Everybody has a fictional wish list. This is a list of stuff we’d like to be real – Star Trek nerds might wish for a real-life phaser so they can zap people who point out that Star Wars is objectively better. Of course teleportation is usually up there on people’s lists, and I can see why: a 1/4 second commute to work sounds like fun, but i studied philosophy in University (to my shame) so I’m aware that matter transportation leads to some totally nightmarish scenarios. Facing the choice between having to physically destroy myself to travel anywhere instantly, or just having to destroy my sanity by using public transport, I know which one I’d pick.
So teleportation doesn’t make it into my fictional wish list. Neither do flying cars, which are (and let’s be honest here) ridiculous. How on any level does a flying car seem like a practical idea? The skies are either a free-for-all, which would be insane, or flight is possible only along tightly-controlled lanes, thus making it exactly like regular driving. Plus, if you stall at the lights in the real world, the only thing you do is annoy the BMW driver who’s been a fifth of an inch from your back bumper for the last fifteen miles, and fuck him.
Broadly speaking my tech picks are commensurate with real-world application. I’ve modified them over the years, because as technology progresses they become possible. So here are a few we’re not likely to see.
Iron Man 2 (2010) – The Starkphone
I could write an entire article about my love for Iron Man and all things Iron Man-related, but I won’t for fear of driving away my regular readers. I will say this: holographicinterfacesroboticsuitssarcasticartificialintelligencelimitlesscleanenergy. Stick a fork in me, I’m done. The Stark Phone stands out for two main reasons: I far prefer wearable tech to large tech, and I’m a fan of any technology that works perfectly at first attempt. My father has said for years that he doesn’t find sci-fi movies believable because technology never gets error messages. You don’t see Captain Picard getting a blue screen of death when he tries to get a coke from the replicator. By and large, I agree with him. Although given how the Enterprise looks like an Apple Store in the latest Star Trek movie, I can imagine Kirk getting a frowny face.
Having said that, I believe that any technology Tony Stark carries around in his pockets works first time. And I’m a big fan of a phone that can hack a secured wifi network, which requires more processing power than most computers can muster.
Speaking of which, I realised the other day that my smartphone has greater processing power, better graphics rendering and a higher clock speed than my laptop, and my phone is a year older. We’re not really all that far from computer-strength smartphones. The major downside of the Stark phone is its transparent screen. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m not using my phone to hack computers and write blog articles. I wouldn’t really like people being able to see that I’m looking for salmon porn.
Doctor Who (1963 -) -Sonic Screwdriver
Doctor Who is a long-running British sci-fi series, and part of the reason for this is that the Sonic Screwdriver is the ultimate McGuffin. Need a locked door opened? Screwdriver. Want to see if that’s a phone kiosk or a Dalek in disguise? Screwdriver. Want to know if there’s Tarragon in this risotto? Screwdriver.
I mean, really, it’s ridiculous. It does a million and one things, never runs out of batteries, is water,dust and smoke-resistant, and hardly ever breaks. So omnipresent did it become in the early days (like the phrase, “reversing the polarity of the neutron flow”) that a ban was instituted on its use. That ban was relaxed for the 2005, and already we can see how absurd the Sonic Screwdriver is. It’s basically the Mary Poppins bag of science fiction.
Nevertheless, it’s something I’d like to own. I like the idea of using it to unlock a safety deposit box, make a woman’s skirt fly up and copy somebody’s bank card details. I’d be called Doctor What-The-Hell-Is-Your-Problem? And Karen Gillan would be my sidekick. And have to dress like this.
Oh stop judging me.
Minority Report (2002) – The HQ Computer
To me, Minority Report is an example of a science fiction film done really well. It has all the standout elements: suspense, a chase scene, and a truly horrible surgery scene. There were also a number of really cool design elements to Minority Report, not least of which was the emphasis on glass – in particular, the glass computer at Minority Report headquarters. Would movement-based computing work in the real world? Probably not. That hasn’t stopped it becoming a thing: the XBox Kinect and the Playstation camera-gadget (remember that?) being examples. There’s something very cool about accessing your files with the flick of a wrist, as if you’re conducting a small orchestra.
There are just two problems I can see with it: it’s a massive waste of time and energy, and it’s wholly impractical. While it works within the confines of the film, can you imagine trying to write a spreadsheet with this computer? It would take weeks.
The other thing that’s weird about this, as was pointed out in a Cracked article, is the use of “panes of glass” to move information from computer to computer in a film made when Wifi was already making waves. I guess the counter-argument could be made that the information being passed had a high bitrate and therefore would take ages to transfer wirelessly. As was pointed out in a recent XKCD article, it’s still more cost-effective and time-saving to ship harddrives across the globe than transfer them over the internet. Make up your own mind.
The Dark Knight (2008) – Batman’s Echo-location
This is, quite simply, the coolest take on surveillance to grace our screens in a long time. Forget drones and satellites – why bother when you can turn every mobile phone into a radio beacon, and transform that information into a real-time 3D render? Would it change law-enforcement for the better? Definitely. Think how easily hostage situations are resolved in the movie. Does it constitute a hideous breach of privacy? Pretty much: but consider this. Google has all of your information already and is finding it incredibly hard to monetise. If everybody’s visible as a glowing blue blob, doesn’t that offer a level of anonymity?
Also, more like Tech-o location amiright
Star Trek (whenever) -The Replicator
I have plans to write an article about how horrible living in the Star Trek universe would be, and the replicator is a big part of that. Imagine, just for a second, where it was possible to construct anything from a stream of atoms. Gold. Diamonds. Oil. Boobs. The global economy, which is more or less supported by these four things, would collapse in a heartbeat. money would have no value, since money is more often than not backed by a tangible asset. If you can make something at home for free, why work?
Of course you could argue that cash value and man hours would be replaced by replicator points or something, but the implications are still pretty rough. Immediate access to whatever is your heart’s desire would have strange effects on people’s requirements and standards of living. Still, I would have liked to have seen Picard walk up to the replicator and say “Magic me up a fat blunt, metal momma. I’ma get buzzed.” Star Trek + Cool Runnings = A Great Idea For A Screenplay
Ask yourself this: since a lot of human behaviour revolves around the scarcity of materials, what would be the effect of removing that scarcity? I can see everybody walking around stoned wearing clothes made of diamonds. Which would be kind of cool.
Star Wars (1978-) – R2-D2
R2 is the ultimate Mcguffin – even George Lucas has said so. This weirdly-cute dustbin is the best character from Star Wars, and I’m sort of hoping that the new movies they’ll make will include him, possibly (given all the time that’s passed) with some sort of straggly beard. All astromech droids have unlimited uses, apparently being largely modular, so you could have one that could defuse a bomb and make a souffle. Some children want a dog. I wanted a sort-of-dog that can solve a Rubik’s Cube and electrocute people at random. I was not a well-adjusted child.
Perhaps the most unique selling point of an R2-D2 is that it doesn’t talk back, only makes amusing farting noises when it’s pissed off. Science fiction is replete with know-it-all, do-gooder robots like C3PO who frankly get on my tits. I want a mischievous, child-like robot who whistles. It seems like, apart from the AI, robots like R2 aren’t far away. The main hampers on the robot development are the inability to develop stable walking patterns. Modern robots, which are largely human-based, cross into something called the “uncanny valley” which is a description of our distaste of something that’s a bit human but not (it’s why some people fear dolls). R2-D2 bypasses both of these problems neatly. If people aren’t working on astromech droids, they should be.