Is it really 2020? It seemed like only yesterday that everyone had their knickers in a knot over the dreaded Y2K.
For anyone under the age of 35 who may be reading this column, the dawn of a new millennium was supposed to harbour everything from the end of the world to a total and complete cyber meltdown.
The dire predictions were entirely over-blown, of course. There were a few minor hiccups here and there, but by and large midnight Dec. 31, 1999 came and went without any issues whatsoever.
The end-of-the-world types began say-ing they actually meant midnight Dec. 31, 2001, which set the whole debate on when a millennium ends and a new one starts. Sound familiar? We’re hearing much of the same debate now on when a decade ends and a new decade starts. My own position is that the 21st century began on Jan. 1, 2000 and the new decade began on Jan. 1, 2020. But I digress.
For those of us who grew up during the late 60s and early 70s watching shows like Star Trek, The Jetsons and Here Comes the 70s, and reading magazines like Popular Mechanics and Popular Science, we were supposed to be flying around with jetpacks on our backs and staying in hotels that orbited the earth.
So why is it that it’s the year 2020 and we are still driving around in cars with combustible engines and relying on wooden telephone poles to carry utilities just as they did 100 years ago?
Sure, we’ve made all kinds of advances in information technology. Who would have guessed even 20 years ago how fast cell phone and personal computer technology would grow?
I still remember graduating from floppy disks to a zip drive; and the first memory card I bought for my digital camera could store a whopping 34 MB.
I still remember the day when they came out with a 512 MB capacity memory card. I thought to myself – who the heck needs all that memory?
Now you have memory cards with up to 512 GB capacity. It’s mind-boggling. And the same can be said for advances in smart devices and social media.
As a bit of an aside, the most recent
Dr. Who episode was based on an alien race taking over the world by accessing all of our smart devices and personal computers. It was actually quite believable.
But the one area where we seem to be stuck in the past is our dependency on fossil fuels combined with our inability to take global warming and climate change seriously.
If someone had told me back in high school – or even the late 80s – that in 2020 95 per cent of the cars in North America would still be running on gasoline, I would have thought you were nuts.
How is it that information technology has advanced so far and not car engine technology? Common sense tells me there are alternative energy sources out there and we seem to be on the brink of a major surge in electric vehicles. Volkswagen plans to roll out an entire line of electric vehicles in North America, starting with the ID.4 sometime this year.
Hopefully, we will see the end of gas-driven cars in the next 20 years. And who knows, maybe in 2040 we will all be driving autonomous electric vehicles around town. Now wouldn’t that be progress? Although we won’t actually be driving them if their autonomous, we would just be going along for the ride.
If there are two advances I’d like to see in the next 20 years, they would be in medical research and combating global warming by producing less expensive fuel sources than what we are currently using.
When it comes to the latter, I don’t think there will be any choice. Governments and industries will either have to start developing alternative fuel sources, or the rest of us will have to start building bunkers to protect us from tornadoes, firestorms, hurricanes, drought, or massive flooding – take your pick.
The one area where I think we will see the biggest advances over the next 20 years is in medical research, and in particular the eradication of diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
I’m still waiting for a presidential candidate who will put finding a cure for cancer in the same vein that John F. Kennedy pledged to land a man on the moon. That endeavour took just eight
years. I’m giving them 20. If all the researchers in the world joined together in one common cause, it can be done and then they can move on to the next disease.
I know it sounds fantastical, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. To reach a goal, you first have to set a target.
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