Continuing my unusual spat of thoughtfulness following the sad passing of Steve Jobs and the discovery of Graphene, I’ve realised that we’re actually living in the future, in many ways, that writers like Gene Roddenberry imagined. Perhaps on not quite a grand scale but we’re on the road. Watch any episode of Star Trek the Next Generation and you’ll see a datapad. A horrid grey rectangle with a two colour screen with a single button that can scroll up or down. At the time it blew our minds. At the time creative minds at Apple, Samsung and the other technology power houses looked at that and decided that the 23rd Century was too far away.
Now we have tablets that respond to heat in your finger tip, not the dragging touch. We have wireless communication technology that puts Captain Kirk’s communicator to shame. We have dared to imagine a future and made it reality. Sure, we don’t have spandex uniforms – of which I’m eternally grateful – and we don’t have super cool spaceships that run on a clean renewable energy source. But, again we’re on the way. The Honda Clarity is a hydrogen powered car. Sort of. But the point is that it doesn’t use fossil fuels, which is a big fat Neil Armstrong zero gravity moon step in the right direction.
And what of this Graphene? Well if you’ve read the article I linked to you’ll realise that this stuff is about to change the world. Super light and super strong Graphene has almost limitless real world applications. It’s ability to conduct electricity and data far surpasses anything we currently use and eliminates the need for silicone. It can be made into car bodies, aircraft hulls, TV screens…body armour.
And so on to the tenuos link to wargaming. The problem that has dogged weapons developers and soldiers is that body armour is fucking heavy stuff. And because of that it’s effectiveness is limited. Graphene has the potential to change all that. A layer a few millimetres thick could, in theory, stop a bullet. This means that we’re edging into MJOLNIR armour territory. Segmented armour covering the chest, abdoment, arms, legs and, most importantly, the entire head. Because Graphene can be made transparent!
In theory a thinner, more flexible layer can be created that would be stab proof, at least and be worn as a body glove under the armour. All of it light and all of it making our fighting men and women essentially impervious to small arms fire. I know I’m getting ahead of myself but the potential is there. And, before we know it we’ll have big shiny space ships like these.
And our chaps in uniform could be running around the place looking like this…
Well, not quite but you get my point. Which, I suppose, is that no matter what you read in the papers or watch on the news about the economy disappearing up its own arse and the ever-present threat of terrorism, we live in an extraordinary time. We are being catapulted into a future that 50 years ago seemed fantastical. And the scary thing is that in 50 years time we will have vastly surpassed the imaginings of writers today. Because we will have stood on the shoulders of giants like Steve Jobs, scientists like Konstantin Novoselov and Andre Geim and countless others.
But that’s not to say that those of us who are dreamers don’t have a part to play in the world these people are creating. And that’s why a genre like science fiction is so important to our world, because it’s our dreams of space ships and living on other worlds, that drive such great minds to make it into reality. So I’ll end by saying this; pick up a pen and start writing.