2004: The Year of the Cyborg

I did a little math last night and found out that I’ll be graduating from university in the year 2009.

What a distant futuristic number that is, the kind of date you would see on a captain’s log in a ship journeying through the vast expanse of space on a cargo run. Surely I will be wearing a space suit during the grad ceremony? The truth is that 2009 is only four and a half years away. This is not long enough for Mars colonies or graduations on the moon.

Have we failed then to achieve the visions conceived by hundreds of science fiction writers? Is living in the year 2004 not all it’s cut out to be?

Many people would have you believe this is so, usually with the classic complaint “where’s my flying car?” It’s true that such grandoise futuristics visions have not come true, but most of us overlook just how futuristic the present really is. I’m not talking about the amazing progress in efficiently manufacturing packs of Cheetos either. The human race has entered the next stage of technological advancement and we don’t even realize it.

Did you know that cyborgs are real? An American by the name of Jesse Sullivan lost both his arms in an accident on the job. He now has a mechanical replacement arm that he controls directly and naturally through his brain. No keyboards, no joysticks, no acrobatics to perform with his mouth; his thoughts control the arm. Don’t believe me? Look it up on the information network created by billions of connected computers. It’s known as the Internet and AOL offers a 600 hour free-trial.

A decade ago my mom warned me that you only have one set of eyes and that they can never be repaired. A few zaps from a laser can now correct many people’s vision.

Cloning was once one of the ultimate sci-fi stretches of imagination. Along came Dolly, the cloned sheep, in the distant year of 1996. Stem cell research makes progress daily and at least one UK company expects to have technology for regrowing human teeth on the market within five years.

We have the International Space Station, an incredible advancement for both technology and global unity. We have computers that can play movies, check your e-mail, run Tomb Raider, and take up less space than a pocket calculator. We have cracked the human genome and sent probes to distant planets. We have created carbon nanotubes and opened the doorway towards a realistic space elevator. The privately funded re-usable SpaceShip-One has successfully brought a man into space. The Alcor Life Extension Foundation stores rows of vitrified human brains that will be revived once we figure out how to regrow a human body.

In 1994 these advancements existed only in the worlds of movie script writers and mad scientists. Amazing video games had 256 colors, movies came on giant rolls of tape, and cell phones were electronic bricks owned by the rich. The future has quietly crept up on us and swapped out our entire world. It comes one gadget at a time, one little innovation, and leaves us with a lifestyle completely different from the past. There are practical reasons why flying cars will not exist but don’t be surprised when you can get a replacement lung cloned in 60 minutes or it’s free.