Our Present Versus Bladerunner 2019 and Other Movie Futures

We are now in the actual month for the original future of the movie Bladerunner. This is November 2019 which was the setting for Bladerunner.

We do not have the flying cars of Bladerunner.

However, we have a few million electric cars.

Science Fiction movie futures need to predict futures with awesome and shocking images. They in general are destined to get it wrong in their images. This was true for the 2015 of Back to the Future, 2001 A Space Odyssey and Bladerunner.

Bladerunners city images do look more like the megacities in Asia. They have more neon and big billboards.

Tokyo and Taipei and Shanghi have sections that look a lot like Bladerunner.

The good news for those who want to see an amazing future is that SpaceX should deliver a substantial improvement in space transportation, number of launches and thus enable space colonies and structures to be built.

There should be a stronger world economy with most of Asia with per capita income moving to between Eastern Europe and Southern Europe by 2049. 2049 is the time for the second Bladerunner movie.

I will provide some articles over the next few weeks looking at when we should expect technology that seems futuristic to actually arrive.

50 thoughts on “Our Present Versus Bladerunner 2019 and Other Movie Futures”

  1. I agree about the phones, but a lot of it is just the choices of the director.

    A great example is that classic 1985 movie about a cool guy, plays a guitar in a rock band, has a high tech car that when it goes fast enough it breaks through and starts to travel in multi-dimensional space-time.

    I’m talking of course about Buckaroo Banzai.

    What? Well in 1985 there were two movies along those lines, Buckaroo Banzai and Back to the Future. And at the time I recall that they were both equally popular (at least among school kids my age).

    But watch them now and BTTF is fine. There is very little that says “1985” with the exception that they keep mentioning the year. Yes, the clothes are a little old fashioned looking in 2019, and Jennifer’s hair is a bit weird, but nothing you’d notice much if you saw it in the street.

    BB on the other hand is a complete joke. The clothes, the hair, the slang… it’s ridiculous. And this may well be reflected in the long term popularity of the movies.

  2. which really seems on the money percentage wise.. i think the issue we see today with the past is that the technical changes today are less visible so less flashy on the whole… but I do believe we are about to enter another phase where the physical changes alot too.. however i notice i find movies dated more from 2008 sometimes than 2000 becuase of the ever present cell phone tech in the 2008 film and the lack of it in 2000.. almost makes it easier to watch the 2000 film and it feel less dated because you dont have to overlook the dated cell phones because they aren there to begin with

  3. Star Trek – especially after the original = Liberals in Spaaace
    Babylon 5 = Conservatives in Spaaace
    Firefly = Libertarians in Spaaace
    Original BSG = Mormons in Spaaace
    New BSG = Bunch of Emos and Eeyores in Spaaace

    All of the above, except for the last one, had very optimistic overtones in spite of the opposition they faced.

  4. Historically speaking, 30 years is just a ‘bit’…

    I.e., yes, I knew that already, and used ‘bit’ advisedly.


  5. More than a bit. Growth is projected to continue at least until 2050, as I recall. That’d be 30 years after 2020, without any assumption of life extension.

  6. Worth noting:

    2020 is projected to be the year by which global Total Fertility Rate has hit replacement.

    Population keeps growing for a bit after that, and even longer as premature deaths decline and hopefully we get some life extension or aging reversal.

    But still, it seems like a landmark in human history.

  7. One thing you have to consider is that there has to be some sort of crisis, or it is not much of a movie. So sci-fi almost always shows something going wrong with the future. Reality is that mostly thing get better. There is a lot less suffering in the world today than there was 20 or 30 years ago. Obviously, some places fared better than others.
    Sometimes people have a pessimistic outlook in a movie when things don’t look that bad. In AI everyone seems to be pessimistic about the future, but I see no smog. I see trees, safe, fast vehicles. Robotic servants. There was sea level rise…and Manhattan was under water…mostly. But I saw no reason for all the pessimism.
    Bicentennial Man was sort of an exception. It wasn’t a future out of control. Though it turned modestly regressive. But it was about aging and dying and to some extent growth and renewal. And bad choices embracing aging presented as noble or good 😉

  8. For God’s sake, Brian Wang was obviously referring to the movie in the Back to the Future trilogy that was partially set in 2015. When it was originally released doesn’t friggin’ matter because Wang wasn’t referring to movie release dates.

  9. Actually, in that (2017) talk Stross says his rule has now changed to 80% the same, 15% predictable change, 5% crazy stuff. (Above article is well worth reading btw.)

    Also, a key factor that needs to be mentioned – his rule applies to one decade out.

    Assuming the original rule applied, about 73% of the world would now be the same as in 1989, leaving 27% spread across ‘predictable’ to ‘unexpected’ change.

  10. The future where defense attorneys were done away with, so trials could be over and done with in two hours! Fun stuff.

  11. Gene Roddenberry famously pitched the Original Series as “Horatio Hornblower IN SPACE!”

    Horatio who? you will ask. Adventure in the High Seas in the 18th/19th Century, that’s what it is. Every week a different island with exotic natives, a plucky crew, the works. Well, the babes are neither green-skinned nor space, but a bit of Polynesian charm is just as exotic…

  12. So someone is walking along, decides to have a loud, near-shouting for some reason, conversation on a video connection with loud speaker.

    And he goes into a private room to do so instead of just shouting into the phone in the middle of everyone else who is trying to have conversations and do work.

    That’s how you know it’s fantasy.

  13. 1985 Back to the Future’s starry eyed retrofuturistic vision

    You mean the future where Marty McFly may have had a wall of big screen TVs, but he was living in an area which the cops described as a crime ridden slum?
    The future where his boss kept him under surveillance even in his own home, and fired him because of that?
    The future where neighbourhood thugs had bionic augmentation, but the control system was faulty and it caused mental and physical defects?
    The future where people were nostalgic for dust?

    I wouldn’t have used the phrase “starry eyed” for that.

  14. And partly it’s because it is so much easier to describe a giant hovering city with a plotline that is basically just a rewrite of one of the King Arthur stories, than it is to do something like William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy.

  15. The way I saw it explained was:

    From about 1660 to 1960 the huge advances were in control of energy. From the earliest steam engines to the Apollo project and nuclear power, man got greater and greater control over more and more energy and was able to do this to achieve huge, flashy, spectacular things.

    But after about 1960 the area of advance shifted to control over information. I don’t need to enumerate this.

    (Obviously there were significant information control improvements in the first period (time keeping, navigation, telegraph and telephone) and a few significant energy developments in the second period (solar power, finally getting half-decent batteries) but the bias between the two periods is strong.)

    Most predictions of the future tend to extrapolate the first trend, rather than the second. So we get space ships and hover cars and hand-held laser pistols (all dependent on enormous energy, or at least energy-to-weight, developments). But we still have interstellar spaceships that need humans to pilot them and aim the phaser cannons.

    Partly this is because a lot of the SF was written, or at least based on ideas and fictional universes that were written, before the changeover in trends became apparent. I can excuse anyone creating a fictional future as late as maybe 1980 for not realizing that technology was heading in a different direction than over the previous 300 years.

  16. You are in a room with a crowd of people. You want to dominate their attention and have everyone listen to you.
    Do you:
    a) Start telling them about your amazing holiday and how great it was.
    b) Say “I just found out I’ve got cancer”.

    Tragedy is much, MUCH easier if your aim is to get an audience.

  17. Population changes are slow. It’ll be a while before the global population starts declining, and longer still before it can decline enough for that to become a problem. That leaves plenty of time to adjust policies to encourage more births if needed, and for social, economic, and technological changes to affect the fertility rates in all sorts of ways.

    In the mean time, the shift in demographic composition might be a bigger issue. Or it might not.

  18. Star Trek is indeed a rarity. It seems to me the characteristics and appeal of Star Trek are strongly culture and context dependent, and exist only by chance.

    I mean, the original Star Trek was appealing for the American public near the time of the Apollo missions. That critical period cemented its bold, exploratory optimistic (and yeah, liberal) vision and ethos and defined the other derived series.

    But if it was made in later times (e.g. post Vietnam war), I think it would have been far more pessimistic and cynic.

    The only equivalents of Star Trek in terms of betting on civilization, humanity and rationalism I can think of now, are some works from the naive Pulp era, some Arthur C Clarke’s works and Ian Banks’s Culture novels. Maybe Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars trilogy.

    Most other sci/fi I’ve seen is full of self doubt and a rather pessimistic outlook about the future of civilization and humankind.

  19. A big part of Star Trek’s success has always been that it’s a rare example on non-dystopian sci-fi. The message of Star Trek was, “Yeah, there’s lots of problems with the world but don’t worry. We’ll figure it out, get past it, and go explore the galaxy. It’ll be amazing!” The upbeat future it predicted was its draw.

  20. Lovely bit of popular culture. The little girl in the movie is Kubrick’s daughter, as far as I recall.

    In this scene, Heywood Floyd even mentions she has several phones already.

    Who (moreso a little girl) needs several phones? it must be the future indeed!

    Well, tell that to anyone with teen age sons and daughters nowadays.

  21. Some of the dystopian stuff might have happened if they had not banned lead additives in gasoline….things were deteriorating. The US would probably have 6 million in prison by now…and so many ex-cons and soon to be cons walking the streets as to make things very unsafe. Fortunately, they did and crime has been tumbling. Idiocracy was prophetic concerning the degeneration of the Presidency. Though even in Idiocracy they were not raciest.
    And the police going bonkers like they did destroying that car…apparently totally realistic: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/10/30/police-blew-up-an-innocent-mans-house-search-an-armed-shoplifter-too-bad-court-rules/
    But The Supreme Court giving companies carte blanche to buy elections…who would have predicted that dystopic result. There were some that had companies practically running the country, but usually one company. Not a free-for-all: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._FEC
    Utopian elements? There has been no third World War! Nuclear weapons have actually been an effective deterrent. Though it probably just takes enough countries with the bomb for someone to do something stupid.
    Nothing in 2001: A Space Odyssey technologywise that could not have happened in 2001except the speed of the ship, though AI was late. Spinning space stations are perfectly viable technology. They underestimated computer chess. Even the finest GMs were bested by 2001.

  22. I agree with Charles Stross’ rule for predicting the future: 90% is the same, 9% are predictable trends and 1% is weird sh%t nobody could have foreseen.

    1982’s Blade Runner future could have predicted the same places and buildings still being there (they did!), but they went overboard with the 9% and 1% of truly futuristic/dystopic stuff.

    Which of course, turned out to be wrong.

    Same for 1985 Back to the Future’s starry eyed retrofuturistic vision.

    This in itself is not a problem, because science fiction is a form of art and really talks about the anxieties and dreams of the times it was made, not those of when it is supposed to happen.

    Source: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2018/01/dude-you-broke-the-future.html

  23. Boring because we aren’t using replicant armies to fight aliens and colony world uprisings? Or because, in general, we aren’t afraid (in most places) of stepping out of our homes?

    The world was a magical place when I was a kid. Deeply mysterious with unknown boundaries. By the same token, I often failed to recognize real wonder when I saw it. My parents made me come in from playing to watch Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon. I was grumpy because I had to, even though it was just another space thing like in all the movies and cartoons.

    Try to rediscover your sense of wonder. It’s tough for grownups, but every once in awhile, I manage it.

  24. Sure any science fiction future is going to get a lot wrong. You always have to treat it as a retroactive alternate history before many years.
    Cf: Jerry Pournelle’s Codominium series in which the US & the Soviet Union decide “We don’t like each other, but we will join up to dominate the world together anyway.” Not outrageously implausible at the time he started writing the series, but it definitely became alternate history in 1989.

  25. Particularly ones pertaining to privacy and surveillance. Especially in China from what I’ve heard, but the west has examples too. London is littered with security cameras everywhere AFAIK. In the US there were the NSA surveillance stuff that Snowden alleged to a while back. Google is tracking pretty much everything they can (with some benefits to their users, but who knows where that data ends up). Facebook is riddled with privacy issues. Online tracking is rampant from every online service imaginable, even ones you don’t use.

    One could claim the excessive TSA checks and related changes after 9/11 are an example of reducing freedom of travel (or at least making it a lot less comfortable/pleasant). Then there’s all the PC and SJW and overly-sensitive snowflakes bs starting to encroach on freedom of speech etc.

    The anti-vaxxers movement causing a resurgence of measles and could cause return of other diseases. Not exactly a zombie or apocalyptic plague yet, but the risk may be higher now. And more generally, there seem to be a bunch of anti-science anti-education (or just uneducated) groups popping up. Kinda seems like the public intelligence is going down. Though that may be just a few vocal minorities.

    There may be other things. I’m honestly not very familiar with all the details myself. Those are just some examples off the top of my head from what I’ve heard, seen, and read about.

  26. Some of the dystopian elements did happen – in some places, to some extent. But as with the tech advances, some of it is more subtle and hidden, and the rest happened more gradually, so it was harder to notice.

  27. There’s some observational bias though. When we see a movie or read a book, it’s a big sudden change from what we’re used to. But in the real world, changes are gradual, and we get used to them as they happen. So it feels a lot more mundane than if you made the jump suddenly.

    Furthermore, many tech advances are much more subtle and hidden than movies portray them. Medical advances are mostly behind the scenes. Smartphones and other electronics are under the hood and/or tucked away in your pocket. It doesn’t jump out in front of your eyes much, like those huge neon billboards. AI and online services are also pretty well hidden. Smartphones can do pretty amazing things, especially coupled with AI, but most people mostly use them for social media.

    As a more extreme example, recall the Borg from Star Trek. They’re depicted as very grotesque, with multiple visible, ugly attachments and prosthetics and various modifications. We are quite possibly moving towards a more Borg-like existence, maybe by the end of this century. With nano-medicine and other nano-implants, BCIs, and various optional enhancements, whether genetic or mechanical (enhanced senses, stronger bones, artificial organs etc – make your own grocery list). But in reality, all of that will likely be much more hidden than Star Trek’s Borg. From the outside, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell apart an enhanced person from an all-natural one.

  28. You’ve misread it.

    “This was true for the [hypothetical future version of the year] 2015 [that was portrayed in] Back to the Future

  29. “This was true for the 2015 of Back to the Future, 2001 A Space Odyssey and Bladerunner.”

    Back to the Future was released in 1985 and not 2015 as stated above.

  30. Having the world population hooked up most of their time during the waking hours to screens, all kind of screens, is more distrupting and dystopian than what science fiction movies foresaw. We fail again and again to evaluate the implications of introducing a new technology on a mega society scale and replacing by it a natural human function. This I think could presently be the most fascinating field of research.


  31. The good news is that the dystopian elements of the futures often predicted in science fiction did not happen. Our future is a lot more benign. The sad news is that a lot of the technical advances predicted in science fiction have not happened (yet) either.
    Overall, our year 2019 is relatively benign, mundane, and boring.

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