "Shaun of the Dead"?

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