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Is the future anything like in Hill Valley ?

October 21, 2015

 

Is the future anything like it was in Hill Valley in Back to the Future II?

 

It's hard for me to fathom that the first Back to the Future movie, a trilogy that marked my childhood, was released 30 years ago. All of a sudden I feel old :). I love these movies, and I especially loved the second episode where Marty and Doc go to the future, on Oct 21th, 2015, which was today (technically yesterday but whatever).

 

Great Scott! The first time I saw the flying cars and the vision depicted in the movie I was in awe, and like many of us, wondered if when 2015 comes, will we be indeed flying in cars, walk in auto-lacing Nike baskets, self-drying clothes, ordering Pepsi from automated coffee shops, and, would we be hydrating a pizza with something that looked better than a microwave (and quite the space saver too).

 

Well you may have noticed that, not quite. We still have a way to go to get to this point, though I'm pretty sure humanity will surpass most of the technology seen in that movie during this century, though it may take another shape or form altogether. The flying cars will happen I believe, but first they will be the self-driving cars most likely. The funny thing is with all that marvel seen in the movie, some of the stuff kinda happened, like 3D movies being the norm (granted there's no holographic Jaw coming to take a bite at you in front of the theater, not yet anyway, and thank god there won't be 19 Jaw movies either :) , though in 10-15 more years there might be Fast and Furious 19). One thing the movie lacks at prophesying is the rise of mobile devices. Sure Doc has a gizmo of some sort but it doesn't look like an advanced smartphone (if memory serves, haven't seen the movies in a few years but kinda feel the need to re-watch them soon) like we all have now. I think the rise of smartphones thanks to the release of the first iPhone (cause Windows pocket PCs were definitely not smart by any means) has revolutionized the way we work, live, interact with one another.

 

I'm not yet sure it's a good or bad thing though. Sure I love my iPhone and I will sooner forget my keys than my phone when I leave the house. But on the other hand, when sitting in a bus or in the street, I find it we lost something in trade for this awesome technology in our pockets. We all look down at our screens, sometimes not even paying attention when walking, and way more dangerous, while driving. We hear the hypnotizing dings and rings of our sacred gadgets and we feel compelled to look at our phones, whether it's ours or the next guy's ringing. 

 

The things we lost is part of our humanity and the old time interaction. Its so much easier to lose oneself on the screen than to interact with the real world around. We also lost focus, and while the smartphone industry is probably doing wonders for new technologies to emerge and new discoveries to be made, I still fear overall we lost (some of) the ability to stay on task for longer periods of time. Sure we could turn off our smartphones when we need to work on a task, and probably some do, but I'm willing to bet most of us don't. I feel it myself, it's become a distraction, I will get a message and look right away, no matter if I'm doing an important task. We're constantly distracted and that's where we're headed as a culture I believe, always connected.

 

With the rise of social media we also interact with our friends a different way, mostly gone are the days when you wanted to talk to a friend you'd call them and ask. Sure it still happens, but let's be frank, we like our emails, IM, facebook and other new ways currently being the new norm for communication.

 

I am in awe with my friend (he will recognize himself), the last one who still has one of these old phones, the ones that still uses T9 for sms texting. He hasn't felt the need to own a smartphone, and to him I say "don't even try, you'll get sucked in". At least he doesn't need to charge his phone every night like the rest of us :).

 

It's not to say smartphones are bad, they are awesome tools, if you had told me fifteen years ago that I would be holding in my pocket a powerful computer with touch controls that allows me to do pretty much anything I can think of, I would have told you to get out of town. Sure I owned a pocket PC at the time, I was always a sucker for new gadgets, but it was painful to do anything on these, and to do what I can do with my iPhone (or any smartphones, but I do use a 6+ these days), I would need a minidisc or iPod or portable cd player, a flashlight, that pocket PC for emailing (which was painful with the stylus and resistive screen technologies), a digital camera and probably some other things I can't think of at the moment. 

 

There's no denying that the world changed with Steve Jobs announcement of the first iPhone, and I still love watching its first unveiling on youtube sometimes. But I can't help but feel that we lost parts of ourselves in this as well, that we are too dependent on this new technology and that we get interrupted too often because of it, so we can't, at least not the way we used to, have long term thinking patterns. Gone is the time I used to phase out and imagine an entire story or write a review in my head for the entire duration of a bus route. I used to make my commute to school or work to do just that, to think about things, things I wanted to write, to draw, to create. Sometimes I would even just create a piece of music solely in my mind when my minidisc player would run out of battery. I can't play any instruments (never learned to), but I could create music in my mind. 

 

But today I seldom can do these things, when I try to think on something and try to develop it entirely in my head, some external stimuli from a phone, tablet, laptop, wrist band, or whatnot will interrupt me. And I've used these devices so much its second nature to check them, the moment it happens too (why the urgency?). So it's cool to be able to do so many things with one device, I do feel I lost some of my freedom. Nobody took it from me, but it took itself away when the bound to this new technology became so intricate over the years. Even going at the sea, I want my phone so I can take pictures of that sunset, and if I happen to have data (which most of the time will be the case), then I don't get to enjoy that moment (at least not fully) of piece of quiet as inevitably I will get a reminder from my phone, a message from a friend, tweets, faecbook updates or whatever else the damn thing will do to break that otherwise perfect moment of relaxation.

 

I may sound negative and I don't really intend to here. I'm just telling you how I feel and that sometimes I feel imprisoned by all this technology. I'm sure there are ways to not feel this way but my compulsive personality makes it difficult for me to stop using something I've decided is useful at its core. Perhaps I should start turning off my phones for at least an hour a day, see what happens...

 

Alright this post was quite a lot longer than I expected, but then again I hadn't written a new article in a while.

 

Conclusion: October 21st 2015 has past. We don't have hover boards yet, we don't commute with flying cars, but we are always connected... Which is best? I let you decide, as I really don't know myself.

 

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