Flying cars, hoverboards, jetpacks, time travel – these are just a few of the outlandish predictions of sci-fi authors that are entertaining as thought experiments, but which have no real chance of ever actually being feasibly deployed in society on a large scale, let alone mass-produced and dominating our lives, as in the dystopian visions of the near future that this genre churns out by the thousands claims.
Self-driving cars, on the other hand, are something that keep being heralded as just around the corner. Numerous articles, TV shows, news pieces and (especially) company statements have been singing the praises and even predicting the dangers of this technology that is supposedly going to revolutionise the way we travel and how safe our streets are.
But just like jetpacks and flying cars, autonomous cars are not going to be flooding the streets this year, nor next year, and even if they do become more common, it is also fairly unlikely that they will become the main form of transport for most until massive advances are made in artificial intelligence.
There are several factors that lead to overly optimistic predictions about new technologies and their potential to revolutionise our lives in a short space of time, especially with technologies related to artificial intelligence.
irstly, there are examples of when some technologies do take off, such as cars (just the plain old human-driven variety), personal computers, the Internet, and smartphones. It is easy to draw comparisons between whatever is new and the old examples, and speculate that the latest innovation is going to be the next big thing.
When there is a real demand and sufficient practical applications for these technologies, if they can be mass-produced cheaply enough, they will quickly become part of everyday life. But that’s a pretty rare occurrence, judging from the extremely short list of technologies that have done this and the extremely long list of those that have not.
Then there is the 24-hour news cycle that has to keep churning out articles to attract and retain readers and viewers. This is the root of many of the problems that we can see leading to some of the absurdities of modern human life, and we will return to it in coming posts.
Lastly, there is the economic model that tech companies base their entire existences on – selling a dream, and then soliciting billions of dollars in investment to fund the development of that dream. Marketing hype does wonders for tech entrepreneurs looking to create the next unicorn or be minted as instant billionaires.
Invariably though, reality catches up with and crushes the dream, and even once “inevitable” technologies go by the wayside or are eventually released with a lot less fanfare and features, as we can see with some of the smart features that were supposed to be in autonomous vehicles being gradually incorporated into standard motorist-driven cars on the market today. Doesn’t mean we should stop dreaming though!