Anyone who is a sci-fi fan will know that over the years books, films and television shows in this beloved genre have an interesting knack for predicting the future. From robots, to smartphones, to self-driving cars and more, science fiction stories have presented ideas that have made it into everyday life in the 21st century. You could probably populate a lengthy list with such inventions… but we’re not going to do that here.
Instead, we’re going to take a look at the times when science fiction films got it wrong. Like really wrong. Wrong enough that we’re confident that the tech on display here will never see the light of day… and even if it does, it’ll never be put in the hands of consumers.
No, not flying cars. We’re still holding out for those, although by the time we get them you can bet that at best you’ll need a pilot’s license to drive one and at worst they’ll only be allowed to be used by the cops. No, we’re talking about cars that zoom across roads that are both horizontal and vertical, as seen in Minority Report.
Admittedly, there are some interesting instances of tech in Minority Report that we think could happen – virtual shop assistants, for example – but cars that drive up and down walls? We don’t buy it.
The sci-fi detective thriller Surrogates is one of the dumbest movies ever made in this genre, but unlike a lot of films that are equally as silly, this film’s stupidity stems from its central conceit. In it, audiences were introduced to a world in which crime has been eradicated thanks to the fact that people no longer go outdoors. Instead, they lie down on a couch and connect to a robot version of themselves called a surrogate, and then pilot it about.
There are a couple of issues here right off the bat. First, if there’s no crime, why is Bruce Willis’s character a cop? Second, in the first ten minutes we’re told that surrogates can be upgraded, but not all upgrades are allowed to be applied to rank and file surrogates piloted by humans – wouldn’t that create a black market of sorts? But overall, the idea that people would be content to lie around all day indoors controlling a version of themselves in their day-to-day existence is just dumb. Humans are social creatures who don’t like to be confined indoors. If you doubt this, cast your mind back to lockdown level 5 last year…
In Neill Blomkamp’s heavy-handed moralising science fiction sermon Elysium, the population of earth is split between a bunch of rich jerks in orbit who has everything one could want at their fingertips and poverty-ridden poor sods on earth who live in city-sized slums. When Max – one of the latter – gets radiation sickness, he hatches a plan to travel to Elysium to cure himself.
You see on Elysium, the wealthy have machines called Med-Bays, which can cure anything from cancer to radiation poisoning to AIDS at the touch of a button. Sounds nice. There’s no way these things will ever exist, however. And even if the technology is ever invented to create something like this, you can bet your arse Big Pharma won’t ever make them available to the masses. After all, treating a disease is way more profitable than curing it.
Yes! We said it! You will never own a lightsaber – and we’re not talking about those coloured plastic tubes you can buy in a toy shop. We’re talking about an honest-to-God, limb-slicing, laser-deflecting lightsaber. And here’s why: the physics just don’t work.
There’s no way to cap the length of a lightsaber because, well, it’s a shaft of light. It’s apparently a plasma beam and plasma is too hot for a human to hold. There’s no power source powerful enough to power devices like this that would fit in your hand. Light deflects and would be kind of useless as a weapon. Look, forget it, you ain’t getting one.
The 2009 remake of Total Recall has its fair share of detractors, but rather than go into the reasons why you shouldn’t bother watching it – and they are legion – we’re going to focus instead on the dumbest piece of sci-fi tech we’ve seen in a film in a small age: the hand-phone.
Yes, Total Recall (2009) would have you believe that in the future, your phone will be implanted in your hand and, instead of offering you the functionality of present-day smartphones, you’ll simply be satisfied with a keypad on your hand and speakers (presumably located in your fingers and palms). Right. We’re not saying we won’t get to the stage where phones won’t be implanted in human bodies, but if they are, wouldn’t make sense to go the Cyberpunk 2077 route and have the speakers implanted in your ear and the keypad on your AR HUD, rather have you barking into your hand like a mad person?
We’re going to go ahead and call it. We aren’t getting time machines. No, we don’t want a debate about this, we just think we aren’t getting them.
If time travel was possible, it would only be a matter of time before someone, somewhere in the future would come back to the past. Then we’d know it existed. We’re prepared to be proven wrong on this one, by the way. If you’re a time traveller and you’re in the neighbourhood right now, stop by the office and lay out your case. Then we’ll believe you – until then, time machines stay on this list!
I’ve been writing about tech and games for around 20 years. Been playing games since I was tall enough to reach the controls on an arcade machine. Old enough to remember when games weren’t something people yelled at each other about.
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