6 Amazing Inventions You're Being Denied For Stupid Reasons
Imagine that you were frozen in 1980 and woke up yesterday. The bad news is that you're going to want to change out of your half-shirt and denim cutoffs as soon as possible. The good news is that it's probably going to take you only about 15 minutes to adjust to today's technology. Once you wrap your head around the internet, the rest of everyday life is just a shinier, more expensive version of the world you were used to.
Which is weird, right? Shouldn't the 21st century look more like The Jetsons than Family Ties, Only Everyone Is 30 Years Older? YES. But there are some very basic things that are standing in the way of the sci-fi future we were promised.
Smart Homes Are Developing Too Fast To Be Useful
Every futuristic family we've ever seen on TV or in the movies has access to technology that caters to their every whim. Housekeeping is handled by a robot, everyone has smartwatches, holograms aren't just concert novelties, and hot meals require nothing more than the push of a button.
Meanwhile, this is as close to a robot butler as reality gets.
Here's the thing: Everything in The Jetsons is pretty much doable today. We know how to infuse just about anything with online capability, except elderly people. We could have Back To The Future Part II-style smart houses right now if we really, really wanted them. But we don't want them, because they're too goddamned expensive. Who wants to pay three times more for a "smart" toilet when a regular toilet steals your poop just as well? Picture replacing all of your appliances, heating and a/c, lighting, security, and entertainment systems with virtually identical versions that can be connected to the internet. If you can still afford your mortgage after the last installation, good job -- you've really earned that smart Jacuzzi that can regulate your water temperature based on your last tweet.
"I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that. You've had ramen for 14 days straight."
Even if you're so rich that replacing everything you own in one Ambien-fueled, smart-home shopping spree is no big deal, you're going to find that your new stuff is super difficult to install and absolutely none of the components are compatible with one another. Finally and most importantly, smart home developers create their technology so rapidly that their homes are obsolete before they're even finished being built. You know how a new computer or smartphone gets replaced by a newer, better computer or smartphone within like six months? Picture that, only it's your entire house.
Every year new smart home systems are released. Which is great for the general advancement of technology but not so great for the homeowners who built their houses with the equivalent of avocado-colored refrigerators.
It was a thing, we promise.
In the rush to get a platform advantage, companies can't decide standards for products, rendering the appliances and hardware obsolete in about a year when they should last for a decade. They're having a technological arms race, but nobody can go to war because their weapons keep being recalled.
A recent example of this phenomenon is Nest. Nest had all the trademarks of why you can't have a smart home. It created the platform Revolv, which was a smart-home hub operated via cloud-based app, then it was acquired by Google, which eventually shut down the cloud service. So everybody who shelled out for the product has found it useless. Welcome to the future, everyone! We replace our ovens every year here!
But it looks so sleek!
We Won't Have Self-Driving Cars Without Better Roads
The arrival of driverless cars has been imminent for years now. They're desperately in need, too, as draconian legislation prohibits good people who are driving to post Instagram photos, figure out who to be mad at on Twitter, or check in with their baes. This lack of digital dialogue can go on for minutes while driving, which is absolutely barbaric.
"It's been almost eight minutes since I Snapchatted my junk to anyone!"
The roads may be decent enough for humans to use most of the time, but they're far below standard for snooty driverless cars. For one of them to operate, the road it's traveling on must be well-paved and clearly marked. A 2014 report found that 65 percent of American roads are not up to scratch. In the last decade the USA has dropped from seventh to 18th on the "Road Quality" list put together by the World Economic Forum, who seem to be willing to do a list on just about anything.
The smart car version of Fury Road.
Developers are taking matters into their own hands by trying to create ways for driverless cars to work on our low-quality roads. They're mapping their own traffic rules and road layouts and creating systems for real-time mapping, all because we don't know how to paint a couple of straight lines and maintain our roads to a standard that doesn't look like the acne-scarred face of a high school newspaper editor.
Lack Of Train Tracks Is Why We Don't Have High-Speed Trains
For those of us who aren't well traveled, cosmopolitan globetrotters, the concept of "trains" transporting "humans" across "vast distances" sounds like something out of a John Wayne movie. Yet millions of people around the world have ditched their cars for bullet trains. Japanese people joined the fast-track choo choo over 50 years ago. You can take a train to pretty much any country in the continent of Europe. Meanwhile, America has never built a high-speed rail, let alone a station. You win, Ayn Rand!
If only we had a brilliant, underappreciated billionaire to invent a new metal for us.
So why can't America do the fast-train thing that other countries have figured out? Depending on whom you ask, it's because we can't share. There simply isn't enough railroad track to go around. The Obama administration tried to make high-speed rail a central part of the nation's infrastructure system, but freight companies (who own at least 90 percent of the current railroads) gave the government an emphatic "No thanks, Obama." Major stakeholders like Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific claim the mix of trains will be dangerous, cause congestion, and push their business to their trucking competitors. And anyone who lives in a railroad town and spends 10 to 20 minutes a day waiting at train crossings can probably see where they're coming from. Also, ask Amtrak passengers how sharing railroad lines with freight trains works out for them. Short answer: It doesn't. In October of last year, zero percent of their passenger services between Chicago and Washington, D.C., were on time. For Amtrak, "on time" means within 30 minutes. None of the trains on that line managed to make that extremely low bar.
And when it is on time, which is never, it still takes seven hours longer than traveling by car.
So why not just build new railroads for passenger trains? Excellent question. Let's ask California how their high-speed rail lines are coming. Actually, let's get back to them in 2022, assuming they get enough money to finish the thing. And by "enough money" we mean "$64 billion, fingers crossed, because it could cost more."
We're Never Getting Google Fiber Because We Love Cable Too Much
The internet has come a long way since it was just a burgeoning dream in the mind of Al Gore. It's a utility most of us can no longer live without, because many jobs depend on it. Consequently, any enhancements to our connection speed and reliability is important. The best technology at the moment for delivering the internet is fiber, as opposed to the old copper cable system, which has been around so long it can understand Al Gore references. But America is still stuck in the copper age, even though the technology is there for us to up our fiber intake and greatly improve our online feeds.
If only we would pledge eternal fealty and servitude to our Googly masters.
Wired and wireless connections are almost entirely controlled by four companies: Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, and AT&T. They run their services on old, shitty copper cables. Google tried to encourage them to run some higher speed lines by laying down lines of its own Google Fiber in Kansas City. The Four Horsemen didn't budge -- only on the day of reckoning will they abandon their lust for copper. Verizon has stalled the installation of its FiOS fiber system indefinitely, and the other companies have been laboriously slow in investing in the technology.
AT&T still runs their U-verse service (internet, broadband, and television) on copper, a fact they have never once mentioned in any official capacity. Even though they're claiming the public switched telephone network lines are "too old," these are the exact same lines they're using. The cables are up to 50 years old; they predate the service they're meant to deliver. AT&T simply installs a "U-verse node" and runs their service from there on these existing wires; they fail to highlight this to consumers, presumably because the wires can't carry enough energy to emit color.
"Could we interest you in our 'Pony Express' internet package?"
The only circumstance in which America will receive fiber connections is if these ancient cables are cut, which is not going to happen. The cables currently provide Americans with their most importance source of sustenance: television. To compete with the Big Four, Google Fiber needs to have a television package, but Google is charging much more for television than the established cable companies. Essentially, access to cable television is stopping you from having access to the incredible internet speeds that are well within our grasp; people who want to pay for the privilege of having access to a hundred channels they will never watch are the reason you can't browse the internet at the speed of thought.
High Schools Are Woefully Inept At Teaching Computer Science
Computers are as ubiquitous in the modern home as a television set or a deep emotional rift between family members. It's no surprise that the short-term future of human employment is dependent on developers, coders, software engineers, and all-around computery folks. Here's the problem: There will be more jobs than there are American students qualified to fill them, because no American states require a computer science course for graduation.
In the true American spirit of doing the bare minimum, most students don't take a single computer science class throughout their entire education.
But sure, keep making everyone learn cursive.
This phenomenon even has Google perplexed. Yes, that's how fucked up it is; Google doesn't know why kids aren't taking the right classes to work for them. They conducted a survey of thousands of parents, teachers, principals, and students to find out who was deciding that computer science wasn't necessary. It turns out that nine out of 10 parents thought that teaching kids computer skills was a good way to use school resources, and most principals and superintendents agreed. But since there is no required testing for any computer subjects, computer science is pushed down to the bottom of the priority list, along with music, PE, and theater puppetry. Schools focus their resources on what they are required to do, and that is to get the children to pass the mandatory standardized tests.
Thankfully, pornography is still there to teach both sex ed and computer skills.
Not that technology isn't present at the school. Fifty-seven percent of teachers claimed to use digital games as a teaching method weekly. Unfortunately, experts say the most frequently used games are really glorified worksheets.
Basically, we will be importing workers who received their education outside of the U.S. to take our computer jobs because we spend most of the K-12 years testing American students on how to read English and do grade-school-level math. Fair enough.
We Can't Have Futuristic Smart Guns Because Of New Jersey
A smart gun can be fired only by its rightful owner, which is something both sides of the gun control debate can agree is a pretty good development, and they're within our reach (but not the grasp of children or criminals). One problem: New Jersey has decided they want their guns to remain as dumb as possible.
Color us shocked.
A seemingly innocuous piece of legislation from New Jersey has had some pretty weird and wide-ranging ramifications for the rest of the nation. The Childproof Handgun Law of 2002 states that once smart guns are available on the market, within 30 months all handguns sold in New Jersey must also be smart guns. So, if a gun dealer in San Antonio sells a single smart rifle, sale of regular handguns in New Jersey are banned 30 months later. Stores in Maryland and California attempted to sell such a gun, but they received death threats for acting in a way that would activate the New Jersey law, and they promptly backed down. The law has become a symbol of suppression of gun rights to some, thus politicizing any action that could cause it to go into effect.
New Jersey, to their credit, attempted to fix the problem. The legislature created a new bill that changed the condition to one that stated smart guns must be sold alongside traditional guns after three years once they are on the market. That seems like a pretty reasonable solution, right?
In politics, this is apparently called a caaa- a cooooomb- a caw-PROM-iss-e?
Yeah, Governor Chris Christie vetoed that reasonable solution without comment. He presumably felt he was supporting the gun rights of his constituents, yet left the law on the books that is considerably more stringent on gun owners and dealers and is affecting gun enthusiasts across the nation. Since childproof guns are apparently a step too far in the state of New Jersey, maybe a childproof veto system should be implemented instead.
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