What Back to the Future got right and wrong about 2015



Back to the Future is here!

Released in 1989, Disney’s Back to the Future II arguably informed a whole generations imaginations as to what the future had in store. Released four years after the first instalment of the franchise, the film fast became a cult favourite, and was the 3rd highest grossing release of 1989.

The film follows the continued exploits and adventures of time travelling mavericks Marty Mcfly (Michael J Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd). To save Marty’s future son from being arrested, the pair hop in the new famed Delorean and travel 30 years in the future, to 2015 (NB: the film was set in 1985).

Upon first appearances, the films idea of 2015 looks pure fiction, an overexcited child’s idea of what the future should be. Cars fly through the air, vegetables are picked from personal flying gardens, and of course, skateboards have been replaced by the now iconic hoverboard. This vision was in fact the creation of Screenwriter Bob Gale and Director Robert Zemeckis, who have themselves acknowledged that they weren’t aiming for a realistic, accurate portrayal of 2015; they simply wanted to make a vision, and a film, that was entertaining.

However, whilst the films 2015 is of course exaggerated, and in no way analysable as real scientific prediction, it isn’t so far from the mark. Many of the gadgets and idiosyncrasies that looked so futuristic to kids and adults alike in 1989 are now surprisingly commonplace. Perhaps the most obvious of these is video-calling, an idea any 80’s kid would have surely jumped at. These days, video calling is just another communicative asset in the hands of square eyed kids worldwide, something as normal as old fashioned voice calling.

Even the most futuristic of futuristic gadgets in the film are in some way around in 2015. As you’ll see from the infographic, hoverboards, flying cars and weather control have all been in testing for some time now. Sure, it’d be downright weird to see a modern day Marty Mcfly shooting down the street on a hoverboard, but to suggest that the technology to create and mass market these products isn’t around is perhaps a little strong.

Whilst the film is fairly on point with many of its ideas for 2015, there are a few noticeable missteps. Perhaps the biggest of these is the prevalence of the fax machine, a gadget that in the late 80’s must have seemed innovative. However, with the advent of the internet and the World Wide Web – something still in its first formative stages in 1989 – fax machines have pretty much vanished. First replaced by email, then further rendered obsolete by instant messaging and social networking, it’s safe to say the fax won’t be coming back anytime soon.

All this talk of future predictions got us thinking about our own future; if we were to think 30 years ahead, what new innovations would we predict? Lucky for us, there’s a whole area of study dedicated to the matter – futures studies. Those who work in this field are called futurologists, dedicating their lives to academic predictions of what the future has in store. One of the most well-known futurologists is Ray Kurzweil, who in his time has successfully predicted the demise of the Soviet Union, the rise of the internet, and formulation of technologies such as Google Glass. We’ve placed some predictions for the near future on our infographic; whether these will come true, time will have to tell.

And for those of you out there still not happy with the way the present day has panned out, be patient – true to the film, you’ll have to wait till October 21st 2015 to see if the films future really comes true. Who knows, the fax machine could even make a comeback.

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