I wish I could tell you that I've been to the future and that it's overrated. I'm sorry, I can't. It's not that I haven't been to the future. It's just that it flat-out rocks. Didn't you get my postcard?
No? Well, seriously now, have you noticed that the few times that someone goes out on a visionary limb to predict what the future will be like that it ultimately complies with a much cooler shape than originally imagined? You'll have to spot me The Jetsons and Woody Allen, but beyond that you have to admit that yesterday's tomorrow turned out to be a niftier place than most figured it would be.
How much time did you spend in the local library before the Internet brought most of it to your desk? How many bottles were you forced to juggle until some grand person created the ultimate discovery of our generation -- the shampoo/conditioner?
Going back to the future
I'm not much of an authority when it comes to sci-fi but I have noticed that most time travel movies center on going back in time instead of being catapulted into the future. It's a copout. Instead of tweaking an overdone premise by taking a chance at coloring tomorrow's sunrise, they regurgitate the familiar.
It's not that I mind the formulaic as a revisionist crutch. It can sometimes have folks behaving in practical market-thumping ways, like when the Dennis Quaid character in Frequency tips off his childhood friend about buying into Yahoo!
Want a real and more recent example? Try California's current governor on for size.
Come with me if you want to live
Last week I was at General Electric's
My point here relates to the video pre-show, which guests take in just before they enter the actual theater. Cyberdyne, the fictional robotics company with a sinister agenda, showcases its futuristic advances by airing four seemingly farfetched examples of how the company's technological advances will shape the future. They are supposed to be outlandish, and in 1996, they certainly were. Yet in less than 10 years, the jokes aren't that funny anymore because they ring all too familiar. Let's cover the four segments.
Education. The premise here is to imagine a professor teaching a lesson to not just an entire classroom of pupils but to anyone, anywhere. That certainly doesn't seem so peculiar nowadays. From the virtual campus of Apollo Group's
Entertainment. The next Cyberdyne segment features an elderly woman frustrated at the plethora of programming content available from her television set. "If you can't decide what to watch," the soothing narrator explains, "the television will decide for you." Her perplexed demeanor erupts into a comforting smile as Murder She Wrote kicks in. Yes, you already know where I'm going with this one. It's not T2, it's TiVo
Health care. Cut to a scene where a doctor performs a difficult operation, virtually, from the comfort of laying out on a beach vacation and gazing into the rainbow sherbet sky. Telemedicine has advanced to the point where remote robotic surgery is possible. Yet on a more practical level, telemedicine has helped disseminate critical patient information in an instant as well as assist in providing rudimentary medical care in rural areas where conventional doctor and patient relationships just aren't possible.
Parenting. The final segment features a mother tucking her daughter in bed remotely via two-way monitors and a robotic arm to handle the physical tucking in. If one of the four Cyberdyne examples feels distant, I'm glad it's this one. The notion of personal parenting and human bonding one day becoming obsolete isn't one that would sit well with me. Call me a traditionalist, but hugs and bedtime stories aren't the kind of things one should simply phone in. However, we do live in a time in which wireless picture phones and affordable video conferencing equipment are readily available.
I'll be back
In fact, isn't almost everything possible? And it's not just what you can fathom because that creative process is usually based on the limitations of today. Can you imagine what the future of luxury airline travel must have been chalked up as decades ago? I bet it wasn't as ambitious as JetBlue
So just sit back and imagine what the future holds. It's a worthwhile exercise. It's what those of us who toil away at the Rule Breakers stock newsletter do perpetually in coming up with the next great investing trends and ideas. But just remember, reality has a funny way of overdelivering.
That's why I'm usually able to smile myself to sleep. It's because I know what tomorrow brings. See, I've been there -- often -- and I know it's going to be even better than that, but not as good as the day that follows.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz really does think that it's a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.