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Don't look now, but the future is here!

Mike Elgan | Sept. 8, 2015
We didn't get the future that was predicted. We got a much better one.

In comparison, the mid-century futurists could not have predicted or imagined even the IBM Deep Blue supercomputer that beat chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. Deep Blue was capable of 11.38 GFLOPS (a GFLOP is 1 billion floating point operations per second), which is puny compared to the 115.2 GFLOPS that the iPhone 6's A8 SoC delivers.

So when your BB-8 is rolling around amusing the family, it's being powered by the equivalent of more than 10 IBM supercomputers of the late 1990s.

So yeah, we have the predicted robot pets. And they're probably way more advanced than the futurists predicted.

Jet packs

Futurists also envisioned jet packs -- apparently believing that lashing a high-powered engine to your back would be a viable form of transportation. The jet pack idea was so compelling, in fact, that it was brought to fruition decades ago. The jet packs that, say, Nick Macomber flies in demonstrations are essentially perfected versions of the concept from the 1960s and '70s.

The jet packs based on the decades-old predictions keep you in the air for 30 seconds or so. They're also dangerous. The new version of the old jet pack vision is off-limits to the public.

Compare that with the much-better jet-pack-like concepts that are a reality, and are available to anyone who has the money and courage to use them. For example, check out this video of Yves Rossy and Vince Reffet, who fly jetpacks combined with hard-wing wingsuits to fly like Superman.

And next year, if you've got $150,000 to spend, you'll be able to buy the world's first commercially available jet pack, the Martin Jetpack.

Flying cars

Dozens of actual flying car products have hit the market, or will soon. Most of these are more accurately described as "roadable aircraft," because they're basically airplanes that have fold-up wings and can be driven on roads.

The creation of flying cars hasn't solved the problem of where you can fly them. Pilot's licenses and advanced training are required. Airspace, weather, obstacle avoidance and all the standard factors involved in flying planes apply. So the long-predicted dream of escaping traffic jams by taking off from the freeway and soaring into the sky can't happen because it's both dangerous and illegal. So most people who could own roadable aircraft don't. These vehicles are inferior airplanes and inferior cars. It's much better, it turns out, to buy a real car plus a real airplane.

But one of the core predicted attributes of yesterday's flying car of the future was the ability to fly to places where there's no airport or runway. And that vision is quickly becoming a reality.

 

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