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Surprising Science

Technology: The Wellbutrin of the Masses

Anyone in need of a moment’s release from our collective recession depression should check out of this piece in today’s Telegraph, which previews some revolutionary new consumer technologies on the horizon.

The piece summarizes the recent predictions of British ‘futurologist’ Ian Pearson who envisions, within the next decade, contact lenses equipped with full multimedia capabilities (think, an iPod for the eye).  Further, Pearson foresees a new area of deep, emotional interactivity with our media forms, as new digital receptors implanted in the brain allow us to receive emotional stimuli from movies, tv shows and other media, allowing us to feel the rush of a James Bond car choice or the elation of a Pittsburgh SuperBowl as if we were 007 himself, or Ben Roethlisberger.

I always find a measure of comfort in these visionary stories of technological newfangledness.  It’s not so much that any given idea will lead directly to a great leap forward for society (emoting with your TV would seem to contribute to less not more productivity).  Rather, the mere fact that there is still a steady of supplies of these ideas suggests that big thinking is still alive and well and that, with the bad ideas, will too come the good and even great.  The great ideas, of course, make all the difference.

Not to wrap this post up on too cheerful or tidy a note, it’s also worth considering how these visions of the future might help us better understand where we’ve fallen short.  No less a visionary than VC wunderkind, hedge fund titan and Big Think investor, Peter Thiel, suggested that we might use our past visions of the future, yet unrealized, as a measure of missed opportuntities driven by misguided policies and behaviors.  In this clip from Big Think’s economic forum “Beyond the Crisis”, Thiel paints the biggest of pictures, drawing lines between technological dreams deferred and the meltdown of the global economy.


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