Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fail! : Top Ten Technologies we still don't have

When I was a kid, I used to love to watch The Jetsons. That was a great cartoon! I marveled at all the possibilities the future would hold. Robot maids, video phones, and of course, flying cars!

Over the years, promises of household robots have come and gone (with the exception of the Roomba). Flying cars, while a great concept, are a practical nightmare. Even if we are able to design and build an affordable flying car that is both easy to operate and stable, we would still have to deal with the fact that PEOPLE CAN'T DRIVE IN TWO DIMENSIONS, WHY THE HELL SHOULD WE GIVE THEM A THIRD!!!

Well 30 years later, at least we have video phones and a list of the Top 10 technologies I was sure we'd have by now:

10) Spell Checkers that actually work:
Computers have been around long enough (dictionaries have been around even longer) for us to have figured out a way to ensure that we never misspell a word again! Why is it that contextual spell check still doesn't work?

9)The Paperless Office:
I can not remember how long I have heard that we are going to have a paperless office! It seems like every few years a new technology comes along that is going usher in the era of the paperless office, and yet it never comes. Today, with all the green technology and the emphasis on being earth friendly, people still print out every e-mail they receive and I have no idea why.

Also, why is it that when I purchase something on a credit card, the store has to print a receipt for me to sign and one for me to take with me? Why can't I sign electronically everywhere (some stores have this ability and some don't). Going even further, why can't I have an e-mail address tied to my credit card account that automatically e-mails me a receipt of my purchase?

P.S. All books should be electronic as well! All you sentimental people who say "but I love the smell of books", give me a break! Do you even think about the number of trees that have to be cut down to create paper for books? What about all the copies that never get sold, what a waste of our natural resources!!!! E-books save money and resources, which is why we created the technology in the first place, deal with it!

8)Holograms and Lightsabers, the Star Wars Effect:
Who among us didn't want a lightsaber??Not that I think these are a better idea than flying cars, but they would be useful during the eventual zombie apocalypse! How about the first time you saw the emperor and Darth Vader communicate via hologram, yeah that was over 30 years ago...and still no holograms! When I was a kid, they promised that by the year 2000 we would have all this cool stuff and they lied! We are however getting closer with these new 3-D TVs

7)True On-Demand:

Does anybody besides me remember this Qwest commercial in the late 90's (I think that it was 1999, but I'm not sure) that promised that you would be able to watch any movie any time in any language? I do. I remember when we were promised true on demand TV and movies. Sure, your local cable company has on demand, but it's still only what they want you to see. We have sites like Hulu, that allow us to watch a selection of TV and Movies from several providers, but it still isn't even close to everything! I want to be able to watch every episode of the show Herman's Head(I don't judge you, so you shouldn't judge me, okay), whenever I feel like it, dammit!

6)Speech to Text and Vice Versa:

Before I even get started on this one, let me be sure to mention that Apple has done a great job improving their text to speech software (Are you happy @kaffeinated???). That aside, it still isn't good enough. I will consider a technology "good enough" when my parents can use it after a short tutorial (they are using Ubuntu Linux and I don't get any more tech support calls). Text to speech has been a staple of every vision of the future we have ever seen. One day I will be able to talk to my computer much like they did in Star Trek. I just don't get it, I have speakers and a microphone, why can't my computer and I use voice interaction for most activities. I'm not looking for a great conversationalist, I just want it to read things to me while I get dressed, in a pleasing voice (sorry, the speak and spell voice is horrible).

5)Language translation:

This particular piece of technology would be so useful. This is one of the few to make the list that needs to become reality! There is no limit to the amount of good that this kind of technology could do. This is one of the things that could make tomorrow's Internet great instead of good. Google has done some great work on this front and has plans to incorporate their work into Google Wave. That aside, I am still hopeful that we can have something similar to the TARDIS, that would translate language for you on the fly. No such luck.

Right now, we can barely translate Web pages well enough to read, let alone translating whole audio files. There are a lot of great podcasts and such that are generated in English that would be so useful to people in other countries. Most of them have to rely on someone who is bi-lingual to manually translate the audio files into transcripts. We should be able to generate transcripts of our podcasts into any known language!

4)Super High Speed, In Your Face, Whole World is Connected, Internet:
Sooner or later, someone is going to need to explain this one. There is no reason why, when we have enough satellites to look into my bathroom from outer space, that we can't give everyone high speed Internet access. There are still places in this country (let alone the entire world) where the only option is dial-up. Really? We can spend money bailing out companies with bad business models, but we can't get affordable broadband in Asheville N.C (just picked them at random, there are plenty of cities in worse situations than Asheville I'm sure).

Is the One Laptop Per Child program still going? I'm pretty sure this is just a pipe dream, but why can't we give people in third world countries an opportunity to learn and communicate via the Web? In combination with number 5, this would be outstanding. Imagine what we could accomplish with a truly global community and no communications barrier!

3)Editable UI:

I credit @kaffeinated for this one (check out his site), while not directly shown during all the future glimpses, the editable UI is sort of a given. Imagine if the Terminator received mission priority messages as pop-unders or if Arnold had to switch to folder view to read the message. We should be able to change absolutely everything about the user interface of our computer. While we are getting closer with each new operating system upgrade, the mobile market is moving further and further away from that (that means you, IPhone). While the IPhone has a great UI, there is little you can do to make it your own! I want to be able to change everything. The way it is now, my computer has difficulty remembering where I like my icons with a dual monitor setup, how are we ever going to get to having our own Heads Up Display?

2)Genetic Modification/Nanobots:

The super soldier, bulletproof skin, and x-ray vision, all of this was supposed to be possible by now. Through genetic modification and/or the use of nanotechnology. We were starting to make some real breakthroughs in stem cell research. Unfortunately, the world at large is still silly and hanging onto some weird superstitious beliefs that a man in the clouds will come down and smite us if we mess around with genetic modifications. Sure we'll screw up a few times, maybe make a velociraptor-man that goes on a killing spree, but it would totally be worth it if I could get my cat-tail (or at least not be colorblind anymore).

1)Sim-Stim/Virtual Reality/Smell-A-Vision:

There are so many reasons why this would be awesome and an equal number of reasons why it would be terrible(You think the World of Warcraft addiction is bad now...). We have been promised virtual reality for as far back as I can remember. There have been video games, movies, and books that promised that we would be able to escape everyday reality. We could enter a virtual reality, where we would not only see, but feel, taste, smell, and experience life from another point of view. The closest we get is Second Life and that's worse than actual reality! For a long time I was rooting for the porn industry (they always seem to be way ahead of the curve, don't believe me, check this out, FOX is billing this virtual desktop Echo as a new idea. The porn industry has had virtual desktop strippers available for about 10 years!) to really move the whole VR/Sim-Stim technology ahead. I thought maybe if they combined nanobots and VR technology we could have a total body experience! I guess even the porn industry knows a dead end when they see one.

I wonder if in 20-30 years someone else will write about how pissed they are that we can't "jack in" to our computers like they did in the Matrix?