Tag Archives: The future

I want to ride the Hyperloop

You’ve heard about the Hyperloop, right? Right. It’s awesome. It’s going to be awesome. Someday. The Hyperloop is a futuristic means of transportation, a giant global infrastructure project being championed by Elon Musk, the South African technology tycoon who founded Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and PayPal. He’s a modern day George Jetson. Actually, that’s not right, Jetson was a lackey, a corporate drone. Musk is a real life Mr. Spacely, our future overlord boss, just much more benevolent and cool.


The Hyperloop is going to be a series of tubes connecting various locations across the globe. I don’t claim to understand the specifics of the science, but if someone put a gun to my head and demanded that I explain how it works, I’d say that I think it has something to do with the tubes creating some sort of a vacuum. Inside that vacuum, we’d put bullet-shaped cars inside, propelled by magnetic energy.

That’s the best I can do to make sense of what’s going on. But in layman’s terms, what this means is that we’re going to be able to travel from New York to Los Angeles in something like forty-five minutes. It gets better, because the more time a car spends accelerating inside the Hyperloop, the faster it will eventually travel, meaning that a one-way trip from New York to Beijing might be possible in as little as four hours.

Four hours to China! That’s insane to think about. You could plausibly take a long weekend and travel across the globe for a last-minute getaway. Assuming that the prices aren’t prohibitively expensive, and that there are plenty of available seats. I’m guessing that there are going to be a lot of logistical hurdles involved in making this a realistic means of transportation for the average nobody.

It’s inspiring to know that there are actually industry leaders out there making wild proposals that might eventually change the way human beings consider global travel. When I was a little kid, ideas like this were confined solely to the realm of science fiction. Star Trek had the holodeck, even more mundane feats like access to cellphones and Internet were still limited to universities and professionals.

So much has changed in my lifetime alone. In the past century, human beings went from inventing airplanes to developing commercial aviation as an industry to landing spacecraft on various bodies throughout the solar system. I always like to think of the world that my grandparents were born into, how nobody had TVs or telephones. Cut to the present day, my surviving grandparents are in their eighties, my grandmother uses her iPad every day.

What’s that like, witnessing such incredible leaps in global technology? What’s the world going to look like when I’m an old man? Is it really that crazy to imagine an infrastructure of tubes crisscrossing the planet, making travel across the globe as painless as a car ride out of state?

It’s fantastic that we have visionaries like Elon Musk ready, willing and able to invest their personal fortunes into improbable dream projects that might someday benefit all of humanity. It is also a little sad because, up until recent decades, big impossible projects used to be the realm of government agencies. NASA got us to the moon, our elected representatives led us to a bold new era of spaceflight and scientific advancement. The government’s role in innovation today pales in comparison.

I want to see it, I want to take a ride on the Hyperloop so badly. I don’t want to be an old man taking his first cross-planet tube ride at the end of my life, I want to be able to make use of it right now. Let’s get to work, I want this project fast-tracked and operational while I’m still young enough to appreciate how amazing this is going to be. Because future generations, they’re going to grow up with it, they will take it for granted, kind of like how little kids today are being raised on the Internet. But not me, I’ll really, truly, unconditionally love the Hyperloop. I think I already do.

Originally published on HonestBlue.com

Let’s have some frank discussion

It’s about time that we, as a society, had a frank discussion about cutting boards. Everybody’s got a theory. I’ve heard people say to use one board dedicated for meat and one for vegetables. Someone else gave me some story about how chopping onions will make everything else taste like onions. And then you’re supposed to find one that doesn’t slide around, something that’s big enough to chop lots of stuff but compact enough to tuck away into a cupboard.

How about, enough with cutting boards all together? Am I the only one thinking that we, as a species, we’re supposed to have been evolved past the need to slice everything up on some stupid flat surface? When I was a little kid, I watched all of these old cartoons, like the Jetsons, stuff that imagined how the future would make everything easy, especially all of the housework, the cooking, the cleaning, the cutting and chopping.

Never mind the fact that I don’t have a robot housekeeper to make my bed and prepare my meals, shouldn’t I at least have some sort of a futuristic appliance that slices my vegetables and meats without the need of a cutting board? I always thought I’d have maybe like a light saber knife, or I don’t know, foods that come pre-sliced, everything should grow pre-sliced, man, it’s the future already, at least, from the time I was watching stupid future cartoons, shows that were already dated by the time I was watching them, whatever, twenty years later, now, this is the future. Why is everything basically the same?

Another frank discussion, this time about cotton swabs. I remember one time like five years ago I had this really bad earache, so bad that I finally had to go to the doctor. I’m not going to get into the gross details, but I left his office with some very explicit instructions: nothing in your ear smaller than your elbow.

And I was like, what kind of medial advice is that? It was some sort of a joke, his way of telling me to stop using Q-Tips, that it was pushing everything deep inside, making it easier for ear problems to develop. Well how about we just come up with some safer Q-Tips, cotton swabs that, instead of having cotton at the end, they have maybe like a hundred tiny little claws, and they’re robotic, so they keep opening and closing?

But yeah, it’s probably a little more complicated than just having a robot arm open and close at random intervals inside your ear. No, you’re going to need someone to pilot the futuristic Q-Tips. Again, it’s simple. The technology is available. You get one of those very small cameras, that goes at the end. Then you have one of your friends pilot the robot arms, collect the earwax, deposit it outside. If you’re on really good terms with whoever you’re living with, and you guys get in a good groove, it really shouldn’t take more than ten minutes, fifteen, tops. But you live by yourself? No problem. You could go on the Internet and find another loner to help you out. And you’d help them out. It’s a win-win.

It’s like shampoo. Let’s do it, let’s have that frank discussion about shampoo. Why does it sting your eyes? Do we really need it? Why do we still have hair anyway? If you ever look at that drawing, that illustration of the monkey that turns into a caveman that turns into a human being, there’s a definite progression, a loss of hair. You go from monkey, he’s covered in hair, and then caveman is only kind of covered in hair. As humans we might think, we’ve arrived, finally, we have hair only on our heads and on certain parts of our body.

But we should be even further evolved to have no hair at all. And that way if you walked into CVS and asked someone, “Hey man, where’s the shampoo?” they’d look at you like you were crazy, like what are you talking about? Shampoo? You mean that stuff that we use to clean the hair off of our less evolved animal cousins? I don’t know, maybe you can find some over in aisle eight, right next to ear care, right by those mechanical non-cotton swabs. And hey man, are you single? Like, I’m not trying to ask you out, it’s just that, would you pilot my Q-Tips? My Internet’s out and I’m having trouble finding someone to man the controls. What do you say, it shouldn’t take more than fifteen, twenty minutes, tops. Cool?

Futurology Part XVIII

Let’s think about the future some more. The future used to be so much cooler. Look at Back to the Future Part II. Our optimism was running so high, that when Marty McFly travelled to 2012, it was a techno-paradise. There were hoverboards. You could make a pizza go from the size of a dime to the size of a real pizza, right there in your kitchen. Every wall was a giant TV. Cars could fly. And did I mention hoverboards?

This vision of the future wasn’t sugarcoated either. It wasn’t perfect. Future Marty McFly still lived in kind of a dumpy house. He still got chewed out by his two-tie wearing boss. There were still truckloads of manure ready to be crashed into. That future was wondrous and marvelous and all that, but it still looked real.

The worst type of futures are where everything is too perfect. Like look at Star Wars. Everything is crisp, deluxe, clean, a little too clean. I don’t remember seeing any dirt anywhere in the entirety of the two trilogies. Nobody ever goes to the bathroom. Tattoine doesn’t count, because that wasn’t dirt, it was sand. Also, the ice planet Hoth doesn’t count either, because it was frozen. Now that I think about it, even when Luke and Han Solo spent the night together inside of that mountain yak’s stomach, they made it back to the base the next day looking cleaner than ever. That doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s not a convincing future. I know, technically Star Wars took place “A long time ago,” but seriously, spaceships, droids, light-sabers. Call it what you will, it’s a vision of the future.

At least when my parents’ generation was making films about the future, they were at least somewhat optimistic. They had enough whimsy to think about hoverboards and self-pumping sneakers. Whenever people imagine the future now, it’s always dystopian wasteland this, apocalyptic nightmare that. The Road just came out a year ago. I didn’t see it, but apparently the whole world was shot to shit. The Hunger Games. I never saw that either, but I read the plot on Wikipedia, and it didn’t seem like they had a great outlook about humanity or society. Prometheus, well, I didn’t get to see Prometheus either, I’m still waiting for it to come out on Netflix, but I saw the trailer, and while all the technology looked cool, I mean, it’s a horror movie, right?

Look at Wall-E. I know that all of these movies have long-term hopeful messages about humanity, but it’s way too long-term. As John Maynard Keynes famously said, in the long-term future, we’re all dead anyway. In the short-term future, the best that we can think of right now is massive destruction and planetary relocation. And seriously think about Wall-E for a second. Everybody on Earth moved onto that spaceship? I don’t buy that for a second. There’s no spaceship big enough to hold every person on Earth. We can’t even feed or clothe every human being on Earth, there’s no way we’re going to have some sort of smooth moving process, an “OK, single file everybody, there’s plenty of room on the spaceship for everybody, no pushing please, we promise, nobody’s going to get left behind to die.”

I’m telling you, I bet like ninety-five percent of the population got left behind. Weren’t all of the people living on the spaceship white? I don’t remember. But weren’t all of the babies being born in test tubes anyway? Why would they only breed white test tube babies? What kind of a future is that?

Imagine that our Earth started dying, fast, and the government made a huge spaceship for us all to relocate to. We would all claw each other’s throats out just to make sure that we got aisle seats. And then there would be the deniers, the people that say, “This is bullshit! The earth is fine! I’m staying and so are my followers. And not only that, we oppose the creation of any spaceship for anybody! We believe that everybody should stay here on this planet with us!”

And the news would have stories saying stuff like, “Where are they getting the money for this giant spaceship? Are your taxpayer dollars being spent wisely?” It would never get done. We’d all go down with the dying Earth. Not all of us. The mega-rich would just build their own, private, luxurious spaceships. And they’d be the ones to repopulate the cosmos. Assuming that’s it’s not already repopulated somewhere else. It has to be. But that’s another topic entirely.

Man, the future is scary. Maybe it’s because the present is so scary. Maybe I’m scared of too much stuff. Wall-E wasn’t really supposed to be a horror movie, was it? I mean, it was a kids movie, right?

Nothing better than an ice cold Coke

I’ll grab a cold drink out the fridge. I’ll open a bottle of soda or beer and just as the cap makes that pop sound I think to myself, how totally ridiculous is it that I can have cold carbonated beverages on demand? I don’t think like this all the time, just once in a while. Usually I’m thinking about or how crazy it is that we all have the Internet, how we have all of this information and media at our disposal, how we don’t have to buy CDs anymore, how we don’t have to buy stamps. How we’re the first generation being this close to instant material gratification. I’ll be really thirsty and I’m just enjoying a nice ice cold Coke Classic, and I’ll stop and think about all of this, and it’s equally absurd to think about even all of the small stuff, like a bottle of Coke, that I have at my fingertips.

What did people drink a hundred years ago? Water? That’s it? Juice maybe? What goes into carbonating stuff? How did it become so commercially successful to add bubbles to everything? I know that if you make beer from scratch the bubbles are produced naturally. But soda? How did the first sodas get bubbly? And beer now isn’t even made from scratch, it’s made in these big vats and then they boil it to kill all the active yeast and then they add all of the CO2 artificially.

That’s really not important though. It’s just when you consider progress, and I’m considering it right now, I wind up thinking that we’re so special, that we’re this pioneer generation, the first ones to benefit from all of the stuff available now, the first this, the first that. But soda is a pretty recent invention. So is refrigeration. When Coke came out didn’t it cost like a nickel a bottle? I have no idea. My grandfather always used to talk about stuff that cost a nickel when he was a kid, so I just have all of these sepia colored imagined memories of the past where everything’s five cents, and people are still complaining about it being too expensive.

But imagine you’re living back in the day when Coke first came out, and it’s super cheap. Everyone must have felt like a king. Or a queen, you know, if you were a lady. But it must have felt great to walk into a drugstore and buy a bottle of Coke. And you could stand outside and find some empty milk crate or some box and you could put one leg up on that milk crate and you could rest your arm, the same arm that’s holding the bottle of Coke, you could rest it on your raised knee and take a big sip of ice cold Coke and think to yourself, Jesus, this has to be the pinnacle of human development. And that first year that Coke was available, like really available, to every single person, it must have been such a great year, everyone really appreciating every sip of ice cold carbonated soft drink.

But then Sprite probably came out and maybe it was still kind of exciting, but it definitely couldn’t have been as exciting. And then even though soda was available, there were plenty of other things that weren’t available, like penicillin, or modern dental care, and the buses were still segregated, and maybe you’d get drafted into a war and maybe you’d run out of nickels and you wouldn’t even be able to buy a Coke, you’d just be back to plain old water.

And when I think all of this is so great, all of our modern technology, am I truly loving it? Am I really appreciating everything that we have that generations past have not had? Or is it not about the actual innovations, but just about that feeling, that feeling of having what once did not exist. Like when I first got an iPhone, man, that was something special. After a couple of years, it’s still somewhat special, but at the same time, it’s just my cell phone. I don’t have that better, superior feeling. And I get so wrapped up in my life, my world, I forget about all the stuff that’s comparable today to no penicillin and inequality and I don’t want to list the specifics of all of the negative aspects of the modern age, because I wouldn’t really be making any new or significant insights, and it would all be such a bummer, such a negative letdown.

I just can’t imagine what it’s going to be like towards the end of my life, how different the world is going to look. And how am I going to feel about the Internet in the future? Will it still seem so cool in comparison with whatever technological marvels the future will surely bring? Or maybe society will collapse and I’ll be telling my grandkids about the Internet, how it was the best thing our species had ever created, but civilization collapsed and now there is no Internet, and nobody knows how to get it back because we’re all too busy raiding these boarded up grocery stores, trying to sneak in and carry out cases of Coke and Sprite and Fanta without getting caught, because the Coke factory closed down when society closed down, and nobody knows how to carbonate the Coke, and you save all of your soda for wintertime, when you bury it under the snow, because there aren’t anymore refrigerators, well, there still are, but no electricity to run them. Some people have generators, but nobody’s refining oil into gas, and maybe there is no more gas, and so the snow trick is the only way for the average person to enjoy an ice cold Coke, and I think that, if I had to live in the burnt out remains of what was once a great civilization, no Internet, no TV, I think that an ice cold Coke would do just the trick, it would be just what I need, to close my eyes for a second, rest one of my legs up on some chair or stool, and just let it all wash down, the bubbles, the cold, the taste more than anything else of who we are and what we once had.

It’s another one of those posts where I talk about going back in time and talking to a bunch of cavemen about how much better the future is than the lame past they’re all living in

I haven’t talked about the future in a while. Sometimes I get on these kicks where all I can think about is time travel and space portals to distant dimensions, or even not-so-distant dimensions, like dimensions that might occupy the same space that we’re occupying right now, but just on another plane, (whatever that means) so everything’s happening right around us, but at the same time totally removed. Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve thought about stuff like that. Ever since I saw Batman really. I already wrote pretty extensively about how I thought Batman was so amazing, but it’s gotten past the point of ridiculousness. Like I never think about any of that other cool future stuff anymore because my mind’s still chewing on The Dark Knight Rises. I was on vacation a couple of weeks ago – I know, I’ve written about that a lot too lately – and while I was there I saw Batman again, but this time in Spanish. I thought that maybe seeing it all dubbed up would maybe loosen its grip from my mind, but if anything, it just made it even stronger, because I feel its appeal is universal, not just limited to American audiences.

But the Batman is wearing off of for a second and I’m starting to think about the future again. Or the past. I was thinking about imagining up a time machine and going back in time, like way back, no, even further back than that, to visit some of the very first human beings. Genetically, we’d have to be almost identical, right? I mean, we’d be the same species and everything. But how would we communicate? Language isn’t something that comes preloaded into our brains, which is kind of stupid if you think about it. You don’t have to teach a puppy how to bark, it just does it. One time I took this medieval history class in college and the professor was talking about one of those crazy medieval kings and how, at the time, there existed this rumor or legend that if you left babies to grow up without any parents or other humans around, they’d naturally start speaking Hebrew. So this crazy king locked up a bunch of babies in isolation, but they just cried and cried and eventually died. I always wondered if that professor wasn’t just full of shit, but to be perfectly honest, I actually haven’t thought about that class probably since I took it. I have no idea why that little anecdote just popped in my head.

But back to my little thought experiment. What would it be like to be a member of the very first generation of human beings? All of the sudden these people are just aware of the universe in a way that only humans are. But they can’t talk to each other. What do they do, just grunt, point, throw rocks? And they have to hunt everything to eat. And they don’t have any parents telling them not to eat all those poisonous but tasty looking berries, and so a bunch of them probably died right off the bat. And they can’t write. How does that first generation teach itself to be potty trained? How do they know not to drink their own pee? I’d like to go back and talk to them, or communicate with them somehow. I’m sure I could teach at least one of them enough English for a conversation.

And I’d be like, “Hello! I’m your great-great-great-great-great-great-(you get the idea, right?)-grandson! Being a human in the future is so cool. We have everything. Clothes, TV, Internet. It’s all so awesome. We have so much time to just sit around and chill out and drink. Oh yeah, you guys haven’t even invented alcohol yet. Well, it’s awesome. And so is McDonald’s. Trust me, whatever you guys are doing to get us all to that point, keep up the good work. OK, bye!”

But then I’m thinking a few things. I’m thinking first that, would it even be possible for those really early humans to understand exactly what I’m trying to say? Could they imagine all of the wonders I’d be telling them about? Or would they think I’m full of shit? I always picture my grandparents, growing up during the Great Depression, sharing a baked potato for dinner with their entire extended family. Even if I could tell them then about all of the technological breakthroughs we’ve made since then, all of the abundance our society has come not only to love, but to expect, to demand, would they even be capable of believing me?

In the 1960s, Star Trek gave us all the idea for cell phones. But did the people watching it back then really imagine we’d actually all have them just fifty years later? And not even that, but our cell phones are even better, much cooler than what they had in Star Trek. Sure, we’re not in space, like visiting aliens or anything, and yeah, we can’t transport stuff. That is, not yet. What’s the world going to be like when I’m eighty? Maybe there will be transporters. I’m guessing there will have to be a few Holodecks. That’s going to change everything. But right now it’s all pure imagination and I can’t really get myself to picture it happening.

And then I’m thinking that there’s no way this caveman would get it, and I’d try to explain it for a while, but then what if he did get it, and was just pretending not to get it? He’d think to himself, why the hell did this clown come back from the future, to rub it in my face how much better he has it than I do? And when I least expect it, he’ll knock me out, take my time machine, and take my place in the future, watching TV, going to see Batman again, downloading stuff from the Internet. And I’ll be stuck there, trying to outrun a herd of elk or whatever animal it is that they hunted back then, but I’ll be so out of my element. I’ll never catch one of them. And even if I do, what am I going to do with it, eat it raw? I’ve never made a fire out of sticks before. I’d have no idea how to even start. I’d probably just get a huge blister on my hand and it would get infected, but antibiotics wouldn’t exist yet, so I’d try eating some mold or something, because I heard that’s where the inventor of penicillin got it from, but this wouldn’t work, because you have to do something to the mold first before it turns into medicine, and I’d probably get even sicker.

And I’d lay there dying, hungry, alone, and centuries later some archeologists would find my bones and the leftovers of my iPhone, because right before I died, and right before my phone died in the past, I’d record a video, I’d say, if you’re seeing this video in the future, it’s because I got stuck in the past, please, please send a crew back in time to help me, to find that caveman who switched places with me. But that caveman was a lot smarter than I gave him credit for, because one of the first things he’d do upon arriving in the future is to pose as an archeologist, find my remains, and destroy the phone before any real scientists could get their hands on it.

All this stuff sounds crazy, but not as crazy as all the stuff today must have sounded in the past. That’s my whole point. That today, more than at any other point in history, we can really look around and look back and forward and think to ourselves that there’s truly no limit to what’s coming, holodecks, time machines, World War VIII, everything. It all has to happen. And I’m calling it. Call me a futurologist. Seriously, call me that.