Saturday, July 3, 2010

MEDIAPOST: All This, And They Still Can’t Make a Flying Car?

On Saturday night I was at a concert, with a friend named Eric Duong. I dragged him to see one of my favorite bands from back in the late 90’s (Pavement) and we found ourselves reminiscing about the past and reveling in the present. It’s amazing to think of the advances in technology that we’re witnessing right before our very eyes, many of which were still just forecasts the last time that Pavement was on tour, and mere fantasies when we were all kids. It was the stuff of science fiction and James Bond movies, but it’s happening now right in front of us.

The iPhone 4’s Facetime is just one of those advances that we’ve imagined for years. I was skeptical of the concept when I first heard about it, but seeing it in action was a whole other experience. The videophone has been thought about for years, but now it’s real and it lies in the palm of your hand, not tied to your desk or your computer. The implications of video chat on a phone are that you can truly share experiences with others in away like never before. I know the platform is limited now, but knowing Apple, it’s only a year or two away from being a larger jewel in the crown. And just in case you weren’t paying attention, Apple just found a way to bring the world of cell phones to the deaf by expanding the opportunities for lip-reading as a form of tele-communication (kudos to whatever newscaster pointed this out).

But Facetime isn’t the only technological innovation that’s shaping our world, or has shaped our world in the last few years. Can you remember what the world was like before ATM’s, cell-phones and microware ovens? Everything took a lot longer, your penmanship was far better, and you actually spoke to the people at the bank. Times have changed, our ability to multi-task is increasing and plans are being made on the fly. No more waiting around the house for your buddy to call and tell you where to meet them; you just pop a “hot-pocket” in the microwave, take-ff to run your errands and call their cell.

Personalized GPS devices and in-car nav systems are making it more and more difficult to get lost and they’re saving millions of men the embarrassment of having to ever pull over and ask for directions. Hundreds of thousands of gas station workers no longer need to be able to point out where the freeway is and the location of the infamous In ‘N Out Burgers are no longer a secret. And of course, neither is the hidden menu; everyone now knows what “animal style” means, and they order them two at a time (or on a 4x4, of course)!

The Internet itself is a life changing innovation along the lines of the printing press and the airplane. It increases the ability for all facets of life to become more efficient, mobile and engaging. It’s created business opportunities, it’s created wealth, and it’s even responsible for social networking in a whole new way. It used to be that you had to wait until your 20-year high school reunion to catch up with all those people you haven’t heard from in years. Now we have Facebook to bring the class of 1991 together again (and 1990, 1989, 1988, and so on). I’ve been back in touch with old friends, old acquaintances and even some of the same people who used to pick on me to justify their own existence and make themselves feel better. Of course, now we’re all grown up, we’ve got families; we’re more mature now. And some of us even have our hair!

But seriously, with all this innovation and constant change, how much longer do I have to wait to see a truly viable flying car? Will it be around before the reunion of Luna? Is it possible that we’ll see one before the Rolling Stones stop touring? Probably not, but then again who’d have though that things would move so fast!