You might have watched BBC Breakfast this morning or read your daily newspaper harking back to the impact of the film Back to the Future.
It was first released in 1985. If you’ve never seen it, check it out on IMDb. Marty McFly a mild-mannered high school student accidentally transports himself in a DeLorean car-shaped time machine back to 1955. Here he meets both his parents when they were teenagers etc etc. But it’s the sequel, which is fascinating today.
Because of the huge success of the first film, Back to the Future II was released soon after in 1989. This time, Marty takes the time-traveling DeLorean into the year 2015 to straighten out the future of his family rather than its past. I won’t bore you with the plot, but it’s the fact they portrayed 2015 from the perspective of the late 1980s, which is so interesting. This was 25 years ago and now we sit firmly inside the autumn of that very year.
The film shows hoverboards, flying cars, self-tying shoes, dehydrated pizzas you can cook in seconds, nuclear reactors for the home and fax machines on street corners. It’s notoriously difficult to predict the future but none of those developments have materialised, and some we wouldn’t want now anyway. When did you last use a fax?
If you were around in 1989 though, you will know the developments of the last 25 years have been truly astounding. Far from the film being too fantastical, it drastically underestimates the advancements that could be made in a quarter of a century. We’ve made breakthroughs so amazing that the film’s producers could never have included them - they would be regarded as impossible to achieve.
Then a computer was seen as a teaching aid or a hard-core mathematical processing machine for governments and big corporations. What nobody predicted is that the room-sized computer has been infinitely minimised and reconfigured for personal entertainment and domestic use. Computers are now phone-shaped with astounding processing power, and the real genius is that they’re financially accessible.
In fact they’re so inexpensive they’re now an everyday item, owned and used by 2 billion people across the globe. We can write to, speak to, and see our friends almost anywhere across the planet while walking around. We can access the whole of the world’s books, radio, tv, films and music instantly.
Other inconceivable add-ons include personal real-time GPS, health monitoring, stunning quality photographs, and sharing a home video with 800 million others about Charlie who bit his big brother’s finger. I also have the ability to point at a plane in the sky and tell you where it took off, where it’s going, the flight number, the airline and who manufactured it.
Maybe a handheld communicating device could have been imagined (even if it seemed too fanciful) in 1989. But the internet was completely unpredicted by anyone. This astonishing technology was originally designed for military purposes to protect sensitive information transfer from atomic attack. Inadvertently it has delivered a huge revolution in people power.
Charlie biting his big brother’s finger just shows how wrong George Orwell was. In 1949 he feared the future would deliver Big Brother suppression of the masses who dare not speak or express themselves. His vision of 1984 involved overwhelming censorship. In most parts of the world, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s allowed the smallest of the small to throw huge breeze blocks at the glass houses of the biggest of the big.
It’s hilarious watching slow-moving politicians trying to manipulate any type of social media. There lack of understanding is so great, they actually think they can own it and use it to their advantage. The tech-literate just raise their eyes to the sky, and download another cat video.
At Breakthrough Funding we have the great privilege of meeting small business owners who are the cutting edge of this amazing transformation. We gain access to government funds to help them deliver their vision. Their ingenuity and problem solving is truly inspiring and thankfully it shows no sign yet of abating.
I think Orwell would’ve been hugely relieved at how people power has taken hold, and fascinated that the government is funding developers to deliver it. So if you’re right inside the eye of the revolution make sure you contact us and see if we can help fund the next wave - www.breakthroughfunding.com
I wonder what 2040 will look like?
You can view the BBC clip here.