Back to the Future

As We Move Forward: Back to the Future


Probably everyone has seen the Back to the Future movies or at the very least knows the story. I want to focus on the concept from a slightly different perspective. I have traveled enough years into the future using the convention one day at a time model to have seen some amazing things happen.

There is probably no more profound development over this time period than the computer. How incredible is it that we have come from noisy machines that fill rooms to quiet devices that fit into one hand and allow computing, communication and information retrieval that dwarfs the capabilities of the earlier “dinosaurs.”

One of the things all movies and other attempts to look at the future have assumed is that things would be better and easier in the future. I saw a humorous post on social media recently featuring passengers on a plane twenty years ago. They were commenting on the meals that were being served and speculating on how great airplane meals would be in twenty years.

We all appreciate the incredible convenience of being able to communicate instantly with people around the world. How many of us have sat in the same room with others and interacted only with our devices or people we contacted via our devices? I appreciate my smart phone, but is it really all that I expected the future to bring?

I remember a comic strip police detective who used gadgets of the future. Their 2-way wrist TV has become a common reality. There are some tremendous applications. People separated by time and distance can seem closer with voice and video communication available to everyone.

I have to ask if we’re really better off being able to get the answer to every question of information in seconds. There is some question about our ability to retain the knowledge that is available at our fingertips. Related to this is the issue of what is real and what is fake. Social media tends to make everything we say seem as real and credible as everything anyone else says. “What is truth?” becomes a very complicated question.

Another aspect of our involvement with and our growing dependence on technology is the harsh reactions that seem to occur every time there is a problem with technology. People often act as if someone set out to deliberately sabotage them. It is difficult if not impossible to do serious problem-solving in this environment. I have been told that people in the IT field experience high stress, and I find this easy to believe.

My phone just rang, and I was reminded of another aspect of the future that did not turn out quite the way I thought it would. Lack of access to a phone is pretty much a thing of the past. I have walked several miles to find a payphone following a mechanical problem, especially during a trip. In the “past,” when the phone rang it was usually someone you knew and probably wanted to talk to. The worst scenario was usually the occasional wrong number.


I can’t begin to wrap my mind around what people are trying to with our phones these days. It doesn’t make sense to me what these people are trying to do. Is that the future we envisioned would be the result of improved telephone technology?

As we move forward, we might want to look realistically at what the future seemed to promise as compared to what it has actually delivered. The results are mixed. There is a lot that is positive. The real challenge is how we deal with the rest.

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