The sci-fi tech we won’t live without in the future
Sure, everybody wants a lightsabre, but really, would you even leave the house knowing that every plonker you bumped into could slice and dice you with some sort of fusion blade, or anti-matter flick knife? The lightsabre is one of those bits of sci-fi kit that seem enticing, but would probably end up destroying civilisation. A bit like a totally immersive VR. If you could plug into your version of heaven why would you ever leave?
Not all imaginary tech would prove destructive however, and not all of it is as unobtainable as a stable, functioning warp drive.
Just this weekend I stumbled upon this report of ‘plans’ for a hyper-sonic vacuum train to link the UK to the US. (No details included of how those busted-arse countries would pay for it, sadly). The idea is simple, and the tech available. Long story short, you bury tubes deep underground, suck all of the air out of them, and push mag-lev trains through at about 4000mph. It’s elegant, kinda awesome, and it’s been done before. By Peter F. Hamilton in his Night’s Dawn trilogy, where he called them vactrains.
Hamilton’s books are stuffed with must-have tech that I can’t believe we’d be able to live without in the future, but of course that doesn’t make him special in spec-fic terms. We’d all have our fave pieces of shiny if we were allowed them. (And, sorry, nobody is gonna allow you to walk around with a lightsabre in the future, except maybe in the US where it might fall under a 2nd Amendment protection).
What’s often confounding to me, as a guy who’s made up some tech I’d like to see in the real world (fusion stacks, reactive matrix body armour, flexipads) is how quickly the real can catch up with the imagined. I’ve been re-reading Weapons of Choice recently, familiarising myself with it again in preparation for going back to that story universe next year and although we’re no closer to clean, convenient fusion power than we were when I wrote that first book, some of the stuff I thought to be pushing it has proven kind of antique when compared to what actually happened. A flexipad’s got nothing on even a basic smartphone or slate. (Well, okay, maybe they got something on a discontinued HP touchpad). And even stuff like the reactive matrix armour is turning up in conceptual form as G-Form's PORON XRD padding.
Makes me wonder what sci-fi ideas might end up on the market in the next, say, twenty years. Vactrains, I’d love to see. And digital skin (again from Hamilton, this time in Fallen Dragon) seems to be on us already.
But why should I have all the fun. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to name one piece of imaginary tech that you’d love to get your hands on soon. Only rule, there has to be a realistic chance we’ll see it in the next 20 years. And, yes, I know, we've touched on this before. But it does happen to be my favorite topic ever.