How fictional is Science Fiction in this day and age?
HG Wells, Jules Verne, Neil Gaiman. There are numerous influences that have fed our minds with stories and theories of what the future will be like. In the past few decades, we have already seen some of these come true. Maybe not what we expected or imagined, but you have to admit that it is pretty darn close (self-lacing Nikes? Hoverboards? Jetpacks?). Where have we come in terms of human evolution?
It is not that difficult to see that the future is now. We are living in a world with cyborgs and artificial intelligence. We live among people with mechanical limbs or otherwise augmented body parts. We are now being driven by driverless cars. Robots now assist in various medical sciences and are doing a pretty good job it. The possibility that we may be replaced with machines are as real as it gets. But let us not jump to conclusions just yet. As I mentioned earlier, it was science fiction that fed our imaginations and drove us to develop the things that we are seeing today. That means that we have the power to choose how the future will be.
We should already be aware of people with prosthetics that have augmented body functions such as Amy Mullins’ Cheetah legs. And then there is the antennae implanted on Neil Harbisson’s skull which allows him to perceive colors as sound waves. I couldn’t understand how and why he did it, but I respect him and his work. Being recognized as a proper cyborg by the British government has to count for something. The first section of the exhibition is dedicated to all of these things. And seeing how the history of prosthetics go far into our past, it could only mean that the gap between now and tomorrow is getting shorter and shorter.
The exhibition also teaches us how the technology we have now are changing the way we interact with one another. We sometimes take things for granted, but the way the things we use have evolved have all been because of our desire to communicate, to respond, to say something. We saw optics embedded in robotic eyes that follow a persons movement. A robot arm that responds to a baby’s voice and rocks the cradle. We saw devices that allow us to interact in such a way that a machine mimics what a real person would have felt. Beyond this, even the simple use of Skype or Messenger that allows me to connect with my family is already a big change from what we had when I was Matthew’s age.
And then there is the correlation between us, the environment and the technology of our time. Some technological advancements give us the jump in productivity and efficiency immediately when it is implemented. But what happens in the next few years? Or in the next decade? Is the technology that was introduced ten years ago still relevant today? Or is it sustainable and helpful to ourselves and our environment? Our survival pretty much depends on our relationship with the Earth. And we need to be smart enough and co-exist with the world around us to live on through the next generation.
If the future is now, is there still tomorrow? Well, duh!
A new future awaits the next generation. And the future is weird and wonderful and scary. Imagine being able to choose a better future for your children free from a hereditary disease, free from a physical deformation, free from a life threatening condition? Life should not be toyed with, but there is a future where correcting “mistakes” and “malfunctions” become a ready solution for those who would choose to have it. Surgically modifying an infant to avoid a potential future problem. Engineering genes to make people smarter, stronger or faster. With all the Gundam movies that we’ve seen, this future will be flawed because of human greed. But who knows, the future is yet to arrive. And we have our free will to choose how it affects our lives. How far we live into our own future also becomes a subject of people’s imagination and with a rather comical presentation, it becomes light-hearted. And while it would be nice to be together for longer, it does have challenges of its own.
We bid farewell to science and fiction with Nadine. An android construct that was made in Singapore. She was built to be a realistic humanoid social robot. She will listen to you and answer your questions as much as she can. And while her actions are still limited, it is amazing to see how she interacts. Think of Siri, in a humanoid body and you have Nadine.
In the end, the future is still ours to choose. Some of us are too old now to even be bothered, but our children and our children’s children all have the chance to be part of shaping that future. How much they influence that future will be a good legacy. And I do wish from the bottom of my heart that I will be alive to see that in my son, Matthew.