Fiction of Today- Technology of Tomorrow

In Hugo Gernsback’s 1911 “Ralph 124C 41+”, when Alice 212B423 is threatened by an avalanche, she uses the Telephot to place a call to Ralph from 4000 miles away, and the Telephot glows with a live image of Alice when Ralph picks the call up. Sounds familiar? That’s because that call was the literary advent and prediction of video calls, 340 million minutes of which are made each day on WhatsApp alone now. On the other hand, in the 1985 “Back to the Future” trilogy, fingerprint scanning technology was predicted to pay taxi fares and unlock doors, much like the advanced biometrics that we have today. Thus, it can be said that popular culture has formerly been able to predict and propose fictitious technologies which may be realities in the future.

Likewise, the question now is, what can the fiction of now pose for the technology of tomorrow? How could today's fictitious technology transform our ways of life, just like the yesteryears' fictitious biometrics and video-calling did? By 2050, the UN predicts that the global population will have risen to 9 billion people, with 7 out of 10 living in cities, all while the world is trying to reduce its impact on the planet. Could making fictitious technology real solve these global challenges, in a way that would be evident in our day-to-day lives?

Yes, say some; if you’re a medico (or simply a user of the healthcare system), eureka! The potential of the implementation of fictitious technology especially in healthcare is immense; from the Stark Medical Scanner to Hypersleep Pods (a controlled space where the occupant can remain alive for years while maintaining their age and health), your trip to the hospital just became exponentially modern.

For example, the Stark Medical Scanner, from Iron Man 2, can scan a person's blood sample for toxins with a simple finger prick. Can you imagine what this would do for patients under home care, requiring easy-to-use and install medical technology, or even for individuals who require immediate blood tests to save lives? On a judicial level, a similar device could help the police easily charge for and prevent drinking-and-driving, as the in-use breathalyzers can easily be manipulated. The Stark Medical Scanner isn’t far from reality either; devices that provide immediate readings for blood sugar levels have been in use for over a decade now and toxin scanning technology is available at hospitals. If one was able to combine these two, portable medical technology would see new dawn altogether. However, there are still numerous challenges to the implementation of a portable toxin scanner: chiefly, there is little research on getting instantaneous toxin level results, so much so that an ordinary toxin scan takes 1-2 days at present. Thus, to achieve a portable toxin scanner, we would primarily have to invest in medical research, followed by investment in user training for both medical professionals and patients.

Additionally, to deal with psychological disorders like PTSD (which approximately 8 million adults suffer from each year), technologies like BARF (Binarily Augmented Retro Framing), from Captain America: Civil War, can be conceptualized, wherein spectacle implants connect to traumatic memory and project it onto an interface for the patient to relive, to help them combat their PTSD. While “hijacking the hippocampus” doesn’t seem feasible right now, the production of intricate holograms presently is a step towards directing mental holograms in the future, but obviously, only time will tell how soon this is possible.

Besides healthcare, saving the environment is another global challenge that can be tackled using fictitious technology. Did you know that transport is responsible for nearly 30% of the EU’s carbon dioxide emissions? Thus, if we were to work on our transport habits, we could cut down the global carbon footprint substantially. A fictitious technology that could thus help us is transporters, from the Star Trek universe, which break a person down into atoms, convert those atoms into energy or light patterns, beam them to the target location, reconvert them into matter, and then reassemble the person. This cuts down greenhouse gas emissions, reduces costs related to travel by eliminating fuel costs and squandered time, and is helpful in case of emergencies. Imagine how convenient it would be for you to teleport yourself from your home to school when you’re running late on a Monday morning! In fact, teleportation may not be as far-fetched an idea either, given that phenomena like quantum teleportation and entanglement (which includes the transmission of exact quantum information from one location to another) have received considerable attention recently, so much so that the first-ever complex quantum teleportation was achieved in August 2019. However, it must also be noted that often, research related to quantum entanglement produces random results, making it difficult to make accurate predictions about the future of the field.

Moreover, recently, innovation in robots has been immense, with complex social humanoids being developed too. Borrowing from that, have you thought about how convenient it would be to have a robot like the Microbe Obliterator (a cleaning robot) from Wall-E, which could potentially resolve all our waste disposal problems and create a cleaner neighborhood? How would this revolutionize housekeeping at both a personal and market level? It would reduce the income of that market but would also reduce stress on working individuals to keep their surroundings spotless. We wouldn’t even be far from a cleaning robot though, with simple vacuum cleaning robots already on the market.

However, doesn’t the implementation of such a robot and other aforementioned technologies bring up several questions of ethics? Do we trust technology enough to let it penetrate human fields, along with our daily lives? That’s something for us to ponder. Nonetheless, technological progress is inevitable and someday, these presently fictitious technologies may not be fictitious anymore. Where would we be without bionic limbs (first proposed in the 1977 Star Wars series) or tablets (first referenced in the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey) anyway?


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