In Back to the Future, Marty McFly travels back in time, from 1985 to 30 years earlier, arriving in a suped-up DeLorean to 1955. While in the past, he subsequently messes-up his parent’s first meeting, and must then change history while he tries to get them together to insure his own existence. Likewise, in the film’s first sequel, Marty travels through time to assist his children. In the futuristic vision there are hover boards and flying cars. Though fanciful, we can see areas where the world we live in mimics much of what’s going on in both films – but are we truly closer to the technology found in Hill Valley in 1955, or in the film’s futuristic sequel?
First, we should ask ourselves where we thought we would be by 2011. Of course we’d have flying cars and hover boards by now, wouldn’t we? Yet here we are, still driving fossil-fuel burning cars, riding scooters and bicycles, whilst wearing fairly normal clothes. Basically, if you took a step back and looked at the way we conduct our lives, much of the technology we use today existed 70 years ago. The television had been invented. Cars already had modern features like air conditioning and radios. Movies were shown in color. The Wizard of Oz, made in 1939 has special effects that rival many independent moviemakers today.
Science-Fiction movies made decades ago have influenced and even prophesied many of the tools and machines we use today. In Total Recall, Arnold is caught bringing a gun through a full-body x-ray screener, very much like the safety measures found in airports today. Tom Cruise, in Minority Report uses tech very familiar to anyone who’s ever used a touch-screen tablet or seen 3D TV. In Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Pan Am flies everyday people into space. Anyone who has $200,000 lying around can board Richard Branson’s similar airship.
Some of the most amazing futuristic technology is used everyday: Video phones and “Skyping” people on the opposite side of the planet for free are commonplace. We’re able today to clone sheep, cows and mice. Are humans next? The ethical dilemmas surrounding genetic engineering are being discussed right now. However, if you looked out the window in the world we reside in today, does it look more like 1955? Does your mental picture of life in 2011 match up to the reality?
Where does that put us? The future is truly happening everywhere. Its seen in video billboards, the Internet tracking our every website click or online purchase, and 3D TVs and binoculars. We can still go to the movies – only now it might break the bank if you have a household of four. Still, the old axiom is true: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Chevrolet is still producing gas-powered convertibles, Universal is still making bad sequels, and you can still watch Back to the Future. Only now you can watch it on your phone.