Updates Fridays

Now Put It All Together And We Have A Tricorder

For the last few months, my husband and I have had this ongoing joke about needing a pocket spectrometer. Whenever it came up we would laugh and say, “yeah, it will probably exist by the time we get home and google it.”

We were joking. A company named SCiO wasn’t.

This thing has existed for over a YEAR. Why am I only hearing about it now?

The SCiO works with a smart phone, analyzing the light spectrum reflected off an object to determine the basic molecular components of that object. So…basically my phone can now “scan” an object and tell me what it is made of. Put that together with the other things my phone was already able to do, like give me a map of the area, or detect magnetic fields, and seriously, in what way is my smart phone NOT a tricorder?

Now I’m imagining an episode of classic Star Trek where Kirk and Spock are stranded on a planet somewhere and Kirk is like “Spock, I need that reading!” and Spock is all like “One moment, Captain, I am just waiting for the app to finish downloading.”

I know the idea of our phones as tricorders has occurred to most of us before. It’s been an ongoing joke for years, and it’s only getting more true. And it’s not even the only technology from Star Trek that is getting closer and closer to being real. I talked about 3D printing a few weeks ago, and how we are getting closer and closer to having replicators. So maybe Gene Roddenberry was some sort of visionary, able to predict the future. (Except for those scenes where Spock had to change out data discs to search through the computer’s library for information. That didn’t turn out to be super accurate.)

Or maybe there’s another explanation. Maybe the idea of replicators and tricorders and other things from popular science fiction has actually influenced the direction in which technology has developed. Maybe if Star Trek hadn’t put the ideas in peoples minds then we wouldn’t have dedicated so much time and effort and recourses to making them happen.

Maybe popular science fiction isn’t predictive of the future so much as directive.

Cool idea, right? There’s no way to really prove it, of course. I mean, maybe if I had a machine that would let me go visit an alternate dimension where the only major difference is that Star Trek never existed, then I could see if the technology there had developed along different lines. But that popular science fiction technology still alludes us, sadly. (Or not so sadly: dimension hopping never really works out for anyone in fiction.)

Still, I have to say, as a science fiction writer this whole idea is a little intimidating. I mean, what if I really am shaping the future of humanity by influencing the popular imagination? That’s a lot of responsibility. Okay, sure, Half-Man isn’t popular enough to have a major impact on the cultural consciousness yet, but it could be someday, right? Right?

(Just let me have this one, it’s important for me to be able to dream.)

On the other hand, maybe this idea is misleading as well. Maybe it’s not the technology depicted in popular science fiction that determines the direction in which technology will develop, but rather it is the science fiction that depicts technology which is appealing to the cultural consciousness that becomes popular. So science fiction is both the product and the inspiration for the desires of the consumer.


Okay, I’ve pretty much run myself into a wall of abstraction at this point, so I think I’m going to try to draw this blog post to a close before I start seeing stars. So in conclusion…um…in conclusion…

In conclusion I want a SCiO. I think that’s what I’m really getting at here.