In Brief
  • These AT&T commercials from 1993 predict ebooks, GPS, RFID technology, video calling, smart homes, video streaming, and eLearning.
  • What other once-theoretical technologies could come to fruition over the next few years, moving from science fiction to science fact?

From Science Fiction to Fact

If there was ever any doubt that we are indeed living in a future that was only ever imagined by our predecessors, try answering these questions AT&T asked in a series of ads they released back in 1993:

Have you ever borrowed a book from thousands of miles away?

Crossed the country without stopping for directions?

Paid a toll without slowing down?

Tucked your baby in, from a phone booth?

Opened doors with the sound of your voice?

Watched the movie you wanted to, the minute you wanted to?

Learned special things from far away places?

It’s hard to believe that ebooks, GPS, RFID technology, video calling, smart homes, video streaming, and eLearning (just to name a few) were all things the previous generation could only dream of. Now, life without them seems almost unimaginable.

Perhaps by virtue of how quickly new technologies assimilate into our lives, we tend to take these advances for granted and fail to see just how far we’ve come. But if you stop and pay attention, you’ll realize how consistent innovation has essentially allowed us to move from science fiction to fact.

Take a look at how AT&T predicted our future world:

What’s Next?

Advanced artificial intelligence (AI), depicted in films like Blade Runner and Terminator, could very well come to pass in the next 20 years (hopefully minus the AI’s mutinous intent to take over our world). Flying cars still mostly remain in the realm of science fiction, but driverless cars are being tested on roads today. We have 3D printers, which can create everything from food, to internal organs, to garments – the closest thing we have right now to Star Trek’s Replicator.

Gattaca’s dystopian future might very well become a reality with breakthroughs in the gene-editing technology, CRISPR. Next-generation ocular technology, which incorporates augmented reality, is reminiscent of technologies found in the popular film, Minority Report. Remember HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey? Siri could arguably be a a less foreboding version of it. Even Marty McFly’s self-lacing shoes from Back to the Future: Part II came to pass this year.

Given the pace of innovation in science and technology, it’s only a matter of time before we see more theoretical technologies brought to life. If you’re waiting for Star Trek’s transporter or Doctor Who’s sonic screw driver, sit tight—you never know what the next few decades will bring.