Brent McDonald – “To Infinity and Beyond”

To Infinity and Beyond!

Or, you know, something like that. The project I’m currently working on is science fiction and its impact on society, specifically the impact that the Star Trek franchise has been having on our society for nearly fifty years. Some of you may be rolling your eyes at the thought of a science fiction show actually affecting our everyday lives, but if you’re reading this from an iPhone or looking it up on a high resolution screen, your technology has betrayed you.

Specifically, I am penning a chapter for a compendium of knowledge regarding Star Trek and its many historical values throughout the decades.  My personal chapter of the book focuses on the different aspects in which Star Trek has influenced pioneers in the technological field, and discusses the types of inventions that spawned from the hit series in its multiple forms.

I’ve been spending the past few weeks studying Star Trek in its various forms, from Star Trek: The Original Series to J.J. Abrams’ 2009 film Star Trek. In doing so, I have come to the conclusion that I, like many other people of my generation, have been taking our current technology for granted. After all, before a few years ago, this is the closest thing we had to an Android phone:

All jokes aside, I’ve learned quite a bit about our current technology and the effect that Star Trek had on them. Take the old flip phones for example. They were all the rage when they came out in the 90s. They were just as exciting when they appeared in Star Trek as Starfleet communicators. Nokia was the first company to come out and put the design on the market, and they were indeed modeled after the communicators of old (or the future, depending on which timeline you look at).

Also, the U.S.S. Enterprise had automatic sliding doors before they became a staple at your local supermarket. Also, fans of the various series would remember the ship’s deck had a high-resolution plasma screen display and telecommunication equipment. By opening up their “hailing frequencies” they could use screens to communicate with others miles away. This type of technology is used daily in our time to conduct business meetings across the country and the world.

This research is teaching me a thing or two as well, and has taken me to some interesting sources. My investigations brought me to NASA’s website, for one. It’s a very informative website, and I recommend it to people who have never been.

My research also brought me to the writings of Ray Kurzweil. He tells of the coming “Technological Singularity.” If that doesn’t sound sinister to you, I don’t know what does. But the Singularity is an advanced topic all its own, and I plan on going into more detail in upcoming blogs.

This project is a blast, and, at the risk of sounding cliché, it has definitely taught me that not all research projects have to be boring. If you find something that you’re really passionate about, then the research becomes a breeze, and you learn more than you ever thought you would about a subject you already love. It also makes you come to appreciate the fact there’s always more to learn about a subject, no matter how much you think you know about it. Think on that, and until next time, “Live Long and Prosper.”

~Brent McDonald

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