Where are all the flying cars?

I dare you to read The Future and Why We Should Avoid It in public. If you do, prepare to stifle spontaneous giggles, smirks, and bursts of laughter as you try not to draw attention to yourself. Covering topics such as technology, health, leisure, travel, politics, aging, and death, Feschuk has compiled his thoughts into a witty analysis of what is to come based on the current innovations in these fields. He wonders why, when he was promised jetpacks and flying cars as a boy, we instead have things like the Roomba and Wi-Fi enabled fridges.

Feschuk has a distinct sense of humour and a casual, incisive writing style that grabs the reader right from the opening paragraph and holds their attention throughout. It’s easy to see why he is a two-time winner of the Gold Award for Humour at the National Magazine Awards.   

While critiquing the state of modern innovations, Feschuk also manages to work in many clever jabs at celebrities including Nicolas Cage, Cher, Ryan Seacrest, Jude Law, Rob Ford, and Kirstie Alley.

When you think about all the brainpower being used to create consumer products, it makes you wonder what could be accomplished if those minds were put to more productive use. For example, as Feschuk points out, Procter and Gamble have recently come out with a breakthrough in razor technology — a handle that pivots. “Gillette’s Fusion ProGlide razor with FlexBallTM Technology is so powerful that it allows capital letters to be placed in the middle of made-up words,” explains Feschuk.

The future of air travel also looks bleak to the author: “Business-class passengers will receive a complimentary bag of nuts. Economy class passengers will receive a complimentary bag of nut. Rest assured that even in these difficult economic times, a majority of our planes continue to feature free coffee and trained pilots.”

Along with Feschuk’s predictions of Canada’s political future if Rob Ford became Prime Minister and his analysis of the 2012 US election campaign, the book features a few sections that I think show Feschuk at his best. “The Seven Stages of Winter” is written in a seven stages of grief-style list, with three of them being “despair.” I also found his letter of advice to post-secondary students quite useful, including this gem: “Slice of bread, peanut butter, slice of processed cheese, layer of BBQ Fritos, second slice of bread. You’re welcome.” 

There are a couple of chapters that read like a collection of ramblings or complaints about society, and these don’t quite fit in with the rest of the book and its theme of discussing innovations for our future. For instance, I found “Arts and Entertainment” to be the weakest section — unless, of course, you really want to know what Transformers 6: The Hangover would be like.

Inevitably, talk of the future leads to talk of aging and death. Feschuk discusses the many wonderful things we can look forward to in old age, such as memory loss, hair loss, and various other kinds of loss. On the upside, there may be hope for immortality thanks to Ray Kurzweil and his nanobots.

But would we really want to be immortal? As Feschuk points out, the present was once the future and it’s not that special — so don’t get your hopes up.

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