Ryan's post about the future got me thinking - It is amazingly awesome to be alive in 2012.
Our vision of the future in the late 20th Century was all about advances in the same way, only bigger or better. Let's examine Back to the Future 2 (I found this convenient list to help me out).
Adjustable Bat - Yeah. Really. Biff used this to attack Marty. I find the concept fairly useless and sinister. What would you need that object for? Aren't bats made exclusively for sports?
Adjustable / Drying Jacket (with a robotic voice) - Hm. My jacket gets wet during rainstorms, so I suppose that function could be useful. Why not just an improved umbrella, though? The auto-fit function seems a little ridiculous, like something that would be endlessly advertised on television along with that device for cooking pasta.
Automatic Dog Walker - Perhaps this is useful. Three into the list and I'm already annoyed with what they saw as innovation!
The problem with the futuristic inventions in Back to the Future 2 was that they are, for the most part, unnecessary. There's no purpose for a bat that adjusts or a jacket that changes sizes - they seem like items from a cheap novelty catalog. Powerlacing shoes seem lazy to me, and how many people will find the idea of randomly being swallowed by a cheesy 3D shark in public appealing?
There was a line that seemed on the mark - when the kids watch Marty master an old video game, the response is something along the lines of, "You have to use your hands? That's a baby's toy!" Maybe they are channeling a future that integrates more of the body as a controller, from the Wii waggle to the Kinect jive. Or perhaps the writers were commenting on the fact that children from the future are so lazy they rarely use their hands after childhood. Marty Junior, who has to watch six shows at once, certainly seems to enforce this possibility.
The future that Back to the Future 2 missed was not the fact that we all have phones in our pocket, although that's a quite amazing feat. It's not the fact that we're connected to practically all of the information known to man at any moment of the day. It's that the future is participatory.
We're not users anymore - we're players, participants, and performers. If you see it, you can make it, remix it, or mash it up. The tools for making imagination real are available to everyone. And that's RIGHT NOW - just imagine what 2015 will be like!
Back to the Future 2 showed a future of flying things and funny looking clothing - but people acted the same as they would in 1985. Our world is different now and it's awesome. Everyone has the ability to be a contributor which is much more interesting than exclusively being a consumer. And I'm not even going to list off the iD summer computer classes that this relates to, because basically, it's all of them. Just click somewhere above and you'll find a way to make thoughts into something tangible through technology and share those thoughts with the world. We might not have hoverboards (which are totally cool, but ultimately useless), but we do have a distributed outlet for artistic creation of all kinds, which is much better.