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2011: Are We Closer to Hover Boards or 1955 Chevys?

Business Technology | November 2, 2011

In 1985’s Back to the Future, we travel through time with Marty McFly in a nuclear-powered DeLorean. Marty can do what man has wanted to do since the beginning of time: control his destiny. In the first movie, Marty goes back to the past to save his parent’s marriage, and consequently his existence. In the lesser first sequel, Marty travels into the future to change the paths of his children. While these films are obviously fanciful, they do present an fascinating question. In the year 2011, would we consider ourselves to be nearer to the technology found in Hill Valley in 1955, or the second film’s futuristic vision?

Where did we believe we would be by 2011? Certainly there’d be flying cars and hover boards, wouldn’t there?  Yet, we’re still driving fuel-burning cars, riding bicycles and scooters, all traveling on the ground rather than through the air. Of course the computer is vital to our everyday lives, but what of the other technology around us?  In essence, the things we use most haven’t changed very much in the last 70 years. By 1940, the TV had been invented; cars were equipped with air conditioning and radios, and films were in color.  The special effects in 1939’s Wizard of Oz still hold-up 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 security 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.  Individuals who have $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 other 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 all around us. 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 your budget 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.  But now you can enjoy it on your phone.


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