Some 30 years ago one director did the unthinkable and jumped the space-time continuum to bring us the 1985 classic Back to the Future. The movie had it all: time travel, great tunes, time travel, brilliant characters and time travel.
It’s a day future fans have been waiting for with bated breath. In fact, they were so eager that many mistakenly celebrated the wrong day in 2010. And with celebrations now in full swing, comparisons have been scattered across the Internet, from Jaws now being in 3D but lacking a 19th sequel, to there actually being more TV’s than is physically possible to watch.
With that in mind, we did some digging of our own to see whether we could do director Robert Zemeckis and screenwriter Bob Gale proud in predicting what will happen in 2045.
It seems that several experts foresee “talking” buildings in the future, which would have windows replaced by augmented reality screens. One such futurologist is Ian Pearson, who believes buildings will have artificial intelligence personalities.
Cities will be made from living materials that respond to the environment. They breathe in pollutants, clean wastewater, and use sunlight to make useful chemicals, energy, heat and vibrant vertical gardens, he explained.
Homes and offices will collect and process data from various sensors to flag up when repairs are needed or when the heating needs to be turned on. As such, Pearson explained that, much like the human nervous system, there will be no switches and manual controls. He also suggested that builders would wear exoskeletons akin to Ellen Ripley’s in Aliens.
That just sounds like there needs to be a new elevator system! Unless these suits come closer to being one of Iron Man’s demos, then there would be no way of getting to the top of a building if need be. And upon further research, we actually found that German engineers from ThyssenKrupp had been trying to sort that very problem out. The company has started working on magnetic levitation that would enable even cars to travel vertically inside buildings.
In comes as no surprise then that Pearson expects buildings to be taller than the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa in Dubai – and that they would be mini cities in their own right.
Furthermore, Hamza Bendemra, a research engineer at the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the Australian National University, believes that advances in software will likely make pilots obsolete in 2045 thanks to breakthroughs in jet propulsion. Airplanes will be lighter and embedded with sensors that will allow them to repair themselves. Chemists from the University of Bristol have already developed a self-healing compound that could enable wings to heal themselves in a similar way to how human skin does!
Communication technology was one of the predictions that Back to the Future II made correctly. In the film, Marty Senior is shown talking to a co-worker on a video call, while Doc Brown had a facial-recognition machine and a brain-wave analyser. Philip Branch, a senior lecturer in telecommunications at Swinburne University of Technology, said that by 2045: “Doc Brown’s brain-wave analyser will be perfected, making telepathy a feasible network interface. This technology is surprisingly advanced. It has been possible for some time to control machines through brain control.”
It looks like we’ll have the contact lenses seen in TV series Torchwood, which transmits everything the wearer sees, soon enough! In Torchwood, the character Gwen Cooper is able to receive information via a special pair of contact lenses.
This very contact lens has been created by researchers at the University of Washington and Aalto University in Finland, and it consists of an antenna that harvests power sent out by an external source, as well as an integrated circuit to store this energy and transfer it to a chip containing a single LED.
However, Branch is not convinced the technological breakthroughs we’ve seen over the past three decades will continue into the next. He said: “There could even be an economic, social and environmental apocalypse. Perhaps change will continue at a much slower pace than the past few decades. Maybe we will see a return to evolutionary rather than revolutionary change and the technologies we have now will still be around – much faster, more sophisticated and ubiquitous of course, but still recognisable.
“Or maybe some combination of economic, social and environmental apocalypse will cause the collapse of existing infrastructure and telecommunications will be back to pencil and paper or something even more primitive.”
Are we heading the way of TV series Revolution, whereby electricity stops working, thus plunging the world back into the dark ages? Hopefully not, because based on the few episodes I’ve seen there will be a lot less use of pen and paper and more henchman shooting muskets.
According to social entrepreneur Charles Leadbeater, however, “the web, as a single space largely made up of webpages accessed on computers, will be long gone. We will be sharing videos, simulations, experiences and environments, on a multiplicity of devices to which we’ll pay as much attention as a light switch. Yet, many of the big changes of the next 25 years will come from unknowns working in their bedrooms and garages. And by 2035 we will be talking about the coming of quantum computing, which will take us beyond the world of binary, digital computing, on and off, black and white, 0s and 1s.”
But Russell Davies, head of planning at the advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather Is convinced that the realm of advertising will see the most change. He suggested that there will be products consumers will be allowed to buy but not see advertised.
He said: “We’ll end up with all sorts of products in plain packaging with the product name in a generic typeface – as the government is currently discussing for cigarettes. But it won’t stop there. We’ll also be nudged into renegotiating the relationship between society and advertising, because over the next few years we’re going to be interrupted by advertising like never before.“
Read on to find out about the UK’s economic structure and the future ability to buy emotions.