HAPPY BACK TO THE FUTURE DAY! Yes, unless you've been living under a disused DeLorean shell, you'll be aware that today is the day that Doc Brown and Marty McFly wind up in Back To The Future II, the touching story of why sports betting is still illegal in 46 US states.
You thought it was because of some archaic laws, didn't you? Nope. It's purely to prevent someone stealing a sports almanac in the future and going back into the past for the purposes of spread betting.
Almost every news outlet you can think of has been looking at what tech they got right (tablets, wall-mounted TVs) and what they got wrong (rehydrated pizzas, Pepsi being Perfect). Then there's the third category: the stuff that we've crowbarred into reality in order to make more of it come true. Self-lacing shoes, for example.
Let's not count the hoverboard. We don't care what you call them. Real hoverboards do not have wheels. And that footage of Jason Bradbuegg in Piccadilly Circus isn't real either.
Back To The Future is just one of a long line of films that attempt to predict the future and get it fairly spectacularly wrong. But it's not their fault. Futurology is hard. What we actually end up with is a post-modern rose-coloured mish-mash of ideas that follow logical linear progressions, and life isn't like that.
Take something as simple as Moore's Law, which suggests that processor power will roughly double in size every two years. It's still holding out - some would argue only just - but instead there are things like quantum computing coming up from behind that will completely corrupt that paradigm. If we perfect quantum, as some think we will in the next couple of decades, the idea of blow-drying your own jacket is small potatoes.
A lot of things that get predicted assume that sort of paradigm shift. For a start, time travel itself requires that we discover exceptions or workarounds to Einstein's Theory of Relativity.
There was a brief moment in 2012 when CERN thought we might be on to something, but it turned out to be some dodgy results. And if we want to stamp on your childhood dreams completely, that alone makes this whole Back To The Future Day thing a load of old nonsense.
But everyone loves a semi-plausible post-modern future. Even in the darkest, most dystopian of stories the idea of what's next - be it the steampunk of Terry Gilliam's Brazil, the telescreens of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (not so far off the truth, that one) or even the artificial intelligence of Arthur C Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey - is fascinating.
The author and critic John Gardner summed up post-modernism as "today's interpretation of yesterday's vision of tomorrow" and that sums up Back To The Future perfectly.
The reality is more complicated, of course. After all, how can we even think about flying cars when we can't actually agree on how to police drones? The flying car is a repeated motif in everything from Luc Besson's The Fifth Element to Ridley Scott's Blade Runner and - yeah, let's go there - The Jetsons. But it's a case of running before we can walk. Or rather flying before we can draw white lines in space.
A lot of technology was, at some level, predicted in advance. Arthur C Clarke foresaw the internet, or at least the prevalence of computers connected together in the home, but fewer predicted the rise of the mobile phone as an extension of the current phone network, and even fewer as an extension of the internet. We were all about Star Trek-style communicators.
And at the heart of any post-modern vision of the future is the fact that we had no idea that a single device - the computer - would do so much of what we expected to happen. The link between the manual typewriter, the television and radio, the camera, the communications hub and 101 other gadgets that existed or we saw coming is the most surprising thing. No-one thought that the microprocessor could do it all.
And if you need any evidence of that, look at the scene where future Marty is fired for embezzlement and READ MY FAX! (Incidentally, this scene also predicts the rise of The Apprentice).
Speaking of which, in honour of Back To The Future Day, we're inviting you to comment on stories by fax. Send them to (020) 7504 3730 and they'll appear in Disqus. Because science. Or are ya chicken? µ
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