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Looking into the Fantastic World of the Future by Ernest Lilley
SFRevu Editorial  ISBN/ITEM#: EL0803FWOTF
Date: 02 March 2008

Links: Bionic Woman Specs Page / KnightRider 3K Site /

Anyone who says we're not living in the amazing world of tomorrow clearly didn't live in the terrifying days of yesteryear.
Note: the eye in the picture was borrowed from the current "Bionic Woman" courtesy of NBC. See the link above for its specs. And yes, I know my lens isn't really bionic.

Last month I had cataract surgery on my right eye, which was giving me the kind of vision at 20 feet that normal people expect at 100. That's 20/100 vision…and it's very, very bad.

When I was young, and Heinlein ruled the world, my grandfather had cataract surgery. For the next few weeks he begged us to kill him. It was pretty major stuff, and took a while to heal. I'm a bit early for it age-wise, but I had some eye surgery a few years back and it turns out the eye hates being disturbed. It makes this displeasure known by fogging up the lens. That's a cataract.

I wasn't really worried though, because I'd read up on current procedures. As my ophthalmologist told E.J., "Your husband is aggressively proactive about his treatment … fortunately; he's also well educated about it." Yes. That would be me. I read all about it on the Internet, listened to which parts he thought were useful, spoke to a few SF friends who'd had the procedure done … and made up my own mind.

I had surgery in the morning and was out by noon, so I stopped by my office for a few hours to see how things were going. My eye hurt a bit, and I tired out pretty easily, so I went home early. A day after surgery, I was sitting at my desk at work experiencing slight discomfort in my right eye ... and 20/25 vision.

Here's another example. I caught the newest version of NightRider starring a Ford Mustang with a bland voice (Val Kilmer's) and some guy who's not as pretty as David Hasselhoff. Since NightRider itself was only about 15 minutes into the future, I'd liked to have been there when a new version got pitched to the NBC folks. I mean, basically they're selling studio execs on a story about a car that's only marginally smarter than the ones they drive.

So, really, it's about a car that has all the modern conveniences, if on steroids. This is so passé that the human characters never actually mention that the car drives itself and delivers droll comments. In January I had the chance to be driven around a test track in Las Vegas by last year's winning entry in the DARPA challenge, an autonomous Chevy Tahoe. Sure, it doesn't do 300 miles an hour or have nanotech armor … but it's only a short hop from the central McGuffin to the Knight 3000.

For better or for worse, not only do we live in the fabulous world of tomorrow, but the low-hanging fruit of invention has been pretty well eaten up. Cell phones are about as good as telepathy was in most golden-age SF, and we've demonstrated the ability, if not the will, to zoom around in space, or to live in space habitats. We've got plenty of undersea habitats too ... but they're cold, damp and in the end they just don't turn out to be all that much fun.

Still, I'm OK with the world I find myself in. Maybe this isn't the astounding world of tomorrow you dreamed about as a child, but I'll settle for non-invasive surgery and the bionic lens in my right eye. Just like Jamie Summers.

You can keep the jet pack.

Ernest Lilley
Sr. Editor, SFRevu
March, 2008

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