We’re all hearing a lot about today being THE day, finally, when Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrive from the past. We’ve bemoaned the lack of hoverboards, the fact there isn’t a Jaws 17 in real 3d on at the movies. Surprisingly, there ARE still a lot of Deloreans kicking about.
But I’m looking the other way. I’m remembering what I can about 1985, wanting to remember what I thought the future would really look like.
In 1985 I was thirteen. In my third year of Secondary School, and doing reasonably well. I was a big Star Wars fan, although I actually had only seen “The Empire Strikes Back” for the first time the year before, on VHS. (I’d seen “Return of the Jedi” several times, including once up in London as a result of winning a competition…)
I saw “Back to the Future” at the cinema in Winchester, a relic from the glory days of the movies, sandwiched between anonymous buildings on North Walls. I likely saw the sequel there too. At thirteen, the cinema was a place I could suddenly go to with friends, not parents, and back then it was also within my limited budget.
It was obvious that the 2015 shown in “Back to the Future 2” was over the top, but thirty years was a long time. Look at the advancements we had made since 1955, after all – we had digital watches, space shuttles, a phone the size of a small briefcase you could carry around with you! Clive Sinclair was trying to get people to ride a three-wheel electric scooter, for Pete’s sake, surely we’d have hoverboards by 2015?
I think I missed the clear message of Back to the Future, though : that no matter how much times may change, people remain the same. If I could talk to that thirteen year old now, I wouldn’t tell him that we have a company making all-electric cars that can outperform most petrol cars, but people are still fighting wars over oil. I wouldn’t tell him that there’s overwhelming scientific evidence and vocal protest about climate change, but people are still putting profit first. I wouldn’t tell him that people are still fighting and killing over gods, over land, over ancient feuds.
I might tell him I carry a device in my pocket that can access almost limitless information and play movies and games. That my kids use computers every day and they are as common in schools as exercise books were in my time. That there are people like Malala who stand up to ignorance and cruelty, and a whole generation growing up who believe in recycling, renewable energy, healthy eating and are anti-bullying.
If you’re not sick of movies yet, try watching “Tomorrowland”. Near the beginning the heroine of the film is in class after class, being shown terrible images of the near future – climate change, over population, deforestation, animal extinction. The teachers are grim and despondent, and she raises her hand to ask “How can we fix it?”
That’s how we get the future we need. Not by aiming for hoverboards and shark movies, but seeing the problems ahead and asking “How can we fix it?”