In 1997, physicist and futurist Michio Kaku wrote this picture of daily life in 2020. He did pretty well. .Not all predictors of the future do. What I enjoy the most is how magical the present becomes when it’s described as far-fetched visionary fare.
A gentle ring wakes you up in the morning. A wall-sized picture of the seashore hanging silently on the wall suddenly springs to life, replaced by a warm, friendly face you have named Molly, who cheerily announces: ‘It’s time to wake up!’
As you walk into the kitchen, the appliances sense your presence. The coffeepot turns itself on. Bread is toasted to the setting you prefer. Your favorite music gently fills the air. The intelligent house is coming to life.
On the coffee table, Molly has printed out a personalized edition of the newspaper by scanning the Net. As you leave the kitchen, the refridgerator scans its contents and announces:’You’re out of milk. And the yogurt is sour.’ Molly adds: ‘We’re low on computers. Pick up a dozen more at the market while you’re at it.’
Most of your friends have bought ‘intelligent agent’ programs without faces or personalities. Some claim they get in the way; others prefer not to speak to their appliances. But you like the convenience of voice commands.
Before you leave, you instruct the robot vacuum cleaner to vacuum the carpet. It springs to life and, sening the wire tracks hidden beneath the carpet, begins its job.
As you drive off to work in your elecric/hybrid car, Molly has tapped into the Global Positioning System satellite orbiting overhead. ‘There is a major delay due to construction on Highway 1,’ she informs you. ‘Here is an alternate route.’ A map appears ghostlike on the windshield.
As you start driving along the smart highway, the traffic lights, sensing no other cars on this highway, all turn green. You whiz by the toll booths, which register your vehicle PIN number with their laser sensors and electronically charge your account. Molly’s radar quietly monitors the cars aroung you. Her computer, suddenly detecting danger, blurts out, ‘Watch out! There’s a car behind you!’ You narrowly miss a car in your blind spot. Once again, Molly may have saved your life. (Next time, you remind yourself, you will consider taking mass transit.)
At your office at Computer Genetics, a giant firm specializing in personalized DNA sequencing, you scan some video mail. A few bills. You insert your smart wallet card in the computer in the wall. A laser beam checks the iris of your eye for identification, and the transaction is done. Then at ten o’clock two staff members ‘meet’ with you via the wall screen.
Copied without permission from The Faber Book of Utopias, Ed. John Carey, who copied with permission from Kaku’s 1997 book Visions.