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Dude, Where’s My Jetpack?

to Mark the release of the World Future Society’s annual predictions, we keep score on prophecies past

Author Jacqueline Detwiler Illustration Nicholas Blechman

dispatches

Few kids announce that they want to be futurists when they grow up, and perhaps that’s because it’s an awfully difficult job. From Nostradamus to George Orwell, predicting the future has always been a hit-or-miss proposition, emphasis on miss. With the World Future Society’s The Futurist magazine releasing its annual predictions for the coming year this month, we’ve got a few updates on the stuff we’ve been promised.

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Prediction: Robot Nurses/Nannies
ETA: Available now
Where is it? Robots are everywhere these days. Babysitting bots, such as NEC’s prototype PaPeRo, which can talk and play games, are just some of the helpers that have appeared over the last few years. The question, of course, is how beneficial it is for kids to hang out with a motorized companion all day. Studies are ongoing.

Prediction: Jetpacks
ETA: 1–3 years
Where is it? If you’ve got about $150,000, this particular vision of the future could soon be yours. New Zealand’s Martin Aircraft has just gotten a jetpack prototype approved for human testing. Don’t ditch your car just yet, though—even after approval, the jetpack will not be allowed in urban areas.

Prediction: Colonies on Mars
ETA: 10–15 years, maybe
Where is it? More than 150,000 people have already applied to join the first-ever manned journey to Mars, which will be funded by private investors and a potential reality TV show (yikes). Immigrants should expect to work to establish a colony for future generations. And, of course, they shouldn’t expect to come back.

Prediction: Living Forever
ETA: 100–200 years
Where is it? If a device or drug could fix aging as it occurs—and it seems this is theoretically possible—we could buy time to wait for better treatments. Eventually, writes biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, we could reach a point where each new treatment makes you “younger” than you were when you got the previous one.

Prediction: Dinner-in-a-Pill
ETA: Never
There’s still no known way to fit the roughly 2,000 calories an adult human needs to consume daily into a single pill. However, the original idea of the meal-in-a-pill came from suffragette Mary Elizabeth Lease, who hoped that it would help emancipate women from kitchen drudgery. Fortunately, that future has arrived, pill or no.

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