Martha Thomases: What’s Up With The Future?

adam strangeComic books and science fiction shaped my hopes for the future. I want to be able to live under the ocean, like Aquaman and I want to have a flying car, like George Jetson.

It never ends, the things I want. Just this week, I started to want a personal jetpack with missile launchers, like I saw over the weekend in this.

The future, to me, was about technology. Technology that would make cool things for me.

In some ways, that’s working. I mean, I carry around more computing power in my pocket than they had on the Starship Enterprise. Television sets turn on and off, change channels and more with voice commands.

And now, technology is making life ever so much cooler for kids with certain disabilities.

This story describes how it is now possible to make inexpensive prosthetic hands for kids with missing fingers. These are not state-of-the-art instruments, in the sense that they don’t completely mimic human hands. Those cost tens of thousands of dollars, and a growing child would need a new one every year or so. Instead, these cost under $50, and can be made on a 3-D printer.

That is so cool I can barely stand it.

Instead of being teased for being physically different, these kids are now awesome, like superheroes they see in the movies — Iron Man, say, or Cyborg. They can get new hands in whatever colors they like, whenever they need them.

I got to see an enormous 3-D printer at the Youngstown Business Incubator a few months ago. They weren’t, at the time, making cyborg hands, but it was cool to see how a big model worked, and how much more the machine did than I imagined when I heard the term. One pass through the printer, and multiple pieces could be made and connected, which I would not have believed if I hadn’t seen it.

Perhaps it’s a limit of our imaginative fiction, whether in comics or in prose, that the first thing we think about when we imagine future tech is weapons or personal pleasure. I understand that these make entertaining story elements, with conflict and maybe explosions. I’m an adrenaline junkie. I like conflict and explosions in my fiction.

But we don’t, as a society, think about future tech and kids in need.

At least, not in the books I’ve been reading. If you know some that do, please suggest them in the comments. It’s winter and I could use a reading experience that feels good.