I don’t know how the topic came up at dinner the other night, but somehow I asked my 14-year-old daughter what the future looked like to her. Because she already has handheld phones that display video calls from friends. She can pay for things with a phone or play virtual reality games with it. All sorts of futuristic things that can turn her brain to mush are within her grasp. You know, cool stuff I dreamed about as a kid.
But if you have it all, what’s next? Where do we go from here?
She said she didn't know. She had no idea, and that was the problem. It seemed like all the “futuristic” stuff had been invented already.
Besides, she never wanted to look back like other generations and say, "You know, I remember way back in the olden days when I used to hold a phone up in front of my face to see a friend I was talking to. It was like the stone ages!" She is living the future, and it’s pretty awesome. Why have it go out of style or become old-fashioned? Why have it become old, antiquated technology that we look back on as the toys of Neanderthals who didn’t know any better?
Interesting perspective from a child of the future …
But anyway, the point is she had no idea what the next big inventions would look like. What her future technology would be. Even, what she wanted. These buggers kind of have it all. Which means we ALL kind of have it all. We’re a bit tapped out. We’ve outrun our supply lines. Caught up to our Buck Rogers future. Made all the stuff we dreamed about as kids, and as soon as we get laser guns and teleportation, we’re done.
So, what IS next for the future?
I saw something the other day that really kind of scared me. An article that showed me a glimpse of what MAY be next. A future not so dazzling and mind-bending for its revolutionary ultra-coolness or techno-fantastic-ness. But rather, far-more pedestrian and utilitarian. Boring, even.
The story’s headline read: “Why America is losing the toilet race.” And for some reason, I just had to click on it.
It told the tale of Japanese toilets that are so advanced and so technologically revolutionary that they have heated seats, remote controls, relaxing sounds and even perfume the air. They are customizable and come equipped with all kinds of buttons and entertainment options. One will even give you career advice or help you organize your thoughts. A particularly top-of-the-line porcelain wonder sells for more than $17,000. (I bit my tongue for all the inappropriate puns that would work here.)
But it pained me to read it. Has the future come to this? Have we no other technological marvels to conquer that we must retire to the lavatory? Are all the other frontiers settled? All the low-hanging fruit of technology plucked?
Now we must turn to the trusty toilet?!?
Already we’re adapting our everyday appliances to be technologically advanced. Our toaster can text us when the toast is burning. Our refrigerators can show us on a screen what’s in there so we don’t have to open the door. Have we run out of big dreams!?!
Maybe we've done all the advancing we can. We’ve exhausted things we can improve and wire and hook up to Wi-Fi. It’s up to the age-old toilet now to lead the way. Is that what the future holds?
I hope not. I would just as soon America lose the toilet race and instead find somewhere else to lead the revolution of technology-next. I have no idea what it will be. What dreams today’s kids are cooking up. But I sure do hope it involves laser guns and teleporting me somewhere — anywhere! — except the bathroom.
Brian Thompson is a former Record staffer and currently is director of news and information at Flagler College.