Where’s My Jetpack

I snuck another book in last night before I went to bed but was too tired to blog about it.  After The New Polymath, I felt like I needed something similar but different so I read Where’s My Jetpack by Daniel Wilson (CMU Ph.D. in Robotics).

It was hilarious.  Following are the chapter titles: Jetpack, Zeppelin, Moving Sidewalk, Self-Steering Car, Hoverboard, Teleportation, Underwater Hotel, Dolphin Guide, Space Vacation, Hologram, Smell-O-Vision, Robot Pet, Mind-Reading Device, Anti-Sleeping Pill, Invisible Camouflage, Artificial Gills, X-Ray Specs, Universal Translator, Robot Servant, Unisex Jumpsuit, Smart House, Food Pill, Self-Contained, Skyscraper City, Ray Gun, Space Mirror, Space Elevator, Cryogenic Freezing, and Moon Colony.

Wilson talks about the history of each invention, along with their original sci-fi source as well as the actual lineage of the invention in the real world.  It was surprising to me how many of these almost got commercialized but then died for – well – usually pretty obvious reasons.

Of these, the three I want the most is a Jetpack, a Hoverboard, and a Teleportation Machine.  Actually, I’d like a portable teleportation machine that my jetpack fits in.  Smell-O-Vision – not so much.

  • "Actually, I’d like a portable teleportation machine that my jetpack fits in."


  • I'm a little bit ticked off about this topic matter too, having grown up watching the Jetson's and Fred Flintstone. For example — HEY, where are our Jetpacks?!

    Regarding the "Personal Teletransporter" from StarTrek. Now, a very minor aspect of that, is the "Communicator" from StarTrek.

    When i was in undergrad as an EE, i attempted to duplicate Captain Kirk's "Communicator" device. It turns out that the sound that the communicator made, was not simple, or easy to duplicate – in any way. If you doubt me… go ahead and try it. Even circa 2010, with any tool you can find online. (Hint: it is a sweeping broadband arc of an audio spectrum… but virtually impossible to replicate).

    Maybe the lesson here is that the future is very rarely what you think it will look like??

  • So, Brad, are you buying one of these? http://www.martinjetpack.com/

    Not exactly a jetpack (a ducted-fanpack?), but only $86,000.

    • Yes – most definitely. I expect it to just show up on the first of a month when Amy gives me my Life Dinner present.

  • Brad, how do you manage to read a book a day?
    Do you use any speed-reading techniques or stuff like that?
    You have most certainly a busier schedule than mine, and still I read way less than you.
    Even though it's not my primary language, I consider myself fairly proficient in English, but it takes me way too much to read a book and I can't remember reading one cover-to-cover in the same "session".

    Also, what's the ratio between books and blog articles in your reading? I sometimes think I read way too many online articles and should just ignore my unread rss count..

    • I've always been a very fast reader. I've never taken a speed reading course – I attribute it to natural talent + experience. I also don't have any kids and rarely watch television (I'd much prefer to read a book than turn the TV on.)

  • thanks for sharing, nice info 🙂

  • Funny, I need to read that book. I think some of the things that used to be science fiction have been made into reality. Like the way captain Kirk's communicator evolved into today's cellphone. There is also a lot of technology that I did not see coming but would have been just as impressive as science fiction. Things like the digital camera would have been a marvel back then.