Commentary: Science Fiction Is Far Too Generous With Tech

by Frank Martin

Science fiction and technology have always had a very interesting relationship. Fans like to cite Star Trek as a great example of sci-fi leading to innovation. The show featured things like tablets and video conferencing well before they became the norm. But people seem to forget that Star Trek takes place hundreds of years in the future. More often than not, science fiction gets things wrong. Or at least, their timetable is drastically generous and off-base. This is especially true of films that take place in the near future, which is some abstract concept that depicts a tangible time we will all see but that doesn’t really have a date attached to it. Then there are films that do attach dates, which seem plausible or possible in the short term but that don’t have a great track record of panning out.

Netflix’s recent The Adam Project definitely comes to mind in this regard. The film plays around with multiple time periods — one of which is our present. In order to fulfill the plot of a character visiting himself in the past, the film’s timeline had to have a reasonable span of time where a grown man can go back and visit his younger self. The filmmakers chose the year 2050 (twenty-eight years in the future) as their starting point. Again, not much thought might be put into this gap. But when we think about technological progression in the last thirty years, it seems highly implausible that humanity will develop not just time travel, but also the other groundbreaking tech depicted in the film.

If a movie came out in the 1990s that took place in the year 2022, what type of future would they depict? Would it be anything close to the life we have today? There’s a strong possibility that film might have featured flying cars, teleportation, and wildly abstract fashion. Films and stories tend to be generous with cultural evolution as well as technological advancement. When in truth, things really don’t move that fast. Yes, science and engineering are at the cusp of developing unbelievable things such as gene splicing and the teleportation of sub-atomic particles. But the imagination of science fiction is often far too liberal to predict the future.

The Adam Project is now streaming on Netflix.

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