In 1982 Ridley Scott captured our hearts when he transformed Philip K. Dick’s short novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” into a motion picture masterpiece. Sadly, Blade Runner was sort of like Firefly when it comes to fan momentum. In theaters the movie didn’t do well at all. But 30 years later the film is at the top of many SciFi lists and a constant discussion in any movie forum. Some people fell in love with Sean Young’s beauty, others enjoy the dark Noir feel. For me personally – it’s taking a peak through Ridley’s prediction lens 30 years ago, and comparing how far our technology has actually come. Here is a current list of technologies from Blade Runner that we’ve already caught up to. I often wonder where we’ll be in another 30 years.
Face To Face Telephone Calls
For the longest time, science fiction has used video calling to set the tone for advanced communications technology. With Skype and broadband, our everyday lives are what movies were short time ago. It’s almost funny how often I decide against video dialing someone though. I’d rather people not see me digging in my nose or rolling my eyes. You’ll also notice here that Deckard had to pay for the call. Sure it was a public phone, but with Skype video calling is free.
Playing Chess In Two Different Locations
In the early 80′s they had no idea what the internet was or what it would turn in to. A simple game of chess required two chess boards in two locations and a phone line that allowed you to call your opponent to tell them “Bishop to King 6.” With the internet, you can play several games of chess simultaneously with opponents from around the world, all within your browser. Thank you Java, now stop asking me to update.
Image Analysis Software
One of my favorite scenes from Blade Runner is the part when Deckard sits in front of a 15 inch CRT hooked up to some kind of image analysis machine that can super enhance pictures and spit out Polaroids. I’m happy to say that we’ve caught up and passed Blade Runner in this aspect. You can install photoshop or something like 3D surface analysis to crank out some very accurate editing and comparisons. And if an image has a high enough resolution, you can zoom into mirrors and see detailed reflections. Then instead of needing a printed hard copy, you can simply send the image to your smartphone.
Eye Scanning Lie Detector
While we’ve had polygraphs and different types of lie detection technology since the 1920′s, we’ve never been able to read an eye. Well, up until 2010 that is. Scientists in Utah have figured out a way to read eye movements from a pair of glasses. These tests are apparently more accurate and much cheaper than the traditional polygraph. While lie detection and replicant detection isn’t exactly the same thing, I’m sure we could find an app for that when the time comes.
There could be some speculation as to how the artificial animals were created in Blade Runner. They could have been artificially programmed from the ground up, or created using cloning technology. Nevertheless, in 1996 we did something very similar when Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell created Dolly. Dolly was a sheep who was expected to live 12 years. Sadly, much like the replicants, her health started to deteriorate, and she died at the age of 6. Now, 16 years later we’ve successfully cloned 22 different animal species, including one family of cattle that had gone extinct. The issues Dolly faced were specific to her.
I want flying cars more than anything. And while most people laugh at the idea, and claim it’s just another SciFi fantasy, I’m here to let you know that it’s closer then you think. Three companies have some sort of flying vehicle in production right now. The first one is the Pal-V. A Dutch company that has combined a hot rod cycle with a helicopter. The end result is something that truly does look like something out of a movie. The bad news is you need a lot of room for the blades to extend and you still need a runway. The second contender is the Terrafugia. This is a street legal car, which has extendable wings, and can drive up to 60 mph on the highway. Sadly, this too needs a runway for take off and landing. Last but not least is Moller’s Skycar. Moller is the only company out of the three who is using VTOL (vertical take off and landing). It is said that this Skycar will be able to top out around 400 mph.
So now you’re thinking: “cool, but when can I get one?” The truth is, a bill won’t be passed until self driving cars have dominated the roadways. Flying cars will end up using the same GPS technology that self driving cars and smart cars use right now. Basically, these cars will fly themselves and will be able to “talk” to other ground and air vehicles in order to avoid collisions. This video takes a moment to explain why we don’t have flying cars yet (it boils down to safety). In closing, we have flying cars now, and we have the technology to fly them safely, but one thing at a time. If you want flying cars you need self driving cars first. If you live in a state where they haven’t been approved yet, be sure to pester your congressman.
But Will We Ever Have Replicants?
As far as reproductive cloning goes, politicians consistently show us that they feel the process is unethical. In 2001, all reproductive cloning was banned in the US. Will this stop us from having actual replicants? I don’t think so. There are two different options we can still utilize. The first is the use of artificial intelligence combined with a robotic exoskeleton. This would mirror how Peter Weyland went about creating David. The other method is brain mapping. In theory we’ll be able to take our brain, or pieces of it, and download it as data. This data could then be uploaded into something like Asimo, or even a hybrid of cloned body parts combined with an exoskeleton. In closing: Biotech, brain mapping, and AI are still years away from making this a reality. As an optimist, I think it’s possible using Ben Goertzel’s AGI prediction, to see human level intelligence inside artificial bodies within the next 20 or 30 years. You weren’t too far off, Ridley.