In the futuristic “Star Trek” series, people have a unique technology that allows them to produce nearly any object they want or need from merely a computer program. If they want a musical instrument or weapon or a new part for their spaceship, they can enter the correct computer program and the technology will oblige them with a finished product. If they want a particular type of food, all they have to do is ask and the computer will synthesize their desires. Then there is the “holodeck” where people can indulge in their fantasies with computer generated holograms that appear and act as “real” as any functioning human or landscape.
When this “technology” was developed for these shows, it was purely science fiction. It was merely fantasy created by someone’s imagination. Now, much of it has come to pass, albeit in its beginning stages.
There is a Constitutional fight in the works over directions posted on the Internet on how to create a workable handgun. The program directs a 3-D printer to produce a gun. Some government agencies and courts have moved to have these directions removed because such a weapon would be untraceable. Yet others argue that posting the directions is protected by free speech. Is it Constitutionally protected free speech, or is it more like yelling “fire” in a crowded theater? “Free” speech comes with reasonable qualifiers. A weapon’s expert tried to dispel fears by noting the 3-D printed weapon is primitive and unreliable. But what about a few years hence when the technology is perfected?
The point here, however, is that the technology has caught up to fantasy. 3-D printers have produced a wide range of objects including housing units. They have been used to produce objects for a wide range of uses including the medical field. Are we coming to the point where we will be able to download programs from the Internet and produce whatever we need or want? Laws may restrict some of the more dangerous items, but that has never stopped some people before.
Experiments are underway to create food of various kinds from basic “nutrient blocks,” usually made from soybeans. The finished products might taste like beef, pasta, or various vegetables. Meat has been “grown” in laboratories without having to kill an animal. Perhaps, like the food synthesizers on the starship Enterprise, the time is approaching when a computer program will turn protein blocks into whatever our taste buds desire.
In one “Star Trek” episode a crewmember aboard the Enterprise becomes addicted to the holodeck. What is the holodeck? From Wikipedia: “The holodeck is a fictional plot device from ‘Star Trek.’ It is presented as a staging environment in which participants may engage with different virtual reality environments.” In other words, one can create his or her own fantasy and then participate in it. It is so “real” as to be indistinguishable from reality. Never happen? Millions of people are presently addicted to the Internet or social media to varying degrees. Why? It allows them to “escape” the sometimes harsh realities of existence and live in a comfortable illusion. All the psychological pieces are there for “total immersion” in something like a holodeck. How many people would be tempted by the opportunity to “live” life according to their most cherished fantasies? Holo-technology is coming. Will people become so addicted as to forgo food? That would be nothing new for addicts.
Technology, particularly involving computers and computer software, is exploding at an exponential rate. The technology from just a few months ago is already obsolete if you’re keeping up with the “latest.” Science fiction is fast becoming reality. It promises to bring great and rapid changes to the human landscape. Hopefully, we’ll adapt as well as the people on board the “fantasy” Enterprise.