Most people go through their humdrum lives assuming they’ll have to keep waiting for The Future to arrive, and worrying about whether it might look more like the banal and excessively toupeed universe of the “Star Trek” movies, or dystopias created by moviemakers armed with an actual plot and an idea of how computer-controlled technology actually works.
It can be misleading to look for the future by checking out the window for skies packed with hover-cabs, legions of suspiciously servile robots and embarrassing scenes created as obviously beneficial technology is harassed by downtrodden but inexplicably photogenic outsiders defying authority to battle insidious and unrecognized Threats To The Whole World.
Since almost no one has realized that The Future is Now – except those currently battling the flu with the oddly hallucinogenic combination of SyFy movie marathons and over-the-counter cold medicines that should probably be more closely controlled – it is necessary to point out examples that prove the truth with examples of the future at work.
The following examples don’t explain why yelling and arm-waving by the curb attracts attention instead of a passing hover-cab, but do prove that most of the future we’ve been waiting for has already happened and is proving to be far more trivial than anyone expected:
In Australia (a continent whose whole ecosystem has evolved into a Tourist Board promotion for New Zealand by providing the same wildly beautiful, slightly alien landscapes but filling them with things that can kill you in real life rather than only in Peter Jackson movies), researchers have found a potentially life-saving use for Twitter.
According to a summary from alert water-safety researchers at Gizmodo, Australia’s Department of Fisheries has added a new feature to its shark-watch program that, effectively, forces the sharks themselves to Tweet a warning when they approach too close to a beach filled with Ozzies that have somehow survived a trip out of the house.
Rather than rely on beach-watchers stationed on seaside cliffs equipped only with powerful binoculars and the ability to yell “Oy! Shaaahk!” really loud, the Fisheries Dept. has spent years sticking every shark it could reach with tags that broadcast their identity using acoustic signals that are picked up and identified by number and location by a network of sonar buoys similar to those developed to track nuclear submarines during the Cold War.
When one of a network of 19 buoys picks up the signal of the 338 or so tagged sharks of various species, it reports the location to a Fisheries datacenter, which posts the information to a Twitter feed with almost 23,000 followers, most of whom, presumably being Western Australians who prefer to tempt death with everything on land rather than a group of sharks disappointed at having gotten warning tags rather than frickin’-laser headgear for the holidays.
More evidence that the future has come and we’ve all missed it comes from Boots Industries in Quebec, which is trying to cash in on the fad for 3-D printing and potential for selling 3-D printers by producing a 3-D printer designed to produce more 3-D printers.
The BI version 2, investment in which is available on Kickstarter, is designed to print using anything that can be made using 1.75 mm filament extruded at temperatures up to 340 degrees Celsius, is more of an open-source modify-it-yourself project than a purposeful effort to get self-reproducing printers out into the ecosystem.
“The self-replicating design of the BI V2.0 empowers you to create your own machine and share this technology with your family and friends,” according to the Kickstarter page written by human puppets working on behalf of the 3-D printer invasion. “Once you receive the BI V2.0, you can print, improve upon and share components so that anyone can build their own printer at a very low cost.”
Kickstart pledgers offering $1,120 or more get the whole printer, while more frugal investors in ending their world with printing get various configurations of DIY kit with which they can assemble their own living-room printer-breeding plants.
Delivery will be sometime this year, though delivery times depend on last-minute design changes, the amount of the pledge and success of a single, unreasonably photogenic printer-hating outsider who will get to work disrupting its manufacture as soon as hair and makeup are finished.
A similarly sized, similarly Kickstart-funded, but less potentially dystopia-inducing 3-D home printer called Deltaprintr should also be available soon, for about $675. A research project from MIT’s Tangible Media Group offers far cooler-looking technology that will, inevitably, contribute to the conquest with the promise of a new system that will allow humans to use gestures to control 3-D technology from a distance. inFORM puts one human in front of a depth-sensing camera that will record gestures made by a human in one place and transmit those commands to a remote-controlled system elsewhere.
Since “Terminator 3” and the uncountable Enterprises James Kirk has destroyed for often questionable benefit demonstrate there is no way humans can prevent disaster (other than not allowing movie stars access to either starships or super-powerful intelligent killer robots), the only dystopia-opposing choice most humans can make is to give up and go fishing.
Since it’s winter and far too cold, Wisconsin fishing-and-engineering addicts Bob Baddeley and Brad Zdroik have come up with a way soon-to-be-oppressed humans can wet a line and still spend most of their time tucked underneath an electric blanket binge-watching something discomforting.
BlueTipz is a wireless transmitter that attaches to the spring-loaded metal flag-arms that pop up to let ice fishers know it’s time to stop drinking because there’s a fish on the line.
Rather requiring users to stay in the same ice-fishing shack with other lunatics, the BlueTipz transmitter is tipped by the tip-up to send an alert to the owner’s smartphone warning that a fish has taken the bait.
It hardly seems necessary, but the Milwaukee Journal & Sentinel story about BlueTipz goes into detail about why it might prove beneficial to stay up to 200 yards away from a hole in a frozen lake in January (hint: it involves therapy, anti-psychotic medication or ER visits for frostbite or alcohol poisoning).
There you have it: The Future. Sharks that Tweet a warning of their approach, 3-D printers auto-breeding humans out of existence and wireless sensors that encourage people to go fishing in water that has already turned into a solid. Couldn’t the future be a little more Blade Runner and a little less Veg’O’Matic.
Image: Shutterstock.com/ Willyam Bradberry , Boots Industries, MIT