Hey Time Magazine: where’s my “Active Contact Lens” (linked to Internet to surf web w/eyes closed)?

I don’t know why I kept it, but something just told me I should.  It was the winter of 1997, and Time magazine had this article called “Shape of Tings to Come” in which they predicted what technological advances we would see over the next 50 years.  These lists always fascinate me b/c they blend a limited outlook with wild imagination to produce mixed results.  I smile at human progress when I think about my father reading Dick Tracey comics in the 1950s and wishing for a wristwatch commuicator radio, or my own childhood yearnings to talk to friends on a Star Wars comlink, and then I see kids walking around with an iPhone updating their Myspace pages and finding directions to the nearest pizza place, (I’m still waiting for that lighsaber though).  

Alan Kay said, “Technology is anything invented after you were born,” … Danny Hillis, modified that definition: ‘Technology … is anything that doesn’t work yet.” (Law School 2.0, David I. C. Thompson)

It’s an apt definiton.  What fascinates me, little mobile media centers in our pockets, will not wow my children.  Since I couldn’t find the article itself on http://timemagazine.com, which has a fantastic archive, by the way, I have linked a PDF of it to this post, (please don’t sue me Time magazine). 

The first thing I notice reading the list in 2009 is that some of the things have in fact come to fruition, albeit at different times than predicted: “wall mounted, 1-m-long flat screens show television” (2001), “mobile phones with video cameras and screens enable people to watch files or play computer games from their home or office” (2003), and “new cars are equipped with anti-collision radar, thermal imaging systems to improve visibilitiy (okay, this is a stretch), on-board computers that detect and warn drivers about imminent faults, and satellite based automatic global positioning systems.”  In 1997, these advances were the future; today they are our next purchase. 

Some of the predications haven’t quite happened yet as predicted: “male birth control pill or contraceptive injection becomes commonly available,” (1999), “the active contact lens, linked to the Internet, allows the wearer to read E-mail and surf the World Wide Web without even opening her eyes,” (2005), and “clothes made of smart fabrics automatically warm up the wearer in cold weather and cool him or her down in hot weather” (2006).  While these developments haven’t happened in the timeframe predicted, given the state of technology how far off can they be?

As for the future, (I still want my hoverboard  from Back to the Future 2), some of the predictions in Time were ahead of schedule, such as this one: “computers connected directly to the brain are able to recognize and respond to thoughts, obviating the need for hte manual input of data and commands,” (2025).  Haven’t seen this yet?  Take a look: 

Who knows, maybe we’ll expand the average lifespan of humans from 78 years to 140 years long before the projected 2500 deadline?  (Techiyas ha-maysim anyone?)

What are your technology predictions and time tables?


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