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  • Writer's picturePeter McAllister

How far away is the future?

Updated: Aug 11, 2021

Old tiny HDD

(Source - Reddit)

Ever watched an old piece of black and white news from way back and thought to yourself, “How primitive! We are so much more advanced than them.” Or even “How quaint! I can’t believe people actually lived like that.”

The voiceover is usually a smug man, announcing a technical marvel like gas streetlights, or the fastest Atlantic crossing by a steamship, or even a new type of material to make stockings.

If you close your eyes and listen carefully, you will hear the same smugness in current day news, technology documentaries and even ads.

This is it - peak Human.

They don’t seem to realise that we have been following the same script since film and radio were invented.

So what does this have to do with Sci-Fi? Well, in Sci-Fi, anything is possible!

And realty, is much the same – it just depends on how long you want to wait for it to happen – things need their place in time.

If you were in mediaeval times with an iPhone, chances are you would have been murdered for being a daemon because you could take a photo and show someone instantly (obviously only until your battery ran out). Magnetism, electricity and even oxygen were unknown at that time, but as science and technology evolved (probably announced by that same smug voiceover guy), technology went from evil to magic, through exotic to commonplace, and finally to junk.

So we authors can just go wild – the more speculative it is, we just push out the time (or distance) horizons. But that won’t keep working forever – the pace of technology seems to be accelerating. We have gone from the first powered flight on earth to the first powered flight on Mars in just over 100 years. The transporters on Star Trek have spawned atomic level teleportation in 50 years. The picture at the top is a 5Mb hard drive in the late 1950’s – capable of holding 8 photos. The Apollo 11 Lunar Module have 32 Kb of storage and weighed 30kg. The device you are reading this on is thousands of times faster (and hopefully much lighter).

So let the fiction be just that, and don’t let it get in the way of the story. After all, no one call tell you how a lightsaber works so perhaps it is just from somewhere far, far away….

I will leave the last word to a master.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. - Arthur C. Clarke

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