This morning I introduced my Web Design students at Goodhue HS to the idea of Web 3.0 and the Semantic web. I presented the idea as a nebulus concept that no one can currently agree on what it is, much less what it looks like. I showed them this documentary to both give them a sense of what it might be as well as demonstrate the degree to which really smart people can't currently agree on what it is exactly:
I then asked them to contrast that with the predictions/vision of Ray Kurzweil regarding the singularity he believes will happen by 2045:
Of course, most of my students said that Mr. Kurzweil was off his rocker if he thinks technology will soon exist that will allow him to live forever or that within their lifetimes they will voluntarily merge their biological bodies with technology. However, as skeptical as I am about many of Kurzweil's predictions he has been extremely correct in his predictions of things that have now come to pass. It also makes me think about technologies we currently have that would have been unimaginable just 10 or 20 years ago including things like GPS, live streaming from mobile phones, free international video conferencing (ex. Skype), Wikipedia, YouTube, etc.
Or, were these things imagined? I think they were. In fact imagination has power that I think we underestimate. I contend that everything that exists as a product of human creation is the result of imagination. To imagine something is to will it into existence. Once birth has been given to concept it is just a matter of time before concept becomes reality.
Ok, so where is the proof of this? Why old science fiction films of course. Lets take a look at a few examples:
1. 2001 A Space Odyssey & the iPad
2. Star Trek Communicator - No need to link to modern equivalent here. Actually this is a case where our contemporary equivalent is far superior to what was imagined back then.
3. Invisibility Cloak
I could go on and on of modern technologies that first made their appearance as figments of SciFi imagination. In fact, I believe one reason SciFi is such a strong predictor of future technological advancement is its power as a self fulfilling prophecy. When I was young I was a huge Star Wars and Star Trek fan (still am) as were countless other young people. Those young people are now scientists, inventors, researchers, engineers, and teachers and I know most of us secretly have that ultimate goal in mind to actually develop that one cool device they saw at the movies as a kid and wished desperately they had. I am convinced that by the end of my lifetime we will have holodecks, hyper-speed space travel, ability to manipulate time, the ability to regenerate lost limbs, and be able to slice open Taun Tauns with a beam of highly concentrated light.
Of course, there is a dark side to this theory of imagination=reality. While we can imagine things that are good we also have an incredible ability to imagine things that are horrible:
So, "imagine=will exist" must also apply to these technologies too.
What other modern technologies can you think of that once were just science fiction? What scifi technologies would you like to one day see become a reality?