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Peeking into the future

Over the past few years, the term ‘deep learning' has become more prominent, particularly in conversations around artificial intelligence (AI), big data and analytics. It is an approach to AI that shows great potential in the context of advancing the autonomous, self-teaching systems revolutionising many industries.
Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa use deep learning in their voice- and image-recognition algorithms. Researchers at MIT use it to predict the future and some of the winners that we saw in the 2017 Cannes Lions showcase also made use of these technologies for example, the chatbot campaign by Tommy Hilfiger for TMY.GRL and the chatbot campaign rolled out by McDonald’s Japan.

Being a child born in the 80s, it is not difficult for me to think back to when all of these new technologies were just things of fiction, and the only time we experienced them was in movies and books. This got me thinking about the movies I grew up watching and the different technologies they had been able to foresee over 20 years before they became reality. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and see how popular culture from back in the day was able to accurately (or inaccurately) predict present-day reality.

Knight Rider (1982 to 1986)
This television show was a huge hit in the 80s, with David Hasselhoff as the main protagonist. He was flanked by his trusty steed, or rather, autonomous driving motorcar. Fast-forward to the year 2015 and the autonomous car is no longer a figment of fiction. Car manufacturer, Tesla was one of the first to experiment with an autopilot feature on their vehicles. The company hopes to enable full self-driving under certain conditions by the end of 2017.

The Terminator (1984)
In the first Terminator movie the audience is introduced to Skynet, an hostile, neural net-based, intelligence system. Contrary to the vision of humans at odds with machines, today’s future outlook focuses on how well we can partner with machines. The 2017 Cannes Lions brought our attention to applications such as Logojoy and Scriptbook, where creatives now partner with technology. The view is that people won’t lose jobs to machines; rather, people will lose jobs to other people who have learnt how to partner better with machines.

Robocop (1987)
Speaking of partnering with machines, the movie Robocop was based on this thought. Today, we see many instances in which man and machine are moving closer and closer. For example, in 2016 the first cyborg Olympics were celebrated in Zurich, Switzerland. 16 teams of people with disabilities used technological developments to turn themselves into cyborg athletes. There were six different events and its competitors used and controlled advanced technologies such as powered prosthetic legs and arms, robotic exoskeletons, bikes and motorised wheelchairs.

Back To The Future 2 (1989)
This movie follows a crazy scientist by the name of Doc, who has developed a time-travel machine. The audience follows him into a future where we see a key biometric feature appear – fingerprint verification. Two of the first smartphone manufacturers to integrate fingerprint recognition into their phone software were Motorola, with the Atrix 4G in 2011, and Apple, with the iPhone 5S in September 2013. In April 2014, Samsung released the Galaxy S5, which integrated a fingerprint sensor on the home button.

A new world
The accuracy with which many of these fictional pieces were able to predict the future is eye opening and slightly scary particularly given the dystopian nature of many of today’s future-facing movies.

Contrary to the recurring theme of dystopia, today’s world shows us a face that looks confidently to technology’s ability to shape our future for the positive.

In my opinion, these new technologies are good for society. They take human beings into a future where the possibilities for new discovery are infinite. They equip inventors, engineers and even medical experts with ideas, algorithms and ‘cures’ that essentially make life better for everybody.

Children born with certain ailments and others with certain disabilities can now rely on new tech to overcome their limitations. Progress in fuel technology will have a revolutionary impact on how humans care for the environment in the future. And the advancement of biotechnology will have a strong impact on industries where security, privacy and secure access are key.

These new developments create an ever-shifting landscape for marketers and force us to continually reassess the ways in which we communicate to markets, the media we use and the needs and wants we are satisfying. The speed at which these technologies are being actualised is increasing and this tells us that we are at the threshold of a time in history that will change our world forever. In short, if you want to predict the future, go watch a movie.

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