Let’s see if I can resist the urge to mention the singularity without actually explaining it.
I can’t say I’m much of a futurist, particularly technologically speaking. It strikes me that the most obvious advancements are more mundane (though probably more word changing) than the hoverboards of 2015 Hill Valley.
I suspect they’re behind schedule. Though it probably depends on exactly how they function.
In honesty, the odds of something functioning in the same way as skateboard is unlikely, particularly the way Marty repeatedly kicks off from the air itself.
I find it interesting that that’s the thing I find absurd in that film. I can deal with time travel, I can deal with hoverboards themselves, but when he kicks off from the air near the hoverboard, I see no way that could work. I can imagine some kind of anti gravity board, I can imagine some kind of floating foot pad, but the control system would definitely be different.
Skateboards are a simple invention, you can see how they would be almost accidental. Just screw some wheels onto a board and try and keep balanced.
Hoverboards would have to come from some completely different drive.
And they would be toys.
And it’s probably cheaper to just tie in with current movies, not ones from the eighties. No matter how cool those movies are.
So where is technology developing?
It still seems to all be about extending and enhancing our interface with the world.
That sounds a bit vague, but it’s an important thing to note. The things that we’re noticing are the ipads and iphones. The portable computers. The permanent, mobile access to the internet and the world of information and functionality and pictures of cats that offers us.
The things that stand out in the field of research are things that make us more like computer game heroes. The invision HUD technology, the potential to have a layer of information projected directly into our vision. Enhanced reality.
Elsewhere we hope for a solution to energy problems.
Unfortunately the money’s going into increasing our ability to exploit the old solutions (fossils), and not reducing our reliance and finding alternatives. But hopefully priorities will change as the world gets closer to screwed.
Any obstacle that could unify our collective intelligence would be overcome in a blink.
Sure, if enough people watched Back to the Future part II at the same time, then the laser beam of all human knowledge would point at the hoverboard problem and we’d have one in less than a month.
But I think that’d be a bit of a distraction. Realistically.
And don’t get me wrong, I really love that film.
Modern technology has the potential to save our civilisation from it’s mostly self destructive path.
But I actually don’t think that’s what I want. I hope for technology that can change our path freely. I hope for advances that improve our interconnectedness even more.
Make us remember we’re all human.
That probably ain’t hoverboards.
Illustration by Lucy.