Just look around. So many of the technologies we now take for granted are rooted in the weird and wonderful brains of sci-fi writers. Indeed, suppose you listened to a podcast on your way to work, used contactless to pay for your cappuccino, or walked through an automatic door to get to your desk. You'll have used three technologies that were first described in sci-fi literature more than fifty years before someone decided to prototype them in real life.
Of course, when it comes to driving renewable energy innovation, we prefer to be guided by solving the needs of the customers rather than by sci-fi. But who can say that sci-fi can´t inspire future developments? Here’s a pick of E.ON Foresight team’s favourite sci-fi films and their warped (but often scarily accurate) view of the future.
Ok, not exactly light viewing with its dreary vision of the future. But facial recognition systems combined with big data or manipulation of facts via social media, show this future isn’t completely unimaginable.
Gattaca’s registry database uses biometrics to pitch workers genetically created as ‘valids’ against those conceived by more traditional means – in effect creating a two-tiered world order. Its story lays bare some real concerns about the impact of reproductive technologies and eugenics on society.
The Matrix (1999)
Powerful sentient computer programmes and machine interfaces that are capable of uploading skills with the power of thought no longer belong to the future. Facebook and Elon Musk are already looking at technologies for steering devices through the mind alone.
Minority Report (2002)
Law enforcement teams worldwide already use AI for crime prevention. The film also offers a scarily accurate glimpse of next-generation marketing and retail shopping assistance – a reality that seems to get closer and closer every time we scroll through Instagram.
Global pandemics are no longer the stuff of sci-fi. Surrogates came scarily close to the truth with its depiction of a world where we’re too afraid to leave the house, not to mention impossible beauty standards. It also features robotic avatars that allow us to show up at work from the comfort of our own homes. What did we say again about life imitating art?
In Time (2011)
In a post-materialistic society, purpose and self-actualisation may one day have more value than money or status. Social media has created an attention economy, with companies paying big dollars to design apps that draw us in for as long as possible. Time is a currency we all lack, so it’s not too hard imagining it becoming the next valuable trading commodity.
The premise of Her is no longer sci-fi. Digital assistants already know more about your life, not to mention your likes and desires than anyone else in the world. AI and speech control have matured to the point where machines sound like humans (think Google’s voice assistant). Maybe one day, Siri or Alexa will mean more to you than a glorified shopping assistant.
Westworld (TV series 2016)
AI is maturing to the point of a so-called “strong AI” where it exhibits behaviour that’s at least as skillful and flexible as that of humans. Question is: could these machines ever develop self-awareness? The last season of Westworld shows a realistic view of the future of autonomous transport systems.
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