Welcome to September, everyone!
Today I thought I'd share some examples of technology from science fiction that I can't wait to see become the norm in real life. Sci-fi is probably my favorite genre, both to read and to watch, and I think it's great how it has inspired (and continues to inspire) the real-life creation of many technologies. But there are still a whole lot of things from sci-fi that we have yet to create, and I want them.
When people complain about the existence of modern technology, what they fail to recognize is that technological advances often improve quality of life for disabled people. Every invention that allows tasks to be accomplished more easily makes it possible for disabled people to do something that we couldn't before. For example, most of my life is conducted via the Internet. Without it, my disabilities would make it impossible for me to accomplish as much as I do and to have the social life that I do.
As such, most of the technologies on this list aren't just cool or useful; they can also act as disability accommodations. These technologies would allow me, and many, many other disabled people, to live a better, fuller life. For example:
Many disabled people are unable to drive. Many more struggle to endure long distance travel. Others have mobility issues that make walking difficult. All of these things are true for me at this point in time, and so one of the sci-fi technologies I most look forward to is teleportation.
Many sci-fi worlds possess the ability to instantaneously teleport across various distances. Star Trek, for example, has transporters that can move people (and objects) across feet or across thousands of miles. Many fantasy worlds also have this power, such as Harry Potter's Apparation.
With this technology in hand, our world would be transformed. Presuming the cost was not excessive enough to keep it from being a basic technology used by the general population, teleportation would allow people to travel across the world and back again within seconds. We could visit friends and family at any time, no matter the distance. We could go on mini vacations whenever and wherever we wanted. We could live at any location and commute to work or school without trouble. Business would be transformed, with transportation costs minimized. We wouldn't have to rely any longer on cars, planes or other clunky, uncomfortable, and dangerous vehicles.
Meanwhile, the world would become far more accessible for disabled people. Whether we struggle to walk three yards or whether longer distances are the issue, we would all be able to move the distances that we need to in order to achieve our goals. Long trips that never would have been possible before can be made. Movement between rooms at a school or office would become much easier. Disabled people would not longer have to rely on others to transport them places.
Of course, there are issues that would arise with teleportation that would have to be resolved, as with any other technology. Privacy and security in particular would be at risk, though to what degree would depends on how exactly teleportation would work. Regardless, new procedure and technologies would have to be put in place to protect homes, businesses, and government facilities from unwanted entry. As with anything, mistakes and accidents are sure to occur, and there may also be religious objections.
Nonetheless, I believe that teleportation would be an incredible and desirable advance to make, on par with the Internet itself. Hopefully someday scientists will discover a safe, cost-effective way to make it happen.
Taken once again from Star Trek but as seen in multiple sci-fi/fantasy worlds, replication would allow objects of any kind to be created at your convenience. We've already started to see a movement towards this with 3D printing, but as of today, those printers are incredibly slow, very pricey, and can only create objects out of plastic, metal, or stone. The pinnacle of replication, on the other hand, would allow us to convert atoms and molecules instantaneously into whatever was needed.
The potential uses of this are obviously widespread and incredible. For disabled people, replication would make so many things possible. Many disabled people, including me, struggle with shopping. This issue has been decreased thanks to the Internet and delivery services, but many goods aren't accessible through these methods, especially in smaller towns and the country. Replication would make it possible to obtain goods of any kind, at any location, and quickly.
Another issue I have a lot of trouble with thanks to my disabilities is food preparation. I'm unable to do much more than boil pasta (though on good days I can make scrambled eggs or something else that requires a little more attention). Every action I take reduces my ability to perform further tasks. Considering that my diet is already extremely limited, this means that I eat essentially the same thing every day, and it's not very healthy. When I'm in need of something different, I have to rely on others to prepare it. Replication technology would make it possible for me to obtain a greater variety of foods with more flavor and more nutrients. My diet would probably still be pretty boring, given the nature of my conditions, but it would be far better than it is right now, and I wouldn't have to rely on anyone else.
Once again, there would be issues with this technology. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, after all. Many errors could be made during the replication process, possibly causing fatalities. This technology would become easier for people to access potentially dangerous items (as seen with the current controversy over whether gun patterns can be provided for 3D printers). Commerce as a whole would be turned upside down, extending to the far point of the Information Age where sellable commodities are no longer manufactured goods, but rather the information necessary for people to replicate those goods. Many jobs would be lost as a result.
However, I believe that we should strive towards knowledge, new technology, and societal advancement. Rather than protecting jobs that are becoming obsolete and holding society back as a result, we need to find new jobs and new ways of being that will allow for continued advancement. (For example, I'm giving a sideways glare to those who think that we should protect coal and oil jobs rather than create new jobs in the renewable energy field.) We need to teach the skills necessary for the developing nature of commerce. (I'm also glaring at people who don't think it's necessary to prioritize information skills in modern education.) We need to adapt. After all, our ability to adapt is a huge part of what has allowed the human species to flourish. (Personally, I also believe that the United States needs to let up on the capitalism obsession to make it less of a crisis when jobs are lost, but that's a different issue.) Ultimately, the benefits of moving forward with a technology like replication outweigh the risks.
Yes, space travel in a limited sphere is currently possible. But we aren't yet able to travel the vast distances necessary to explore our galaxy, let alone the universe, and the general population doesn't have access to even the limited travel we can achieve now. There are multiple projects working towards civilian space travel, but currently, this is limited to the very rich.
I look forward to future expansions of our space travel: both in how far we're able to go and in how accessible it is to the general public. In particular, when I read YA sci-fi novel Dare Mighty Things, I was quite hurt at how dismissive the story was of disabled people. (Though it's an intriguing and well-written book, it has a major focus on physical aptitude, including genetic engineering, which lends itself dangerously to eugenics.) It's true that today, astronauts have to be very physically capable. They have to be able to withstand all sorts of strenuous tasks and situations. Yet the idea that space travel must be limited to the able-bodied is one that I reject. As technology continues to develop, I think it's likely that space travel will become easier and safer and that new accommodations will be developed that will allow disabled people, as well as everyone else, to travel the stars.
As someone who lives with her head in the stars, I'm eager for that day to come.
Advances in Medical Treatments/Cures
Many disabled people don't want a cure for their condition and are happy as is. They consider their disabilities a part of their identity and something positive that adds diversity to the world, rather than something to be fixed. And that's great! No one should pressure them to think otherwise.
However, there's also a large percentage of us, particularly those suffering chronic pain and other long-term illnesses, who look forward to the day that better treatment and even potential cures exist. I suffer from fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, interstitial cystitis, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, and irritable bowel syndrome, which in combination have left me very disabled and very uncomfortable (i.e. I no longer remember what it's like to not be in pain or to not be tired). None of these conditions is currently curable or even very well understood. In my current state, I am perfectly capable of living a good life, but with better treatment or a cure, I could do so much more so much more easily.
So I look forward to the day that scientists gain a better understanding of these conditions. In particular, the human brain continues to be something of a mystery, and it's believed that my conditions are related to a dysfunction in brain processing. Once we have a better understanding of the brain, it's my hope that we'll also have a better understanding of my conditions.
As science and technology progress, new treatments and accommodations for specific disabilities are also developed. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Geordi La Forge, the chief engineer, has a disability (blindness). I love Geordi, both because he's just a great character with a likable personality, and because he represents disability in a positive and active way, which is something you rarely see in popular media, let alone sci-fi. Though he hasn't been "cured," and indeed isn't really interested in a cure, he has a Visor that sends signals to his brain, allowing him to "see," though the experience is quite different from that of people without blindness. His Visor even shows him different energies, which is useful for his job and in various emergency situations.
Meanwhile in the Star Trek world, medical technology for the general population is also highly developed. Injuries can be diagnosed and healed almost instantaneously. One particularly intriguing device is the hypospray, which delivers highly effective medicine without the use of needle. This technology has, in fact, been developed in real life, though it still requires a great deal of testing and is a lot way from becoming generally available.
Though I don't know specifically what medical science will discover in the future, and when/if a technology like the Visor will be possible, I'm sure that many new technologies like this will be developed to help people with disabilities live a better life in our society. I look forward to that.
There are, of course, other sci-fi technologies that I'd love to see, but not because of my needs as a disabled person. Some cool ideas include real-time universal translators that automatically transmit the words to your ears/mind, technology that allows us to actually see and study our dreams, a much thinner and more comfortable spacesuit, and technology that uploads basic information to our minds. The first three have already been developed, though they aren't fully tested or generally accessible. The last one is still just a fantasy.
What sci-fi technologies you do most look forward to having? Let me know, and I'll be back next week to talk about one of most favorite technologies: social media.
Images via neatorama.com, omniboo.com, nypost.com, and thestar.com.
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