Thursday, February 4, 2010

Progress Report - 5 Years Left

While it may seem like only yesterday, it has been twenty-one years since the producers of the Back to the Future series went back in time from 1989 to 1985 before jumping forward in time to the year 2015 to research the level of technology the future would hold.  Though they would never boast about such things, it bears mentioning that the advancements in the film were near-perfect recreations of the world as it was supposed to be.

Unfortunately, by bringing this knowledge back to 1989 and presenting it in a movie seen by millions, they created a tangent "alternate" universe, as displayed in the following graph:

The upper line represents the original timeline, as events were meant to occur.  The branching line, embellished with loops and the like, represent the timeline we occupy.  Because our sense of perspective was thrown off, the very evolution of our technological and cultural development was altered.  By this time, we were meant to be hydrating takeout burgers, with pizza just around the corner.  And video games, rather than appearing on touch screens, were supposed to be played without the use of our hands.  Indeed, by the year 2006, controls for 79% of electronic games should have already been toe-based.

We are, in many ways, behind the curve.

In an attempt to correct this, we in The Middle Room have decided to offer a kind of public service.  We have attentively re-watched Back to the Future, Part II in order to better understand where the human race needs to be by the year 2015.  With the knowledge, we've constructed a kind of progress report, examining how far we have to go.

By 2015, we are supposed to have had time to develop a sophisticated freeway system capable of managing the fleets of mass-produced hover cars which are readily available.  Mattel, one of our favorite toy companies, should be selling affordable, pink hover scooters.  But, as a temporal branch of the infinite possible parallel lines of our species' potential development, we have been lax in this area.  We've yet to produce any efficient hover-tech, let alone driven the price down to the point where ten-year-olds can afford it.

Determination: Needs serious improvement.  Tutoring recommended.

In Back to the Future, Part II, we observe that by the year 2015 the average American household should have a massive, flat screen television capable of displaying at least six programs simultaneously.

We already have screens available in the dimensions shown.  What's more, the picture quality on most new sets is superior to that shown in the movie.  While we're unaware of any sets currently structured to show six shows at once, this technology certainly exists: we just can't imagine a scenario in which it would be desirable.  Especially given that, in our civilization, if we wanted to see more than one show at a time we'd simply Tivo it or watch it online the following day.

As none of these technologies are shown in Back to the Future, Part II, we can only conclude that we're actually ahead of our parallel Earth when it comes to TV.

Determination: Exceeds expectations.

While we're pleased to see developments in optical effects and LCD lights here in 2010a, we feel like we have a long way to go.  We only have five years to develop jackets that can adjust size and dry out and shoes that self-lace.  While these are certainly not yet available, none of the technology seems unobtainable if we work at it.

As a first step, kids could start walking around with their pockets turned inside out.

Determination: On track, but in danger of falling behind.

Computer Effects:
We are presented with only a few passing glances at what computers could create, though one has to wonder if this was perhaps a case where the filmmakers were unable to duplicate the things they saw.  Nonetheless, we seem to have differed in our path taken here on this branching universe we call home.  It is a matter of style versus substance: the abandoned timeline focused on the latter, while we've specialized in the former.  Consider the computer screens in the diner McFly visited.  These were capable of rudimentary AI and speech recognition which continues to elude us, though we seem to be making progress in those areas.  Nevertheless, the actual visual effects were simple compared with what we can now accomplish.

Likewise, the shark in Jaws 19 was rudimentary in appearance, though the 3D holographic technology was far more advanced than we could hope to accomplish.  While Cameron's advancements on Avatar give us hope, we still have a ways to go.

On an unrelated note, we need to expedite our production of Jaws films if we hope to catch up.

Determination: Needs Improvement.

Weather Control:
Despite the best efforts by Bill Gates, our timeline's weather control technology is decades behind that of Earth Prime.  It is more than likely that our failure to develop hover technology in a timely fashion has aggravated the effects of Global Warming, forcing us to divert funds and environmental research from planetary development to damage control.  It didn't help that the results of the 2000 election were flipped, either.

Determination: In danger of failing.

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