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Truth is stranger than science fiction

A car inspired by the ‘ Back to the Future’ film on display in a 2007 event in California. Sci-fi has influenced scientific advancement through the ages.— Photo: AFP

A car inspired by the ‘ Back to the Future’ film on display in a 2007 event in California. Sci-fi has influenced scientific advancement through the ages.— Photo: AFP  

When Marty McFly and “Doc” Brown burst into 2015 in a time machine, straight from the year 1985, they encounter a brave new world of garbage-fuelled flying cars, self-tying shoes and robot waiters.

For audiences in 1989, when CDs were the height of hi-tech, science fiction comedy Back to the Future II portrayed an exciting world 30 years down the line in which people would flit around on gravity-defying hoverboards, sporting self-drying, auto-adjusting clothes, and dogs are walked by drones.

Disappointingly, many of the gadgets anticipated by script-writers who dropped the movie’s oddball pair — and their hot-rod DeLorean time machine — into the “future” on October 21, 2015 have failed to materialise.

Yet in many ways, the 2015 of reality is even more radically altered from what filmmakers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale could have imagined, say futurists who study and project trends.

What we can do with smartphones now was almost inconceivable then.

“Their capabilities today, including access to all information on the planet, would have absolutely astounded even most futurists of 30 years ago... who didn’t imagine a phone would be for anything other than speaking and texting,” Sydney-based futurist Ross Dawson said.

“Back when the movie was made, people looking at the reality of today would find it quite mind-boggling.” Technology we would now struggle without — such as Google and Wikipedia, social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, smartphone GPS, and online shopping, would have been hard to envisage when the movie came out.

World without email

In the film, Marty, played by a young Michael J. Fox, receives a dismissal notice at home by fax — a now-clunky technology that seemed cutting-edge in the 1980s. The Internet revolution was lurking just around the corner, and the world had yet to receive email.

Today you can buy a home 3-D printer on the Internet for a few hundred dollars, which can produce a range of things anything from a gun that squirts water to one that shoots bullets.

We can “download” songs and “stream” films — terms that did not even exist in 1985. — AFP



One of the things which we could very easily see in 30 years is... humanoids and other robots just being a complete part of our environment.





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