I was thinking about my topics for Sci-fi November, considering what I wanted to explore in the genre or specific books or tv shows to discuss, I realized everything is kind of sci-fi these days.
It’s really not, but in some ways sci-fi has strayed in very ordinary places. Some stories have space ships and time travel and highly advanced technology, obviously sci-fi. And some shows are just ordinary dramas or crime shows with technology just ahead of where we are today. Technically sci-fi by using technology that doesn’t exist, but not really.
I think we’ve reached a point in our technological evolution where it’s so simple for any writer to take their every day tech one step further; make something just a little easier, and cross ever so slightly into sci-fi.
I blame Minority Report.
I may be totally off base in doing so, but there it is. There was all sorts of tech – adaptive ads everywhere and retinal recognition, tiny spider drones, jet packs and the hibernation prison. But the one that I remember the most, that I think you see most often in clips, are the scenes with Tom Cruise manipulating the data screens.
There was an elegance to the way he moved and absorbed the information – sorting through it without ever touching the clear glass screen that stood more like a window than a monitor. That was the first time I remember seeing something like that and that data processing is exactly where we’re beginning to blur the lines between the every day and sci-fi.
Virtual screens – holographic displays – gesture interactions – swipe casting data from one screen to another… Iron Man took the simplicity of Minority Report and made the data even more interactive. It’s fascinating to see the evolution from Iron Man (where he’s still sitting at a work station in some scenes, even though he has tactile interaction with holographic displays) to Iron Man 2 to where it’s almost all virtual displays that he manipulates with a flick or a swipe. It’s like Minority Report without the gloves and glass screens.
And the thing that’s interesting to me is that it doesn’t feel like sci-fi. It feels like if you had enough money, say Tony Stark or Warren Buffet, we’re really only a few steps away from that tech. How long before Apple TV or Chromecast release a swipe to cast feature? We’ve got touchscreen laptops, how long before every monitor is a touchscreen? Then they’re transparent and then they’re virtual. We’ve got data everywhere now – what do we do with it? How do we organize, process and utilize it all? It makes sense that one of the most notable and pervasive evolution of our tech will be that sort of content agility.
Obviously shows like SHIELD that utilize this sort of tech are somewhere in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. But I have it stuck in my head that CSI was swipe casting data between transparent wall screens. And whether it actually does or not (someone please let me know if I’m completely making that up) the more we advance technologically, the thinner the line becomes between every day tech and sci-fi – just as video conferencing or personal communication devices used to be sci-fi staples.
Our imaginations are still light years ahead of our tech, but it’s interesting to see pieces of what used to be sci-fi become a part of our every day.