Personal jetpacks appear closer to hand, (sub)space tourism is heading to the launch pad, and Hyperloop travel is, possibly, on the drawing board. Is this, at last, the future some of us may have dreamed of?
Not quite. Most of us won’t be able to afford these for some time. And given Wellington folk have been arguing over whether to build a new highway through Transmission Gully for nearly a century, I can’t foresee construction of a Hyperloop link between Wellington and Auckland in my (cybernetically & regeneratively enhanced) lifetime.
The Washington Post looks more closely at Elon Musk’s optimistic costing of his Hyperloop proposal, pointing out some of the social and political factors that increase the costs and construction time frame of any major transportation project.
On a similar theme, a recent article in The Observer reminds us of the hype nearly 20 years ago around stem cells, and how we would be able to grow replacement hearts in “just a few years.” What have we got to show from stem cell research today?
Well, no much more than that really. As The Observer and Washington Post both point out, complexity – biological, social, political and economic – can confound the initial aspirations of new research. Stem cell research has led to major advances in the understanding development and diseases, as well as being increasingly used in less spectacular medical treatments (such as fixing the heart before you need to get a replacement).
The big challenge for futurists, as well as scientists, politicians and society more generally, is to see how new technologies could be used in ways other than the “big hairy audacious goals” beloved by entrepreneurs. We need those entrepreneurs to challenge and inspire us, but we also need to think sideways.