by Henry Lane Hull
Many years ago when I was a graduate student in history I recall my mentor stating at the onset of each course that the future was an unknown, the present was chaos, and the past was the only certitude we could examine. During my own academic career I frequently cited that adage to my own students. Now, all these decades later, a new book presents a challenge to the first leg of my professor’s aphorism.
The title is The Coming Technology Tsunami, A Personal History of the Future, by Rocco Leonard Martino. I have known Rocco for almost 30 years and have found his musings on a wide range of topics always to be both prescient and engaging. To list the wide range of his varied interests is indeed a daunting task. He began his career as a rocket scientist, from which he moved into the realms of finance, philosophy, history, literature, inventions and art, and I probably am omitting many more areas of his concentration.
To Google Rocco one comes to think that the search engine must be failing, for it seemingly has morphed many individuals into one, but such is not the case, Rocco has achieved eminence in each of the fields he has pursued. Now at the age of 87 he has produced a compendium that only could be told by someone with such a varied background forged by years of observation and truly deep thinking.
The Coming Technology Tsunami is not a work of science fiction, but rather an utterly believable and understandable insight into how our world will change over the next 10 years. The scope of analysis is monumental, for as soon as the reader comes to grasp one of the book’s assertions, the author brings forth another that becomes completely plausible in the context of the rapidity with which change is progressing.
Rocco foresees the new world order in terms of our passage on this planet becoming better for mankind as technology brings forth new means to improve the quality of life we might hope to achieve. From energy to healthcare, from shopping to education, from robotics to interplanetary travel, he leaves no area unexamined in his pursuit of comprehending what quite shortly we shall be experiencing as the day-to-day unfolding of the future, a new dimension of life that our children one day will take for granted.
With unfathomed optimism Rocco looks to the advent of driverless cars, robotic surgeries and construction, and explores the galloping advance of artificial intelligence. A writer of science fiction might set such a course in a future millennium, but Rocco’s scope is a mere decade, barely longer than two Presidential terms of office. In this scenario virtual reality becomes no longer virtual.
In applying his forecasts to contemporary events, Rocco predicts a shattering decline in the use of petroleum-derived products, seeing a future in which oil is a lubricant rather than a fuel, with the exception of jet fuel, thereby causing significant destabilization in those parts of the world that rely upon its export as their lifeblood. In that course of action, military activity in seeking conquests of neighboring regions will be alarming, but the resultant military activity will be conducted in large measure robotically.
For some who read this book the future will remain an unknown, confirming my professor’s axiom, but for those who wish to envision what it will be, Rocco’s book is a fine place to begin that journey. Upon finishing reading it, one comes away without fear of what will transpire in the years to come, but rather with hope that the present limits of our abilities will pale as we embrace a new world, replete with technology, but also with recognition of our growing ability to profit in making life better for all mankind.