Back to the Future and predictions of 2015

Today is ‘Back to the Future’ Day, the day where Doc, Marty and Jennifer travel forward in time from 1985 to October 21, 2015. Of course, the second film was never intended to be an exact prediction of what the world would look like in 30 years time, but there are areas of both technology and culture that have turned out to be accurate.

  • Payment using a thumbprint has been made a reality through features such as Touch ID on iPhone and Apple Pay. However, contactless payments have become more common day-to-day.
  • One of the most accurate predictions of the film was that of a video telephone, which has become a normal part of modern-day life, through services such as Skype, FaceTime and Google Hangouts.
  • In a brief scene in the film, Marty is asked to sign a petition to save the Hill Valley Clock Tower on a tablet-like device. Now, 30 years after the film was made, tablet computers and smartphones are ubiquitous and widely used.
  • The presence of robots and AI are very common in the film and, although we are not completely at that stage, some parts have proved realistic. For example, the ‘Compu-Fax’ programme, used to write stories for USA Today, does exist in real-life and has been used by news and media corporations, but is still being perfected. Also, USA Today’s use of hovercams to capture news can be compared to the growing use of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, used not only by news organisations, but also by the general public as well. In addition, the presence of self-service checkouts and development of self-driving cars has contributed to the growing prominence of AI in day-to-day life in 2015.
  • McFly’s son can be seen watching six TV channels at once on a multichannel video screen, which (although not commonplace in the UK) has been adopted by DirecTV and Cablevision in the form of a ‘Game Mix’ and a ‘Quick View’ channel mosaic respectively.
  • Whilst we have all been spared Jaws 19, progress toward ‘holobillboards’ is being made. At present, holograms are still in their infancy, but it is not uncommon to find digital billboards in towns and cities. 3D films are also often screened at cinemas, with the highest-grossing film on record, Avatar, being praised for its use of 3D special effects.
  • In the Cafe 80’s restaurant, a young Elijah Wood denounced Marty for using a video game which required a handset. This has also proved accurate, with hands-free games now mainstream through the Xbox Kinect.
  • Although wearable tech is not as prevalent as portrayed in the film, the technology shown does exist in the form of virtual reality headsets, Google Glass (despite being in its development stage) and also the growing use and popularity of smartwatches.
  • In addition, whilst ‘cosmetic factories’ don’t exist in 2015, botox and cosmetic surgery as a whole has become increasingly common since the 1990s.

There are elements, though, which has proved to be inaccurate, and in some areas almost laughable:

  • The most frequently pointed out inaccuracy is the use of hoverboards and flying cars. Although both are in development, they are nowhere near to becoming products affordable to the majority of the public, let alone reaching the point where ‘skyways’ will become a necessity.
  • The technology to develop a ‘hydrator’ which could cook food in a matter of seconds, is not yet known.
  • As well as this, the copy of the October 22nd issue of USA Today inaccurately described a number of current events in 2015. Two examples include ‘PRESIDENT SAYS SHE’S TIRED’, falsely predicting the election of a female US president in either 2008 or 2012 (although Hilary Clinton may make this a reality in 2016), and ‘QUEEN DIANA WILL VISIT WASHINGTON’, proved incorrect as Queen Elizabeth II became the UK’s longest reigning monarch this year, whilst Diana divorced Charles and later died in a car crash in Paris in 1997. We have also yet to see someone run a ‘3 MINUTE MILE’, a spate of ‘THUMB BANDITS’ or a ‘SWISS TERRORIST THREAT’.
  • The growth of the Internet in the late 1990s and 2000s was not predicted in Back to the Future, which has made some predictions, such as fax machines on the roadside and the continued use of laserdiscs and CDs, irrelevant.
  • The lack of smartphones and Marty’s use of a payphone in 2015 has proved widely off; nearly two-thirds of Americans now use a smartphone.

Whilst we all recognise that Back to the Future was not intended as an accurate prediction of the future, it is intriguing to see what some thought present day life might be like.

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