Future Imperfect

I realized I’ve been falling for type of faulty thinking. I don’t think this kind of fallacy has a name, because it’s not the kind of thing that is always directly translatable into an argument. Most of the fallacies we run into are things you see in rhetoric.

I guess you could call what I’ve been suffering from is mental inertia. You look at something new with the same assumptions that you always applied to old things. I think you see this a lot when people talk about the future. It’s always been a staple of thinking about the future that we’ll have flying cars, but I think almost nobody ever really thinks through what that would actually be like. Would it really be any better than what we have today. The closest thing we have to flying cars are ducted aircraft that have fuel economy that make the worst SUV’s look like Priuses. Just think about. They need to burn fuel just to stand still.

How would you get your license for a flying car. Even if it’s made as easy to pilot as possible, it would probably still be a long and expensive process, not unlike what you have to go through to get a pilot’s license. Once you have your license, you can enjoy the freedom of the skies. Except that with so many other flying cars, there will have to be strict rules to follow about no fly zones, designated flight corridors, etc. Anything less would most likely be a public safety nightmare.

Of course, maybe these futuristic cars will be self piloted. But if you can get in a car, tell it your destination, and then sit back and watch Gravity Falls until you get there, does it really matter whether it leaves the ground or not? You can get your work or leisure activities done during the trip, so why are you in such a hurry, and that’s assuming that flying will actually work out to be faster.

I’ve run into a similar example when I show people my electric car. A common question is “How long does it take to charge?” The best answer I can give them is “I don’t know.” The nature of the question doesn’t really apply. It takes ME about 20 seconds to charge the car: 10 to plug it in at night, and 10 to unplug it in the morning. How long it takes the car is not really a pertinent question. It's the same as your cell phone. Have you ever felt the need to time how long it takes to charge, or do you just plug it in and go to sleep, confident that it'll be charged in the morning?

I realized today that I’ve had something similar going on. I’ve always pictured holograms as something like that projection of Princess Leia in Star Wars, or maybe the chess-like game that appeared later on. It would be something you’d use for communications or entertainment. The TV companies have been desperate to convince us that 3D TV’s are the next big thing. They managed to convince a lot of people that the switch to digital meant you had to ditch that tube TV that had served you well since 1988, and so had about a decade of unprecedented sales. Once everyone had converted, however, they we stuck unless they could invent another “must have” technology. Enter the 3D TV. Not many of us fell for it though. We’ve even had a few hand held devices with 3D technology, with a tiny bit of success.

Well I just found an application. It’s not for the young, hip early adopters. It’s for the guys who aren’t quite ready to abandon their youth and start carrying around reading glasses. How about a tablet that makes the screen appear to be a window. Through that window, you see the virtual screen, that’s just passed arm’s length away. You know, where you wish you could hold your tablet to bring it into focus. The 3D technology isn’t really showing anything that wasn’t there before. It’s just showing it to you so that it’s in focus.