From my Impatient Futurist column in the the March issue of Discover
Those of us for whom Star Trek serves as a benchmark for technological progress can only bemoan the fact that hopes for faster-than-light travel to other galaxies seem to be receding at warp speed, given that we no longer even have faster-than-sound travel to France. But I would prefer to focus on the bright side: We’re rapidly closing in on the Universal Translator, which means that when I do finally arrive in France, I’ll be able to communicate as easily as if I were on Earth.
The Universal Translator, of course, was a handheld device that instantly converted Captain Kirk’s futuristically clipped English into the language of whichever vaguely humanoid alien was offering to buy him a blue drink. It is impossible to overemphasize…read more