From flying cars to hoverboards, movies and TV depict crazy technology and inventions – here are some technology from sci-fi movies that actually came true!
The minds behind sci-fi movies are creatively unbound; they don’t have to abide by limitations of funding or technology when envisioning a make-believe world. That’s the whole reason we have the sci-fi and speculative genre – to imagine ourselves in a future we haven’t yet seen.
While our scientists and politicians theorise just on how we can keep the planet alive long enough to see us into the next decade, writers and directors and graphic designers can invent impossible narratives about all the other planets out there that remain unexplored. Their job is to ask ‘what if?’ And sometimes, not always, but sometimes, the answers they come up with aren’t too far off the mark. They have an idea for the future of technology that several years down the line becomes possible and implementable. The question is whether the technology is truly ethical or has a positive impact on society, but that’s a story for a different day.
Let’s take a look at all the best depictions in movies and TV shows of technology from Sci-Fi that actually ended up being invented.
#1 2001: Space Odyssey (1968) invented smartphones before they were made!
A Stanley Kubrick staple, this movie came out around the time a lot of our parents were born! It correctly predicted an International Space Station (before the first man had even ever landed on the moon!) as well as featuring a tablet computer… or, what we may now know as iPhones. That’s pretty incredible considering this film came out before even the first Mac had ever been invented!
#2 Blade Runner (1982) – FaceTime, anyone?
Blade Runner is a pretty dark movie, but you’d never believe that it features what we now know as Facetime! Back in ‘82, they didn’t even have mobile phones, yet Blade Runner features the main character using videophone technology that was decades away from invention… the film was set not too long ago in a fictional version of 2019! What the film nailed about the future was how nonchalant the characters were. Despite the depiction of video-calling in the 80s, the characters in this sci-fi world used video calls casually, like it wasn’t a total novelty, much like how casually we use FaceTime and Skype today.
#3 Back to The Future Trilogy (1985) practically invented everything!
We might not have flying cars or the ability to time travel yet, but considering the accurate predictions made in these iconic films about the 21st century, we might not be too far off! The film featured personalised, wearable technology which has come to fruition in the form of FitBits, Apple Watches and Google Glasses. Characters also use fingerprint-scanning technology to pay for things… much like Apple Pay! The iconic hoverboards in the third film are even a work in progress, with different variations entering the market like OneWheel, mini-segways and self-balancing boards.
#4 Total Recall (1990) and the creation of driverless cars
Driving test, who? This film featured autonomous cars! The character takes a self-driving taxi cab in the movie, which seems super-cool but also kind of like an accident waiting to happen. What may shock you though is that Google is currently testing self-driving vehicles, which is one of our top tech trends of 2020. On top of that, the film also features a full-body security scanner, which, if you’ve ever been through airport security, you’ll know is a commonplace procedure that is used every day. Talk about ahead of its time!
#5 Minority Report (2002) practically invented AI
This uber-creepy Steven Spielberg thriller set in 2054 has a bunch of predictions that came true! There’s a scene in particular where the main character walks around a mall and becomes bombarded with advertisements and billboards that all seem targeted directly at him. Sound familiar? Like how maybe you google a single yoga class on your phone, and for the next three weeks all the pop-up ads you see on your computer are about yoga mats? Personalised advertising is super prevalent in 2020 with websites like Facebook, Instagram and Amazon using your details, demographic and browsing data to create advertisements tailor-made to you. We can’t imagine how specific and how personalised they might get… considering it now seems they can pick up even on conversations now, maybe it won’t be long until we get ads just based on our thoughts. That’s a bit scary!
Minority Report also predicted gesture-based computer interaction. Characters use their arms and hands to swipe and zoom on computers, a concept that didn’t exist in the early 2000s. No keyboard, no mouse, no trackpad, just screen commands picking up on movement. It’s actually predicted that by 2025, we’ll no longer use phones but talk into glasses, returning to our upright state rather than slouched over a phone.
The movie also features driverless cars (but Total Recall did it first!) as well as voice-automated homes – hello, Amazon Echo and Google Home are both absolutely booming.
#6 Black Mirror (2011-present) created an eerie rating system
One of the biggest shows out right now addressing the future of technology, most of the creative plot points from Black Mirror have not yet come to pass…. Except, perhaps, with exception to the episode ‘Nosedive.’ Set in a status-obsessed ‘utopia’ where humans rank each other based on their interactions, an individual’s ranking has replaced currency. Only certain experiences and products can be purchased by those who have a high rank. Everyone is popularity obsessed and desperate to raise their rank. The main character, for example, has a 4.2 out of 5, but that’s not high enough to get the house she wants.
Seems crazy… but this is something we already do! Consider Uber. We rate our drivers, and they rate us back, and their ability to gain more customers as well as our ability to get rides hinges on the ranking we give each other! There are even certain dating apps in existence, as well as jobs you can possess, where you need a certain number of social media followers to qualify. Wild!
#7 Her (2013)
In this film, we watch the main character fall in love with his computer operating system’s AI. Kind of like someone today falling in love with Siri. AI’s use our information to get to know and understand us, sort of like a partner may. But how is this predictive of real life? Interestingly enough, in China, 44 million people have extensive conversations with a Windows chat-bot called Xiaoice (微软小冰) which learns about the user from reading positive or negative social cues. However, the level of consciousness depicted in this movie for the AI hasn’t been reached yet in 2020 – though the argument on what makes us human becomes interesting if we are ever able to create machine consciousness.
With the very real technology being developed every day and crazy innovations, it only means that movies and TV shows are going to become even more creative and crazy with their predictions and narrative inventions. It also makes you wonder about what technology from sci-fi movies you love that have unknowingly predicted the future. Hopefully, not Terminator!