A lot of people are dead keen on science fiction. To be honest, it doesn’t do much for me. In the days when science fiction was king, I would on occasion abandon myself completely to some novel or a movie, but that was mainly because of what the first part of the name of this genre meant to me – science. Fiction did not exactly grab me. So many fantastic technological solutions which are commonplace today debuted on the pages of science fiction books or on celluloid! Who remembers today that the father of satellite communication was not some genius engineer from NASA but one of science fiction’s most brilliant writers, Arthur C. Clarke?
Perhaps today, when science fiction has in fact been stripped of the science to the bare fiction or fantasy (quasi-medieval universe populated with sword-brandishing warriors), it is hard to believe that not so long ago technology kept abreast of literature. Isn’t that amazing?
I have started this post with some random thoughts which, as on countless occasions before, thrusted themselves into my consciousness after watching part II of Robert Zemeckis’s trilogy Back to the Future. I can already see some of the readers of this blog wince at my choice of movies and condemn me in absentia. You must be joking! Shall we stick with Clarke, then? Patience please! I am not trying to convince anyone that Zemeckis’s trilogy is the most ambitious work in the history of cinema. As I said, I am not into fiction, just science.
Part II of the trilogy made the headlines late last year. The screenplay written in 1988 tells of the main character’s trip into the future, which was then set to be 21 October 2015. And when the day arrived, probably all online information services in the whole world carried articles comparing the vision of the future in the movie with our reality. Some of those visions came close on target, others fell wide, but in one respect -in my view – the screenplay writer had a nearly prophetic intuition. I mean smart homes. What makes me think so? The answer is simple. I live in a smart home myself – have done for the last ten years.
Of course, the movie is governed by its own laws, so what we could have expected to see on screen back in 1989, when the movie opened, is only the most dazzling and surprising solutions. Doors fitted with finger print scanners, voice controlled devices, gigantic video screens, and cordless communication for video transmission were to the audiences of the late 80’s as plausible as a picnic on the moon may seem to us. To confound matters further, the then viewers could watch and admire those things in the home of a character being life’s basket case and living in the worst part town! Smart air-conditioning systems would not have impressed the viewers nearly as much. After all, saving money is not very sexy. In reality, all these solutions are very useful. Admittedly, I don’t keep an eye on how much I am able to save on smart solutions, but I am sure the investment was worth it.
I doubt if Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale (who co-wrote the screenplay) ever wondered if their vision would come true one day. What I am convinced of though is that in 1988 none of them would have believed that in the not so distant future they themselves would be able to live, if they only felt like it, in a house similar to the one they had conceived for the main character. (Mine was built only 30 years after the film’s release!) The reason not every house today is packed with smart solutions is not the limitations of technology – these have long vanished. Today it is only a question of price. Well, Rome was not built in a day. There were times when computers were expensive too.
Let us indulge our imagination for a moment and do what Zemeckis and Gale did nearly 30 years ago – forget about the price.
Let us imagine a house fitted with all the possible solutions available today. Heating and lighting are taken care of by a smart system which knows our preferences. The system maintains a daily cycle of temperature highs and lows adapted to fit our demand for heat, turns on and off the light in the rooms, adjusts its level according to the time of day. Its integral part is an energy saving feature which allows us to achieve the desired results at the lowest cost possible. Security is provided courtesy of a smart monitoring and alarm system which, whenever we are out, alerts us to all changes taking place inside and outside by texting us funny messages such as: Authorized front door opening (The kids got back from school. Only why so early?), Unauthorized movement in the garage (we check the phone screen – as usual, the neighbour’s cat).
That’s just the beginning. Added to the list must be smart solutions for remotely controlled household appliances and home entertainment, except that these already made it to the screen in Zemeckis and Gale’s vision.
Such solutions will soon be standard supply. And when this happens, we’ll see shops stock lovely wall hangings styled after those with Home, sweet home printed across. Need I say what they will say?
Just some of the countless articles written about Back to the Future part II and 21 October 2015:
More about smart homes: