21st century flop

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The twentyfirst century has been here for five years, and yet we're still not wearing jet packs and the closest things we have to instant feasts is Microwave food and MRE's. We're not living in the future epitomized by the Jetsons. In fact, I don't think we're living in ANYBODY's vision of the future. We were promised a lot of fantastic advances in technology. There are some obvious reasons why we don't have them.

Expense (money, time, effort, and value) nip most inventions in the bud. For example, we still drive cars with wheels because it's cheaper to work on the roads than it is to make helicopters a reasonably safe consumer product.

Another roadblock (pardon the metaphore) to the wild inovations promised in the past is Feasibility of change. Let's face it. Even if we could make safe and cheap to use helicopters, we'd all need large flat landing pads everywhere we wanted to go. Every home would need to remove their sloped driveway and replace it with at helipad. High density parking would be a nightmare. If you think the flight deck of a carrier is a hectic place, imagine what it would be like landing at the mall.

There would have to be a major change in parking methodology that would take forever to implement, be prohibitably costly, and would defy the needs of all the people who did NOT want to trade in their cars for helicopters.

The twentyfirst century is likely to look a lot like the late twentieth century, with many subtle changes in technology rather than large scale changes. One of the key reasons for this slowdown is related to "Manifest Deistiny" and the lack of room for expansion. Though these terms harken back to the 18th and 19th centuries, the settling of the west and solidification of "how things are done" or methodology of the west continued through to the early 20th century.

Much of the technological innovation in the United States, was a result of people moving from areas that were stable and had long established methodology, to areas that were unsettled, which had completly new sets of problems, and a lack of established infrastructure. For example, frontiersmen could not drop in at the local cobblers for shoes. They had to make their own from the materials available. or trade with the natives.

This pattern of adaption to environment lead to the implementation of new ways of doing things. Eventually, industry grew up to support the methods of living in the new world, and the new way became the normal way of getting things done.

We've come to the point now that there are very few places to go where we need to adapt our old technologies to fit new environments. Of course, we do have advances, but their in areas of interest rather than survival. For example, we have sleeping bags that will keep us warm in five degree temperatures. Not because we don't want to freeze to death expanding civilization over the Donner pass, but because we're going camping, and communing with nature only goes so far.

Many of our new technologies revolve around our need for knowledge. We have submersible craft that take us to the depths of the ocean, and rockets that let us explore the limits of our solar system. None of these really affect our daily lives, but some bits of technology that make these innovations possible do filter down to consumer use in little ways, but nothing as dramatic as school field trips to moon are forthcoming anytime soon.

In fact, I believe that we're going into a time of introverted technologies, as opposed to the last century's extroverted advances. The computer, the internet, television, interactive computer technologies, all these things have nothing to do with getting people to places, or making places more habitable. They have more to do with bringing places to us in more clarity and detail than we would get if we went to them. For example, you can take a virtual tour of a shipwreck with information at your fingertips that you would never have just by diving at the wreck site.

I wonder if these inventions are truly satisfying our needs, or if they are simply pacifiers that keep us distracted while we wait for that quantum leap in technology that will allow the common person to explore and move out into our solar system and beyond. Until we have somewhere to go and something to do and a way to get there that is not limited by wealth and power, we're going to be sitting here wondering where our jet cars are.