My wife was recently in Japan on a business trip, and we found ourselves in the uncomfortable position of having no cell phone connection and no texting capability. But she did have a laptop and wi-fi in her hotel, so we ”skyped” (for free!) instead of resorting to costly international calling. How cool to talk to and see each other at the same time! The “visi-phone” of classic science fiction has quietly become a routine part of our world today. As are dozens of other small miracles in all sorts of fields, miracles that we take for granted. It seems like the “next big thing” comes out every few months.
We are living in a time when knowledge and its applications are growing at an exponential rate. That is, doubling and re-doubling over shorter and shorter time periods. More knowledge was added in the 20th century than in all human history prior to 1900. And that pace is quickening. The world is changing so fast that you’d think we’d all be dizzy and disoriented. The rate of change happening today would have likely shocked older civilizations into chaos and anarchy. Not that we don’t see those enemies at times, but as a whole we seem able to take these remarkable changes in stride and ask for even more. So why is that?
There are probably many pieces to the answer, but I think that science fiction writers and the entertainment industry can take a lot of credit here. We are so used to the tropes of science fiction, having read them in books and seen them portrayed with great ingenuity and realism in films and tv that they’ve become part of our culture.
No one is astonished at the appearance of smart phones or skypeing in our lives because we’ve seen better on Star Trek or other science fiction movie or show. Science fiction has become so ingrained that we expect these new “miracles” to happen as a matter of course like the unfolding of some natural law. But every once in a while it’s a good idea to take stock. To take a deep breath and feel the wonder of the “world of tomorrow” unfolding in our midst daily. It’s going to be quite a ride.