Do Sci-Fi Films Get Advanced Tech Right?

11-May-09 2:47 PM by
Filed under Films, Star Trek; 1 comment.

Summer is a popular season not just for blockbuster films, but also for highly technical ones. Last year featured Batman and Iron Man, and their associated gadgetry, while the previous summer marked the 25th anniversary of Tron. My employer's sister publication, PC World, recently capitalized on this seasonal trend with an article blandly titled "Five movies starring computers". Showbits contributor and former co-worker GeneD. and I felt we could could compile our intimate knowledge of the genre into something better than a brief and unthematic list of 20-year-old movies. Since our outlet would be Computerworld — "The voice of IT management" — we chose a correspondingly relevant thesis: how sci-fi movies predict the development of technology, and whether reality is approaching or diverging from that future. We further categorized our topic into six specific kinds of technology: artificial intelligence; genetic engineering; virtual reality; cybersecurity; surveillance; and military.

GeneD. and I each tackled three of the six sections (can you tell which are mine?). We collaborated on the introduction and conclusion, I arranged it all into a cohesive whole, and editors Val and Barbara applied some insightful packaging, including the "At the movies/In reality" contrast. GeneD. and I are both pretty pleased with the final article, "Do sci-fi films get advanced tech right?", feeling it hits upon a variety of significant sci-fi films without requiring a previous knowledge of the more esoteric ones.

Though the article and the new Star Trek movie came out the same day, our piece isn't really about the science of Star Trek. Unfortunately, the flood of such analyses timed to coincide with the film's release made it difficult for our story to stand out. But if those are your druthers, there are plenty of great articles that focus specifically on Gene Roddenberry's pseudoscience, including "4 Star Trek technologies that are almost here (and 3 that are really far off)", as well as Phil Plait's review of the scientific accuracy of the new film.

If you like science fiction and technology, I think you'll enjoy our Computerworld article. What other genres of films (such as James Bond and his gadgets) or science (like space exploration) do you think would make for a similarly interesting read? Point us in the direction of our next article, and we'll see what we can do!

One Response to “Do Sci-Fi Films Get Advanced Tech Right?”

  1. Ken Gagne adds: has an interesting look at future technology that has been invented — and what we're not doing with it.