Exactly a decade ago, I asked "Why Can't Red Dwarf Predict The Future?" That is - sci-fi writers can imagine interstellar travel and sentient computers, but they think the future will still involve developing film photographs, library fines, and 3-pin electrical plugs.
At the end of the post, I said:
Here are my thoughts on some trivial aspects of our lives which - if put in a sci-fi film - would draw hoots of derision from an audience from the year 2022.
- Traffic jams.
- Attracting a bar-tender's attention.
- Resetting a microwave's clock after a powercut.
- Replacing used up items (toothpaste, butter).
- Tasting a dish to see if it's salty or spicy enough.
- Recharging gadgets.
- Waiting for a taxi.
- Flossing, deodorising, and most manner of personal hygiene.
- Monthly billing cycles.
So, how'd I do?
Sadly, still here. But GPS has put a real dent in them. I can see before I turn onto the motorway, that it is jammed between junctions 7 and 9. So I take a different route. Self-driving vehicles haven't arrived in any great number - so we don't have a computer-mediated traffic yet. But GPS and live traffic reports have made people less prone to being stuck in traffic.
THANKS COVID! Nearly all large pubs now have an app. A couple of clicks and my beers come to my table. It isn't everywhere, and it is sometimes a longer wait than queuing. But it has changed the way people interact in pubs. The days of trying to catch the eye of a bloke behind the bar while they're busy flirting might just be behind us.
*sigh* No. Still not yet. There are a few Internet-connected appliances. But microwaves seem to have ignored all new technology. Not even radio-controlled clocks. Would it really cost so much to put in a small radio receiver to listen for local time signals?
Amazon's "Dash" buttons seem to have failed. Turns out there isn't that much of a demand for single-click groceries. But two things have changed.
The first is subscriptions. Lots of services will offer you a postal subscription for basic goods.
The second is the rise of on-demand groceries. I can book a full grocery shop for the next day, or get a couple of items within 15 minutes.
I'm kinda surprised that this hasn't happened. Food thermometers are a thing - where's the same thing for flavours? Why can't I stick something in my curry to see if it needs more spice?
We don't have infinite batteries - although they are getting better - but Qi wireless charging is fairly prevalent. Most public transport now has plug sockets and USB ports. You're never far away from a power point. But gadgets are still power-hungry little monsters.
We're pretty close to eliminating this in most major cities. A couple of clicks on an app and a taxi is with you within minutes. Visit a foreign country and your taxi app might even work there.
Bah! I mean, during lockdown I didn't need to use deodorant as much - but that's about the limit. Where are the nano-bots cleaning my teeth and eating my secretions?
I'm still slightly shocked that this is a thing. Although there are plenty of PAYG plans for technology - and a few usage based ones - nearly everything is stuck in the monthly rut. I guess it is easier to line up with the cadence of people's pay cheques than to introduce new billing models.
Smart-meters means that people can pay for their actual usage rather than an estimated and annualised bill. That's about all that has changed.
I'm giving myself a 50% success rate - which isn't bad. Of course, each of these innovations has led to unforeseen consequences. GPS may have saved marriages - but the constant pressure to be on time, and the ability to be tracked, is unsettling.
Not needing to go to the bar has, no doubt, trapped people at a table with someone they'd rather avoid.
Instant groceries means less support for local businesses and poor working conditions for couriers.
The rise in public charging points means an expectation they'll be working - and negative consequences when they aren't.
Uber's business model is widely seen as exploitative and possibly unsustainable.
Yearly billing traps people in contracts they don't want or need any more.
I'm not daft enough to make predictions about 2032 - but I do know that every change has an unexpected knock-on effect.