It’s 2015. Congratulations! You’ve made it to the future. At least, the future as defined in 1989’s Back to the Future Part II. In this science fiction film, Marty McFly travels from 1985 to 2015 in order to help save his future son. In order to make the future setting more fascinating and exciting, the filmmakers made many predictions as far as what the state of society and technology would be like 26 years in the future. We all know that it’s just a movie, but in order for audiences to buy into the future world that Marty McFly travels to, the filmmakers had to make their future world seem possible. That means extrapolating current trends and technologies beyond their immediate presence in our lives. Now that 2015 is upon us we can finally take a look at these predictions and determine which ones have turned out true and which ones are still science fiction.
The prediction of the future is one of the most interesting aspects of the science fiction genre. Filmmakers have used their visions of the future to captivate and inspire their audiences. At the same time, they have also used the future to paint a harrowing picture such that their audience becomes frightened and alarmed. The end goal of science fiction isn’t necessarily to be accurate with these predictions as it is to tell an interesting or entertaining story, but as humanity advances, some of these ideas seem to be coming true. That’s both an exciting and frightening thought.
This week we’re starting things off with Back to the Future Part II. Here are 4 important predictions that the film got right, and also four predictions that did not come true.
4 Things That Came True:
Baseball Team in Florida
There’s a sequence in the film where a holographic billboard mentions the outcome of the 2015 World Series where a baseball team from Miami is defeated by the Chicago Cubs in a sweep through a best of nine series. In 1989, Miami did not have a baseball team, but now they do. In 1993, the Florida Marlins joined the MLB as an expansion team. They changed their name to the Miami Marlins in 2011. Therefore, the film was correct in predicting that Miami would have a baseball team in 2015. Whether or not they will get to the World Series is yet to be determined (probably unlikely – the Marlins had a .475 record in 2014). The rest of the hologram doesn’t look like it will come true though, the World Series is still best of 7 games and the Cubs and Marlins are both in the National League so they would not play each other in the World Series, although they did play each other in the 2003 NL Championship (The Cubs lost).
Widescreen Flatscreen TV’s
Inside the home of the future Marty McFly there is a large and thin flatscreen television attached to the wall. Although the technology for “flat screen” televisions has been around since the 1960’s, the ability to create thin screen displays wasn’t developed until the 1990’s and wasn’t commercially available until the 2000’s. In 1989, TV’s were either rear projection type (which were large but bulky) or old cathode tube (small and still bulky), neither of which could be mounted to a wall. The first Plasma Displays were created in the early 90’s and it wasn’t until 1995 that the first one was commercially available. Today, in 2015, flat screen TV’s are the most common type and they can easily be mounted to a wall, even when they are very large. Furthermore, the TV’s that we have now are even thinner than the one shown in the film, proving that even though this prediction was a good one, technology actually improved more than the filmmakers predicted.
Our Fascination With Electronics
There’s a scene when Marty’s family attempts to sit down for dinner yet both his kids are preoccupied with electronic gizmos. Both of them seem to be watching videos on some sort of virtual-reality goggles. This sequence is actually pretty close to reality for many families today. So we don’t have wearable virtual reality yet, but that could be on its way soon (think Oculus Rift and Google Glass). Instead, we are fascinated with our smart phones and tablets. We’re so enamored with them that many of us can’t seem to put them down. Later in the scene, the family received a phone call and the son notifies Marty who it is because the info shows up in his goggles. Although most families no longer have a landline, the film was pretty close in predicting how phone calls have also changed. We can now see phone numbers and our various electronic devices will tell us who is calling. Back in 1989 that was a distant dream.
Mega Movie Franchises
When Marty first arrives in the future he is assaulted by a holographic advertisement for a Jaws 19 at a “Holomax” movie theater (which is noted as being directed by Steven Spielberg’s son, Max). Now the Jaws franchise is long dead, and Max Spielberg is not a film director (he works in the video game industry), but a lot of the ideas here are spot on. For one, 3D versions of major releases are a common occurrence at today’s theaters. Second, long-lasting movie franchises seem to be the norm these days. Finally, they are directed by a new generation of filmmakers who are influenced by Steven Spielberg.
4 Things That Did NOT Come True
As much as I’d like to see them, flying cars are not a reality in 2015. And no, those half-plane/half-car hybrids don’t count. Cars still move with the help of wheels, and unless there’s a breakthrough in anti-gravity manipulation, I don’t think that flying cars will show up anytime soon. Highways still have to cut their way through hills and traffic is still a major issue in urban areas. Maybe one day flying cars will exist but honestly I don’t think it will happen in my lifetime.
Mr. Fusion is a portable fusion reactor that Doc Brown fits to the time machine to replace its nuclear reactor. Mr. Fusion transforms garbage into power, possibly with cold fusion. Currently cold fusion remains a mostly hypothetical power source, even though there have been people claiming to have successfully created such devices. Fusion power in general remains in the development stage, and therefore portable fusion reactors are still a long way off. Still, even though Mr. Fusion might not be a reality, the film is somewhat predictive in the fact that today we are exploring alternative power sources for our vehicles.
Like the flying cars, the hoverboard is still a pie-in-the-sky idea. Although it would seem like inventing a hoverboard would be easier than a flying car (less mass to levitate), the compact design of a hoverboard would make it exceedingly difficult to produce. Furthermore, one would expect that the technology required to make something levitate would be pretty advanced, so I’m not so sure it would be something that kids (or their parents) could afford.
Probably the one future prediction in the film that I’m glad didn’t come true is the fashion. Basically a radicalization of late 80’s trends, much of the clothing you see in the film would look downright silly today. Future Marty and his boss both sport side-by-side ties, a trend that has yet to catch on. The young men in the future are wearing jackets with self-adjusting sleeves and waist bands, pretty advanced stuff. Doc appears at the beginning of the film with a reflective sunglass band and a clear tie, not exactly a sharp look. He also gives Marty a pair of futuristic self-lacing Nike shoes to wear. Although Nike recently came out with a limited edition recreation of those shoes, they aren’t self-lacing.
Next week we’ll look at Blade Runner to determine which predictions have come true in that film and which ones are still science fiction.