They say that if you want to know what the future will hold, then you should study history. But it might be more accurate to substitute the word “history” for movies and television shows. For decade after decade, movies and television shows like “Back to the Future” and “The Jetsons” have depicted their take on what day-to-day living would be like in the future. And now that we’re well into the 21st century, we have the opportunity to see just how accurate those predictions were. As it turns out, from smart homes to video chats, it’s more than a little creepy just how much these old films and TV shows seemed to know about present day living long before we arrived to 2017 (or perhaps life imitated art?).
Above: Released in the 1960s (but set in the 2060s), “The Jetsons” had a lot to say about what the world would look like 100 years from when it was created. And while we’re still a few decades away from Hanna-Barbera’s version of the future, it’s amazing just how many of The Jetsons’ predictions of home life already ring true in present day. Most notably, the lovable robot/housekeeper, Rosie, would make fast friends with the robotic concierges that are popping up in hotels and households today. She’d also connect pretty well with our Roombas. Oh, and the flat-screen televisions, smartwatches, and video chat sessions that’ve become so commonplace? “The Jetsons” were there first.
“Back to the Future”
The “distant future” depicted in “Back to the Future: Part II” is now two years past, set in the year 2015, and it’s kind of eerie just how spot-on some of its predictions were. Things like glasses that allow the wearer to watch television (hey, Google Glass), instant video chats, and homes that respond to voice commands—all of which were nonexistent at the time of the movie’s 1989 release—are now a common part of everyday living.
The 1990’s “Total Recall” featured a number of futuristic tech ideas that are now part of our everyday lives. The TSA body scanners that make traveling all kinds of uncomfortable? They were in Total Recall first. But even more prominent is the scene when Arnold Schwarzenegger hops into a car for a clean getaway only to discover it’s driven by a robot named Johnny Cab. These days, companies like Uber, Tesla, and Google are making self-driving cars (or at least cars you can request to drive you around without being Richie Rich) very much a reality. And while these cars aren’t yet readily available to the general public, we’re certainly not far from living in “Total Recall”‘s future.
“Gremlins 2: The New Batch”
“Gremlins 2” hit screens in 1990, and though the sequel doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being the most realistic of movies, its depiction of future automated technology is proving to be pretty accurate only 30 years later. For instance, the Clamp Tower, where most of the movie takes place, was particularly prescient, depicting a future where humans didn’t need to lift a finger to do things like open doors and turn on lights. At the time, automated everything felt like a distant reality, but now, more and more of us are working with homes that can be automated in all kinds of creative ways.
A lot of the home technology portrayed in the 1995 film “Hacker”s seems as silly and far-fetched as ever today, but one gadget that proved predictive was the movie’s take on a virtual reality gaming system. Evil hacker Eugene donned a video game head piece that looks eerily similar to the Oculus Rift virtual reality system that can be found in a growing number of households today. But when folks watched this movie in ’95, most of them weren’t going home to a gaming system better than the simple (but oh-so-lovable) NES.
Before companies like Favor, Amazon and Postmates (and, like, 6,000 others) made it possible for us to get pretty much anything delivered straight to our homes at the push of a button, it was nothing but an idea found in movies like 1995’s “The Net”. And not only did “The Net” predict that we’d be able to order hangover food from the comfort of our beds without speaking to another human, it also depicted online identity theft before it was ever a thing to be afraid of.
“2001: A Space Odyssey”
You know how we can literally speak to our phones, cars and houses and tell them, er, Siri, what to do now? Well, Stanley Kubrick seemed to know all about Siri before most people even had color televisions in their homes. Granted, the movie’s take on today’s smartphone voice assistant was a rather malevolent one, with HAL 9000 having a keen taste for murder. But it’s still pretty remarkable just how on target the 1968 film’s prediction of artificial intelligence of today was. Here’s hoping Siri sticks to making it easier to be lazy in our homes and telling jokes, and keeps her murderous tendencies at bay.
Star Trek might be the most amazing of all when it comes to predicting our present experience of everyday life. In fact, Martin Cooper, the inventor of the cellphone, has said Captain Kirk’s “communicator” was his inspiration for creating the device. Then there’s the Personal Access Data Device worn by Kirk that’s basically our current digital tablets, and the “replicator” that’s pretty darn close to the 3D printers more and more people have in their homes these days.