What Futuristic Promise Makes You Most Sceptical?

Within the past decade, we've seen technologies that had been promised for years finally become mainstream successes. The smartphone? Yep! The tablet computer? You betcha! Ebooks? They now account for nearly a quarter of book sales. But we're still waiting on plenty of other technologies that were dreamed up by the generations that preceded us.

Automated cars? That one's been around since at least 1939 and pops up as the next surefire thing decade after decade. Humanoid robot butlers? Those have been promised for longer than the word "robot" has even existed. The complete meal-in-a-pill? Despite its 19th-century origins, we haven't quite figured out how to make that one happen just yet.

Sure, we have jetpacks and flying cars and even some kinds of household robots, but they're not even close to the affordable, high-tech and (most importantly) ubiquitous products that they were envisioned as being 50 years ago. So where does that leave our predictions today?Whether it's wearable computers or driverless vehicles or even vacations in space, it's nice to think that they might become a reality within our lifetime.

But which guaranteed-sure-thing of tomorrow gives you the biggest case of the eyerolls? Is there a technology that you think will be the "where's my jetpack?" of the year 2063?




      And also that pizza enlarger oven in Back To The Future 2. Surely that was meant to be a thing by now.

    supersonic air travel for sure, we know a supersonic airliner is possible, there have been two in regular service, and now there are none...

      Sadly, I agree. The annoying thing is that we don't have it now because of purely economic reasons; there's a bigger profit margin in cramming people into 747s like so much raw beef.

    The PS4 being "DRM-free". LOL.

    Space elevator and nuclear fusion. The former is receiving a lot of attention in terms of talk, but still is not even a paper project, the latter is seeing active R&D, but is seemingly getting nowhere, or at least any kind of progress must be measured in decades over decades.

    Last edited 18/06/13 12:11 am

    Flying cars. Helicopters and aeroplanes are already dangerous enough...

      Ever since Paul Moller was interviewed on Towards 2000 twenty odd years ago I was patiently waiting for the release for the silly bloody thing! Gave up on it in the end, got sick of waiting. Hopefully someone else will crack that nut in the end... :)

      Last edited 18/06/13 7:11 am

    It feels like every other day I hear about the amazing battery tech that is just around the corner.

      Can't help but feel the auto industry among others are holding it back, The tech will probably trickle down so slowly that all the manufacturers can squeeze every last dollar out of us (through periodic upgrades instead of in one big go). :(

    Faster than light travel and anti-gravity/gravity control. Neither of these things will EVER happen.

      Yeah? I think those are both potentials. NASA has such faith in one FTL project that it's actually investing money in developing it, and research into either the Higgs boson (for manipulating the Higgs field) or proving the existence of a gravitational force carrier (eg. gravitons) would allow for manipulation of mass or gravitational fields similar to the way noise-cancelling headphones or photon interference work.

        A positive attitude and an open mind will do far more than negativity every time and if you don't even try, nothing will ever happen.... :)

          You must have loved the ending of Sphere?

            I seem to recall that the Sphere itself flew off when they did the right thing and determined to forget it. Positive in the end.. :)

        NASA is not investing money in FTL, it is investing money in physics research to try and decide if they can bend the immutable laws of physics to make it possible. i.e. NASA is trying to find out if it is worth pursuing even though Special Relativity says it is not. There is also a very big difference between confirming the quantum natue of gravity and being able to manipulate it.

        Confimring the existence of the Higgs Boson is not going to change anything or lead to anything. It will confirm (or bust) the Standard Model, which has been the prevailing belief for around 50 years now (Higgs' reaserach dates back to the early 1960s). Proving it conclusively isn't going to suddenly open any doors into other areas of research, although it might free up funds and minds to start looking at other things. There is also the fact that busting the Stanard Model might actually allow things like the Alcubierre Drive to become a reality. So if you really want FTL, it might be good to bet against Higgs.

        All this stuff is just bunch of mathematical unknowns that some head-in-the-clouds dreamers want to be able to prove might be allowed by some back-door workaround of the laws of physics. Whilst being heads-in-the-clouds dreamers might have worked well enough for the Montgolfier and Wright brothers, we don't really live in that world any more. And the thing with mathematics is that just because you can balance an equation doesn't mean you're right, it just means teh assumptions you've made have allowed you to get to a result.

          Are you saying that humans or trans-humans in one million years will still not be able to manipulate gravity?
          The more we know, the less roadblocks there are for any sort of technology, even if it takes millenia for our descendents to discover them.

          NASA is currently working on building a White-Juday warp-field interferometer to detect artificial warping of spacetime at a small scale. The experiment involves both the interferometer and small-scale devices that can cause the warping in the first place. There's no bending of the laws of physics, all the details of Alcubierre's theory operate within current understanding of quantum mechanics, with the only unusual element being exotic matter. The Standard Model, which doesn't account for exotic matter, is flawed in a number of ways and you can expect it to be adjusted as experimental data comes through, but the Higgs field isn't a game breaker for Alcubierre's theories.

          The Higgs field, and the breakdown of its boson, account for the attribution of mass to W and Z bosons as well as a neutral coupling with fermions, giving them mass as well. All current confirmed bosons, massive and massless both, can be interfered with under the right conditions, so there's no reason at this point to believe the breakdown of the Higgs boson can't also be interfered with, under the right conditions. The ability to alter the mass of objects at the subatomic level would be one of two key mechanisms behind the idea of antigravity, the other being interference with a gravitational force carrier, such as presented in graviton theory.

          In the event the Higgs field is disproven (though the boson is tentatively confirmed as of a few months ago), gravitational force is still an observable phenomenon with a cause that will inevitably be identified by science. There are a number of good Higgsless theories on the subject and one of the reasons the LHC experiments are so important is because their result determines the direction that future research will follow.

          Edited to add: NASA's experiments are focused on confirming the Alcubierre metric, not necessarily his theories on how to manipulate that metric. Provided the metric is confirmed, other mechanisms for influencing it may exist that don't rely on exotic matter. Certainly, confirming the metric itself is an important first step for this particular line of research.

          Last edited 18/06/13 11:22 am

            So they are building a detector. Whoop-de-do! What if it is unable to detect anything?

            You do understand that the Higgs Field only applies on the very, very small scale, don't you? It can't be extrapolated to make you float above the surface of the Earth. Manipulating it will only make matter fly apart.

            " all the details of Alcubierre's theory operate within current understanding of quantum mechanics" Except that his drive requires negative mass to be a real thing, which does not fit with the Standard Model, hence my comment.

              The Higgs field doesn't need to operate at a larger scale, the property of mass comes from the subatomic level to begin with: primarily the interaction of Dirac fermions, along with the massive bosons, with the Higgs field, at least in the Standard Model. Losing mass isn't going to cause objects to disintegrate because they're held together by strong interaction at the subatomic level and electromagnetic force at the atomic level, not by gravitational force.

              Alcubierre's drive theory involves exotic matter, as I mentioned, yes. But exotic matter isn't prohibited by the Standard Model, it's simply not mentioned. Exotic matter of the type required hasn't yet been observed, which is why the Standard Model makes no effort to define it.

              Last edited 18/06/13 12:38 pm

                Is there an english translation of what you just wrote? Smaller words and pictures would help!

                  I have a few physicist friends who could probably explain it well, I'll see if I can get one of them to write something up for me to pass on. I have a light to moderate understanding of the mechanisms involved, but not well enough to simplify it without introducing mistakes.

                  A few quick ones that are easy enough to explain though:
                  - Bosons and fermions are the two elementary subatomic particles that everything else is made from. Some have mass and some don't - a photon is a boson without mass, but the Higgs boson is a boson that does have mass.
                  - Gauge bosons are what carries force in the fundamental interactions, so they're sometimes called force-carrying bosons. Photons are the carrier for electromagnetic interaction, W and Z bosons carry weak interaction (used to be called weak nuclear force), and gluons carry strong interaction (used to be strong nuclear force).
                  - The Higgs boson is a gauge boson that gives the property of mass to other particles. It only exists for a very short amount of time and when it degrades, it gives mass to other bosons and fermions. It was tentatively confirmed as existing through the LHC experiments just recently.

                  Basically I was saying that even if you messed up the Higgs boson doing its job and you made matter have no mass, it wouldn't suddenly fall apart because mass and gravity isn't what's keeping it together in the first place. Gravity is actually a fairly weak force compared to strong interaction, which is the force that keeps all the subatomic bits and pieces of an atom together, and electromagnetism, which keeps electrons orbiting protons, or different whole atoms attached together to make compounds, solids and liquids.

                  @Zombie Jesus
                  I've always been interested in the works being conducted by the LHC, particularly since recent word of the discovery of a Higgs Boson, but while understanding the basic reasons behind the experiments and how the LHC worked, I had a very narrow understanding of what this meant for scientific research in the future. Thank you for your breakdown of what it all means. I just want to make sure I understand this correctly...

                  The manipulation (or interference) of the Higgs Boson means that we may be able to not only break matter down on a subatomic level but stop it from reforming temporarily? Is that correct?

                  I firmly believe that the concept of time travel is absolute baloney. But I would have to assume that this kind of research, however perhaps not in our lifetime, could certainly pave the way for such technologies of FTL travel and perhaps even teleportation. I honestly would have thought that gravitational manipulation would be much simpler than any of this. Am I wrong?

                  None the less, I'm with Seth Sentry here. Hoverboard, where the [email protected]#$ is it?

                My initial response was a little tongue in cheek but I appreciate the effort you have gone to. Kudos!

                @Crazy, I've replied to my own post here to not spam red with reply messages, and because the thread depth has hit Gizmodo's rather low limit. Hope you still manage to find it =)

                The Higgs boson is a gauge boson that is believed to give mass to other bosons and fermions, which collectively give all matter its mass. Interfering with the Higgs boson isn't even theoretically possible at the moment, I was just speculating that it may become possible in the future. However, I don't expect that interfering with the Higgs boson would cause matter to break apart at the subatomic level, because mass isn't what keeps matter together at that scale, but rather a force called strong interaction, or strong nuclear force. At the atomic level, what keeps things together is electromagnetic force, with protons having a positive charge and electrons having a negative charge.

                To disrupt matter at the subatomic level, there would need to be a way to interfere with gluons, which are the gauge bosons that carry the force of strong interaction. I have no idea what would happen if such a thing were possible, but considering the massive amount of energy released through fission at the atomic scale, an even stronger result from what would effectively be subatomic fission could be a possibility. Physics is a hobby and deep personal interest for me rather than a profession, so take any personal theorising I do with a grain of salt =)

                I'd tend to agree that time travel in the backwards direction isn't possible. The scientific reasoning aside, the simple logical reasoning is that given infinite time in the future and/or infinite space, someone at some point would have come back and told us it was possible. They haven't, so creative fiction about split timelines and such aside, there's no reason to believe it is a possibility.

      I guess it depends on what papers you read. If you're in the school of FTL being full stop impossible then we're also developing warp drives which I think seems like a much faster and safer way of traversing space. I believe we can develop both though. Gravity/anti is still in the early stages as we begin to understand what mass is and the fields it creates.

      I agree with you about FTL. The amount of energy required is not feasible, as well as the whole relativity thing (ie. closer to light speed you get, the "heaver" you get and the resultant time distortion)
      Anti-grav is a different story completely. Once we understand how/why gravitation works, it will be a matter of time, just like our understanding of aerodynamics led to our flight technology.

        The Lorentz equations (also where energy use comes from) are based on static spacetime. That's what makes Alcubierre's theory interesting and worth investigating, because manipulating the curvature of spacetime could theoretically allow a patch of spacetime to move faster than light relative to its surroundings, without violating the energy and mass limitations of relativity.

        Besides that, quantum entanglement shows evidence of information transfer at apparent faster-than-light speeds, so it may be the case that the whole 'nothing faster than light' notion might have some interesting exceptions and limited scope.

      I agree with FTL we can't travel faster than light and it would be easier just to bend time and space to travel vast distances. But anti gravity not so much. Why? Well, we have all that now with Planes, Helicopters, basically anything that flies could be seen as anti-gravity. Gravity is a very weak force compared to other forces out there.

      FTL is already possible, just depends on the medium light is traveling through ;)

    The paperless office, now that's a promise they made a long time ago... :)

      This can be a a reality now. People are just stubborn and stuck in their ways.

        Oh I disagree, every office I've been in still uses printed documents, particularly receipts. There may be a better way out there but clearly it's not worth using or they would use it. How would you stop using paper in your office if you have one? :)

          Well I actually do work in an office, and while we aren't completely paperless there isn't really much reason we couldn't be. We interact with clients through Video calls / phone / e-mail and send invoices electronically. I get payslips that way and all data is stored on shared network drives. I assume it works much like this in most places.

          While people do still print things such as reference sheets or phone number lists, its pretty uncommon that something isn't just e-mailed. The only exception I can think of is for leave or sick days, where we need to fill it out on paper (though we use the outlook calendar to mark these events, so I'm not sure why both are required when we could just send an e-mail).

          My comment in reference to people being stuck in their ways definitely applies here, people print things to physically hold it, they like the feel of paper or it helps them visualize the data easier, maybe another reason. They could just as easily keep and view it on their computer, but because that's not what they are used to (mostly older people are to blame here) why would they change? Humans, unfortunately, are averse to change - especially once they are accustomed to something.

          Really though, I think that this is something nearly any office could adopt quite easily, obviously with some exceptions depending on the line of work. Document management systems are readily available, high yield scanners are cheap, and network infrastructure is ubiquitous enough that we can send everything electronically with ease. Personally, I can't think of much reason not to be paperless, other than people wanting to keep a physical backup of the data for whatever reason, or perhaps simply people's inability to adapt to a changing environment - I've worked a few places where they have tried to go paperless and the senior management or long term employees always have issues with it, then we revert back to the old system. Every. Single. Time.

          Anyways, didn't plan on this being so long, sorry :P

          The company I'm contracting to at the moment is a large rail infrastructure operator, and there's been a steady movement to digitised documentation over the past 5 years. Aside from hard copy archival, all engineering drawings for the last few years have been required to be digital, business documentation is all digital and stored in a document management system. Some people here still print out a lot of stuff but it's being steadily reduced. I think there's acknowledgement in the industry that paperless is a necessary target, as it reduces costs and improves accessibility and productivity.

          A few years ago I worked for Xerox, and back then there was a massive push to refocus the company on services and software solutions, because it was generally acknowledged that paper printing had been, and would continue to be, on the decline.

            @timmahh @motormouth
            Fair enough, it's actually nice to hear that it's starting to take hold. I've been hearing the promise for decades though, so you'll have to forgive my reticence to hail hallelujah. I still think it will be a long time before paperless offices are ubiquitous though. :)

          We don't use paper at work. All our job requests come via email, the finished work goes straight onto a server and a preview is emailed back to the client. I do my weekly timesheet electronically and get a PDF payslip via email. The only paper in our office is a thick wad of instructions on how to get all the things that constantly break working again on our MacPros but no-one uses it because things break so frequently we have it all committed to memory.

    The sci-fi author EE 'Doc' Smith came up with a metal called 'X' which caused copper to convert it's mass to energy either quickly or slowly.
    This was used in starship propulsion and an inexhausible power source.
    Nuclear power was seen as an inexhaustible power source until the other risks manifested

    Last edited 18/06/13 8:09 am

    The sci-fi author EE 'Doc' Smith came up with a metal called 'X' which caused copper to convert it's mass to energy either quickly or slowly.
    This was used in starship propulson and an inexhausible power source.
    Nuclear power was seen as an inexhaustible power source until the other risks manefested

    Time-travel. I feel nearly everything else is feasible.

      I'm pretty sure they've already done this, I saw a documentary about a teenager in an 80s sports car.

      Time-travel forward is theoretically possible. It's going backwards that is impossible with current theories. Simply need a huge gravitational mass and an FTL capable ship/device.

        Just get Superman to fly backwards around the Earth a few times. Problem solved.

      Forward time travel is possible, just go really fast. Time speeds up, so if you travel at 50% the speed of light for a day, you will return two days after you left.

    - True Artificial intelligence
    - Non-destructive teleportation
    - Time travel to the past (future, definately possible)
    - Anything that breaks the law of entropy (zero-point energy, living forever etc)

    - Light bridges
    - FTL drives
    - Cold fusion
    - Nanobots - build stuff and cure cancer?
    - holographic displays
    - Computer - human brain interface
    - Time travel
    - The Deathstar
    - Meal in a pill (gotta love the jetsons)

      A couple of those are actually feasible and may only be a couple of generations of technology away.
      - Cold fusion. some observable phenomena suggest that this may be happening in the universe, under specific circumstances.
      - Nanobots. This is not only possible, but inevitable. We'll need nanobots before we start working in the femto scale (ie. with constructing atoms and interacting with sub-atomic particles).
      -Computer Brain interface. some might argue that this already exists, but from brain->computer only. Once we (or post-humans) fully understand the brain, there is no reason why an i/o interface could not be designed.
      - Time Travel. to the future, possible. to the past, nope.
      - Deathstar. there is no reason why a sufficiently advanced race of humans or post-humans couldnt make a deathstar, just not in our lifetime.

    Half Life Episode 3

    Teleportation - having all of your atoms ripped apart and then magically reassembled in just the right order.

    I have moments now and then where I just step back and get blown away by life in the present. I'm living in the future right now! If anyone had said to me whilst I was at school in the 1980s that in my lifetime the roads would be full of aerodynamic jellybean electric cars, that I could play photorealistic computer games with someone on the other side of the world, that I could make a videophone call to anyone almost for free whilst walking down the street, that I could take photos without film and share them with people immediately, that a little box would tell me what directions to take when driving, that the greenhouse effect would be an issue within the mainstream political discourse... I would just laugh in their face and think of them as crazy. Sometimes it's nice to just go "wow" and appreciate the magical things around us right now.

    Im counting down the days for teleportation! I can't recall where but i seem to remeber reading they can now transport indervidual particals so it could be just around the corner? but then again, with teleportation, if its just around the corner or 1000's of km's away it wouldnt matter now would it ;)
    I want the #HTCOne for its: Design

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