The Future Is Wow The Future Is Wow
Issue 015

The Future Is Wow

May 8, 2009

What if the techy transportation of sci-fi movies isn't as far-fetched as it seems?

We asked Seth Shostak, scientist and film consultant, to rate them on a scale of 1 ("dream on") to 10 ("totally feasible"). Bring on the levitating cars!
AlienTechnology: Placing people in "stasis"-suspended animation-for long journeysRelease date: 1979Future depicted:Rating: 7What's the holdup? 
The PostmanTechnology Horses as a dominant transportation mode in a dystopian , antitechnology futureRelease date 1997Future depicted 2013Rating 2What's the holdup? "Fuggedaboutit. Horses are kind of fun, and they taste good on whole wheat, but even if we let the nukes loose, we're not going back to horseflesh transport."
Back to the FutureTechnology: Time travelRelease date: 1985Future depicted: 1985 (and 2015)Rating: 8What's the holdup? "That high rating is for traveling into the future. All that's required is moving ourselves at a fair fraction of the speed of light-something we can't do now, but maybe in a few centuries. Traveling into the past? I give that a two. It would require both new physics and exotic technology, and it's not clear we'll ever have either."
Blade RunnerTechnology: Flying cars and related infrastructureRelease date: 1982Future depicted: 2019Rating: 8What's the holdup? 
Minority ReportTechnology: Magnetically levitating autonomous carRelease date: 2002Future depicted: 2054Rating: 7What's the holdup? 
Star Trek: The Motion PictureTechnology: TransporterRelease date: 1979Future depicted: 2273Rating:What's the holdup? 
Logan's RunTechnology: Travel by pneumatic tubesRelease date: 1976Future depicted: 2274Rating: 5  What's the holdup? "Pneumatic tubes at every residence would allow people to shop on the internet and have their products delivered without jamming up the roads with delivery trucks. But putting people into pneumatic tubes runs into problems both technical (you need pumps every few hundred tube diameters) and physiological (do you want to be stuffed into a small cylinder and sent at high speed around a bendy tube roller coaster?)."
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The Future Is Wow