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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The biggest takeaway I had from doing Back to the Future comparisons

Plenty of comparisons today between what the Back to the Future  2 thought the future would be like and how it actually is today.  Probably the biggest takeaway from these comparisons for me is examining how writers from 26 years ago tried to predict future trends based on what they currently knew at the time.

While we're actually quite close on many of the technological advancements, how they manifested were quite different.  For example, both movies have video chatting capabilities.  But instead of using the flat panel tv on the wall we use a compact lightweight mobile device.  What made the difference in this case?  In the late 80's cell phones hadn't quite taken off yet, so it's not surprise they didn't foresee the immense value in having portal, small and high quality technological devices.  Heck, the computers back then were relative behemoths as well.  Compact design just wasn't a variable at the time.

The most glaring of these mismatches is the predicted fashion.  The writers took the fashion and cultural trends of the day and just kind of "futurized" them.  They completely didn't predict the minimalist and simplistic modern look that started to develop about a decade and a half later.  And how could they? There's really no way for them to have known.

So my point is when it comes to eras where we have no accurately recorded data, such as the future or the distant past, how much stock can we put into the information about those times if we're making assumptions that certain parameters are constant when they very well might not be?

How long has there been doom and gloom about the earth starving, running out of water, the temperature reaching catastrophic levels, etc. when something that wasn't predicted or accounted for changed those predictions or when something we thought was constant really was not?

Some may take this post as "anti science", but it's actually rooted in sticking to science.  Science is simply an objective way to understand our world.  It helps give us an idea about things, but can also leave the answer as inconclusive, especially when data is too sparse or there's just too many variables to draw accurate conclusions.

What I am against, however, is the dishonesty when it comes to taking things we really can't scientifically say is certain and making them undisputable, not up for debate, "truth".  That's not science at all.  That's just manipulating scientific findings to fit into what one wants to believe instead of acknowledging that "The data might indicate this, but there's just too many variables to be certain."   These people want so hard for the data to back up what they already believe that they just can't accept that the data doesn't completely support it or may even point in the other direction.

And I'm kind of likening those people to the futuristic predictions that the back to the future writers made.  Of course, it was only for entertainment and there probably wasn't much in the way of a scientific method when coming up with these.  But still, they took contemporary conditions, assumed they would be constant, and extrapolated based off that.  Making assertions that rely upon the assumption that certain conditions are constant backward and forward in time is folly.  We end up looking about as silly as some of the back to the future predictions.