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July 20, 2017

Pick One: A Flying Car or Your Smartphone

Filed under: Main — Tags: — admin @ 12:01 am

I traveled back in time the other day. It was 1982, and I met up with my younger self leaving work. I had only a few temporal moments to interact, but younger-me dominated the conversation. He asked the immediate and obvious question, “Are there flying cars in the future?”

The answer disappointed him. Apparently, flying cars rank high on the list of things people want. The image of the flying car is ingrained and signifies an advanced civilization. Truly, we’ve achieved greatness as a culture when we can lift ourselves aloft, free from the bonds of gravity, and zip along to our designation embraced by blue sky.

Then I showed my younger self my smartphone. It didn’t receive a signal back in 1982, nor was any Internet available to make the thing useful. Still, the amazing technology has done more to change our civilization and culture than any flying vehicle could have. Its impact is tremendous, yet to younger-me, the image of the future didn’t include portable phones / cameras / tv studios / music machines / games / maps / or immediate access to information. No, that guy wanted a damn flying car.

I read an article recently that spoke of the largest changes in technology being the smallest things. Futurists miss the target because they don’t recognize this fact. No, images of the future in TV, film, and the media include touchstones like a flying car, a moving walkway, personal robots, and space travel.

Consider the movie Blade Runner. It features flying cars, space travel, “off-world colonies,” and biological androids called replicants. Yet, when Decker wants to call his girlfriend, he uses a pay phone. Little thought was put into a basic service like communications, though the film’s creative people definitely nailed a few other technologies to come.

The smallest items generally have the largest impact on our culture. The notion of a high tech gizmo you can slip into your pants pocket just wasn’t on anyone’s radar in 1982. No one cried out, “Where is my iPhone!” like they demanded their flying cars.

So, if the question were posed today, would you opt for your smartphone or a flying car? You can’t have both. Given the choice, and the knowledge of how communications is more beneficial than transportation, the flying car is doomed.

2 Comments

  1. Flying cars are a stupid idea, for several reasons, the first is would you want the just passed test 17 year old (who in the UK drives a shagged out Ford Fiesta) in a vehicle that flys (& more importantly) crashes leaving smoking holes in buildings, second the air is not really possible to mark with a visible means lanes, three envoirmental reasons flying uses more fuel, more fuel more pollution, if you use a nuclear fuel (as was proposed in the 50’s) you get a load of mini-three mile islands happening every fender bender. I want to go to outer space, a flying car, a super model girlfriend. Of those three the only one is Space X trip if they get the costs down is midly possible…

    Comment by glennp — July 20, 2017 @ 2:43 am

  2. Oh, you spoil it!

    Just because the car flies doesn’t mean the human occupant is controlling the vehicle. I mean, seriously: Half the people who drive can’t operate the vehicle properly or obey all the laws. So they can ride in the flying car, but like hell they’re driving one!

    Comment by admin — July 20, 2017 @ 7:28 am

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