The "future" is in the past now. Another important date has passed, much like Kubrick's "2001" and "2010" had and "Space 1999" before that. Soon it'll be Blade Runner's "2019" turn.
Back to the Future II has anticipated interesting things for 2015, some of them, in some way, are now a reality. But there's two of them that would surely be interesting to have today but are nowhere to be found: flying cars and hoverboards. There are approximations, sure, but -- for example -- the anti-gravity-like tech, as it's portrayed in the film, we never even came close to developing it.
But let's be realistic: would "flying cars" have a place in our world? Probably not. So who cares, right?
The young Mayan engineer and the wiser man of their times.
There was once a young Mayan engineer who asked his elders: "Don't you think we have enough pyramids? What about investing resources in exploring the huge mass of water that surrounds us? Shouldn't we labor to find a way to navigate it and see what lies beyond it?" The leading elder, the wiser man of their times, answered "We've journeyed far enough. There's nothing out there! Our resources will be put to better use in building a new pyramid, 10 feet higher than the last one."
"Seriously? But it took us like a decade to build the last one!" The engineer said in dismay. "What will a pyramid that's only 10 feet higher than the last one do for us?"
"It will bring us closer to the Gods!" The leading elder explained, raising his arms "We'll be able to communicate with them a lot better!"
"But what if there's another civilization out there, beyond the horizon?" The young engineer asked, "What if they come here and --"
"Silence!" the elder interrupted, "What evidence do you have of that?"
Unable to substantiate his claim, the young engineer gave up and returned to work.
There's no "hiding" from the future
The next day -- or perhaps 500 years later -- a small Mayan party, on their way to carry out their daily fishing duties, arrives at the beach and finds a huge unfamiliar object polluting a rather familiar setting. It looks like a boat but it's nearly the size of a pyramid (a Spanish caravel / galleon). Soon they would find it carries people, not that different from them.
Once the hostilities began, the Mayans also found out that these strangely dressed folk (the Spanish "conquistadores") also brought along an animal they could mount (the horse and the stirrup). On top of this beast and making use of nothing more than a lance, a single foreign warrior could take out 15 of their bravest. This in a single run.
A few years later, the Mayan civilization was no more.
This wasn't an isolated event. Many civilizations disappeared or saw their people killed or enslaved during the so- called "Age of Discovery".
What "tipped the scale"?
It's easy to think that it was weapons and military technology that were responsible for this. But was it? The Mayan example above hasn't been chosen at random. The guns in the Spanish ships couldn't reach the Mayan cities. It was extremely difficult to advance in the jungle, let alone carry military equipment, such as cannons. The bulk of the Spanish victories were achieved with half-equipped "knights" charging Mayan warriors with long lances.
So, what tipped the scale? Was it the weapons or was it the ability to cross the "ocean-sea" and, once on land, the use of the horse and stirrup?
In my humble opinion, Transportation technologies tipped the scale. Without them, there would be no "Conquistadores" and no "Age of Discovery".
Back to the Future: 2016
So it's 2016 and there are no flying cars. If you add the fact that the Concorde's (the supersonic airliner) retirement in 2003 made it impossible for the common folk to cross the Atlantic in under 3 hours -- and so, for the first time ever in transportation history, distances have become longer -- plus the fact that Apollo 17 remains the most recent manned flight beyond low Earth orbit -- That was 1972 ... this leads to one conclusion: Transportation technology has not ceased to evolve but it's not taking us any further or any faster.
History has showed us, more than once, just how important the development of transportation technologies can be in the long term survival of a civilization. And the extinction-level effects that may -- will -- arise from neglecting it.
Bruno De Marques
Author of "Future Man"
"Future Man" is an action-packed adventure and homage to the classic science fiction tropes of the past. De Marques hopes to inspire readers to push for the future we've always envisioned.
Bruno de Marques resides in Lisbon, Portugal. The idea for "Future Man" came to de Marques after he learned of historian Rainer Daehnhardt, who researched the scientific activities in Antarctica by the German Nazi regime during the 1930s and '40s. For more information, visit http://www.brunodemarques.com/
By Bruno de Marques
Published July 31, 2015