Welcome to the year 2015. Sounds so futuristic, doesn’t it.
A while ago, last century, I wrote a short story called The Year 2031, about a space mission to Venus, published in 19 weekly parts in 1998 as part of my (still going) Toxic Custard weekly email newsletter.
Back in 1998, the year 2031 seemed way off into the future. It alarms me somewhat to find that we are now halfway to 2031.
Reading back over the opening paragraphs, clearly I am not the world’s best futurist, though so far, some of the predictions still look okay.
It was the year 2031. Nothing much had changed, really. Technology was faster, more sophisticated and cheaper, and people still didn’t know how to program their videos. Something new and incredible was being done with microchips every day. They’d figured out how to give everyone on the planet affordable Web access, and if they could just figure out how to give them all affordable food, the human race had a real chance of going places.
So far so good, I stand by most of this. We don’t have “videos” (VCRs) anymore, but I think people still have trouble with PVRs. I suspect the difference is fewer people now want to record TV at all, thanks to DVD box sets, and iView and other services allowing you to watch later.
The Middle East was still a powderkeg and nobody would back down over Northern Ireland. More significantly, McDonald’s was in real danger of reaching the critical mass of hamburger restaurants, and were about to begin their plan to diversify into pizza. Talentless saps still ruled the music charts. And everyone was still burning up the world’s increasingly precious oil stocks like there was no tomorrow.
Northern Ireland is pretty peaceful these days. McDonald’s probably reached Peak Burger some time ago, at least in Australia, and are exploring new ways to make money, including opening an experimental cafe in Sydney.
Peak Oil is a bit less certain, I think, but it’s certainly still being burnt up with little thought to its longer-term impacts.
But on the space exploration front, NASA was kicking arse. Although they’d developed computer graphics simulators so realistic they could virtually just simulate all their missions instead of actually conducting them, they knew that if anybody ever found out, the government would want all the money back. So they kept on sending up rockets.
In 2012, one entrepreneur had even organised a civilian excursion onto the moon. A kind of moon picnic for anyone who could afford the astoundingly expensive fare. It had been a bit of a disaster though – halfway to the moon somebody had pressed the wrong button, and the hundreds of sandwiches had gone flying off into space. Everyone had got back safely, but boy were they hungry when they touched down. Nobody had tried that since.
There are civilian moves into space, priced for the super-rich only, but they haven’t started yet, in fact Virgin Galactic had a setback last year which means it probably won’t happen any time soon.
A manned mission to Mars had finally gone ahead in 2015. It had proven beyond all doubt that there really were no little green men – not that we should discount the existence of red dust creatures or something equally improbable and not perceptible to man. After this, NASA started to look towards Venus for the next mission.
Still only unmanned missions to Mars so far. The current thinking appears to be that a manned mission won’t happen before 2025, and NASA isn’t looking at it until well into the following decade.
Admittedly it’s all a bit undergraduate, but re-reading the story today gave me a few laughs from jokes I’d forgotten I’d included.
You can read the whole 2031 story here.
Apologies for the colour scheme.