Back to the Future Part II.” The film got some things right about 2015, including in-home videoconferencing and devices that recognize people by their voices and fingerprints. But it also predicted trunk-sized fusion reactors, hoverboards and flying cars—game-changing technologies that are not.
NBF – There are prototype flying cars (roadable planes) which do exist but need to be legally authorized by regulators. There are magnetic hoverboards but they only work over metal surfaces like copper. There are hoverboards with fans which can travel over several football fields.
Here are some highlights of crowdsourced responses, in roughly descending order by number of mentions for each class of futuristic capability:
Space: Interplanetary and interstellar travel, including faster-than-light travel; missions and permanent settlements on the Moon, Mars and the asteroid belt; space elevators
Transportation and Energy: Self-driving and electric vehicles; improved mass transit systems and intercontinental travel; flying cars and hoverboards; high-efficiency solar and other sustainable energy sources
Medicine and Health: Neurological devices for memory augmentation, storage and transfer, and perhaps to read people’s thoughts; life extension, including virtual immortality via uploading brains into computers; artificial cells and organs; “Star Trek”-style tricorder for home diagnostics and treatment; wearable technology, such as exoskeletons and augmented-reality glasses and contact lenses
Materials and Robotics: Ubiquitous nanotechnology, 3-D printing and robotics; invisibility and cloaking devices; energy shields; anti-gravity devices
Cyber and Big Data: Improved artificial intelligence; optical and quantum computing; faster, more secure Internet; better use of data analytics to improve use of resources
Pam Melroy, an aerospace engineer, former astronaut and current deputy director of DARPA’s Tactical Technologies Office (TTO), foresees technologies that would enable machines to collaborate with humans as partners on tasks far more complex than those we can tackle today
Justin Sanchez, a neuroscientist and program manager in DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office (BTO), imagines a world where neurotechnologies could enable users to interact with their environment and other people by thought alone
Stefanie Tompkins, a geologist and director of DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office (DSO), envisions building substances from the atomic or molecular level up to create “impossible” materials with previously unattainable capabilities