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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Reading List: Where's My Jetpack?

Wilson, Daniel H. Where's My Jetpack? New York: Bloomsbury, 2007. ISBN 1-59691-136-0.
One of the best things about the past was that the future was so much cooler then! I mean, here we are, more than halfway through the first decade of the flippin' twenty-first century for heaven's sake, and there's nary a flying car, robot servant, underwater city, orbital hotel, or high-speed slidewalk anywhere in sight, and many of the joyless scolds who pass for visionaries in this timid and unimaginative age think we'd all be better off renouncing technology and going back to being hunter-gatherers—sheesh.

This book, by a technology columnist for Popular Mechanics, wryly surveys the promise and present-day reality of a variety of wonders from the golden age of boundless technological optimism. You may be surprised at the slow yet steady progress being made toward some of these visionary goals (but don't hold your breath waiting for the Star Trek transporter!). I was completely unaware, for example, of the “anti-sleeping pill” modafinil, which, based upon tests by the French Foreign Legion, the UK Ministry of Defence, and the U.S. Air Force, appears to allow maintaining complete alertness for up to 40 hours with no sleep and minimal side effects. And they said programmer productivity had reached its limits!

The book is illustrated with stylish graphics, but there are no photos of the real-world gizmos mentioned in the next, nor are there source citations or links to Web sites describing them—you're on your own following up the details. To answer the question in the title, “Where's My Jetpack?”, look here and here.

Posted at August 12, 2007 00:21