When I was a kid, I loved to read science fiction. I always wondered, “why couldn’t I have been born a few hundred years in the future?”, “what would life be like if such futuristic technology existed now?”. The worlds envisioned by authors like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke never seemed like fiction to me, but a glimpse of things to come.
Being a millennial I have lived through some radical paradigm shifts in technology. When I was in elementary school our administration office still had a rotary phone. I have lived through the invention of the internet, the explosion of information technology, the realization of nanotechnology, prototype invisibility cloaks, and the renaissance of not just space exploration, but of space tourism.
Listing the new technologies that have emerged, evolved, collided, and converged would be impossible, the breadth of progress made just this last decade alone is the subject of an exhaustive number of books. But for anyone paying even a little attention, the world has been trying to outrace our imaginations for the last few decades, to the point where our science fiction seems less like fantasy and more like a road-map of what we have yet to witness.
And we don’t have to look outside our home to have a taste of what’s still in store for us. According to Gartner, an industry analyst, sales for cell phones in the third quarter of 2013 reached roughly 450 million units sold, with about 55% of those being smartphones. Take a good look, in terms of raw computing power that little thing that fits right in your pocket is more powerful than a supercomputer 40 years ago.
According to analysts IDC, worldwide sales for tablets reached 49.2 million units sold in the first quarter of 2013, a 142.4% growth from the same time the year before. When tested using the Linpack Computing Benchmark, the iPad 2 was found to rival the performance of the Cray Supercomputer of 1985. The same iPad 2 that is sitting right next to me as I write this, and the same iPad that is now rumored to soon be discontinued, with Apple’s iPad now in its 5th generation with the introduction of the iPad Air.
On my archaic 2009 iPhone, I can instant message friends, pinpoint my exact position on the globe, watch a movie, or take an online math class using Khan Academy’s mobile app. I am able to Facetime my twin brother, who lives 3,000 miles away from me, with a camera the size of a speck of dirt. My desktop collects dust as I use my iPad to stream movies with services like Netflix or Hulu Plus, check my Facebook page, and play video games with better graphics than anything I ever played as a kid.
Ten years ago I remember having to take the Subway downtown to wait in line for a ticket if I wanted to see a movie, or walking a few blocks to Blockbuster to rent something already out of theaters. Remember VHS? I think most of us try not to. Now Blockbuster is out of business and ticket sales at movie theaters continue to slump, meanwhile with the tap of my finger I can watch a movie in high definition.
Most of the services and devices we take for granted today were mindbogglingly amazing just a decade ago. Today I read on Extremetech.com (my favorite technology news source) that the first 3D-printed skull had been implanted into a human being. Not even two minutes later I read that UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh will be conducting the first suspended animation human trials.
Wake up futurists, sci-fi geeks, and science nerds. We don’t need to read science fiction novels anymore to escape into a wondrous future; the future has finally arrived. Want that rush of exhilaration? Just read the news.
Welcome home. Welcome to the world of tomorrow.