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I Want My Jetpack
Boy: It's 2011. I want my flying car.
Girl: Dude. You're complaining to me on a phone, on which you buy and read books. And which you were using to play a 3D shooter until I interrupted you with what would be a video call if I were wearing a shirt.
Boy: Can't I have a flying car, too?
Girl: You'd crash it while texting and playing Angry Birds.

Speculative Fiction always seems to think that the future is going to be a lot more flashy and interesting than it actually turns out to be. The far-off year of 2014 was supposed to give us lunar and undersea colonies, massive supercomputers, holographic radios, virtual reality, flying cars, food cubes, Robot Buddies, laser weapons and most importantly, Jet Packs! And all we got was the Burj Khalifa skyscraper, tiny supercomputers, HDTV, GPS-equipped cars that look like stylized versions of their 1970 counterparts, average packaged food, unintelligent industrial robots, Roombas, and assault rifles made with plastic. Nobody thought about the Internet, though, nor extremely efficient fast food.

Sometimes it's spoofed as characters are brought from the past into the future, only to be disappointed at the lack of "sci-fi" things present. "This is the future? Where are the food cubes? Where are all the phaser guns?" In the common vernacular, the most common phrasing is "I want my flying car!"

A side-effect of Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale. It's very easy to imagine fantastic tools that solve a dozen of today's problems at once, or combine features of two or more unrelated present-day artifacts. It's harder to do the math on how much they would cost to build, or the power input they would need to be used regularly.

This trope is named for the punch-line to Leo's rant in an episode of The West Wing on how we did not get the future we were promised.

This trope is pretty much summed up in the Tom Smith filk song 'I want my flying car'. [1]

Actually inherent to Space Operas; though all Real Life space development is based on unmanned probes, all FTL Starships must have people on them because it's hard to tell entertaining stories about unmanned probes.

As a matter of fact, jetpacks have been a reality since the 1960s 1944, and can even be bought today. The bad news is, they're pretty unimpressive (other than the no-longer-available Nazi ones).

Contrast with: It's A Small Net After All (In the aforementioned rant, Leo dismisses the Internet as "A more efficient delivery system for pornography."), Tech Marches On. Compare with Zeerust.

See also The Great Politics Mess-Up and Science Marches On. If Nazis get them, and you don't, it's Stupid Jetpack Hitler and that means you're fucked.

Individualized jet packs could be coming to market by mid-2014.


Examples:

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    Advertising 

     Anime & Manga 
  • Astro Boy: A rather bizarre version of this occurs in the manga. In one of the introduction comics that Osamu Tezuka was fond of adding to the paperback collections of his work, Mustachio interrupts Tezuka's narration and pesters him about why, if it's supposed to be the future, does nearly everything aside from the robots look like the present, complains that he has to wear a threadbare old suit and bowtie instead of Space Clothes, drives a beat up old 1950s auto instead of a flying car and lives in a dirty one-bedroom flat. In a possible Take That, the 1980s anime did have flying cars, but they look rather Zee Rust-y and often get into some rather horrific crashes, which cost the lives of two major characters on two separate occasions.
    • Tekuza then goes on to explain that his manga started predicting the future right around the time it started to be the future, so several of his ideas like massive TVs and tiny phones started to be made while he was still making the manga. Plus, Mustachio likes being old-fashioned. The one time he was given a futuristic house, he was very uncomfortable with it and went back to his traditional home. Oh, also, Astro Boy was built in 2003.
  • The second opening song of Great Teacher Onizuka has a verse about how cars aren't flying yet.

    Comics 
  • Scott McCloud's indie comic Zot! had the title character as a visitor to our world from a world where all the wonderful inventions and social progress we'd been promised by '50s and '60s sci-fi came about.
  • In the DC comic Doctor Thirteen: Architecture and Morality, Doctor Thirteen, in a rant, mentions he's still waiting for the shiny jetpack, and later one of the Architects (who bears a certain resemblance to Grant Morrison) shouts out "The Fewcha! The Shiny Jetpack Fewcha!"
  • In X-Factor, when Jamie is transported 80 years into the future:
    Jamie: So, do we all have flight rings or personal jetpacks?
    Scott: Don't be an idiot.
    Jamie: (thinking) The future sucks.
  • This Superman cover, it's rather self-explanatory. Though it was a good point about commas.
  • The Warren Ellis comic book Doktor Sleepless features a certain amount of this. The lines "Where's my fucking jetpack?" and "You owe me a flying car" are spraypainted on walls, and the phrases themselves form part of the title character's rant about how people are disappointed by how the "future" turned out, where they have all the astounding things we have now that nobody ever dreamed of then and then some.
    "There's no future coming. No-one thinks they owe you shit. You're waiting for a day that'll never fucking dawn."
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin gives one of these rants in one strip:
    Hobbes: A new decade is coming up.
    Calvin: Yeah, big deal! Hmph. Where are the flying cars? Where are the moon colonies? Where are the personal robots and the zero gravity boots, huh? You call this a new decade?! You call this the future?? HA! Where are the rocket packs? Where are the disintegration rays? Where are the floating cities?
    Hobbes: Frankly, I'm not sure people have the brains to manage the technology they've got.
    Calvin: I mean, look at this! We still have weather?! Give me a break!
    • Another comic has Calvin fantasizing that his morning routine is a lot more exciting than it really is, including his dad flying to work in a fancy rocket pack suit. In the 10th anniversary collection, Bill Watterson remarks that he'd love to have a suit like that.
  • Carl Barks' Rip Van Donald has Donald Duck's nephews pulling a prank on their uncle by giving him a fake beard while he sleeps under a palm tree, telling him he slept for forty years. Donald doesn't believe and wants a proof that he really woke up forty years into the future, so nephews quickly make up stuff like winter homes on Venus or counter-gravitation devices. The story was originally released in 1950, which would place this far-off future in the year...1990.
  • In Marvel: The Lost Generation, 50s-60s hero the Yankee Clipper arrives in the 1980s due to some time travel mix-up. He's baffled - "Where are the flying cars? The videophones? Things don't look that different... except for the fashions!"
  • Similarly, in The Twelve, WWII era hero Captain Wonder's first reaction upon discovering he'd been in suspended animation for over sixty years was to complain about the near-total absence of rocket cars. This is the Marvel Universe, so rocket cars certainly exist (like the Fantastic Four's Fantasticar, for instance), but nothing like that's ever been mass produced.
  • The Non Sequitur strip for July 11, 2012 has Danae researching what to expect for the future. As a result, Flo and Captain Eddie remember the flying cars they were promised and yell "We want our flying cars!" Danae takes this as a sign to lower her expectations.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live Action 
  • Metropolis, made in 1927, doesn't say how far in the future it is set. But to be fair, it doesn't really matter as it depicts the future pretty much without any futuristic technology. Sure, the buildings got higher, but elevated roads and skyscrapers existed already back then, as did the concepts of underground cities, standardised morse-tickers and sub-terranian pumping systems. The aircraft and automobiles are also modeled after the real things of the time, and the clothing still consists of overalls, knickerbockers and tailcoat sets of the swinging twenties. What actually changed in the film's future are the living standards and the moralities, and that is the story's great tragedy. Corporations actually are more powerful now in present times, too. Perfectly human robots, on the other hand, still aren't around.
  • The Net features a variety of computerized records and automated systems as ubiquitous despite the fact that in 1995 many such systems were rare or nonexistent. One particularly notable example was a computerized medical record system which doctors relied on so heavily that hackers were able to use it to trick them into giving a patient an insulin overdose. Medical records are only just now being stored in online systems.
  • Back to the Future series
    • Back To The Future: The trope is played with in an alternate ending. Marty reveals to 1955 Doc Brown that the Delorean time machine is powered by Coca-Cola. When he gets back to 1985, he finds that it's been transformed into a Zeerust pseudo-future, essentially what people in the 50s thought the 80s would be like — complete with Coke-powered flying cars designed by Brown.

      The film did have some things that we might actually see by 2015 (or at least 2025). Fingerprint scanners are becoming common, and the idea of someone watching six channels at once isn't as ridiculous as it used to be, except that it would be on a computer screen instead of a TV. Will there be a difference in 2015? And maybe cars can't run on Coke, but there have been cars designed to run on garbage, so who knows?

      Spoofed where the 1955 Doc repeatedly makes outrageously inaccurate predictions about life in 1985 ("Radiation suit? Of course... 'cause of all the fallout from the atomic wars." and "I'm sure that in 1985, plutonium is available in every corner drug-store, but here in 1955, it's a little hard to come by!")

      On the DVD commentary, the movie's creators stated that they were worried about this phenomenon since when making movies set in the future, "nobody ever gets it right". So they simply decided to make the entire future a series of running jokes (the '80s nostalgia cafe, Jaws 19, and kids wearing their pants inside-out are clearly things that weren't meant to be taken seriously).
    • Back To The Future Part II is a prime example of this trope. A French engineer actually managed to build a functioning hoverboard (inspired by the film, no less), but supporting a person's weight would require more power than a skateboard-sized body could hold. Nike made a version of the power-lacing sneakers for charity. They're even trying to make something along the lines of Mr. Fusion. We do have video calling now - though, that concept has actually been in development, at the latest, since the 1930s.
      • That said, [[Nike power laces have officially been announced to be available in 2015]].
  • In the movie The Thirteenth Floor a man in the 1990s discovers he's really in a VR simulation of the 90s created in 2024. At one point he gets to see what 2024 looks like, and the buildings are all bizarre "futuristic" things out of Buck Rogers.
  • The 1992 movie Freejack has the hero as a Fish Out of Temporal Water in a cyberpunk world where mega-corporations oppress the downtrodden masses and the wealthy elite use time travel to steal people from the past and swap bodies with them to remain immortal, all with the help of visored, laser-wielding mercenaries. And it's all going to happen in the dystopian future of 2009.
  • The classic science fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey predicted that by the start of the 21st century we'd have commercial space stations, lunar colonies and archaeological excavations, and manned missions to Jupiter led by AI supercomputers (unfortunately AI is still a crapshoot). The film's title has become so iconic, though, that the failure of real life to live up to those predictions hasn't hurt the movie.
    • To be fair, aside from the title there really isn't anything in the actual film suggesting what year the film is set in (and technically speaking it's actually set over the course of a few millennia, beginning with the Dawn of Man), so it could still be in the distant future.

    Literature 
  • Satirized in William Gibson's short story The Gernsback Continuum, set in 1980; the central character finds himself inadvertently "peeking" into an alternate 1980 — the one imagined by 1930s filmmakers, in which everyone lives in monumental towered cities, the average car looks like "an aluminum avocado with a shark's fin", and people wear "white togas and Lucite sandals" and say things like, "John, we've forgotten to take our food pills."
  • Similarly satirized in the Strugatsky Brothers book Monday Begins on Saturday with a machine that allows the user to travel into future narratively imagined possibilities.
  • Kibo's short story Spot's Third First Christmas parodies perceived time travel. A choose-your-own adventure set in 1993, the reader must either choose to go into the dim-and-distant future, or into the all-too-near future. Both paths end up in the year 2000, but with fixtures being either exciting (Man has figured out how to tint the sun a pleasant shade of blue) or dull (Beer was still nine cents a gallon).
  • Parodied in Kim Newman's short story "Tomorrow Town", which is set in a 1970s community of experimental futurists and deliberately designed to project a contemporary view of what the year 2000 would look like — with a pair of outsider detectives, assigned to investigate a murder, quick to realize that their vision of the future is completely unworkable.
  • Where's My Jetpack? by Daniel H. Wilson is based off this concept. It lists the most common things they promised us by now (jet packs, flying cars, Human Popsicle), how close we are to perfecting them, and what we still need to do.
  • Eric Frank Russell's novel Sinister Barrier (first serialized in 1939) had people in the late 20th century making audio recordings on Blattnerphones. You know... Blattnerphones?
  • Spoofed in Masters of the Metropolis by Randall Garrett, in which a man views our contemporary society with the same wonder as the protagonist in Ralph 124c41+ , the classic 1912 scientifiction novel by Hugo Gernsback about the wonders of the future.
    Threading his way through the crowds which thronged the vaulted interior of the terminal, he came to a turnstile, an artifact not unlike a rimless wheel, whose spokes revolved to allow his passage. He placed a coin in the mechanism, and the marvelous machine — but one of the many mechanical marvels of the age — recorded his passage on a small dial and automatically added the value of this coin to the total theretofore accumulated. All this, mind, without a single human hand at the controls!
  • Mostly averted in Paris in the Twentieth Century by Jules Verne (written in the 1860's and set in the 1960's) which predicts everything from elevators, cars, underground trains, electric light, telephones to hippies. Sadly, however, we have not reached the point of ending war. (Incidentally, the manuscript was originally rejected for being too implausible.)
    • Another book set in the 28th century has people talking over a "screen" even thougch they're miles away and people watching televised programmes on said screens.
  • In a similar vein to Where's My Jetpack? above, Your Flying Car Awaits by Paul Milo. It covers everything from the sublime to the ridiculous, many of the predictions from the Paleo-Future site mentioned in Real Life below, and offers thoughtful (and quite often tongue-in-cheek) commentary on what these predictions say about the time in which they were made rather than the future predicted. Among the gems noted: talking dolphins, underwater cities, a 200 year lifespan, space tourism as of 2000, nuclear explosions used for commercial demolition, engineered man-made oceans covering the planet, and weather as predictable and controllable as a train schedule.
    • With the development of gene therapy and other tech, that 200 year lifespan is (slowly) becoming a lot less implausible than first thought.
  • While Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles is loaded with this trope (as travel to Mars becomes common early in the 21st Century), one story contains a particularly weird offshoot of this phenomenon, where blacks in Mississippi steal away on a rocket to Mars to escape racism. The problem is that the blacks are depicted as obsequious, saying things like "Yes, sir, boss," even though the story takes place in 2010. Bradbury wrote the book in the early 1950s, before the full flower of the civil rights movement, so maybe he had an excuse.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's The Door into Summer has commercially available cryonic suspended animation available in 1970. The future in his Have Space Suit – Will Travel has moon colonies in the same culture as 1950s-style soda fountains, and the hero uses a slide rule. In I Will Fear No Evil, set around the year 2015, a successful brain transplant takes place, but the hero-heroine has to wait several days for the result of her pregnancy test.
  • Very much Andrew's reaction in In the Keep of Time to discovering the future is not that of The Jetsons. Made more intriguing (and amusing) by the exact predictions he makes for the twenty-second century.
    Andrew: By the twenty-second century, every house should have its own computers and robots and maybe people would talk by telepathy.
  • Briefly discussed in Marcus Sakey's The Blade Itself, when Evan leaves the prison after seven years and admires how the world changed during this time. When he notices that cars look a little different, it is mentioned that he kind of expected people to have hover cars at this point - although on the other hand, he is also amazed that everyone has those tiny cellphones that look like Star Trek props.
  • Stephen Baxter's Titan (written in 1997) has in the year 2008 full Virtual Reality simulations as commonplace, people could go to cybercafes and interact with others using interactive masks that simulated the feeling of the wind, sun, smells and even tastes.
  • David Brin's Existence, set in 2050, has The Singularity fill in the traditional roll of jet-packs as retro futurism that never came to be.
  • John C. Wright's Count To A Trillion opens with the grim announcement "The future failed to arrive."
  • The Time Machine: The Time Traveler travels to the distant year 802701, expecting to see all those marvelous achievements of mankind, and what does he find? A scavenger world inhabited by tiny childish people who think he fell from the sun. He later admits he didn't even properly prepare himself for the trip since he expected to find a future that could provide him with everything he would possibly need.

    Live Action TV 
  • In the 2000-2002 era of the British panel show Have I Got News for You, comedian Paul Merton mused about the lack of jet packs at the present time which he had expected to see when he was younger. He then went on to speculate that only the rich and powerful had them, accusing the Queen Mother of having five.

    This turned into a Running Gag where Merton would attempt to fit a mention of "jetpacks" into every single episode of that season; for example: Suggesting that penguins in the Falklands could use jetpacks to right themselves after falling over.

    Similarly, after Prince William (being nervous to meet Britney Spears) was described as 'hovering at the table', Paul immediately cut in with "He must have his own jetpack!" Conversely, in a later episode they were presented with an example of a modern effort at a jet pack and it was Paul who said they would obviously never catch on, because "imagine fifteen people coming out of a pub" late at night, strapping on their jet packs and flying home. Clearly a recipe for disaster.
  • In an episode of That '70s Show, Red muses on what he thought life was going to be like by that point when he was off at war, done in the style of a 1950's educational film. The fantasy ends with Eric asking to borrow the car and Red telling him to take the hovercraft instead. Back in reality Kitty gives him an odd look. "Hovercraft?" He then shouts angrily, "What? They promised us hovercrafts! Just another damn broken promise."
    • Another episode has Red playing Santa Claus, a little girl says she wants a flying car for Christmas. Red's reply? "Yeah, so did I, when I was your age. But then the future came and took my dream away. Just like it will take away yours."
    • Another episode uses a deliberately over-the-top version of the future when Laurie is dating Kelso, and Red is imagining what their future will be like. The Formans live in a house resembling Superman's Fortress of Solitude, Fez is their robot butler, Serv-O-Tro 2000, and Red takes a jetpack to Saturn on business for a week, warning Kelso that it's off to the asteroid mines if he doesn't have a job by the time Red gets back.
    • In another episode, the guys are playing a primitive hand-held video game and commenting that it was as good as it would get.
  • Used by Stephen Colbert when interviewing Van Jones, an environmentalist advocating major changes in the job market to create a 'green economy':
    Colbert: But how do we know this is even gonna happen?... When I was a kid, they promised me a jetpack. Where's my jetpack? (pointing to wrist) Where's my little TV?
    • Right here. Amusingly, this device is, as of June 12, 2009, obsolete. It supports NTSC (a prior broadcast standard), not ATSC (current broadcasting standard). Cursory web searches reveal many very small ATSC televisions, but none that fit on wrists. Wrist-watch TV remote controls, however, are common.
    • In early April 2010, when discussing the cancellation of NASA's Constellation program to send humans back to the moon, Stephen Colbert switched to a pitcure of a guy wearing a rocket pack and yelled, "I want my jet pack!!"
  • Also used by Lewis Black in the Back in Black segment of The Daily Show:
    Black: New rule, no combining old gadgets when you should be working on something new. Like a jetpack! Or a teleporter! IT'S 2003! Why can't I teleport?!"
  • The BBC Two programme James May's Big Ideas uses this question as a template to investigate real life flying cars, robot buddies, and energy sources.
  • Space: 1999. We were supposed to be disposing of all our nuclear waste by sending it to a multinationally-crewed permanent moonbase ten years ago!
  • Quantum Leap: The viewer rarely gets to see the "present" (the late 1990's), presumably to avoid this trope. Usually when it is seen some odd technological advances pops up. Many of these are justified by the Project being a top-secret research facility utilizing the latest technological advances not available to the public yet, but some are not, like an episode with a voice-controlled hotel room.

    Subverted in an episode where a kid in the past asks Al if the air is clean and if there are flying cars in the future. Al responds that the air is filthy and the cars are still on the ground, but they're working on it.
  • Referenced in Pushing Daisies when Ned says that he thought the car of the future would fly.
  • An episode of Seinfeld had Jerry and George wondering about what happened to moving sidewalks.
  • McGee on NCIS has just been outed as a jetpack, no, rocket belt expert nerd, to the point where he has made a short film detailing their history and credited it to his authorial pseudonym.
  • Leo McGarry uses the lack of jetpacks as a specific example of his grievances against NASA and their history of overpromising on an episode of The West Wing.
  • In an inversion, George Bluth of Arrested Development found out that there was a relatively safe and easy-to-use jetpack in 2005... if you could speak Japanese.
  • Parodied in Conan O'Brien's "In the Year 2000" segments, which predicted wildly futuristic events, even though the segments started only a few years before 2000. The sketches continued into and past the year 2000 without altering the sketch (including its name), making the essential premise even funnier. With his move to The Tonight Show, changed to "In the Year 3000". The joke also changed: Everything in the year "3000" was clearly about 2009.
  • Spoofed and then subverted in Eureka. The time-traveling Dr. Grant is disappointed that the modern-day world lacks flying cars and robotic servants. It actually has the latter, as well as many other amazing gadgets. It's just that on the surface, Eureka presents itself as an average town. Just beneath that is the wonder, which Grant learns of in short order.
  • Long-running British science documentary show Tomorrows World tried to showcase current trends in scientific discovery, design, and practical applications for that science, to predict what we might be using and buying a couple of years in the future. It ran for twenty-odd years and possibly thousands of inventions, and the most anyone can remember is that it successfully predicted sat-nav maybe fifteen years ahead of time. This show's earnest, very British, tone and delivery was parodied as spoof science show Look Around You. TW was possibly also hampered in that it screened on a Thursday night immediately before Top of the Pops and viewers were, at most, only politely interested in the nerdy half-hour just before the night's real attraction.
  • On The Flash, this is pretty much how the Ghost, a villain from the 1950s, reacts when he awakens from cryogenic sleep in 1990 expecting a Raygun Gothic world.
  • 'I want my jetpack' is the basis of a Mitchell and Webb sketch. It's a huge success sales-wise, but not at all in terms of safety.
  • On The Mentalist, after a witness posts video of a murder on YouTube:
    Cho: Welcome to the future.
    Wainwright: They promised us jetpacks and they give us compromised investigations.
  • There is a Running Gag on Bitchin Kitchen in which Nadia asks what more you could ask for, and then promptly answers "I know. a compact/hybrid/tandem jetpack," followed by a rant about how impractical it would be.

    Music 
  • Donald Fagen's song "I.G.Y."
    • Of particular note, the line "Well by '76 we'll be A.O.K." — the song was released in 1982. On the other hand, the lyrics get progressively more ironic and/or creepy, so it might be a subversion (and the Zeerust adds to that impression).
    • Fagen was playing it relatively straight here; the entire album it came from, The Nightfly, was an Homage to this trope and Fagen's 1950s childhood. Compare it to, say, "King of the World" or "Sign In Stranger" (Steely Dan's takes on The Future) and it's a lot less dark.
  • Flight of the Conchords make fun of this trope with their song Robots, which they supposedly wrote "some time ago":
    • It is the distant future, the year two thousand. We are robots. The world is quite different ever since the robotic uprising of the late nineties.
  • Similarly, in 2006, the indie rock band Tokyo Police Club released a single titled "Citizens of Tomorrow", which tells of mankind being enslaved by robots in the far-off year of 2009.
  • "Future" by Todd Rundgren.
  • An actual indie band from Glasgow is called "We Were Promised Jetpacks".
  • "Where's My Jetpack" by Tim Wilson.
    We made it to Mars and now the President's black, but where the fuck is my jetpack?
  • The song "(It's the Eighties So Where's Our) Rocket Packs," released in 1984 by the band Daniel Amos, laments "I thought by now" we'd have such marvels of the future as hover cars, picture phones, and robot maids. And such remarkable novelties as a female president and clear communication between all people.
  • The song "The World Before Later On" by They Might Be Giants
  • Deliberately invoked and parodied in the song Future Earth 2010 AD by fictional synth-pop duo Donkey Hotrod, which was allegedly a minor hit in the year 1979. In reality, the song was written and recorded in 2010 by British comedy group No Cause For A Llama, so all the "predictions" about life in 2010 are deliberately inaccurate:
    I can fit my computer into just one room
    Here in my house upon the moon
    Visiting Uranus really soon, in 2010 AD!

    Music is all on cassette
    And we all commute to work by jet
    The rain never falls, so we don't get wet, in 2010 AD!
  • While the future and technology in general are common themes in Machinae Supremacy albums, the titular track off "A View From The End Of The World" directly invokes this and other predictions that fell flat:
    I want some flying cars, a ticket to the stars-
    or even just a world without religious wars!

    Tabletop Games 
  • A major theme in Genius The Transgression, the roleplaying game of mad science. Many Geniuses style their Wonders after the future they imagined, and entire Bardos can be created from dreams broken by cold, hard reality. (The rest are created by disproved scientific theories and beliefs.) There's even a Baramin of Mad Scientists upset about this: the Atomists, who deliberately model their Wonders on the things the mundanes were promised.
  • The Technocracy from Mage: The Ascension is half this, half Machine Worship. By the time they've effectively "won" the Ascension War in Revised Edition, they learn the hard way that they spent so much time trying to tamp down on "reality deviants" that they never really managed to get humanity behind the idea of The World of Tomorrow.
    • Worse: to effectively wipe out competing paradigms, they destroyed humanity's sense of wonder. So that instead of humanity as a whole Ascending (which was the Technocracy's original reason for being founded), they've created a humanity that settles. Not that the Syndicate sees anything wrong with that...
    • As time passes, however, it becomes apparent that humanity's sense of wonder hasn't been snuffed out, but instead has found new directions of expression - much to the Technocracy's chagrin, because it means they've lost control. Not that they're about to let on to non-Technocrats.
  • Averted in Shadowrun. In the year 2070, there are not only personal jetpacks but flying cars, automatic weapons small enough to be easily concealable, laser guns, vibroswords, and all of the stuff resulting from the Awakening (including dragons).
    • Note that one Shadowrun novel lampshades the fact that the world isn't even more advanced, blaming it on the Data Crash of '20 and other disasters.
  • The book GURPS Alternate Earths (a supplement for the roleplaying game GURPS) includes an Alternate Universe that looks like 1930s pulp SF. It diverged from "real" history when Nikola Tesla married Anne Morgan, the daughter of J.P. Morgan; the marriage stabilized him emotionally and financially, and let him develop all the devices that died with him in the real world. And of course, it's called "Gernsback".

    Video Games 
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: come 2009 and we're still not communicating via nanomachines.
  • Some of the games from the original Mega Man series take place in the ambiguous year of "200X". More recent titles, including a remake of the original game, have bumped this up to "20XX".
    • The Mega Man Battle Network was full of this trope back in the early two thousands. While we don't have ovens run by computers that could make them shoot fire if infected by viruses, we do have TV screens flat enough to roll up like posters, and basically everything about PETs except Navis are embodied in the modern iPhone. Even then, one can make a convincing case for Siri as the Real Life equivalent of a Navi
  • Uplink, which takes place in 2010, has 60 GHz computer processors considered slow by the game universe's standards.
    • And no mention of multicore processing which more or less put an end to ever-rising processor frequency.
  • Aerobiz: Some aircraft featured in the game were designs expected (by the dev team) to enter full production, but never even made it off the drawing board, such as the McDonnell-Douglas MD-12.
    • In a What Could Have Been sense, if McDonnell-Douglas' MD-12 had come to fruition, it would have basically been the Airbus A380 about 10 years earlier.
  • In the X-Universe's backstory, by 2011 quantum computers dominate the computing market, and nanotechnology is nearing practical use. Check back in 2022 to see whether Japanese becomes the favored language of science, and whether or not a grad student in Tokyo blundered into the principles behind building jumpgates.
  • In the first Timesplitters game, the level "Cyberden" is a Cyborg-filled base. The year the level takes place in is 2005.
  • The original .hack series of games took place in 2010, by which point gamers were playing MMOs with VR headsets. In reality, VR gaming is still in its infancy: while great strides have been made with the Oculus Rift, the technology is still not available for the average gamer.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Johnny Bravo visited the future once, and it was revealed that multiple wars and plagues had prevented flying cars, but they were "working on it".
  • The Jetsons fell victim to this in too many ways to mention. Then again, the year in which the series took place was never pinpointed, perhaps intentionally.
    • Actually, it is pinpointed at some points. 2062.
  • The Simpsons may have fallen victim to this with the 1995 episode "Lisa's Wedding" being set fifteen years in the future... in 2010. In fairness, the show's writers freely admit on DVD commentaries that they never expected the show to still be going several years into the 21st century. The episode also has a couple rather eerie jokes about a Rolling Stones reunion tour and a Jim Carrey film festival, both of which have become much more plausible since it aired.
  • Also parodied in an episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law involving George Jetson. George declares that he's from the impossibly far-off year of 2002, which causes Harvey to glance at his calendar, which reads "May 2004".
  • Spoofed by Futurama, where all these things finally did come to pass, and some of them are even passé. In only the second episode, we learn that the moon is now a tourist trap of an amusement park. None of the other characters can understand why Fry is so excited about going there, or why he'd rather see the "boring" real moon instead of going on the rides.
    • Indeed, dinosaurs can be ridden in kiddie parks, and blowing up a planet is akin to garbage disposal. Oh, and Suicide Booths.
    • "In 2443, most videotapes were destroyed during the second coming of Jesus."
    • Played straight with "America's most popular suicide-booth since 2008". Then again, that was the year of the Credit Crunch...
      • And, believe it or not, they weren't far off, considering 2008 did actually see the invention of this.
  • Parodied in Family Guy where Stewie is transported into the future and sees the buildings: "Everything looks the same?" "Of course! It has only been thirty years!"
  • American Dad! uses the same joke as Family Guy, showing the year 2045 that looks almost exactly like the present (save for a random pet robotic dog, IIRC).
  • Parodied in The Fairly OddParents, when Timmy finds a bunch of old comic-books set in a Zeerust vision of what is now the present. He decides that its "present" is better and wishes real-life was like this. This, like all of his wishes, backfires as it leads to the obligatory Robot War and takeover.
  • This is actually a major theme in The Venture Bros.. To quote co-creator Jackson Publick:
    "This show is actually all about failure. Even in the design, everything is supposed to be kinda the death of the space-age dream world. The death of the jet-age promises."
  • Parodied in an episode of Robot Chicken, with a scientist responding angrily to everyone that has been complaining about the lack of jetpacks. After a short rant, a series of test videos play, each ending in massive disasters.
    Scientist: Now will you shut up so we can go back to making your iPods smaller? (* iPod explodes* )
  • In a Recess episode where the kids find a $100 bill they each have an Imagine Spot showing what they'd do with the money. All of them end with flying a jet pack. The episode ends with them returning the money to the original owner, who in return for passing his Secret Test of Character lets them ride his jet pack.
  • In Iron Man: Armored Adventures, this is the main reason Pepper wants to join SHIELD. Well that and arresting people all over the world.

    Real Life 
  • There exist (at varying degrees of public availability and feasibility) jet packs and other personal flying technology, bipedal robots, robot pets, flying cars, drone explorations on other planets, laser weapons, ranged stun weapons that end in "azer", and bionic limbs.
    • Also we have pocket-size portable phones, tons of information sent out and received via radio or television waves, a global communication network designed to point out repeating elements of said radio and television waves, a fast computing machine in every household (hardly any Sci Fi writers had any idea how computer technology would skyrocket), travel at the speed of sound or fasternote , passenger cars running on oil or electricity or other products, and microwave ovens (the first commercial model was built in 1947) that heat food in a matter of seconds.
    • One could feasibly have a jetpack now for about two-hundred thousand US dollars.
    • Now you can own your own jetpack. It costs $90,000, but it flies well enough.
    • Soon they'll be available mass-produced for $30,000 apiece, and can fly up to 50 kilometers in half an hour with a tankful, and can rise up to two kilometers. They're still Awesome, but Impractical for the most of us, though. Mind you, all that is off the point. It's not jetpacks per se that we want, nor even the thrill of flight; it's technological solutions to problems that turn the work-a-day world into Tomorrowland. The whole point of jetpacks is that no one ever has to worry about traffic jams or parking the car again.
  • This article from 1956 sets up an inversion.
    • Amusingly enough, this was during a period of time when everybody thought videophones would be a future part of daily life. While the technology is certainly there, they seemed to forget that people are vain, and might not want anybody to see them at certain times they would normally be talking on the phone. In addition there's always this slightly odd result of the other person not looking you in the eye - because it's still impossible to put the camera in the same location as the screen. Nowadays webcams and such are pretty much a part of daily life.
      • Videophones appear to be only popular in Japan and South Korea, the only two countries in the world where the video call function of a cellphone is heavily used. The two countries in the world with sufficiently superb data transmission infrastructure to support regular videophone use.
  • These 1900's predictions were scarily accurate. See "What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years".
    • They are transcribed here if you don't want to strain your eyes reading the magazine scan. Also, the entire paleo-future site where that picture is hosted is filled with examples of technologies that never came to be; in addition to the predictions already mentioned, both sets of post cards and this article are striking.
  • This shirt sums up the trope pretty poignantly.
  • Someday in the future we'll have supersonic jets and rockets to the moon again.
  • Thank God we are still able to enjoy food pills and how we managed to get the idea of food pills.
  • Fusion power. Maybe in about 50 or so years. Maybe not at all.
    • In 1979, the fusion research group at Princeton were reasonably sure that commercial fusion power was 30 years away. Thirty years later, commercial fusion power is now 50 years away. The future is actively receding.
  • As alluded to above, one area of technology that has consistently inverted this trope is that of computing. Popular books on computing in the late '80s and early '90s would often include a vision of the "computer of the future" that we'd all be using in 2020, that would be more powerful than a contemporary supercomputer, and as well as the already familiar tasks of office functions, games and internet access would serve as a television, radio, video telephone, media player and a portal for services such as shopping, banking and government administration. At the time, such predictions were considered to be on the optimistic side. This entry was typed on the computer of 2020, in 2010. And unlike the "computer of 2020," it's a laptop.
    • Even more impressive, is that all these things could be done on a computer in the late 90's (although admittedly not as well)
    • There's even a law for this: Moore's Law, which states that the processing capacity of computers doubles every eighteen months (one and a half years). It relies chiefly on technical innovations in different fields coming together - originally, Moore based it on transistor counts for a computer of a given size, but the law was modified to account for the improved transistors used in newer computers, making them faster, less expensive and more compact. The law has held firm since the 1960s.
    • It might have taken as long as predicted if the personal computer's entertainment potential hadn't become so popular. Even as late as the early nineties, PC games were still inferior to their gaming system counterparts, and sound cards were optional purchases. It could be said that the interest in multi-media, first MP3s and then video, as well as the interest in better-looking games pushed the PC industry into its current performance arms race, as well as the thirst for faster and faster Internet speeds.
  • In 1958, Louisville, Kentucky radio station WAKY-AM sponsored an essay contest. Winners were promised an all-expenses-paid trip to the moon, with a pay-off date in 1987. As the radio station changed ownership in the intervening 29 years, those who attempted to claim their prize weren't able to press a civil suit against it for not fulfilling this promise.
  • In the photo anthology, "Genesis: Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins And Beyond", written in 1984, Gabriel is asked about where music was heading. He mentions a whole new kind of "emotive technology" featuring a "big library of sound" and that you will be able to "treat things as sounds" and "be able to forget about where they came from and how you got them". He discusses how every home will have a computer and that such a dream instrument will be "an attachment that will also be as common in every home as a piano". He also predicts how musicians will one day "bring a studio into (their) bedroom and (they'll) get (their) tapes released on vinyl...the week after (they've) finished it". Essentially, he predicted the rise of MIDI, digital Portastudios, affordable digital workstations and independent distribution of music, though he still believed tapes and vinyl would remain the norm in music media.
    • Though in the case of tape, magnetic tape is still the preferred method for long term storage of media and data.
  • Here's one video that shows we may be closer to the future than people think. Not too bad.
  • Cracked's 5 Deadly Sci-Fi Gadgets You Can Build At Home. The jetpack is on the list. I Want My Jetpack, indeed.
  • Incidentally, TVs that could tune into six channels (or indeed, nine) simultaneously does exist in the early 2000s, courtesy of Sharp Electronics. It turned out to be as impractical as one would think, and even more useless given the TV only has two tuners to save costs- how it worked was the first panel of the bunch would be run by the main tuner with sound, while the remaining 5 panels would be picture-only and powered by the auxiliary tuner, who would flip channels and update the respective panes every 5 seconds while the other panels except the first primary pane froze. You could probably imagine how well that worked.
    • The latest series of DV Rs from Ti Vo possess 6 tuners, fully functional as they can record up to 6 shows at a time, while you watch something already recorded. Or stream something else live over the internet via netflix/hulu etc.
    • Some digital cable and satellite providers now offer "videowall mode" on their set top boxes, facilitating the ability to watch multiple channels simultaneously. Unfortunately, it's only practical for quickly surfing through what's available, since you only get sound on one channel and the other channel will likely lack subtitles or closed captioning. Watching it for prolonged periods of time isn't feasible.
  • Sci-fi writer John C. Wright has pointedly asked, in essence, "How is a private helicopter not a flying limousine, exactly?"note 
  • In a sense, and to summarize previous entries, we got our jetpacks, it just wasn't the ones we expected. Sci-fi writers of the past focused on the wrong innovations, some of which were feasible but impractical (jetpacks), and others just too costly (colonies on the Moon), while underestimating the development of much more practical and profitable technologies like computers and the Internet. Hence the paradox that we have less advanced space travel than in 20th century sci-fi works but much better and more ubiquitous computing technology. We should also not forget that we are comparing the early 21st century with sci-fi predictions of the mid or second half of the 20th century. That's not such a long time. Now, compare the world of the early 20th century with that of today... Those are two completely different worlds from a technological, scientific, social and geopolitical point of view. Perhaps the world of the late 21st or early 22nd century will be just as alien and futuristic to us who still remember the 1970 and its sci-fi as today's world would be for people of 1910.
  • Some people have given a alternate explanation (in addition to all the above) for this trope. Some claim that a lot of this trope comes from Fear of new media, science and technology advancing too far, or too fast for people's liking, moralism, capitalism (as in fear of anything undermining it), bureaucracy, and other social-political issues.


It Will Never Catch OnTime Travel TropesJust One Second Out of Sync
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