What BTTF (Back to the Future) Got Right and Wrong

Dear readers,

Who here has watched Back to the Future? Who wants to know what Biff is up to these days, or has a passing recollection of the Chicago Cubs breaking the Billie Goat curse? I don’t believe in baseball related curses, and never have I believed in the Curse of the Bambino, please don’t ask what that is if you can avoid it, but yes, Back to the Future got a few things right and wrong. Here’s what the predictions stated:

Hover boards are a thing, but not as big as one would predict in BTTF. When Hover Boards got invented in 2014 or 2015, one of those being a year that our hero, Marty, ends up traveling to, hover boards are everywhere. However, these hovering substitutes for skateboards got a bad rap when they were found to be explosive, fire hazards, whatever, in real life. Now they’re getting there, but a bit later than BTTF predicted.

The world series in baseball has been a contentious thing of dark and good legend, the stuff of reality being a lot weirder than BTTF has predicted. The Chicago Cubs managed a world series title in 2016, not 2015 as the headlines in BTTF predicted. Biff probably would have stolen that prediction because that’s just him. Biff is evil, weird, and altogether hard to deal with.

What Back to the Future does not truly predict in our future is the invention of myriad technologies that enable all of us to connect, to be together, to be able to do more than we ever could. Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and Bixby among other personal assistants, including Windows’ Cortana and Hound, all of these were invented around a scientific concept known as machine learning and artificial intelligence. Many people are very aware of this, but machine learning goes deeper. For example, BTTF did not truly predict the things that music services will be doing in our lifetime. LEt’s take a look at Apple Music, for example. Apple Music predicted that I would be looking for things I’m in the mood for, and there’s a whole tab there called “for you”, a place where I can look at new releases from my favorite artists, and it predicts with smart phone precision what I do want to hear, but when I pick things out, a row appears that says, “because you like this artist” or “because you like that artist.” Want a better explanation?

Let’s say you chose to add Millennium by the Backstreet Boys to your music library. I love the Backstreet Boys, and truth be told, still listen to their older and newer musics. When I added their albums and discography to my music library, a thing in the “for you” tab popped up and said, “Because you added Millennium/the Backstreet Boys”. Or it would say, “More like the Backstreet Boys”. Then, it would show you things like the music similar to the Backstreet Boys and their bubblegum pop genre of music. There you have it, what BTTF almost couldn’t have predicted.

The other thing that BTTF could have never predicted was the societal changes that could occur in the 1984 or 1985 future. What I want to see is clear: equal rights for all, no hate crime, etc., but 2015 saw the legalization of gay marriage before, transgender bathroom bills were the big topic, but then you had gun control, black lives matter not having been as big a movement as it is now, but there are many other things to think about. In BTTF and its weirdness. In one scene, Marty’s friend Jennifer gave him a note with a seven digit number, but not long after the 90s came to a close, we all went the way of ten digit dialing. Ugh. I hate it, hate it, but it does have its benefits. You can call out of state numbers with no long distance charges these days on a cell phone. Jennifer and Marty could still talk and text in our future, whatever the weather, but still, we have yet to invent the hyperloop.