I write futuristic in inverted commas because, apparently, the future is here! This week there has been a lot of buzz around the release of a hoverboard called the Hendo, which has many people dreaming of gliding around like Marty McFly in Back to the Future II. At the extremely reasonable price of $10,000 you can zip around – but only over a specially designed surface, otherwise it won’t work. Also, only 15 minutes at a time please – or the battery will give in and you will hover no longer.
So, the hoverboard isn’t really what you might call a practical purchase and, therefore may not be an immediate commercial success. However, it’s a sign of the rise of ‘technology so novelty it could only appear in sci-fi’. Other examples include driverless cars, which this week took another step forward as Audi claimed the speed record for a self-driving car.
Personally, I find these sci-fi technologies a bit unsettling. I remember watching I, Robot and being very concerned about the safety of Will Smith’s vehicle, and not just because the robots were out to get him. If I currently can’t even trust my smartphone to make phone calls or not turn itself off randomly throughout the day, I’m not sure I would feel comfortable allowing my car to chauffer me around. Fundamentally, I think I’m a bit prejudiced against any technology which made its debut in a sci-fi film, as it just seems a bit fantastical.
Although perhaps I shouldn’t be so wary of these innovations - they may all become a normal part of everyday life. These are really just the most recent examples of technology which has been predicted in science fiction. George Orwell’s 1984 (1948) predicted CCTV and the wall-mounted flat screen TV, Blade Runner (1982) predicted the digital billboard and Siri is disturbingly similar to the HAL 9000 robot from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
Perhaps we should be looking forward to what the future will look like: the skies filled with drones, people having a nap as their car drives them around, and commuters travelling to work on Boris-boards. We should probably start asking what happened to all the other futuristic technology we were promised in films that hasn’t materialised. Apparently the jet pack hasn’t made any progress since it was featured in the Los Angeles Olympics opening ceremony in 1984. When is someone going to sort that out?