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Monday, December 9th, 2013

These Disappointing Times, by Tim Sampson

Living in this modern age is pretty great. For crying out loud, just look at all the wondrous technology that exists all around us. You can chat with your sister in Vermont while jetting off to Hong Kong at 500 miles per hour. We've got these marvelous little smartphones in our pockets that let us access a pool of knowledge too vast for any one person to consume in a lifetime. Heck, even as I write this, we've got little man-made robots roaming around on the surface of Mars. Mars, for pete's sake!

So don't for an instant think I'm not grateful to be living in the year 2013. I am. It's just that, when I'm really honest with myself, I can't help feeling a little disappointed. I mean, here we are living in such an advanced age, yet we still don't have flying cars or a morally dubious Truman Show-type reality program.

I mean, c'mon! For nearly 60 years, Hollywood's been telling us that one day we could look forward to flying around in sleek, aerodynamic hover cars. We'd get to zip in and out of traffic in a shimmering cityscape of seemingly infinite lights and sounds—all in order to hurry home and watch an ethically questionable 24/7 reality program about an unsuspecting individual trapped in an artificially constructed universe.

It's just a letdown, you know?

For instance, whenever I'm stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway, I can't help but think, "Boy, it sure would be great to just turn on the vertical jets and blast off into the sky." I'd soar high above those stoplights and construction zones, with nothing to do but keep the hands at 10 and 2 and wonder if the 33-year-old man my family and I watch every night on TV has the slightest inkling that his wife is an actress whose tender confessions of love are nothing more than the hollow words of show business hacks?

He probably doesn't.

You know it's kind of funny to think about these things when compared to all the other accomplishments in mankind's pantheon of achievements. We can put a man on the moon and map the human genome, but somehow building a massive soundstage the size of Long Island and using it to house the completely fabricated reality of a single person is beyond our grasp? Go figure.

And come to think of it, weren't we supposed to have cars that could drive themselves by now? Whatever happened to that? Imagine just punching a few coordinates, then leaning back and letting your car handle all the rest. It'd be all the more time to watch the livestreaming cameras that constantly follow the man that you and the rest of society use to distract yourselves from the shedding of your collective humanity in an age of empty consumerism.

You could avoid those pesky speeding tickets, too!

And what about all the other things we were promised in the future? How come we don't have robot maids or an annual survival competition where children hunt each other to the death? Sure, there's the Roomba and Texas high school football, but it's just not the same.

Of course, there are the naysayers and the skeptics. The folks who say flying automobiles could never work because anytime you have a fender bender, the wreckage would plummet to the ground. Just like there are the folks who say that taking a newborn infant from a Ukrainian orphanage and having it raised by actors in front of the entire world as part of a madman's deranged concept of "art" is somehow immoral? To them I say, "Stop living in the past, grandpa!" The future is always fraught with challenges, but progress only gets made by the dreamers and the visionaries. Men like the Wright Brothers, or Mark Burnett.

That's why it's time to stop complaining. It's up to those of us in the present to make the future a reality. It's up to the young science student tinkering in his or her garage to discover the pulsating plasma reactors that make flying cars possible. And it's up to the aspiring filmmaker with a handheld camera to seize the initiative and steal that Ukrainian baby. Only then will we truly live in the world of tomorrow.

Tim Sampson is a writer and journalist from Austin, Texas. He is a headline contributor for The Onion.

The Humor Section features a piece of original humor writing each week. To submit, send an email to Brian Boone.

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