We’re living in an age of accelerating change.
The sci fi visions of decades ago exist as today’s science fact – not in unaffordable, clunky formats, or only in military labs or theoretically – these are mainstream technological marvels, and they look and work pretty much as imagined in Marvel Comics, the Buck Rogers and Frits Deelman franchises.
But already, video phones, self-driving cars and bionic men are old hat. In some cases, it stands to reason – many relatively unknown technologies like wireless charging are in fact years old. Often, decades lapse between theory and realisation. Sometimes, the base technologies of a piece of convergent tech exist for a century before anything comes of it.
Over-coping with change
But sometimes there’s no reason. It’s odd, for example, that we can get excited about drones for as long as they’re falling out of the sky, delivering parcels or breaking the law, but when they become truly important as self-navigating flying cars, you can bet someone will say self-driving transportation and drones have existed for years.
In truth, Dubai’s self-driving drone taxis solve multiple problems of the ‘flying car’ dream, including launching them, finding enough people that can drive them and managing public risk. And only last week few people even knew about them! How did we get so jaded?
It seems to be a queer form of future shock. Painfully aware of the pace and volume of change, we try to internalise progress as quickly as possible – if necessary, by over-compensating. Or maybe we just like saying clever things like “the idea of flying is as old as humanity itself”, or “video signals have been sent wirelessly for decades”, or “electric cars have been predicted since the first internal combustion engine”.
Whatever will we make of the greatest invention of all – the reinvention of ourselves?
Us, only better
Smart people have feared artificial intelligence for a long time, because they know we’re not that smart. In fact, AI is cleverer right now than three quarters of Americans.
Would AI have voted any differently in the American election? Maybe.
Yes, technology is vulnerable to outsider interference, but a superhuman intellect, such as AI, should be able to spot fake news. And that’s cool.