21st Century Will Finally Meet George Jetson

By Craig Savoye, | The Christian Science Monitor, November 29, 1999 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

21st Century Will Finally Meet George Jetson


Craig Savoye,, The Christian Science Monitor


Decisions, decisions.

Only a few years ago, you disconnected the power line to your house and installed a home power plant. Works like a charm. Runs on all kinds of fuels, but you prefer using grass clippings and weeds.

But now the power company has an offer you can't refuse. Reconnect and try newfangled fusion power in exchange for a year of free electricity. It's tempting because you've recently bioengineered your lawn grass to stay at a constant height, and there are no more weeds.

Besides, you need extra juice for your electric car hovering in the garage. Antigravity is such a kick. It makes you feel old (but then, 125 is old) to recall cars that had tires and passed on the left rather than over the top....

Over the top may be the operative phrase, but the advance of technology may indeed make your 2099 home identical with The Jetsons' - floating space houses not included. Far-fetched? Probably the same thing a homeowner in 1900 would have said about microwave ovens, TV, and a car in the garage instead of a horse in the barn.

As the 3rd millennium AD dawns, futurists are readying their predictions for the greatest inventions and scientific breakthroughs of the 21st century.

While few are likely to predict specific discoveries, they generally agree on one thing: The frontiers of innovation will be marked by the collision of our current economic epoch - the Information Age - with all things biological. And the results will touch nearly everyone's life.

"The main enabling force in innovation over the next three decades will be biotechnology," says Paul Saffo, a director of the Institute for the Future in Menlo Park, Calif. Which, he says, is illustrative of a second overarching trend: Small is beautiful.

Indeed, rather than polishing crystal balls, today's visionaries are looking through microscopes. Whereas the 20th century and the last decade of the 19th were marked by big, landscape-altering inventions like the automobile, the airplane, and commercialization of electric power, the breakthroughs of the next century promise to be tiny. Very tiny.

Lilliputian computers

Computers will be every size - in everything from atomizers to Zambonis, sunglasses to pens. Hand-held computers will contain as much computing power as all the computers on earth today. Computers- on-a-chip will be implanted in the body. True artificial intelligence - thinking machines that can design and build other machines - will evolve.

The identification of the double helix, a landmark of 20th- century science, led to genome mapping and may herald an era of widespread engineering of anything with a genetic code: animals, plants, humans.

You may be able to order a new body part in 50 years the way you order a new fender today. Private hunting reserves may feature cloned grizzly bears or tigers.

Fusion power, which is fueled by isotopes of hydrogen derived from abundant resources such as sea water, could power a city of a half million with fuel that would fit in the back of a pickup truck rather than 11 supertankers, thus ushering in an era of cheap and virtually limitless power.

The manipulation of matter at the molecular level, a fledgling field today known as nanoscience, when combined with genetic engineering, could eventually lead to things such as e-mailing flowers over the Internet.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

21st Century Will Finally Meet George Jetson
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?