I always wanted a hoverboard - watching Marty McFly hastily zip around on a floating, pink board that carries his full weight - albeit not on water - is satisfying. However, if I really think about it I never mastered skateboarding, and by ‘master’ I mean I couldn’t even grasp standing still on one without it ending painfully. Even if we had hoverboards, I’d be deadly with one, but still, it does make me a little bit sad that I can’t just fly over to the shop. But in defence of reality, we definitely got the better deal and here’s why...
It’s when Marty Mcfly Jr flails his way into the diner, orders a fancy Pepsi, and seals the deal with his thumbprint that we wish for a world in which we didn’t need to carry a wallet. For a Dyscalculia sufferer you’d be opening up the opportunity to decrease anxiety of daily money-related tasks and even potentially cut down on crime, and while we’re free to use contactless payments already we’re still quite away from the technology depicted in Marty McFly Jr's world.
Back to the Future may have us beat on that front, but what’s interesting is that we’re getting there, slowly. For the past few years Sweden have been leading the way towards a cashless economy and there isn’t much you need change for - even busses apparently don’t accept change. Of course, that’s still not thumbprint technology, but scientists have been pushing biometrics by being able to monitor what we’ve recently eaten just through our thumbprints alone.
A possibly underappreciated feature of our 2015 that has seeped into every element of our daily lives, from weather reports to train times, is the Internet. The internet, or at least how we know and love it, doesn’t exist in the film's depiction of today, and while there are a few scenes that involve Skype-like video calls that knowingly nod towards some sort of unexplained network, most of the information we receive direct to our mobiles doesn’t. Instead, residents of Hill Valley seem to be required to view public screens that display the latest statistics and updates.
It’s only when you look at the developments of the internet alone that you notice how inconvenient McFly’s world would really be; in 1989 internet was only granted to military and academic institutions, compared with the staggering statistic that 38 million UK adults access the internet on a daily basis today. Even more wonderful is that our actual internet-infused reality has developed so much so, that I can enviously check howmanypeopleareinspacerightnow.com at whatever time I please, no going outside required.
We’re only given short glimpses into the cinematic landscape of Hill Valley 2015, so we have to assume here, but what’s worrying is that Jaws 19, with its tagline, “This time it’s really, really personal”, seems to be the release of the year - complete with it’s own 3D hologram, and while the original Jaws did give birth to the blockbuster as we know it, I imagine if McFly’s future ended up being a flawlessly correct depiction of ours, it wouldn’t be quite Jaws 19, but Sharknado getting the Star Wars: Episode VII treatment.
“Hydrate level 4, please!” As we venture into the home of a grown up Marty McFly and his teenage family, we’re introduced to the Black & Decker food hydrator, a device that works by taking already dehydrated food and rehydrating it. On first thought, the ability to place a 4-inch pizza into the bulky, microwave-like device, wait 12 seconds and pull out a piping hot 15-inch special sounds great, yet it probably doesn’t taste too nice and if our space explorers have access to fresh coffee over 600 miles above sea level, I think it’s fair to say that this is an invention we’ll all pass on, right?
On the subject of astronauts and their fresh espressos, space exploration isn’t really touched upon in Back to the Future, yet it’s safe to say that somewhere in its myology there’ll be some underpinning mention. Unlike our specular and fascinating year of space discoveries, in January 1986, a few years before the film was made, NASA launched Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-099) on mission STS-51 with catastrophic results; seeing it break apart just 73 seconds into launch and disintegrating over the Atlantic Ocean. The repercussions of such a tragedy undoubtedly cast a dark shadow over the world of space exploration and future plans of venturing beyond our atmosphere were likely knocked.
Yet NASA continued, and this year alone has been full of discoveries that make me giddier than a child on Christmas Day. NASA has discovered stronger evidence that water intermittently flows on the surface of Mars, and we’ve even found a second Earth! While it’s around 1,400 light years away, Earth’s bigger, but older cousin Kepler-452b has been discovered at no more a fitting time than the 20th Anniversary of the first exoplanet being confirmed to orbit around a typical star.
Robert Zemeckis was always concerned about depicting the future, even going as far to say that directing the futuristic scenes were his least favourite parts of the trilogy, and while the depiction of 2015 in Back to the Future might look colourful and flamboyant, I think it’s safe to say, minus flying cars and hoverboards, that we actually got a really good deal.
Celebrate this day with us tonight at FACT, where we'll be showing Back to the Future 2 - click here to book tickets. A huge thank you to our researcher Chris Clinton.