5D GUEST POST: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Technology Predictions in Movies


One of the most exciting aspects of the Sci-Fi genre is the foray into the unknown. Taking a concept we know today and predicting what it might grow into in the future tickles the human desire for the mysterious.

A commonly discussed area in Sci-Fi is technological progression. But how often do they get it right? Are the often dystopian and existential predictions about future technologies accurate, or do they ramp up the drama at the expense of realism?

To find out, Plusnet spoke to a series of experts about tech predictions made in some of Sci-Fi’s biggest titles and asked them to grade each film. Here are the highs and lows.


The Good

The Martian

This isn’t the last time we’ll mention one of Sci-Fi’s finest ever directors, but it is the only time Ridley Scott receives positive feedback for the tech predictions he’s made in his films.

The Martian’s mission to Mars may only be set in the year 2035, but according to space industry analyst Laura Forczyk, that timeline may not seem too far-fetched.

NASA and private industry such as SpaceX hope to send the first human expeditions to Mars in the coming decades.”

It’s not only the predicted time of the trip that makes The Martian such an accurate portrayal of space travel. Forczyk says every last detail, right down to the design of the space suits, is as realistic as you’ll ever find on the big screen.

The mission science, engineering, and survival technology are among the most realistic of all popular sci-fi. The spacecraft, spacesuits, tools, and mission objectives are just like what we’d expect an early mission to Mars to look like.

It may have been helped somewhat by the original source material. Andy Weir used his background incomputer science to cram a whole load of science into the original novel.


Human mission to Mars – A



In the age of Marvel’s allencompassing universe, it canbe easy to overlook the 1990 superhero title Darkman. Sure, Liam Neeson donning a face full of bandages and setting off to avenge the crime bosses who have wronged him may not be all that realistic, but it does make one impressive prediction.

The film depicted 3D printing methods to print human organs, long before it was possible in reality. Anne Zieger, an expert in A.I. Healthcare, commented:

“It’s now possible to 3D print many human organs, including skin. This was not even remotely possible with early-90s computing technology, which makes the film’s prediction somewhat remarkable.”


3D Printed Skin and Organs – A


The Bad

Back to the Future

Describing the many varied tech predictions in Back to the Future as “bad” may be a little harsh. In fact, you could build your own internal good, bad, and ugly rundown of the film’s many technological prophecies.

Automotive expert Tony Borroz had plenty to say about Marty McFly’s transport-related gadgetry, with very mixed results.

First, the good. Drones are already in widespread consumer use, making this an easy win:

“Even in 1989, you could see that this was going to be “a thing” we could figure out very quickly.” Borrozcommented.

“What the director did was take what was already happening, improve it, and make it more ubiquitous.”

As for the bad, you only need to look as far as BTTF’s prediction for personal transport – the hoverboard.

“A magnetic levitation system requires a whole bunch of stuff – supercooled magnets, for one thing – that is not amenable to fitting into a skate deck that can be lifted by a human.”

It gets worse for director Robert Zemeckis and the technological predictions he makes in Back to the Future. Flying cars, which we’ll revisit again later in the rundown, just aren’t a thing and probably never will be.

“Besides the technical hurdles – overall weight, the power density of fuel sources – consider this: your morning commute. Think of all the crazy oblivious stuff you see your fellow drivers do on a drive into work. And now you want to give people another dimension to deal with?

Marty’s antics with Dr. Emmett Brown may have had lasting cultural effects, but as a source of real technological foresight, it leaves a little to be desired.


Drones – A

Hoverboards – D

Flying Cars – F



A film that somewhat slipped under the radar (certainly compared to director Neill Blomkamp’s previous hit District 9), Elysium launched us into a 2154 world in which people are floating around living in space stations. A popular theme in lots of science fiction, Laura Forczykbelieves this film doesn’t go far enough:

“Humans have lived and worked continuously on the International Space Station for the past 18 years. Elysium only imagines one successful space station when in fact there will be many, varying from luxury to economy.”

One area where it misses more than hits is around medical science. Elysium proposes a new way for diagnosing and healing injuries and disease, carried out by an A.I. driven medical pod. Anne Zieger says it’s not something that is on the cards at the moment:

Unless medical technology changes dramatically, we’re not on a path to create a single machine that examines a patient, conducts appropriate lab tests and scans, interprets them accurately and manages treatment.”


Colonising Space Stations – B

Medical Pod that scans for and curses diseases and injuries – D


The Ugly

Ex Machina

Ex Machina is undoubtedly a masterclass in A.I. Science Fiction. Highlighting the threat that technology brings to the future of humanity makes for outstanding drama, but how accurate is Eva, the A.I. developed by the science whizz played by Oscar Isaac in the film?

Peter Scott, an author on the subject of A.I. and an ex-NASA computer engineer, says it’s actually Eva’s physical makeup that is the problem:

“Making a human head indistinguishable from the real thing requires non-existent technology for micro muscle movements.”

“She is aware that she is not human, so there is no requirement that her A.I. is engineered to reproduce all the quirks of human psychology. This means the A.I. behind Eva is likely to be much closer to fruition than the physiology.”


Fully Conscious Android – D-


Blade Runner

Bringing Ridley down from his lofty heights of The Martian, the predictions made in his 1982 classic Blade Runner are less impressive. The original film was actually set in this very year of 2019; thankfully LAdoesn’t look quite as gloomy as Philip K. Dick’s imagination.

The film makes two significant errors. Firstly, we didn’t let Back to the Future get away with flying cars, so neither will Blade Runner. Aside from that, we asked Peter Scott about the realism of the film’s Androids, known as replicants:

“Blade Runner depicts an android so convincingly human that I can’t even tell that it isn’t human itself. This requires a level of biophysical engineering that is far beyond anything currently predicted.

“More than any level of artificial intelligence, this feat throws replicants far into the future.”


Fully Conscious Android – F

Flying Cars – F



Will Hinch



BTW – The latest episode of the 5D Podcast is now available!


5D Podcast: Shazam, Disney acquiring 21st Century fox, Black Summer TV series & The Dirt.


In the latest 5D Podcast we talk briefly about the early reviews of Shazam & the week’s news that saw become an absolute behemoth after acquiring 21st Century Fox. In addition there’s a look ahead to the new Zombie series, Black Summer, after the new trailer dropped this week. Finally, we talk about the sex, drugs and Rock n Roll bio-pic of Motley Crue, The Dirt.


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