We dreamed of teleportation. We got self-lacing shoes
Nor will anyone have to muddy their feet, as they will soon be able to interact in 3D virtual reality from the comfort of the sofa. While you’re strolling through a virtual Morrisons and selecting the pre-roasted chicken that will be delivered to your door, take a moment to remember that the future was supposed to have been about more than technological solutions to growing levels of physical inertia.
The future was supposed to have involved teleportation and flying cars: we dreamed of a time when it would be easier and more convenient to go to real places to see real people. Now you can sit at home talking to your chums on Minecraft while Deliveroo brings a burger direct to your gaping maw.
The dream of taking a weekend break on another planet has given way to the reality of a weekend on your own sofa, the blood in your legs slowly coagulating while you binge-watch a Will Arnett sub-comedy vehicle and consult possible takeaway delivery services. You could go out to that supermarket 500 metres away, but the next episode is going to automatically play in 11 seconds and there isn’t an Uber for delivering the remote control from the table to your hand to stop it.
Another Back to the Future idea that amazed audiences was hoverboards. They have turned out to be a steaming mound of lies. The only people you ever see standing on them look as effortless and unselfconscious as someone posing in a full-body security scanner. It almost goes without saying that they don’t hover. But since real boards that hover don’t properly exist, the companies selling these multiwheeled platforms can call them whatever they like. At least with these hoverboards, so long as you don’t eat too much, you could fit into some seriously skinny jeans because of the chronic muscle atrophy achieved by not self-powering your movement.Of course, nothing is ever as exciting as we imagine it to be, and many technological advances have been impressive. Computers can now beat me at games I have never played, my phone thinks I’m talking to it every time I say “sorry” to someone (I’m British: almost constantly), and I have to recharge my watch every day in order that it can vibrate when I receive an email.
People can offend, harass and abuse each other more efficiently than at any previous time in human history, and you can apply photo filters to make you look like someone who isn’t you. And you can spend many minutes of your time having a machine fail to recognise that the item has been placed in a bagging area that does not automatically bag your purchases.
The future has turned out to be much more about wires than people had hoped. My advice is to start stocking up on portable shoe battery chargers, because those self-lacing shoes are bound to require regular re-charging. Don’t forget to take that charging cable with you everywhere you go. Just one more to go with the lead to charge your watch, the one for your phone, and the one to charge the extra battery you carry around with you because your phone’s energy life is terrible.
In The Matrix humans exist in pods, receiving their nutrients directly while cocooned within a virtual reality world. At least we aren’t secreting our bodily functions into self-cleaning polymer onesies while learning of the fate of Venice Beach, lesbian prison inmates or the personal lives of thirtysomething New Yorkers from the glorious isolation of our sofas. We’re not quite in the pods yet.
At least self-lacing shoes suggest an ambition towards some sort of movement, if only the movement required to plug your trainers in to charge every night. While the future may be bright, the disappointing present is an ever more tangled pile of cables.