In his blog entry, Allan Yogasingam compares the fictional world of comic books with respect to energy production and wonders aloud if we can get there ourselves.
On a recent flight I was finally able to see the film, "The Watchmen". Many of you know that it's basically a look at the disturbed underbelly of the costumed superhero but one of the underlying themes of the film got me thinking.
In one of the film's many subplots, the main characters, a being of radioactive energy called Dr. Manhattan and the world's most powerful industrialist Adrian Veidt (him too, a former superhero) are combining their efforts in a furious attempt to create and harness a new source of power to combat the earth's energy crisis as it seems to be the root cause of the cold war in an alternate era 1985. The director Zack Snyder updated the original graphic novel's source story to be more "timely" with today. He felt that a global oil crisis would really be the origin of problems between nations.
As I watched the film and Dr. Manhattan work around the clock to create a new power source, the only thing that kept popping into my mind is why aren't we there yet? Granted, in our reality, there's no Dr. Manhattan walking around as a nuclear center but we're the people that managed to create the power of a nuclear explosion, we've put men, women and chimpanzees into space, and we've created a much smaller world because of computers and the internet. And yet here we are, in the year 2009, still dependent on fossil fuels - a finite source of energy. It seems laughable that we can't figure out a mass-marketable way of harnessing that giant globule of solar energy above us yet, or figured out something that doesn't require fossil fuels at its core, doesn't it?
I know I can't look at cartoons, science-fiction and comic books to give me an idea of the future. I mean, if I did, we'd be in flying cars that run on garbage like on the Jetsons and giant transforming robots would have been living amongst for almost a decade, but I honestly thought we'd be further along than where we are today with respect to energy harvesting. Don't get me wrong, I think in the last 5 to 10 years, we've made great steps, but in my opinion, we should have been taking those steps 20 years ago.
Fantasy has always been to writers a way of expressing desires through imagination. That's why Gene Roddenberry dreamed we'd be exploring space as a global initiative in April of 2063 because we'd have the energy technology to do it. According to my watch, that would make me 83 years old. Hopefully, between now and then, we go warp speed towards making that technology a reality. Til then, its back to my comic books.