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This will be the last column I write in the year 2003. I swear, I think after we reached 2000, we entered some sort of warp and time sped up to double time.
A couple of weeks ago I saw the movie "2001", which appeared originally in the sixties a few years after the publication of the book on which it was based. If you remember, it was a projection of how we would be living and traveling in space in the year 2000. The leading character was a computer called Hal, which was an acronym for some technical name. Hal had quite a bit of dialogue and exchanged it with the astronauts piloting the spaceship he was commanding.
Looking at the author's and movie makers' projections governing props and costumes plus special effects, was like viewing Verne's projections as presented in movies based on his science fiction. Remember the super submarine in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea?
According to the film, made when the new millennium seemed light years away, 2001 would find us zipping around space like the characters in the Star Trek series. The women wore body suits and strange turban-like hats.
I remember thinking I wouldn't mind the elegant suits but the hats were a "no thanks." What I did hope would come to be was the wonderful catering computers, which could dispense any food item at the press of a button.
I found the movie boring. The soundtrack was great. In what was meant to be a daring sci-fi concept, the music, "The Planets", played as a backdrop to endless shots of UFO's, planets, and stars dancing endlessly and in slow motion, across the screen.
So help me, I didn't understand the ending when I saw the film the first time, and I still don't. All I know is, in 2003, there were "Hals" all over the world, and in space, but none capable of philosophizing vocally, and still not able to produce a three course meal on human command - nor deal with the dishes afterwards. We have made tremendous strides in communications. Technically, that is. Despite being able to circle the globe in seconds and make contact with every remote corner of it, we still can't communicate with each other well enough to prevent wars. So here we are, like children with highly sophisticated toys, which we can't handle properly.
The contrast between the sci-fi version of 2001 and the reality of it got me to thinking about all the various projections I have seen over the years in movies and TV and in literature. There are some futuristic projections that I really want to live to see. So, naturally, I made a wish list:
1) First and foremost, as I mentioned previously, are the replicators a la Star Trek. I want to be able to walk over to a rectangular hole in the wall, tell it that I want a cup of green tea in a china cup, and have it appear within seconds. How great would that be?
2) In the future, no one appears to have to actually clean anything; things seem to have the ability to clean themselves. This is a dream come true. Did you ever see anyone in either Star Trek or Star Wars, carrying around a bucket and mop? That is because in the future, there are adorable little robots that run happily around taking care of all that kind of kind of labor so that the people can boldly go where no one has gone before. Personally, I'm all for that.
3) No one in the distant future is fat. Good thing too, given that everyone wears those tight cat suits made out of super spandex. Evidently, the future holds the cure for obesity. Maybe those nifty replicators can make food that is completely fat, carbohydrate, and calorie free and still tastes good. Now, there's a scientific discovery worthy of the Nobel Prize.
4) Medicine is so advanced that no one gets sick anymore unless it is some strange, unknown alien disease which is used as a plot device so that people can become infected and act totally out of character. At any rate, I could get a totally new exoskeleton in perfect working order, made out of some fantastic metal impervious to damage or disease. I could be like Wolverine without the deadly claws popping out of the back of my hand. Actually, maybe I'd keep the claws. They might come in handy for opening those hermetically sealed packages that drive me nuts.
5) Is there anything projected for the future more delightful than the Holodecks on Star Trek? In case you don't know, in the Star Trek future there is an entire deck on the ship dedicated to fun. You just tell the computer what you want for a scenario, and there you are, doing whatever you want, wherever you want to be doing it, with whomever you want to share the experience. The mind boggles. I would be swashbuckling with Errol Flynn, sailing the seven seas with Hornblower, horseback riding at the foot of the Rockies with Robert Redford…need I say more? Of course, I would probably never come out and develop a serious case of Holodeck addiction or something. I'm not worried. This is the future, after all. They probably have an instant cure for it. (See item 4)
There are lots of other futuristic wonders I could list, but these are my top five. Frankly, I'm a little disappointed in our progress so far. What's the hold up? I'm not getting any younger here. Let's fire up those super computers and get a move on! Where's that Hal when you need him?
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