Predicting the future

I sometimes ask myself how much of today’s dystopian and sci-fi books and movies depict an accurate picture of our world in 50 or maybe 100 years. Or at least of our technological progress.
Maybe a look into the past will help:

Take “Back to the Future II” for example. The movie was released in 1989 but parts of it take place in 2015. Not too far from today.
Hoverboard and automatic shoes

If we believe the movie’s prediction, we will use flying cars in three years from now, our kids will use hover boards instead of skateboards and our shoelaces will be automatic. I think we all agree that won’t happen. What I’m wondering: why didn’t the producers of the movie even consider mobile phones? Instead Marty uses a phone booth. ‘What’s that?’ a few of you might ask. ;)

Or take e-readers for example. In the movie a salesperson talks about dust jackets. A thing of the past in the movie, but are there e-readers? No. Instead books have multi-functional covers.

Many movies predicted that we’d live on the moon or other planets in this century. Especially older movies put much emphasis on space travel and space colonisation. Maybe the euphoria about space travel in the 50s and 60s led to this belief. As of now we’re still far away from moon colonies.

Let’s take a look at the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”. It was released in 1968 and is set in 2001. The movie predicted space tourism with trips to Jupiter or Mars. Of course that’s not the case. Only very few, very rich people have got the chance to join a space crew so far and certainly not for a trip to Jupiter.

Another wrong prediction of the movie and of many other movies of the time is the predominance of artificial intelligence in the future. If many movies had been correct with their predictions, we’d all be using robots for cleaning and cooking. Alas, sadly that’s not the case.

And what about laser pistols? When will they come? Never?

But a few predictions weren’t totally wrong. In “Back to the Future II”, there are flat screen TVs. And some movies of the past predicted scary reality shows. “The Running Man” for example, where convicts try to outrun Stalkers who want to kill them. Though we don’t kill each other on reality TV yet, I think I’m not the only one who thinks that the majority of reality TV today is what many people of the past would’ve regarded as a downfall of society, and maybe it's true. Big Brother certainly shows some similarities to the movie “The Truman Show”.

"The Running Man" - hiding from the Stalkers

That leads to one conclusion regarding today’s dystopian literature: though I’m sure 99% of it is totally off, some things might come true. Probably the things we least expect!


Do you know any movies that got it wrong when they predicted the future? Or do you know any movies that got it right?
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Jaime Morrow said...

What an interesting and timely post :) I'm currently writing a story set some time in the future, but I've purposely avoided mentioned what year or even decade it takes place in. I had initially planned on giving a general time period, but I've since decided I'd rather not. It's mostly because of many of the things you list here.

The trick is to make it seem plausible as a futuristic, but not so familiar or so foreign that readers can't buy in. I guess it's all about finding balance, right?

Great post, and thanks for the reminder :)

Susanne Winnacker said...

Jaime - I think not mentioning the year it takes place is a great way to make it easier for readers to suspend their disbelief/suspicion.