Don’t we all need a cool alien sidekick?

Come on, scientists, enough with curing diseases. Where’s the innovation that matters?

Don’t we all need a cool alien sidekick?

Getty Images, iStock; Photo illustration by Taylor Shute

Dear Scientists:

Many of you have chosen to devote your lives to preventing disease and curing illness. Enough with the selfishness already.

The time has come for you to join together, buckle down and deliver on the innovation that humanity really wants—namely, the kind we see in science fiction movies.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s great and everything that some of you are toiling to rid our planet of the scourge of malaria. But FYI, I still can’t order up a burrito supreme from a replicator and eat it in my hovercar.

Here are the things we’d like now, please.

Jetpacks. Men and women of science, I ask you: how hard can it be to harness the volatile power of a white-hot rocket, strap it to a person’s soft, fleshy back, overcome the inherent challenges posed by atmospheric and gravitational forces and launch the person toward the sky without the certainty of a horrible, fiery death?

You’ve been promising us jetpacks since I was a kid—I’m beginning to feel foolish walking around in this helmet with racing decals. Bottom line is this: I’m closing in on my mid-40s now. If we don’t get jetpacks soon, I’m never going to know the thrill of rocketing above the great cities of the world without my left blinker on.

We need jetpacks. It’s not just about the convenience of being able to get to the 7-Eleven and back in fewer than two seconds. It’s about boosting the world’s fragile economy with big-ticket sales, new jobs and loads of ancillary benefits. For instance, the spectacle of jetpack accidents could alone support the creation of at least three new television channels and a burn ward.

Plus, nothing would rekindle our interest in celebrity mischief quite like the proliferation of jetpacks. These days, we can barely be bothered to read about the latest Hollywood DUI. But what about breaking news of a DJPUI? Is that something you’d be interested in? Give us jetpacks and it’s only a matter of time until an inebriated Mel Gibson crashes to the ground and blames Jews for all the gravity in the world. That’s an issue of People magazine that we’re all buying.

Aliens. Science, you totally need to step up the search for other life forms—to expand our understanding of the universe’s majesty, yes, but mostly so we humans can roll with cool alien sidekicks. Dibs on a Wookiee.

Superpowers. Surely we cannot be too far away from a time when science will be able to grant all seven billion of us a superpower of our choosing. (Hollywood has already provided us with seven billion superhero movies, so we know the numbers are manageable.)

In this utopian future, it will become a rite of passage: you come of age and head to the clinic to pick your ability. You want the power of invisibility? Sure, no problem. Super-speed? Here you go. You want to fly? Science can only do so much, Ms. Alley.

Robot butlers. Rich people do so much for us, yet science has failed to provide them with any viable alternative to hiring boring ol’ humans to do their bidding. This is a tremendous hassle for the wealthy, because every single human who didn’t grow up as a child star or female tennis prodigy still needs to be dehumanized. This process takes a surprising amount of yelling and hurled mayonnaise. But you know what doesn’t need to be dehumanized? Dehumans.

I’ve been writing for years about the inevitability of robots rising up and killing us all, but the sad truth is that we’re not getting any deader. Progress toward the creation of caring, helpful machines that will mercilessly wipe the human stain off the face of God’s Earth has been distressingly slow.

It’s time for science to nudge things forward. Let’s get a robot butler on the market, pronto, even if it suffers from a few minor bugs—such as sometimes walking into a wall or occasionally removing its owner’s spleen with a melon baller.

And guess what? We’re not that far away. A group of scientists recently built a robot that can pick up a towel, stretch it out and then stack it neatly after meticulously folding it over three times. This is a good start, assuming they’ve also taught it to tell the difference between a towel and a baby.

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