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Back to future - is the future closer than it appears?

Over 100 years ago a writer named John Elfreth Watkins made a number of predictions about the future, some of which have come true and we consider them commonplace. He predicted digital photography, mobile phones and pre-cooked meals to name a few around the year 1900. Imagine the time he made these predictions, they would have sounded ridiculous and impossible, but we are living this impossible in our daily lives today(Here is a link of the full article of this predictions). My cousin shared a short video clip that depicted a daughter telling her mother she got skin implants that have integrated her cell phone in her hand. This got me thinking, are we prepared for the future? It is approaching faster than we imagined and when I look back at the last 20 years, it amazes me how it has slowly creeped into our reality without us noticing.

I remember as a kid watching the cartoon “The Jetsons”, it depicted a family in the far future, who had a robot as a maid (though the robot still wore an apron and was named Rosie ha ha). I never imagined in my lifetime it would be possible, but we already have these robot vacuum cleaners that go around the house sweeping and mopping and auto-dock when they run low on battery. So how far are we from the future, I mean my neighbour already owns one of these. It is exciting to think what else will be commonplace in the next 20 years? My imagination is limited and I do not watch sci-fi enough to have any idea, maybe I should.

Astrologically I am aware that 2020 is a year of great significance as we stand on the cusp of a global era change, the end of a 200 year old cycle and the beginning of the next. Last 200 years belonged to the element of Fire, we saw dominance of oil, coal, fuel, the rise of the industrial revolution and more natural disasters as wild fires. The next cycle belongs to the element of Earth, we will see the rise of agriculture and anyone investing in it will dominate, there will be wars for water rather than oil and we can expect more earth quakes than wild fires. I am linking here a video which outlines all the changes we can expect based on historic evidence coupled with astrology.

In our busy lives we never pause and think how far we have come in technology, the millennial generation has seen it closer than we realize (I feel those born from 1970-1990), we have known a world where we celebrated the day a landline phone came home and we sat around it expecting the first phone call with baited breadth, or decided who was important enough to call first. When we fought with our siblings to hang the phone as we were expecting another call, fast forward to today when we have dual sim card mobile phones and cannot live without Wi-Fi. I still remember my first mobile phone, I got it when I was doing my masters degree and was thrilled with the 100 SMS per day pack. I upgraded my phone when I started working and it had a VGA camera and I bragged about it. (I can imagine few of you asking google what a VGA camera is ha ha ha). Now before you start thinking what is so unique about this generation, even the generation before experienced inventions like the TV and refrigerators, think again, the very way of living in all aspects of life has changed over the last 20 years. It is more profound than any generation before this and is only going to accelerate. I watched a tamil movie "Comali" which depicted a 15 year old boy who goes into a coma in the late 90's and wakes up in 2018 and the world has changed so much from flat screen TVs to high rise buildings and shopping malls.

I remember as a kid, going to the bank with my mother everytime we wanted to withdraw money, fill out a form & stand in a que. It used to be fascinating to watch the bank teller count the money and hand it over. And if we wanted to open a fixed deposit it was an important event and took time, sitting there chatting away with the bank employees as they slowly processed the application and we walked out with a physical certificate. I do not remember the last time I had to visit a bank in person, I now open my bank’s app and can do pretty much anything within a few clicks. Thanks to this pandemic I am not motivated to visit the ATM either, 95% of all transactions are cashless. The demonetization in India in 2016, was a huge change and an overnight shock to the country, many people complained and cribbed, but this in a way prepared us for the future of 2020, right from a pani poori seller to an auto-rickshaw driver all accept online money. The world is fast moving towards a cashless economy and more than that it is moving towards a new currency altogether. The digital currency will take over and the days of printing money would be soon be over.

Technology has changed every aspect of our lives, from online doctor consults to gadgets that monitor our health, to online shopping with same day delivery to online schools. I distinctly remember a conversation with my brother many years ago, he described a smart tv that could connect to your phone and with a swipe you can see photos in your phone on the TV and I was spellbound by that idea. It is two years since I have such a TV at home and I didn't even remember this conversation when I bought it. From live streaming weddings to giving Amazon evouchers as wedding gifts, from buying glasses online by trying them virtually to getting pets home delivered (I bought my fishes and birds online), I could have never ever imagined this possible or necessary even upto 15 yrs ago. I was on a video call with a close friend the other day and saw her son playing with his new hoverboard and remembered seeing that in Back to the future part II movie years ago.

I am not sure of a robot uprising, but am sure robots will soon be normal, sooner than we think. My 10 year old nephew was describing his visit to this restaurant where robots serve the food, not long till all of us have our own R2D2 & C3PO ( robots in Star Wars). It is fascinating and scary at the same time, long gone is our privacy with Alexa and Google home, and our mobiles already listening devices. When I search for a song on my mobile and when I then turn on my smart TV and open YouTube, I type a single letter of the same song and the AI recommends it, I sometime feel it can read my mind. Once I landed in Pondicherry, and switched on my mobile waiting to get off the plane, and Google message popped up "Welcome to Pondicherry" and it creeped it out, how the hell does Google know where I am, until I realized the flight schedule had auto synced to my calendar.

Hey remember the time we used to travel without GPS, asking strangers for directions, yeah that time existed, my parents drove us inter cities relying on strangers to show us the way. I think we should all stop and think what could actually change in the next 20 years? Maybe watching sci-fi will help and we will need an open mind. I believe we can have integrated mobiles, we click a button on our temples and project a screen, no need to carry around laptops as well. Technology has crept up so stealthily on our psyche, we already have embedded medicine patches and who knows wolverine might also be a possibility, wont that be cool ;-). Something like the matrix scares me, but we already have self driving cars. Do you think teleportation might come sooner than we imagine? This pandemic has really accelerated the need for AI and virtual reality, companies are discussing the future of work 5-10 years earlier than it would have manifested. The question then is are we prepared for the future or are we just as oblivious as before? Something worth pondering , let me know your thoughts.


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