This was supposed to be the future

If you’ve been around on the Internet much in the last decade you’ve probably come across this t-shirt. The sentiment it expresses isn’t new, in fact it started to manifest itself in music and literature about 30 years ago. An entire generation has grown up with this now, a feeling that somehow we’ve been cheated out of a world that could have been.

I know I’ve felt it, for years that was one of my favorite t-shirts. I bought mine when it first came out a decade ago and wore it thin. I was still wearing it out just a few years back, but now hardly at all anymore. Why? I’m still kinda pissed at the world for its inequitable distribution of the future, but I realized my idea of what the future should entail has evolved considerably over time and all of this shirts questions have been answered. So here we go, let me ruin that for you:

Where is my jetpack?

New Zealand. Ok, so that’s technically not a jetpack. How about the Jetlev? C’mon it only costs like 6 grand and there’s even groupons for it. Not good enough? Well I guess you could go ahead and kill yourself trying to pilot the fastest jetpack on the planet. The point is, the jetpack has been around already. Hell they’ve been flying the things around for the entire history of the Superbowl, jetpacks these days are about as futuristic as computers. They just turned out to be a hell of a lot less portable, practical or useful.

Where is my robotic companion?

I don’t know, do you mean Asimo, Roomba, Pleo, Cogniron, Huggable, Robosapien, Wrex, Roxxxy, Karotz, Tri-Bot, Big dog, Little dog, Paro, Travis, Kota, SpheroAibo, Nao, Mahru, Wakamaru, Joebot, Cocorobo, Smartpet, or (Gods help you) Furby?

I can’t keep track of your stuff for you, it’s probably been left where you interacted with it last. What, you didn’t let it out unsupervised did you? You know those things aren’t 3 laws compliant yet…

Where is my dinner in pill form?

Look, not even Ray Kurzweil can live on pills alone and he sure as hell is doing his damndest. We’ve known this for a long time too, as this excellent article on meal pills by Lord Prime Paleofuturist Matt Novak points out, you can get your minerals & vitamins in pill form, but as long as you’re just a puny human you can only get your calories from eating food, so that Jetsons shit won’t fly.

Where is my hydrogen fueled automobile?

Now that’s a good question. It’s not like we don’t have the technology right? We’re told by industry that hydrogen vehicles should become cost effective for mass production around 2015, IF there’s a fuel infrastructure to support them. Seeing as the backbone of that infrastructure, the ‘Hydrogen Highway‘ was promised for 2010, odds are we’re not going to hit that marker. For the time being you’ll have to settle for electric or hybrid.

Where is my nuclear powered levitating house?

Japan. Or at least it will be if you can convince the Japanese that ditching all their nuclear power generation is an incredibly stupid idea and they should be investing in developing more and safer capacity instead. Not interested in living as a Gaijin? I’m sure the tech will make it to your own earthquake prone region soon enough. If your municipal net runs on nuclear, you’re in luck!

Where is my cure for this disease?

Sorry, but it’s terminal. The good news is you can manage the symptoms and still live a long, fulfilled & maybe only mildly disgruntled life. Can’t really complain much about not having a flying car when your pocket contains a magic light square that can access the entire sum of human knowledge. We are living in the future, it’s just not your dead Grandfathers’ future.

If you’ve been annoyed recently by the fact that cool kids are running around dressed like your grandmother you may want to look into the concept of Atemporality. If you’ve been moaning that nothing new happens in art anymore perhaps The New Aesthetic is something you should be looking into.

With more people running into this meme all the time it’s going to be around for a while yet. But for your own sanity, consider letting dead futures lie. Or if you think sanity is overrated, you might want to start asking yourself some new questions…

Where is my global energy-backed p2p currency?
Where is my space habitat vacation & cheap sub-orbital flights?
Where is my post-agile intelligent democracy?
Where is my equitable distribution of the future?