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John Scalzi – Future Trek-nology I Can Live Without

Trek-nology I Can Live Without” width=”560″/>

I watched and enjoyed the new Star Trek movie over the weekend (as did quite a lot of folks, which should make both Paramount and J.J. Abrams quite happy), but watching I was reminded that for every bit of future tech I can’t wait to get my hands on, there’s some tech I want no part of whatsoever. And what tech might that be? Well, I’ll tell you.

In the Star Trek universe, this means having one’s self disassembled and then reassembled some massive distance away via an energy beam. Leaving aside the philosophical aspects of this (i.e., is the reassembled you really you, or just a copy?), do you really trust a particle beam to disassemble and reassemble you? Are you aware of just how many particles you break down into? The layman answer is lots, squared. That’s a lot of information to keep track of (physicists, don’t come at me with “quantum entanglement” — that’s not how Star Trek transporters work and you know it).

The idea that you’re going to get reassembled in exactly the same configuration is pretty hopeful, and for something like this, 99.9 percent accuracy would mean you’ve been turned into a screaming lump of meat. Plus, per The Fly, you don’t want the beam to get confused and fuse your DNA with something else, be it a flying insect or the e. coli living in your digestive tract. Really, I’ll just take a shuttle, thanks. Speaking of which:

Flying Cars
The flying car sequence in Attack of the Clones alone should make the point: Flying cars are a horribly bad idea. Yes, it’s nice to zoom through the skies and all. But, come on, people: We already know how badly people drive in two dimensions. Do you really want to add 50 percent more dimensionality to drive badly in. Work through the practical issues. Car accident? Pull over to the side of the road. Flying car accident? Tumble screaming for thousands of feet before going splat. Run out of gas in a car? Pull over to the side of the road. Run out of gas in a flying car? Tumble screaming for thousands of feet, etc. Don’t even get me started on drunk drivers or people texting whilst driving. Crazy mad badness. If man was meant to fly, God would give him plane tickets.

Thinking Robots
No, I’m not worried about the robot apocalypse, à la The Matrix. I’m rather more worried about the WALL-E scenario, in which robots do all the work — happily — and people become pudgy balls of flesh lolling about all day without the slightest idea of what to do other than eat pureed food because it’s just too much trouble to chew. This is totally realistic. Hell, I spend more than eight hours a day in front of a computer screen as it is, sucking down Coke Zero and being glad there’s only one flight of stairs between me and my fridge. If I had C3PO to get me my Cokes, I might have already fused into my desk chair by now.

This is the dirty untold secret of The Matrix: Not that we’ll be enslaved by machines who hook us up to a virtual reality to keep us pacified, but that we’ll plug ourselves in voluntarily. If you don’t think this will ever happen, you’ve obviously never played World of Warcraft (or known someone who has). The minute we can turn our body maintenance over to thinking robots while we frolic, sexy and beweaponed, in a fantasy world, we’re going to lose about half the people on the planet to it.

Warp Drive
Sure, it’d be nice to get pretty much anywhere in the galaxy in about fifteen minutes. But think about what that really means: No matter where in the universe you went, there would be a Starbucks, McDonald’s and Taco Bell there waiting for you. Nothing against any of those fine American brands, but I’d like for there to be enough temporal and spatial distance between worlds that going from one to the next takes genuine effort — and that where you’re going is manifestly different than where you’re coming from. Honestly, I think the idea of the Spider Gorillas of Proxima Centauri ordering a seven layer burrito on their homeworld of Dor’GHLA-Hu is genuinely depressing.

Any future tech you’re not looking forward to?

Winner of the Hugo Award and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, John Scalzi is the author of The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies and the novels Old Man’s War and Zoe’s Tale. He’s also Creative Consultant for the upcoming Stargate: Universe television series. His column appears every Thursday.

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