What They Didn't Predict

When futurists thought about society's progression, what they miss if often of greater impact than what they capture. The famous example is that of Buck Rogers, flying to space with rocket engines at the turn of the century...using a slide-rule. Today, we think of the world with more computers in more places, with better transportation, and with greener technology. What futurists often miss are the fundamental advances in things like materials science.

Take this breakthrough in the production of carbon nanotubes. Even after plastics and fiberglass, nobody drew up plans of a composite-laden future. Spaceships have always been metal, as have most large ships, etc. But now we are looking at the possibility of cars whose bodies can be made of a single slabs of material, lighter and stronger than steel, with transparent portions in place of windows. The point isn't that I know what the future will look like... I am just saying that with carbon fiber and, now, nanotubes, it will look fundamentally different from what we'd envisioned.


1 comment:

David said...

word. The only writer I encountered who really seemed to "get" the Internet before it was well known was Orson Scott Card, in Ender's Game.

Son, the future is in plastics!