Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Yesterday's Future

As I have mentioned about a million times, one of my obsessions is past visions of the future and whether or not they ever come to fruition. Most of those I've seen have come from publications such as Popular Science, but Hollywood has their fair share as well. This is a look at futures that have either passed us by or are on the near horizon. I'm skipping the obvious, like 2001, 1984, and Radio 1990. Okay, so the last one wasn't science fiction at all. But the internet has proven that this was a real show. I had thought for a while that it was a fever dream I had as a child, especially the week where The B-52s were the featured artists. Now about that mid 80s Tab commercial I only saw once...
Sorry, I got distracted there. Anyway...

Off-world colonies will be populated by replicants in six years. 
At least according to 1982's Blade Runner. But if you go back to the source for the movie, Phillip K Dick's 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, they've been out there since 1992. I graduated high school in 1992. Computers still used 5 inch floppy discs. Self-checkout had yet to catch on. Cassettes were still the most popular way to listen to music. The only way my car was going to fly was if I took an exit ramp at unsafe speeds. Dick's vision for only 26 years into his future was ambitious, to say the least. But what about the movie? Forgetting the whole nuclear wasteland aspect, could flying cars and robotic replicas of humans happen by 2019? It seems a stretch at first, but considering that Google has a car that drives itself and Japanese robotics companies are competing in a race to the Uncanny Valley, is it really so difficult to consider? Technology advances exponentially, and I still want my flying car, Dammit!
The Robinsons have been Lost In Space for sixteen years.
In October of 1997, the Robinson family set out from an over populated earth to explore other planets for colonization. The closest we came to this was the unmanned rover, Pathfinder, landing on Mars in 1997. I think it's safe to say that in our lifetime, we're only going to get lost in the mall parking lot.
Speaking of 1997, where's Skynet? According to the original Terminator movie, the machine that eventually becomes our robot overlord gains sentience and nukes Russia in August of '97. While, thankfully, this hasn't happened, let's revisit that car that drives itself. There are a lot of people who feel that if anyone is going to build a machine capable of thinking for itself and enslaving the human race, it's Google. Personally, I think Google is safe because even if they do bring about the downfall of humanity, Apple will eventually create a sleeker, pricier overlord, which will magically make the population forget that it wasn't their original idea. (Oh yes I did just go there! Deal with it!)
Ray Bradbury once said he was a preventor of futures, not a predictor. 
While it is easy to argue for the opposite of this, let me remind you that you are not reading this from Mars. The Martian Chronicles begins in 1999. Fahrenheit 451 does not specify a year, but it takes place after 1990 and is speculated to be anywhere from 2010 to 2050. Oddly, a lot of people seem to feel that the e-reader is a harbinger of the future outlined in this book. Ironically, most of those people haven't read the book, own a flat screen TV, a computer, iPod, and maybe even a tablet, and have completely missed the point. I dare say that despite e-readers, tablets, and the internet, we are probably closer to the future laid out in Fahrenheit 451 than any of the others I've laid out so far. Censorship and privacy concerns dominate the news these days and I don't even want to think about how many hours of television people watch each day. But cheer up! We still have nine years until the drought causing comet from Tank Girl crashes into the earth and gives Malcolm McDowell control over all of the world's water supply. See? There's always a silver lining, even if it doesn't come with a flying car. 

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