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Arts and culture 12 Jul 2019

Television shows and their predictions of the future

Some organizations foment innovation in the contexts that dictate the present. But innovation is intimately tied to the future and variations of the future. Thus, inspiring creativity is also offering ideas about what is possible and forthcoming. Perhaps this is the key to true realism.

Julio Verne predicted many of the world’s current advances, such as space exploration or underwater travel. His visionary abilities were the focus of a recent National Geographic report. Literature can be understood as a laboratory of ideas, where it’s possible to experiment with different ingredients and even debate them.

We can also think of the future based on television shows. The quality and diversity of today’s productions make it possible to map out their predictions, interests and the ethical problems they present.

Many shows explore the relationship between technology and everyday life today. StartUp addresses the world of cybercrime, Mr. Robot the idea of cyber justice, CSI explores the possibilities of digital forensic science and Silicon Valley the importance and risks of discovering a very powerful algorithm.

Science fiction is a peculiar literary genre because its plausibility makes it possible to explore the future. For example, Scifutures is a company that helps to accelerate innovation with the help of science fiction writers. Its founder Ari Popper uses the narrative to help large corporations plan for the impact that their projects could have on society.

The everyday use of technology is presented in Black Mirror where there are numerous dilemmas over technology and its uses

A future brimming with possibilities thanks to the technology presented in television shows like Star Trek, which are now classics. Space exploration, interstellar communications, medical advances and the use of robots and processors are all included in their scripts. Even when a civilization of robots threatens us, technology from space ships like Battlestar Galactica will allow humanity to survive.

Based on a screenplay by Michael Chrichton, Westworldintroduces us to an amusement park where the hosts are androids. The question over their rights and duties is a disquisition on the humanity of artificial intelligence.

The everyday use of technology is presented in Black Mirror where there are numerous dilemmas over technology and its uses. Each episode is independent and tells a disturbing story about ethical boundaries in a hyperconnected and digital world. In The Passage, a girl is the test subject in an experiment that could cure all disease.

The Canadian show Orphan Black also explores the possibility of a dystopian society, showing the possible lives of a series of cloned women and the dark interests behind them. The Danish show The rain also presents a post-apocalyptic society annihilated by a virus with a group of young people as the only survivors. Other shows along the same lines include The 100 or The Walking Dead.

“What would have happened if” is the question in shows like The Man in the High Castle,an extended adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel that tells the story of a world in which the Nazis won World War II. Dystopias like The Handmaid’s Tale offer another twist, featuring a feudal society that subjugates women and establishes an inhumane hierarchy of slavery following a viral debacle.

Then there are the productions whose screenplays explore phenomena on the frontiers of science. Created by Rod Serling in 1959, the show The Twilight Zoneis a classic in this area. Or Fringe where the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating parallel universes, dark matter, teleportation, foreknowledge, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, telekinesis and suspended animation. And Sense8 which experiments with the mental connection among human beings. In Touch, a child is able to predict and interpret the future using mathematical patterns.

Following in the same lines is Altered carbon, a show that takes place at the end of the 23rd Century, a period in which the essence of human beings can endure beyond their corporeal nature, and their conscience and memories that be reinserted in other bodies. That is precisely what happened to the main character. Reinserted two hundred and fifty years later, his mission is to investigate a possible murder.

Since the first stage of Doctor Who, the possibility of time travel has been covered in many television productions. Some of them play with the possibility of “changing history” like the Spanish show El ministerio del tiempo, in which the main characters prevent people from altering the course of historical events. In Doce monos James Cole travels in time to prevent a disease from being created in the present. Or the show 11.22.63 — inspired by a Stephen King novel — in which a professor tries to prevent the death of John F. Kennedy.

Although time travel is closer to fantasy, it is also an interesting terrain to compare ideas and perspectives from different periods. This is a very suggestive essay to understand the types of technologies or the differences in the way social and economic issues were organized at each stage in history. At the end of the day, one way or another, it makes one thing clear: just how complex relations are between human beings and the technology of the future.