It is no coincidence that the world today looks very much like the world we predicted. More than anything, popular culture determines our technological future. As TV, books and films depict their ideas of the future, we mimic them. Thanks to Back to the Future Part II, there’s currently a race to produce hover boards for the mass market which will presumably lead to hover cars (as seen in Futurama, Star Wars, The Fifth Element, Total Recall and countless others). After reading Starship Troopers, Monty Reed started developing exoskeletons which are now in use by many armed forces. You may also be familiar with the “Star Trek predicted the future” meme which shows technology closely resembling flip phones, iPads, two-way teleconferencing and Google Glass decades before they were invented for real. Life really does imitate art.
Cinematograph is a tremendously powerful tool for communicating ideas and every 10 years one comes a long which really changes the course of future technology. In the 90s, The Lawnmower Man showed the world virtual reality with a device that looks incredibly similar to the Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset that will be released commercially in 2015. A decade later, Minority Report introduced us to a simple yet brilliant concept of multi-touch – where a touchscreen can recognise more than one point of contact at once. You’ll now find that technology in every smart phone, tablet and pretty much anything that has a touch screen after Apple spent a lot of resources getting it right. Note that research was being done into multi-touch technology prior to Minority Report, but it is the movie and ones like it that brought the technology into the public eye making it something people wanted, making it commercially viable.
So what’s next?
Last year we met Samantha, an operating system with artificial intelligence, in Spike Jonze’s Her. Now artificial intelligence isn’t exactly brand new. The world has been obsessed with it for a while thanks to films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Bicentennial Man and I, Robot. Her is a depiction of what might happen, how we might use artificial intelligence as we get closer and closer to perfecting it. The male lead in Her, Theodore ends up falling in love with Samantha. And why wouldn’t he? She’s perfect. She’s designed to meet his every need. Theodore ends up developing a full romantic and sexual relationship with the voice in his phone. He’s not the only one either, it seems that within the film’s world, many people are getting into relationships with these hyper intelligent operating systems.
This concept is intriguing. What is wrong with having a relationship with a bodyless entity of artificial intelligence? It removes the superficial elements of the relationship. Through mobile devices, they can be with you whenever you need them. And you can just turn them off if they annoy you.
Whether it’s operating systems or Facebook 2.0 (which will allow you to not just update your relationship status but control it) artificial intelligence will become a reality. And it will benefit us in countless ways. As companions for the elderly, as carers (such as Baymax, a robotic character in Disney’s upcoming Big hero 6) as time saves (if your AI knows you only drink hazelnut lattes, then they can order if from Costa in advance and it will be ready when you get there) and of course, as sources of love.
Her portrays what the future would look like. This is technology at it’s best.