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The Scientists Have Got Their Priorities Wrong - We Need Fewer Death Robots and More Hoverboards

Posted: 24/01/2014 11:34

I'm part of the generation that grew up with technology. We had computers in the school classrooms right from the beginning. Granted, the only thing you could do on them was make a cartoon apple jump up and down by typing words, but it's not so different from the educational games children play nowadays, it's cartoonish and playful, if a bit (a lot) pixellated. Almost as far back as my memory stretches, computers were a fact of life, but they have gone from a distraction in the corner of the room at school to a constant presence in my life. Everywhere I go, I carry a little computer that contains all my photos, emails, maps and phone contacts. It wakes me up in the morning with its alarm and occasionally through a Radio 4 podcast, helps me to go to sleep at night. I sometimes envision showing my younger self an iphone and watching how much it would blow my mind. Or maybe it wouldn't. Perhaps all the films of the late eighties and early nineties prepared me for exactly the technological achievements that later materialised.

Robocop is currently set to return to our screens after a twenty-seven year hiatus, but it barely needs to be made. We already live in a period where the functions of the state are being increasingly taken on by sinister megacorporations like G4S, whose logo even looks exactly like an 80s image of an evil conglomerate, complete with the ominous motto of 'Securing Your World'. Fortunately for us, so far they've only proven to be incompetent rather than actively villainous, but the prospect of them running both the police and the prisons is pretty terrifying. Though not as terrifying as the robotic Valkyries that rain death down upon Pakistani and Afghan villages as part of the war on terror. Their controllers, staring at screens, much like those portrayed in Wargames, move their joysticks and press their buttons to bring anything but joy to those they look down upon. Reports from their former operators of what it's like to be engaged in such alienated slaughter are harrowing, and who knows how long it will be before their human pilots are replaced with automated systems to avoid such unwanted psychological damage. Much like the backstory to Terminator? Exactly like it - and self-aware artificial intelligence is already a fact of life.

Next year we'll reach the year in which Back to the Future is set, and though there's a disappointing lack of hoverboards around, a number of their other predictions proved to be fairly prophetic. The screens, the video phones, the video glasses are all a reality, though not necessarily as popular as first thought. A new app has even been created to help you film yourself having sex using your google glasses, possibly a creepy precursor to the sex helmets in Demolition Man. Even the screwball comedies have proved prescient as last week we learned that womb transplants are now possible. How long before we can actually impregnate Arnold Schwarzenegger like in the film Junior? And while we're on the subject of toying with nature, scientists now say that it's definitely possible to bring back a mammoth by combining its preserved DNA with that of an elephant, just as they did with dinosaurs and frogs in Jurassic Park. It's pretty cool, but lets face it - they're just hairy elephants. It's nowhere near the dream of having a pet triceratops.

The more I think of it, our current existence seems to have taken on all the dystopian aspects of the films I grew up watching; we have omnipresent screens ordering us to buy more things and sinister megacorporations hiding behind friendly images (I'm looking at you google...). What we don't have is awesome dinosaur amusement parks. I want to be able to teleport like in Star Trek, but all we have is addictive screens, sex helmets and soon-to-be pregnant Arnold Schwarzeneggers. The scientists who developed these things clearly watched the same films as me, but the got their priorities all wrong. From now on, I want less surveillance, fewer death-robots, and I want a hoverboard. You've got a year to make this happen, guys.

 

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