The rapid progress of technology within the last couple of decades is insane, to say the least, perhaps we have not advanced as much as Warner Brothers anticipated in the fifties, with their Duck Dodgers representation of the soon-to-be times, but we’re getting there. Of course, they weren’t alone, a plethora of science fiction movies came out of seemingly nowhere, and a decent chunk of them had pretty high hopes for us in the next 50 years or so. A lot of the technologies presented in them back then are slowly becoming more and more plausible and many things which in our lifetimes were considered as borderline science-fiction, are creeping into our world one by one. Just take a look at what the researchers of Harvard University and the Massachusetts institute of Technology has been up to even a few years ago, they’re a few steps away from making lightsabers! Ok maybe those steps aren’t small, but it’s still impressive. Without further ado, let’s look at some technologies which are creeping into our reality which seemed extremely futuristic not too long ago.
Remember when in Star Wars, our favourite protagonists were caught in “tractor beams” in a rather untimely fashion? Their ship froze and was pulled towards the enemy. Now while scientists may not be able to pull a spaceship towards them with a beam just yet, an Australian university managed to do something very similar, but on a much smaller scale. They managed to move a minuscule object (⅕ of a millimetre) by about 20 centimetres. Now this might not sound extremely impressive, what’s the use of moving something the size of something which would seem small even to an ant, along a surface and only by 20 centimetres? Even a baby can do that! But keep in mind that this is basically a more developed stage of a proof of concept. With the way technology has been advancing, seeing these become effective on a much larger scale is more than possible.
While we may have had homing weapons for ages, heat-seeking missiles and the sort, none of them managed to be as small as a single bullet. After all, it is kind of hard to fit all that technology in something which is just a small aerodynamic piece of metal that is just supposed to be blasted through the air at high speeds, presumably leaving a hole in something. However, in 2015 the U.S. Department of Defense Research Agency, or DARPA for short, have created EXACTO, a real-life, genuine homing bullet. Around the size of a marker pen, it might not have the most space available for all the tech it utilises but somehow DARPA still pulled it off. Thanks to real-time optical guidance systems and an onboard mechanism that corrects its flight course within the time it stays airborne, it manages to track its target. The software takes factors such as weather, target movement, wind and several others to accordingly adjust its flight path, making it actually quite scary. Now while these are probably not going to hit mass production anytime soon, partly because of DARPA being very hush-hush about how they work, but also because production of them on a large scale would probably be incredibly expensive. The expensive part is not a fact but just a somewhat-educated guess.
Artificial intelligence has always been a thing that made the mind wander, the whole idea of it actually happening always seemed somewhat far off in the future. But the truth is that artificial intelligence has been around for a decent chunk of time now, just not in the sense that most people perceive it as, where it mimics human intelligence. AI has seen a plethora of uses in the relatively-recent past, from things like google translate, autocomplete in browsers, predictive typing in smartphones, even in advertising where large data is processed to provide the appropriate ads to the right people. Most AI nowadays, bases itself off recognising patterns and then making the appropriate decisions. While it may seem somewhat basic, it is definitely advancing, and maybe within the next few decades, we will see some Hollywood-esque AI. Of course, that will bring its own set of issues, seeing human-like traits in other things will soon bring up robot ethics and the question of “what truly makes one human”. Hopefully, by that time, we will wise up as a race a bit so we can use it for something else than blowing the living daylight out of one another.
We’ve all seen the idea of artificially induced weather conditions being thrown about in all sorts of movies, cartoons, books and whatever else sci-fi or fantasy people can get their hands on. As a concept it seems incredibly useful, being able to control the weather seems like a very novel idea for all sorts of occasions. Inducing rain in areas where droughts are frequent, revitalising crops, saving animal habitats, finally having nice weather in London, the possibilities are endless. Perhaps too endless, if such technology were ever to fall into the hands of humankind, we would probably use it as a tool of war first and foremost. That’s just how stupid we are and have been across the centuries. Now, as cool and/or scary as this is, the researchers at the University of Central Florida’s College of Optics and Photonics as well as the University of Arizona have been developing a technique of possibly inducing rain and lightning by pointing a high-energy laser beam into the clouds. As fantastical as that sounds, there is a method to their madness. Apparently, water condensation and lightning activity within clouds are dependent on large amounts of static charged particles in them. If you somehow manage to stimulate those particles with the appropriate kind of energy, or in this case laser, you might just be able to make it rain in the time and place necessary. You can read about it in much more detail here if you wish to know more.
While the progress of technology can be extremely beneficial for us as a race, it also tends to shift the view of the world as we know it. With things like AI taking off and slowly becoming more and more advanced, more basic jobs like working as a cashier or even a driver can possibly get replaced by robots somewhere down the line. Of course, as grim as that sounds, we will also probably have holographic displays in mobile phones and hoverboards, so you have to take the good with the bad. We are already at a point where warfare on a global scale more or less ends up being “who presses the big red button first”. It would be safe to assume many people would rather keep it that way as opposed to wars between futuristic clone armies and swarms of drones fighting and flying around causing mayhem with their pulse rifles. But really, who knows what the future holds? Let’s just hope it is going to be something positive.