My neighbor borrowed my Back to the Future trilogy a couple weeks ago, and naturally any mention of those movies brings on some very deep discussions among my friends. A popular discussion topic, with the year 2015 nearing, is how accurate Back to the Future II was in depicting its fictional future. What futuristic devices from that movie do we use now or could come close to using in five years? (disclaimer: i do not stay up on recent technology or inventions, so this is all my limited perception at the current moment.)
First things first: Successful predictions.
1. Multiple-station TV. With picture-in-picture settings for televisions and multiple-tabbed-internet use, this definitely makes the list of accurate predictions (plus, it's clearly a flat-screen tv).
2. Video conferencing. Granted, the picture is never as clear over Skype or Gchat as it is when Marty gets railed on (and subsequently terminated) by his angry Japanese boss, but we've definitely got it ... as well as five years to improve the clarity.
3. Video advertising. Goldie Wilson III basically gives a commercial from a billboard. Yeah, we've got automated billboards, and video advertising abounds on the internet (banner ads, anyone?).
Unfortunately, the number of failed predictions far exceeds the number of successful ones. Examples include:
1. Food hydrators. As nice as it would be to have really, really tiny food that expands within a matter of seconds so as to save room in the freezer, this just hasn't come to pass. We'll have to content ourselves with our microwaves.
2. Holographic movie titles. This one is debatable, considering the trend of 3-D movies in the last couple of years, but anybody wearing the 3-D glasses outside of the theater simply for the experience of being attacked by the 19th incarnation of Jaws is just going to look like a goober.
3. Self-drying clothes. While this would come in handy the next time you're being chased by bullies and have to make a quick escape into the pond in the courthouse square, I'd suggest stashing a change of clothes elsewhere if you want to become instantly dry again. On a related note, we're not any close to inventing jackets that automatically adjust their sleeve-length, although apparently Nike's filed a patent on self-lacing shoes (but you'd still have to press a button to get it done, which defeats the whole purpose).
4. Hover boards. Far and away this is the prediction that has caused the greatest disappointment among my generation by not coming true. The hover conversion (complete with flying cars) maybe could still happen some day. There is hover technology out there (for bunches of dollars), after all. But it's definitely not at a point where it will be so prolific in five years that child-geared hover boards are produced en masse by Mattel.
So, for a little while, where we're going, we will still need roads.
"The future will be better tomorrow." -Dan Quayle