Every time I read an article about a futuristic development of some kind (flying cars, mapping the entire surface of the moon, bionic hands, batteries made of paper), I find myself asking some variation on this question:
When is the future going to get here?
I'm sure a lot of the science fiction I've immersed myself in has influenced my expectations, I have a pronounced taste for near and intermediate future visions, where things happen in the 21st century. Consequently, my expectations of the 21st century are intense. We should have Earth orbit colonies. We should have solar sails. We should have self-cleaning clothing, medical nanobots, Methusaleh lifespans, teleportation, android servants, an end to poverty, war, hunger, and weather control. There's more; I can go on like this pretty much all day. The point is... where is that stuff? We don't even have a space elevator. Hell, we don't even have a high-functioning space program. This strikes me as pretty inexcusable.
Don't people know this is the future already? Don't people know, that we could have had all these things, if only we were even working on it? Even the major drivers of innovation (the sex-for-money industries, grinding poverty, and arms races) aren't really getting us there. The reluctant conclusion I have come to is that things aren't bad enough yet.
Human beings love and hate change, all at once. We'll embrace the things that aren't too threatening (cell phones, lightweight waterproof fabrics, vision corrective laser surgery) but there is apparently no reason to chase the big game. Who needs a space elevator? Who needs a moon base?
In fact, who needs the future? People seem to fantasize constantly about returning to... nature? the past? a simpler time? What do those people want? outdoor plumbing? Cholera? Typhoid? Polio? The freedom to enjoy the butter you make yourself, because the things you have to do to make your own butter are sufficient to keep that heart attack at bay? I take this pining for the imaginarily romantic past as a sign of either a fear for, or at least a tacit acknowledgment of, the future. It means that things ARE changing. If things weren't changing, no one would need to retreat.
I suspect my real complaint is that, unlike the past, the future comes incrementally. It isn't delivered wholesale to my doorstep. I won't wake up in The World of Tomorrow. And, I probably won't live to see anything on my list happen. Believe me, I keep track, I know which of those things are under development right now, and I just don't see most of them happening in a timely fashion.
Well, self-cleaning clothing, maybe.