2015 marks the year the beloved Back to The Future: Part II promised self-lacing shoes, hoverboards and giant flat screen TVs. While the latter may have come gloriously true in living rooms across the land, hoverboards still sadly exist only in the realm of science fiction. As for automated laces, the only progress in that department is Velcro straps, which honestly still require too much effort. Despite these hits and misses on the future of mankind, Back to the Future has become a predictive pop culture classic — and in that it’s not alone. Many popular films have predicted events or technologies ahead of their time, and these some guessed where the world was heading next with uncanny accuracy.
A Scanner Darkly (2006)
A drug-fueled exploration of identity and paranoia, this Phillip K. Dick based surveillance mystery highlights the increasingly sinister nature of monitoring the civilian population. Characters wear “scramble suits” to hide their true identities, and the resulting unstable nature of self is communicated throughout the film. It’s a tense and uncomfortable viewing experience where you find yourself questioning exactly who to trust — and that’s precisely the problem an undercover Keanu Reeves faces, eventually blowing his cover in defiance of the corrupt government while unwittingly in pursuit of himself.
While scramble suits may not exist, surveillance certainly does. Edward Snowden blew up his career by blowing the whistle on the National Security Agency (NSA). In 2013 he brought the public’s attention to the fact the NSA were watching pretty much everything. With co-operation from telecommunications companies and governments around the world, access was granted to personal email accounts, phone records and Internet activity. The so called “Five Eyes” of intelligence across the United Kingdom, United States, New Zealand, Australia and Canada were spying on each others’ citizens and sharing the collected information.
Debate erupted over the appropriate boundaries for intelligence services and Snowden, both praised as a hero and vilified as a criminal, was forced to find asylum in Russia. While the commotion around the revelations may have calmed in the media, it’s safe to assume that the Five Eyes are still watching, keener than ever.