Posted on February 8, 2020
Blade Runner – Tech in Sci-fi
In my mission to consume as much sci-fi media as possible while writing my novel, I recently watched the Blade Runner movies.
(And honestly, I should write a review post for the podcast I’m on, ’cause HOO BOY did I have some thoughts.)
Both of the movies were visually stunning (or, at least I assume the original Blade Runner was back in its day). But despite the cinematography and the glaring issues that were driving me insane as I watched them both, I found myself mostly preoccupied with the technology shown in the films.
They both have the classic sci-fi staples – flying cars, extremely human-like androids, advanced AI, and bucket-loads of neon. But among all the advanced tech and futuristic ideas, it was fascinating to see the kinds of tech they assumed wouldn’t evolve. For example, the first film assumed our computers would still be black and green displays of text, and that CRT televisions would remain the norm in 2019. Blade Runner 2049 (set in the year 2049), kept a handful of these retro-futuristic themes. Though AI and holographic imagery had advanced, computers still had a relatively outdated look. Fashion seemed relatively unchanged. (*cough* sexism was still glaringly rampant *cough*).
This led me to the question – why is the sci-fi genre so good at concocting future technologies while also having incredible blind spots in terms of advancement?
Of course, this led down a large rabbit hole of all kinds of questions. For one, I was curious as to whether or not movies had any influence over the kinds of tech we have today, what kinds of things movies predicted, what they got wrong, etc. I was a able to find a handful of resources that I think provide for fascinating reads:
- From Reel To Real: 10 Sci-Fi Movies That Predicted Future Technology
- 8 futuristic technologies from sci-fi movies that actually exist today
- The best sci-fi movies and TV shows about future tech
- A Series of Examples of Now-Outdated Technology Seen in Futuristic Movies
The one unfortunate thing is that I couldn’t find a clear answer to my question, “have movies created/helped develop new technologies that we have today?” I found plenty of resources on whether or not their random predictions were right, but nothing specific to my query. So, if you have any ideas, or perhaps are just better at googling than me, send it my way!
So, why the preoccupation with technology in cinema and literature? Because it made me rethink the technology in my own science fiction novel. For example, I had created a slightly more futuristic device called on Omni. It’s essentially a smartphone with gesture based computing, advanced capabilities, and the ability to change size.
But watching the Blade Runner movies, falling down my rabbit hole, and learning more about the concept of Zeerust made me rethink everything. Is this device I created truly creative/futuristic/plausible? If I’m lucky enough to be published, is it a device we’ll pine over for decades to come, or will Motorola or Apple release some version of this thing in the next decade?
I’m gonna be honest. I didn’t like the Blade Runner films. But they’ve been extremely helpful in allowing me to take a step back and reconsider the tech in the universe I’m building. Perhaps I’ll transform the Omni into wearable tech, since so much of advancement is driven by convenience (this fun short story by SB Nation touches on that exact subject). Or perhaps I’ll turn it into a neural implant. Who knows!
As creators, I think it’s important for us to really think outside the box when it comes to crafting new technologies. Remember to consider functionality, convenience, style. Ask yourself – why do they need this tech? What are they using it for? What is it replacing? Is it more efficient than the thing it’s replacing? Do a little research, too. Discover what scientists are hoping to develop in the next ten, twenty, thirty years, and take it a step further than that.
Now that these thoughts have finally stopped plaguing me, it’s time to get to work (which is the easy part right? ha ha ha…). And hey, if you’re working on a science fiction piece and have a neat tech idea, or just discovered a really cool recent advancement in science, feel free to share it with me!
P.S. yes, I know Blade Runner was based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and yes, it is on my to-read list. So shush.
Featured image from Warner Bros.