The World in the Satin Bag has moved to my new website.  If you want to see what I'm up to, head on over there!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ten SF Technologies/Ideas I Think Won't Come True

The title says it all. I've already done a post of ten ideas that I think will come true that are from science fiction, so now for the things that I think won't come true. Some of these are on this list because they are scientific impossibilities, and others are here because I believe that we'll never do them (probably because it's too damn stupid). So, here goes:
  1. FTL Travel
    Unfortunately, I think Einstein was right. We can't go faster than light. However, it's quite possible alternatives will be created that technically move you faster than light, just not in the direct method we have right now (perhaps wormholes, which are allowed within Einstein's theories, will become a part of all this).
  2. Resurrecting Dinosaurs or Other Prehistoric Species
    Firstly, let's just assume that we can or will be able to resurrect dinos like in Jurassic Park or by some other method. Why would we? Really, why? There's really no reason, beyond knowing we can do it, to bring back those long-extinct creatures.
    But more to the point, I don't think we'll invest enough into this sort of thing to consider it. We can probably do it, or will be able to, but it'll likely remain outside our reach because there's just no reason to do it. Yeah, it would be cool to have a pet T-Rex, but science isn't all about the cool.
  3. Cure-All Pill/Shot/Genetic Manipulation
    Okay, it's entirely possible we will cure all the diseases we know about now, but I highly doubt we'll ever have a one pill cure-all, nor do I believe we will genetically alter ourselves to be completely immune to all diseases, even new ones. New biological horrors show up all the time and there's no way to have a pill that covers all bases, at least not without harming us more than the new diseases that might spring up will. I'd love this to be true, but I don't see it.
  4. Stable Global Government
    No. Not going to happen. We might have some sort of semi-functional government, but short of wiping out half the planet there will always be people trying to knock things down. Global government has too many flaws. While we have a plethora of fantastic technologies that help us speak to one another from great distances, that won't stop people from bickering and arguing. A global government will have more controversy than any localized government. It's just too much work. It's better to have a "collective" working for the same general goals, but entirely separate.
  5. Answers to the Question
    Yes, "the" question. Where did we come from? And since "the" question is different to everyone: Is there a god? (or) Did we really evolve from microbial lifeforms?
    While we can say yes to that last one, I don't know if we will ever be able to be 100% on it. As for the other stuff, well, let's look at it this way. There's no proof of God, so the likelihood that we'd find proof in the next bazillion years is really slim anyway (that likely won't stop people from believing though). Then the first question is actually one of those endless cycle things. We may get more answers, but those answers will spark more questions, and so on. We'll never really know where we came from or how we got here. We'll just keep asking and finding answers, and asking again.
  6. Television (that beams into your head)
    This is just ridiculous. Why would we even want this? Really? I could be wrong and maybe we'll have this, but I just don't see a point. Maybe having it beam into your eye would be fine, but sitting on the couch and having some weird machine beam TV shows into your brain is just...stupid. That's asking for trouble.
  7. Forced Evolution (in species other than ourselves)
    While it may be possible that we'll be capable of doing this, I don't see that we would do it beyond the typical couple of experiments. I think, in the end, even if the technology or ability becomes known to us, we'll choose to ban it or cease doing it much like we did with cloning, only worse, because there could be serious ramifications for fiddling with the evolution of species other than ourselves. Remember Planet of the Apes? Well, what if that came true? I know, it sounds silly, but I'd rather not play with things we don't need to play with anyway. We have robots who can do all the things we might need forced evolution for.
  8. The Super Non-Refueling Perpetual Energy Mega Engine
    Basically, you know when you read or see in a TV show that some enormous ship from Earth has an energy core that seems to only need replacing when someone damages it and never needs to be refueled, etc.? Yeah, well I'm calling B.S. to that. I really doubt we'll ever have this magical machine that seems to run forever. Sure, there are ideas for a nuclear powered space engine, but even that has significant limitations. There aren't going to be beryllium spheres and what not. I just don't see it in our future. Maybe it'll happen if aliens give it to us.
  9. Personalized Spacecraft
    Yes, I'm saying it. I don't think we'll ever have personalized spacecraft, as in ships that you own by yourself in the same way you own a car. Rich people may have them, but rich people don't count. I don't think space will ever become cheap enough that anyone can just buy a ship and shoot off into space. How everyone can afford spaceships in Star Wars is beyond me. I think all space-based travel will be strictly controlled and expensive. Companies will most likely be the ones owning private ships, and even then, those ships will be heavily restricted and expensive. However, even though I think this I will continue writing about it. Why? Because let's face it, it's really not very entertaining to write SF where most everybody waits in line for years just to get off planet. Then again, maybe that is an interesting concept. I do think it will be relatively affordable, as in not $200,000 per flight, but maybe in the $10,000 or less range. Still expensive, but at least the average family could save that money and go for a trip, right?
  10. Universal Translators
    Or anything remotely equivalent. I don't believe for a second that any alien species will be able to easily comprehend our language, and vice versa. And I also don't think we'll have a machine that can do the job for us. We might have machines that can eventually be programmed to handle languages that aren't human, but they won't be able to translate without data input from an external source--such as someone studying an alien language and entering that in. Oh, and there won't be any babelfish or anything that can be inserted in one's ear that can translate any language into something understandable, just to cover my bases.
So, there it is! What do you think?

Edit: I edited this because I saw some errors and they were really annoying me.

Related Posts by Categories

Widget by Hoctro | Jack Book


  1. #1 isn't anything noteworthy, really. Einstein settled this question. I wouldn't dare discounting alternatives though. Practical? Who knows. Possible? I have a hunch that it is.

    #2 People will do a lot of stuff simply because it's possible. Unfortunately there's simply not enough left of the dinosaurs to clone them. However, other extinct ("prehistoric") species may be better candidates. Mammoths come to mind. Wouldn't rule this one out at all.

    #3 Is news? Meh.

    #4 You can have a world government that is as stable as any other government. Won't be static, won't happen overnight, probably will take a big war or other catastrophe to get it going, but don't think it's categorically impossible.

    #5 There is no god. That isn't even a question. I am convinced that we WILL figure out how the universe came to be, and what was before what is outside it. Looks to me like we're making good progress. And don't even get me started on creationism. Dumbest thing I've ever heard.

    #6 Why TV? TV is so boring. Make it interactive, and you're on to something. This will definitely happen. Some day.

    #7 "Uplifting". We'd have to figure out what makes a creature intelligent and sentient first, which we don't know yet, so this is a hard one to answer. Some animals - like jellyfish or mice - probably simply don't have the hardware for it.

    But in a way, it's already happened - like the chimp that was taught sign language. Arguably it doesn't make the chimp more "intelligent", but it show that the lines are a lot more blurred. Or what about the cockroach they controlled via implanted computer chips? There's a lot of room here, so I wouldn't discount it.

    #8 It may be possible to tap vacuum energy. It certainly is possible to use antimatter (just a little impractical, as we do not have a source for antimatter). Also, since "never" in this context means "over the expected life time of the object", I would say this is possible, depending on the object. Small scale: LED flashlight where the battery charge lasts longer than you'll keep the thing. This may be possible with gigantic space ships too.

    #9 Why not? Spaceship One is privately owned. The rest is just a matter of scale. Also, you didn't do your homework: Spaceships are cheap - once they are in orbit. It's the part of getting out of a gravity well that's a bitch.

    #10 Well DUH, of course a machine won't be able to translate an unknown language without first somehow learning it. The assumption alone is dumb. But you only need to postulate self-learning computers with at least Human level intelligence, and your "universal translator" could learn any new language on its own. Sure, it'd take a while, but the principle is still there.

    You did miss a few topics that would've been much more appropriate than the silly notion that God may be waiting to be discovered. Time travel (possible, so say current physics, just impractical). Mind reading and man-machine mindlinks (You kind of scratched this topic; anyway, it is entirely possible, give it 20+ years). Building ringworlds (possible, but only on a small scale) and dyson spheres. Artificial Intelligence (I don't see why this should be impossible, but I'll laugh at anybody who promises true AI in less than 50 years). Contragravity (probably impossible). FTL communication (my impression is that this will be possible). Hand-held beam weapons (I have no opinion on this, I am not certain we can build capacitors with a high enough energy density). Nanobots (probably possible). Lightsabers (probably impossible). Brain.scanning, that is, uploading a human personality into a computer (I somehow doubt this but wouldn't rule it out). Moon colonies (entirely possible, but will we bother?). Now I am running out of ideas, but I am sure there's more. :P

  2. My top ten:
    10) Cheap, fast space travel. Space is too big -- everything interesting is too far away -- and large momentum changes are needed. I do believe in generation ships and colonizing space; it'll just remain expensive and slow.
    9) Terraforming Mars, or Venus, or (insert your favorite planet around your favorite star). While this may be technologically possible, why do it? It would destroy any imagined ecosystem already in place (can you prove that there is no life on Mars?), would take centuries of government funding (hah!), and you'd still end up with your livable space at the bottom of a gravity well (and thus expensive to visit).
    8) Solid Holographic Projection. Even if we could project an image into the middle of a room (unlikely), you could see through the image and there is no possibility of it being confused with a real object except in a few special situations.
    7) Force Fields / Shields. Physics doesn't appear to allow a projected "field" that could repel energy beams or particle weapons.
    6) Advanced Alien Civilizations. They should have been here by now; see the Fermi Paradox.
    5) Artificial Gravity (except spinning for it). It doesn't appear possible without the use of incredibly huge masses or energy densities. Movies where ships accelerate at hundreds or thousands of G's (and the crew leans gently during maneuvers) are simply absurd.
    4) Transport Booths / Transporters / Stepping Disks. It takes far too much energy to do except on an experimental scale. Plus, who wants to be annihilated (with some hope of restitution on the other end) every time you travel someplace?
    3) Ringworlds or Dyson Spheres. Sorry Larry and Freeman. There's not a good reason to build these; we can achieve the same results (large living space and solar energy capture) by simply populating an Oort Cloud's worth of comets and building a few trillion giant solar collectors. See my post, Population Unlimited". Besides, Unobtanium will remain unobtainable.
    2) Time Travel. Larry Niven showed us why travelling back in time will never happen.
    1) FTL travel. "Thou shalt not exceed the speed of light."

  3. Barnaby Dawson1:42 PM

    #1: Agree
    #2: I think its probably not possible but there would be scientific reason enough to do it for some species (not dinosaurs though) if its not prohibitively expensive.
    #3: No cure all because we will invent new diseases. I think we'll be able to cure cancer (naturally occuring) and diabetes though eventually.
    #4: No chance at stable global government without a credible external threat. It might happen then though.
    #5: I suspect its possible to answer this question (and I don't think its a religious answer either). However, thats just a speculation of mine.
    #6: Not sure. It seems likely that something similar might happen. TV though I doubt because I don't think TV will last that long into the 21st century.
    #7: This happens all the time. It is called selective breeding. The dog and the pigeon are examples. All domestic animals have been evolved by humanity. It will probably keep happening at least for a while.
    #8: I suspect that it will take a very long time (if its possible) to find a way of creating new energy. Perhaps in a billion years it'll be discovered how to do so and in a trillion years a way of doing so usefully. Of course it won't be homo sapiens sapiens that discovers it if it takes this long.
    #9: I agree. Spaceships just don't make sense. Why bother moving mass between starsystems when information will suffice? However if we get AI then they will be able to travel through space very easily as they can be moved around as information. Which means that space travel between star systems is a consequence of developing high quality AI.
    #10: Agree.