To truly give meaning to life you have to be prepared to plant a tree for the next generation – a tree under whose shade you might never sit and of which you may never taste the fruit. (Inspired by Nelson Henderson).
The truth about life is, we cannot change the past. But luckily it is also true that a privileged few have the ability to study history and to engineer a better present – and, of course … future. These futurists look at the world from a different angle, and often follow see a very different path going forward. And, it seems that one comes across these rare minds when one least expects it. They seem to be able to make an appearance in all shapes, sizes and industries.
When talking about South African futurists our minds automatically go to greats such as Elon Musk, Mark Shuttleworth and Clem Sunter. These men have become global icons. But, for a moment, let us think more expansively. Let us give credit to the story tellers, the ones that make us dream. The ones who have ideated and overlaid their vision onto the stuff of dreams: SciFi movies.
So, here goes. Let’s take a closer look, starting with one of my favourites: 2001: A Space Odyssey predicted video calls and Siri-like artificial intelligence— though Siri has, to date, resisted the temptation to turn to violence, unlike HAL9000! Let’s face it, today’s A.I. assistants have already surpassed HAL’s abilities to read human emotions, contribute to conversations and dictate decisions. Mmm. And isn’t it interesting to note, if you move each letter in the word HAL one position forward you get……IBM.
Gigantic digital billboards are a familiar sight to those who live in New York, Tokyo and other world cities, but in 1982 – when Blade Runner was released-they were still an abstract concept, something that only materialised years later. And, thinking about it, Blade’s characters made video calls with technology that did not yet exist in the real world.
Also, Skynet might not have sprung up to kill us all (yet), but there’s one thing from the Terminator franchise that did come true: military drones with applications in wildlife preservation of wildfire detection.
In 2002, the notion of targeted ads was a small, still vaguely creepy, aspect of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report. Now Facebook has picked up themantle, and how! Just go and search for tips on how to build a kronkiwonki, and next time you update your Facebook status you’ll no doubt see an ad for Lego. Minority Report is also credited for predicting gesture-based computing; the Nintendo Wii or Xbox 360 Kinect are decidedly less flashy than the tech Tom Cruise and his future cops get to work with. But we have to acknowledge that it is the same concept.
At this point we’ll quote Arnold Schwartzenegger as Jack Slater in The Terminator, and say “I’ll be back’. We, too, will soon be back with part two of this flashback to movies that have predicted the way the future has unfolded. Which just goes to show, imagination opens the doors to creation.