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Top 10 Coolest Technological Advances Foreshadowed in Movies1

By Chris Littler

It is fair to state that nobody can truly predict the future. Not even futurists like Jules Verne, or even Stephen Hawking know what’s going to happen tomorrow. That said, it is incredibly fascinating when filmmakers take their best shot to get it right. They meet with the smartest experts and collect data on NASA projects in development, all in the hope that their film will be the one that people look back on and ask, “Wow, how did they predict that?” That rarely happens. Most times, it’s pure luck. If some predictions were true, like the idea that we are being monitored and controlled by global corporations – a theory from the international conspiracy thriller Tyranny – I’d be motivated to disconnect our Internet and Wi-Fi devices and live in a bunker. Although we cannot say for sure that this is truly the case, time has shown us again and again that even the most absurd technology we see in fiction can, one day, become reality. To further prove my point, I pulled out the chest of science fiction movies I keep in the attic (labeled “live snakes” to keep my girlfriend from seeing it), dusted it off, and came up with ten films that were eerily prophetic about future technological advances. Here they are:

Tyranny – The Beginning of The End

1. Favorable Gene Selection – Gattaca (1997)

Now that we’ve mapped out the human genome, we’re getting closer and closer to the day when parents can have their future child’s entire medical history laid in front of them. With that information in hand, they can decide if they want to move ahead with raising a kid who’s going to get brain cancer or allergies. Gattaca predicted this to a T – depicting a world in which the genetically chosen are a separate class from the natural-born. One can only hope that, as a species, we have the maturity to not go overboard with our newfound gene favoritism.

2. Shoes that Lace Themselves – Back to the Future (1985)

One of the first signs that Marty McFly arrived in the future were his shoes – they laced themselves. It was an impressive advancement when I first saw it. It led me to believe that in the Back to the Future universe, the United States must have gone through twenty years of unprecedented peace if scientists had the time to come up with that kind of BS technology. Apparently not, since the era of untidy laces ends this year with the patent of some very real self-lacing shoes by Nike!

3. Space Travel – A Trip to the Moon (1902)

A Trip to the Moon is a French-made black and white silent science fiction film in which a group of sexy female star sailors and their accompanying scientists travel via bullet to the moon, famously landing in the Man in the Moon’s left eye. Sure, the Frenchies got a few minor details wrong (Apollo 11 landed nowhere near his eye), but all is forgiven since they predicted space travel technology an amazing sixty-seven years before America pulled it off. In fact, the bullet looks remarkably like a space capsule.
Of course, that’s if you believe all that “man landing on the moon” mumbo jumbo, in which case I’ve got some prime swampland in Florida to sell you.

4. Pocket Computers – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1978)

Look, I don’t want to blow your mind too much because we’re only at number four, but what if I were to tell you that you’ve got something in your pocket that – like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – has all the information about the universe you’ll ever need? It’s called a smart phone, but it might as well be called Encyclopedia Everythingica, because there’s more inside these things than author Douglas Adams could have possibly imagined.
If the lines snaking outside the Apple store on launch day are any indication, a lot of normally rational human beings are under the impression that their pocket Guides are the real Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. These people are crazy! Someone call the Vogons!

5. Virtual Worlds – Tron (1982)

No one considered Tron a cautionary tale when it came out in 1982. After all, how could some delightful Disney fluff about a betrayed computer programmer who’s sucked into a digital world and must defeat an evil program to get his life back ever come true? Just ask my freshman year girlfriend! She’ll tell you all about the years I was fifteen pounds heavier, spending six hours a day playing World of Warcraft instead of taking her out to fancy dinners, movie dates, or having sex with her.
Believe it or not, the all-encompassing virtual world of Tron was a prediction of things to come in the MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) of today. There is, however, one key difference: the protagonist of that film is unwillingly enslaved to the game’s code. In reality, millions of people throw themselves into the open maw of subscriber-based online RPGs like an acne-scarred teen is drawn to a can of Mountain Dew.

6. A Town That’s a Giant Studio – The Truman Show (1998)

In the film The Truman Show, the town of Seahaven is not what it appears. The people who live there are all actors, who receive instructions on how to live their day-to-day lives from a higher power, who is rarely, if ever, seen. The entire town has been constructed to facilitate a massive entertainment undertaking – a television program that delights millions of fame-obsessed voyeurs across the globe. The weather is almost always sunny, and the streets are eerily clean. Everyone in Seahaven is so happy, that its borderline suspicious, and nearly everything you see, including the people, is for sale.
Sound make-believe? Clearly you’ve never been to Los Angeles.

7. Online Dating – You Got Mail (1998)

Long before Adult Friend Finder became the most useful website on the internet, AOL was the only choice the lonely bourgeoisie had of finding anonymous love, short of attending a raging swingers party. You Got Mail is a perfect snapshot of that now quaint era, when flirtation consisted of long missives punctuated with archaic emoticons sent over a landline.
Things have really changed in the past ten years. If Tom and Meg were doing this today, they’d be falling in love with misleading profile pictures, poking one another’s fictitious creations on Facebook, and making shoddy excuses why their computers can’t handle Skype. Sounds to me like it’s time for a remake.

8. Unmanned Attack Drones – Terminator 2 (1991)

In the future, when robots control the world, the sky will be controlled by a legion of faceless, bullet-spewing hovercrafts. That’s not far off from the situation in present-day Iraq, where American attack drones keep the skies friendly.

9. Airport Body Scanners – Total Recall (1990)

Total Recall may be a movie that took place within an absurd context – a man in the future is in a machine-guided waking dream – but the premise of full-body scanners at airports is anything but. New technology has been implemented at various airports around the world that allows security personnel to see what we’re packing under our trousers.

10. Surface Display Technology – Minority Report (2002)

Acclaimed director Stephen Spielberg met with a panel of experts when planning what the world of Minority Report should look like. His hope was to depict the most accurate future he could, and – though I think we’re a few years away from sticks that make people puke (that aren’t Slim Jims) – the computer interface Tom and the gang used to sort through data is shockingly similar to the Surface technology Microsoft debuted only recently.

Tyranny – Evaluation

Tyranny – That Day In November

Chris Littler lives in Hollywood. He has a degree in Dramatic Writing from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, one of the most prestigious writing programs in America, which he totally plans to hang on the wall when he has a Study. Chris currently covers video games at UGO.com when he’s not performing improv at iO, and is currently writing a one-hour TV pilot with his friend Wes. Like everyone else you know, he has an album available to purchase on iTunes and has lots of things to say on his blog: chrislittler[dot]com.

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Must Reads 8/29/2014