Wednesday, 21 October 2015

What and Why Back To The Future has failed to predict about 2015?

It is October 21 , 2015 , the day Back To The Future has told us.
Predicting future trends of technology is always difficult.

Nuclear fusion power is still elusive to us. And we still don't have flying cars. But that is not because of technological limitations. I blame it on government regulations of automobile industry, aeronautic industry and transportation. Regulations, how well intentioned they must be, always have negative impact upon innovation.
Instead of hoverboards, we now have tiny drones that can fly for about half an hour. They are still just emerging tech, but governments are already trying to regulate and register drones. I fear this will halt rapid advancements we are seeing in drone industry.
On the bright side, we now have many advancements in telecommunication and computing that couldn’t have been foreseen. The internet and smartphones have revolutionized social communications. And of course there have been great strides in artificial intelligence. We have stopped talking about flying cars. But, we have started making self-driving cars and on-demand transportation services, which have more practical use than flying ones to me. Dangerously, both of these two technologies against urban traffic are already facing uphill battles against government regulations around the world.

How about fusion energy? Mr.Fusion from the movie is ultimately cool. Put some trash and you have at least 1.2 gigawatt of electrical power enough to send you to another point in time. Fusion energy is not the only sustainable energy source our civilization could have. But government subsidies to fossil fuel industry have largely keep sustainable and renewable energy unfeasible. If I am a visitor from from 1980s, I would be heart-broken to learn that we are still burning fossil fuels and destroying the delicate climate balance.
One thing we can learn from this is that, of all the things futurists can imagine, scientists can discover and engineers can build, many would not come to fruition without changing larger society and policies. Technology can brought change to society, no doubt about that. But changes in larger society and policies are necessary to bring about certain technological advancements. Things like powering our homes through solar energy, letting AI drive our cars and give us medical decisions would never be accomplished without convincing largely paranoid public (strangely paranoid against AI but not to already happening climate change) , silencing special interests and rewriting regulations. We can still make our beautiful dream true, but it means we as futurists, transhumanists, scientists and engineers have to start changing current system.



Energy
This is my saddest point. If I am a visitor from from 1980s, I would be heart-broken to learn that we are still burning fossil fuels and destroying the delicate climate balance. Mr.Fusion from the movie is ultimately cool. Put some trash and you have at least 1.2 gigawatt of electrical power enough for time travel.
However, fusion energy is not the only sustainable energy source our civilization could have. Actually, we have always been sitting 8 light minutes away from it all our lives. The sun has always bestowed us the energy that make life on earth possible. It has started photochemical reactions that give rise to life 4 billion years ago. Believe it or not, you are using solar derived energy at this very moment , as all of us are still having our daily energy as food from plants that use sunlight as energy source or from animals that eat them.
So the question is why don’t we use Solar energy in other part of our life. It comes back to government involvement once again. Governments around the world have subsided fossil fuel companies directly or indirectly through consumers. As you might heard of government funded research into solar energy, this amount even in billions is nothing compared to what they have spent for fossil fuels. Business interests keep their puppet politicians continue supporting it even nowadays and make them even question scientists on climate change. Even if they have spend half of this amount in research, development and deployment, we could have solar power civilization many years ago. Solar electricity or photovoltaic effect has been discovered since 1839. The only reason we have not been successful because it has always been cheaper and easier to use dirty energy sources. But the nature is going to make us pay for it with heavy fines. We are having massive floods in some regions and severe droughts in others. It is all because we are pushing the atmospheric carbon content. When we should be greening and irrigating Sahara through solar powered seawater distillation, we are continuing our deforestation practices in most part of the world.

This article is a homage to my favorite movie of all times.

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