Kennedy Goes Back To The Future

kennedyhoverboardDoes anyone here remember when President Kennedy announced that we would put a man on the moon before the end of the decade? Probably not – was before most of our time:

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced before a special joint session of Congress the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade.

and what happened? We got a man on the moon before the end of the decade…

Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that landed the first humans on the Moon, Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, on July 20, 1969, at 20:18 UTC. Armstrong became the first to step onto the lunar surface six hours later on July 21 at 02:56 UTC.

I don’t remember the announcement (wasn’t born yet) but I do remember vaguely something about the US landing on the moon (I was pretty young at the time). If you ever go to Florida and tour these actual ships, you won’t believe that we actually sent people up into space on these rickety things. I for one am surprised by the guts that these people had to push themselves to be able to actually get people to the Moon. The technology seems so backwards now.

Fast forward to 1989, and the movie Back To The Future II, where our intrepid Marty McFly travels to the year 2015 (yep, that’s next year folks) in order to save his kids from, well, I forget the plot. But what everyone remembers is the hoverboard.

Apparently, in the year 2015, we will have figured out anti-gravity to the point where we can build hoverboards which allow us to float over surfaces. While I’m sensing that the technology for a true hoverboard is a little further off, I’m seeing all sorts of interesting products just coming out now, starting to see very early, somewhat functioning prototypes of a true hoverboard. Like this one:

A California startup just built a real, working hoverboard. Arx Pax is attempting to crowdfund the Hendo Hoverboard as a proof of concept for its hover engine technology — it’s not quite the floating skateboard Marty McFly rode through Hill Valley (and the Wild West), but it’s an obvious precursor to the imagined ridable: a self-powered, levitating platform with enough power to lift a fully grown adult.

When I saw this I thought – this is very cool. Its almost like the space race of the 60s, but instead of gaining inspiration from our head of state, we are getting inspiration, (and the drive to build this in time for 2015), from popular media.

It almost makes me think – we should do more stuff like this – present cool, slightly futuristic things in movies and set a REAL date, so that when we start getting close to the date, some enterprising humans take the initiative and try to build the real stuff for the deadline. The deadline is the thing: without the deadline, would people still be dreaming about hoverboards and not trying to build them today?

Just goes to show you: you can get your inspiration and ideas (and deadlines) from any source. You can even set your own.

Google Is Your Dad

Flickr / Prupert

Flickr / Prupert

Do you remember the days when you used to go to your dad – or your mom – or your extended older family – in order to get advice and information on things? Your dad seemed to know everything, right? If you had a question on almost everything – why is the sky blue – why is the grass green – all of those how and why questions, he knew the answer. Weren’t we always in awe of his seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of everything?  He’d teach you how to iron shirts and shine your shoes (do people still do that?), barbecue meat, and not just the manly things. Dad was your go-to guy for, well, most anything.

How often did your parents say “I don’t know” when you asked them a question? They were always your first line of defense against ignorance.

But that’s not the case anymore. Your dad doesn’t know everything, your mom doesn’t know everything. Does that mean the the parents of today gotten dumber? I can’t tell you that – I guess its possible. Maybe for the same reason, too.

Knowing stuff is not as important as knowing where to go to get the knowledge. Knowing the fastest way to get the answer, instead of knowing the answer itself, has nearly become knowing.

That right folks: Google is your dad.

The other day I walked into the living room and my kids were talking about something I know about. They were asking each other a question, and just I was I about to answer the question, they both said “Let’s just Google it” and walked right past me into my younger sons room to go Google it…

Not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, Google does know more than me. So there is really no question Google can’t answer. And in some near future seamless world, where our wearable devices can listen to our surroundings and just answer our questions as soon as we ask them (or eventually even think them). So on the one hand, this is a good, and likely inevitable thing. We can’t stop it. But on the other hand, not being the “first line” of knowledge feels a bit weird. It’s the transition: have we already moved from a world where knowing something is less important than being able to Google it?

This is the future: the just-in-time delivery of knowledge, by vast machine “intelligences”. Soon enough, we won’t even need to know how to find the information we need to know – it will just come to us – as we need it, when we need it.

Is this simply a natural progression into a world where all the world’s knowledge is accessible by anyone, anytime, with a smartphone, or a horrible dumbing down of our society?