As mobile supercomputers, intelligent cities, global networks and other wonders of our age become part of the daily routine and office furniture, it is easy to forget how things were once upon a time and the almost magical nature of these everyday tech that we have come to take for granted.
This might very well be for the better – since it is only when these “gadgets” become mundane that we’ll aim for even more incredible breakthroughs. For someone who has lived through these exciting times, every time I pause and look around, I cannot help but marvel at how my yesteryear fantasies have become everyday realities today.
THE IMPOSSIBLE IS ALREADY HERE
As a kid, I liked to read science fiction. I could spend hours sitting under a tree, immersed in the distant worlds of the far future where people carried in their hands tiny but powerful supercomputers that could instantly deliver any information. They would go about their business on fast trains that navigated by themselves without drivers, and work in cities with buildings as high as the sky. They could talk to anyone in the world through their video screens and get live news from any country and in any language. I thought: “If I could just go to such a place – I’d be the happiest kid in the world.”
Now I have grown up. As I sipped my cup of coffee this morning, I was scrolling through the live newsfeed from Asia, US and Europe with my smartphone in hand. I hopped on the fully automated MRT train to ride to the Singapore downtown where the sight of towering skyscrapers never ceases to take my breath away. Because my phone is always connected to the Internet, along the way, I researched on the latest marketing trends for my client meeting. After work, I had two video chats – one with my mom in Europe, and another with a good friend in South America – as if we were in the same space and time zone.
THE POWER IS IN YOUR HANDS
As it stands, the cheapest modern smartphone today is more powerful than the famous Deep Blue, the gigantic supercomputer that won a chess game against the world champion for the first time – big story during my childhood. It is as capable of controlling a spacecraft as the entire room of transistors that sent Apollo 11 to the moon. But if you’d rather stay in your couch, the phone can generate virtual reality experiences that would make the Neuromancer graphics pale in comparison.
That is barely the full story of what technology can do too. These days, we can have video calls virtually anytime, anywhere and on any screen. 4G wireless connection enables video streaming with remarkable quality on our sleek tablets as compared to clunky tethered devices protagonists of futuristic movies from the 90s used. Thanks to technology, people today can even build careers and manage organisations using nothing more than a few online collaboration tools. It is foreseeable that as fast connectivity continues to spread, meeting, working and playing with people even as we move around the globe will become even more seamless.
TECH IS IN PLAY EVERYDAY, EVERYWHERE
It may not be immediately obvious, but advanced cities such as Singapore have already implemented fully automated rail systems capable of controlling and coordinating vast train fleets over many kilometres. Not only does the system constantly optimise schedule times, braking points, accelerating speeds and other parameters, the trains are also connected to an even wider transport network of thousands of vehicles through sensors that add real-time data and make the city smarter with every passing minute.
EVERYONE IS A CHANGE AGENT
The modern Metropolis is a living and breathing information system, buzzing with intelligence, always connected, always learning and improving. And each of us contributes to enriching the data – simply by going about our everyday life. I am humbled by the opportunity to build a reality that people of the past couldn’t even dream of.
These days, I no longer need to read science fiction to fuel my imagination – I just grab the latest issue of a science magazine, such as the one you are holding now. And I become again that little kid, staring in awe at the world right in front of my eyes.