Thought Leadership

I was led to believe we’d have flying cars by now

By Robin Bornoff

The rate of technological advancement over the last 150 years has changed society beyond measure. Riding the crest of this wave has evolved us to speculate beyond the present, to accept that things will continue to change and to ready us for the acceptance of what the future will herald. However that was then. As the electronic future washes over us in an ever growing number of electronic devices and capabilities there now seems to be a growing sense of impatience with the rate of change. I was led to believe we’d have flying cars by now.

Maybe Science Fiction writers are to blame. Robert A. Heinlein refered to it as ‘Speculative Fiction’ way back in 1947. An apt phrase. We’ve all been bought up on a diet of spacehips and ray guns in movies. Little news on the spacehip front at the moment but ray guns appear to be getting closer, check out Raytheons unveiling of an anti-aircraft laser at the Farnborough air show last week.

I’d like to think that individually we don’t have to be bound by the imaginations of film directors, SF authors and Apple to set our expectations as to what we actually want from the future. Queues of people outside Apple stores waiting for the next gen of their Pod, regardless of size, are at best passive consumers, eager to be pleased by a fashion based purchase.

I’m not really fussed about the size or colour of my phone or my walkman. What I am fussed about is the fact that I have no recorded memory of when I first saw my wife to be. I’d like to have the ability to recall that memory, even in picture form. I’d like to have a picture of the last time I saw my father. I’d wish I’d had a video camera to hand when a jet fighter passed 100ft above my garden last year, it was flying on its edge and banking steeply, I could see the pilots. I’d like to record my children in a school play without having to have my hand get sooo heavy holding a camcorder.

What I’d really like is to have an unobtrusive head mounted audio/visual recording system that was always recording at a resolution that would max out the available belt mounted storage media each day. I’d like that supported by face recognition and search software that would automatically or semi-automatically archive the interesting bits of each day for permanent storage.

Subsequent sharing of your life would revolutionise social networking, break down social divides and likely be an end to war (well, maybe).

I’d like not to be limited by the continued failings of my memory recall that seem to get worse each year. I’d also like to purchase such a system in my lifetime.

As consumers we should be less passive and more activist with our suppliers. Life’s too short to happily accept smaller phones or shinier PDAs as all that technology needs to provide. Next time you buy your next gizmo try doing it with a sense of disappointment that it is not more than it is. Focus on what you really want from technology and beat up on those not supplying it.

I was led to believe we’d have flying cars by now. What happened?

20th July 2010 Hampton Court

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at