Are we living in the future?

Romell Avendaño
10 min readJan 10, 2024

Who doesn’t remember The Jetsons (or Los supersónicos in the Latin American version), a cartoon family living in an impossible and fantastic future?
But now, if you watch it again, you’ll realize that we are partially living there in that future.

The Jetsons. Image from internet. Created by Joseph Barbera and William Hanna.

I remember the ’80s when I was around ten or eleven years old. I watched cartoons on television all day, one cartoon after another. I loved those cartoons based on technology, gigantic robots, and science with a lot of action, fights, and laser blasts. (The typical 80)

And between all that menu full of futuristic action with amazing animations was the Jetsons. I’m not lying to you; The Jetsons was never one of my favorite cartoons; they seemed too dull to me, old-fashioned and without sparks of any kind; many times, I got up from the sofa only to change the channel.

But when I started to watch it, I was amazed by all the futuristic spirit that it had: flying cars, conversations through the TV, tactile screens, watches that can talk, automatic cleaning machines, sensors or readers everywhere, and domestic robots (like Rosie), among others. I think what got me hooked was The Jetsons were based on a futuristics but yet a mundane, ordinary, and very familiar world that I (a ten years old boy) knew very well because It’s not happening in space or a galaxy far away, instead that, It could happen in my reality, just in my living room.

So, how long did it take for reality to hit The Jetsons?

According to Wikipedia and other sources, The Jetsons was released in 1962 with a modern, revamped broadcast in the ’80s, the version I watched. The Jetsons imagined a world 100 years in the future, meaning it’s a cartoon version of the world in 2062, leaving us 38 years to achieve today (more or less) what cartoons inspired us in the past.

Let’s do some checks:

  • Flyings cars (Nope). But there are some commercial and military attempts in this regard.
  • Galactic vacations on Mars or the Moon (Nope, not yet)
  • Cleaning Robots. (Check). The market is flooded with smart vacuum cleaners and similar gadgets to help with cleaning. Yes, I know they aren’t like Rosie, but it is more automatic than a broom.
  • Touch Screens (Check).
  • Two-way conversations with audio and video through the TV or some screen. Videoconference. (Check).
  • A wristwatch that can talk and tell me the time. Smartwatchs. (Check)
  • Virtual or physical machines with which I can talk as if they were a person, using natural language. (Check).
  • Robots or Droids. (Check). Boston Dynamics is a good example.
  • Sensors or readers that can read, for example, a ticket concert. (Check)
  • Vehicles self-driven. (Check)

In this example, 80% accuracy is a good number if you think that cartoon was made in the last century and for entertainment reasons only. Right?

That left us a gap of 30 years in the future to achieve the 20% left. That sounds too “Pareto” to me.

The big question here is who pushed who? Was it imagination that drove technology? Or was it just the opposite?

Here is an example of the future of space exploration, what lies between imagination, technology and reality.

Recently I have been reading the third book from the Trilogy, “The Three Body Problem,” by the famous Chinese science fiction writer Lui Cixin.

Image from Internet

Begin — Spoilers Alert!

At some point in the third book, called “Death’s End,” the human race decides to launch into deep space, not a person, but just a living brain as a “person” as a unique passenger on an exploration mission into deep space.

End — Spoilers Alert!

When I read this, my mind blew up! I never thought that the exploration of the cosmos could be done just with a living human brain, but why not an entire human body?

Every science fiction movie about space shows us this typical cryogenic chamber where people go to sleep for months, years, or centuries. An artifact so common that nobody asks about how that machine works because it’s easy, right? Just lie down, set the clock, the chamber closed, its freezes, and go to sleep.

Well, it isn’t.

The cryogenics process

Today is literally in diapers.

Image from internet “Passengers” Movie

There are a lot of challenges to overcome when we talk about cryogenics. I am just going to comment about three of them and a bonus track:

  1. Crystallization: Yeah! This is a big deal. How do we avoid crystallization at a cellular level?
  2. Equipment: In movies, the cryogenics chamber is always some pod connected to several devices that maintain operation. Well, guess what! A tremendous amount of equipment and resources is necessary to maintain the “fridge” at optimal hibernation. And all that is a heavyweight to send into our actual shuttles or spaceships.
  3. AI: If everybody is hibernated, who command and takes control of the spaceship? Who makes the decisions? Who takes care of the ship itself? And what about the hibernating crew? Communications? And what are the actions to take in case of emergency? Well, here’s is when an AI is needed, and I not talking about ChatGPT or some cousin imaged generator; I’m talking about serious intelligence into a physical droid or similar, who can make decisions, take actions, have logical reasoning, and feel empathy for the needs and care of human beings in all their aspects. It sounds risky. Put a lot of confidence into a robot that can control an entire ship and care for the whole crew while sleeping.

Bonus Track

4. Last but not least, Ethics.

There’s a lot of discussion about the limits between the science and ethics of cryogenics to humans. Is it safe? All the risks are knowing? There’s a physical preparation? What about psychological support? Is it even legal?

In fact, a company called Alcor started commercializing cryogenics to humans and pets in case of terminal ills. So, in the future, they can thaw you and cure you. Well, that is if you decide to cryogenic the entire body because you can put only your brain into the fridge if you want to or if you can afford it. That’s called Neuro Cryopreservation

Video from Youtube

Neuro Cryopreservation

In simple words, the brain is cryopreservation inside their severed head. It’s very creepy, right?

Image from internet. Futurama

The reason to preserve only the head with the brain is because there exists some consensus that it is the place where your personality, memories, and consciousness are.
Well, even if that is true, me, that means, ME, I am more than just my brain, I think. And there’s one aspect that logic doesn’t consider: Where is my soul? Is my soul also in my brain? This is another ethical point to discuss.

But a big question is, why just the brain matters?

An excellent reason is that cryogenics, just a brain, has a lot fewer challenges compared to cryogenics a whole body. However, there aren’t small challenges. The brain needs to be functional, operational, and perfectly preserved. But for what? What can do just a brain without a body?

Well, here is when another actor comes into the scene: Neuralink.

Neuralink

A company founded in 2016 by Elon Musk (among others), yep, the same Elon who bought Twitter and replaced that cute blue bird with just an awful “X.” The same Elon who runs Tesla and SpaceX. Hated by some, loved by others.

Well, this company, I mean Neuralink, declares on its webpage as Mission and quote:

“Create a generalized brain interface to restore autonomy to those with unmet medical needs today and unlock human potential tomorrow.”

In elementary words, is taking its first steps in the creation of a brain-machine through the placement of a tiny implant in the most superficial layer of the brain, thus allowing this device to “integrate” with the brain and function as a receiver of signals from it allowing people who perform this treatment, usually with some neurological disability, spinal injuries or similar, to be able to “control” with their mind some devices that allow them to improve their quality of life, in terms of autonomy, communication, and mobility.

Image from Internet.

Although it is still in the experimentation and testing phase, the scientific community views with expectation (and caution) the use of this type of technology in humans; however, recently, according to some media and Neuralink’s blog, they have already obtained approval to perform the implant in humans, and I quote:

“We are happy to announce that we’ve received approval from the reviewing independent institutional review board and our first hospital site to begin recruitment for our first-in-human clinical trial.”

In addition, a patient registration form is already available on their website to evaluate the possible candidacy of people willing to undergo this procedure.

This sh*** is really science fiction.

And this is the missing piece from the puzzle. Or not? Let me explain.

We have the first steps to connect a digital device over the brain, which can allow control of other physical or logical devices through signals emitted from the brain. That means to think, and the “machine” will do it for you.

This bridges both worlds: the organic world and the digital world. This advance is enormous. But here there’s another ethical point: Is this safe? What happens to the person if the surgery fails? Who is responsible for that? And again, is it even legal? Open the skull and put a sensor over your brain; no sound too safe for me or at least, atractive.

Now, let’s imagine that this process and its effectiveness on patients is 100% safe and effective. I’m not saying it’s not, but I’m being skeptical, like all new technology. That means, after the procedure, you have a linking point (primitive at this point, perhaps) between a living brain and a set of machines, devices, etc., so you can control things like the cursor of a mouse, the mobility of a prosthesis, and things that would help you in your day-to-day life.

A prosthesis or mouse cursor is much more than amazing, but what about a complete body?

And here comes another actor, the new humanoid robot: Optimus: Tesla Optimus Gen 2.

Optimus: Tesla Optimus Gen 2

Image from Internet

This second generation of Tesla robots presented just last December has significant improvements, but the media have highlighted 3 of them: first, it has a better balance when walking and moving; second, it can walk 30% faster than the previous generation, making it have a movement a little more natural to the human being and third, it has incredible handling of delicate objects thanks to the sensors in its fingers and hands, allowing it to manipulate with total delicacy an egg, just as a human being would do it.

Image from Internet

Although it is qualified only as a prototype and is not intended for sale or marketing (yet), each generation of these androids (or humanoid robots) features exquisite care in the little things that make us human, like walking and that delicate pincer movement with the fingers.
Now imagine that with each generation, these details are perfected more and more. So, in version 10 (to say a number), we would have the skeleton of something very similar to a human, in walking, in movements, in autonomy (I am referring to the battery), in facial recognition, in moving things, avoiding obstacles, which is already done today by some autonomous vehicles, also from Tesla by the way.

It would be a humanoid robot functionally similar to a real human being, except for one thing: it did not have intelligence itself. So here the decision is not very complicated because there are few options. It could either be a fairly advanced and “intelligent” AI to operate confidently and fully autonomously, or on the other hand, these brain-machine bridges would be available through a small surgery or perhaps a helmet space or zero-invasive device that would allow a random person to control these droids. Imagine entire platoons of military droids, or rescue droids, or remote-controlled scouting droids. But since we are freezing living brains now and even bridging to them for future operation, why not put it inside a droid? That is, revive a person, or just their brain from a long sleep, to wake up in some kind of droid.

Sounds very Robocop, doesn’t it?

And not only that, but just like the title of the book above, it would allow humans to practically live forever and cheat death. In a way, of course….

Final thoughts

So to answer the question if we are living in the future, well, I certainly believe we are, we live it day by day, we live the fantasy and dreams of our ancestors and we fantasize and dream of what generations to come will live.

This future I have described may sound fanciful, unbelievable and even laughable. But think for a moment that your cell phone has such incredible computing power that it could break the famous secret code of the enigma machine in seconds or milliseconds, something unthinkable at the time of World War II.

A few days ago I saw a meme of a scene from Terminator, where Reese tells Sarah Connor in 1984 that this machine does not exist now, but it will exist in the future, exactly 40 years in the future, that is, in the year 2024. In other words, the future (maybe not that one), but finally the future has caught up with us.

I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to dive into this crazy reading. Your support means a lot, and I’m genuinely thrilled you’re a part of this journey. 😊 🤖 🪐

Your thoughts, opinions, and feedback are invaluable to me. I’d love to hear what resonated with you or any ideas you might have. So, don’t hesitate to drop a comment or reach out — let’s keep the conversation going!

Until next time wonderful readers. 🚀 😎

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Romell Avendaño

Life is a DIY project, that's why I write about technology, innovation, productivity and more. Also I'm Obsidian Fan and I assure you I'm not a robot) 🤖