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21 Back to the Future 2 Innovations the World Still Desperately Needs

Today is Thursday, October 21, 2010. Not a particularly eventful day by most standards, until you ponder this little tidbit: In exactly five years, on October 21, 2015, Marty McFly, Doc Brown, and a strangely unfamiliar Jennifer Parker will arrive in Hill Valley in their time-traveling DeLorean.

Yes, in five short years, the “future” scenes in Back To The Future II will take place. All in all, the filmmakers made a lot of startlingly accurate predictions. They foresaw flat screen, wall-mounted TVs with picture-in-picture and hundreds of channels. They hinted at hands-free video game systems, ridiculing anything else as “like a baby’s toy.” But then again, Marty Sr. was fired over a fax machine… Those will somehow need to make a resurgence over the next five years. (And who knows, maybe that’ll be the next vintage technology that hipsters will ironically embrace.)

But there are also a lot of cool futuristic things which haven’t seemed to come to fruition since the film’s release. Personally, I find that very disappointing, and have compiled a list of some of the more pressing things that we so desperately need to accomplish in the next half decade. Hurry up, science and society!

1. Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor

Only three things in the BttF universe are known to be able to produce at least 1.21 gigawatts (jigawatts?) of electricity: A bolt of lightning, Libyan plutonium, and Mr. Fusion. Apparently marketed as a kitchen appliance, this unit is both stylish and functional. And probably slightly dangerous. If you look at the control knob, it doesn’t just go up to 11; it goes all the way to 12.

2. Hover[noun]

“Those boards don’t work on water!” “Unless you’ve got power!” Mattel, Pit Bull, whatever company made the thing that was holding Jennifer’s father upside-down… Everybody is in on this lucrative business. Goldie Wilson III will even hover-convert your car for the low low price of $39,999.95 — what a steal! Of course, once you have your flying car, you need someplace to drive it. Someplace like…

3. The Skyway

“Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.” I personally don’t trust people to drive in two dimensions at relatively low speeds, and now you expect us to master the Z-axis in just five years? Kind of a tall order, but don’t worry. Even if some taxi cab runs you off the road sky, you can still get their license number. Provided, of course, that you can read…

4. Bar Code License Plates

Because really, when you witness a car speeding away from a crime scene, numbers are so difficult to memorize. It’s so much more efficient to recite “thin line thin line thick line wide gap…” to the police. Bonus points, they’re highly reflective. The future needs shiny things.

5. Scrolling LED Name Tags on Hats

While you’re telling your sob story about hovervehicular hovermanslaughter to the hoverpolice, try not to let yourselves get too distracted by their scrolling name tag hat. At least the LEDs aren’t blindingly blue like on our present tech.

6. Sleep Inducing Alpha Rhythm Generator

A device that can instantly put anybody to sleep at any time? What on earth could go wrong with that?

7. Weather Control

“Too bad the Post Office isn’t as efficient as the Weather Service.” Although never completely explained, there exists some mechanism for the National Weather Service to not only predict the weather, but control it with frightening accuracy. I like to think it’s a bunch of government workers using some sort of atmospheric leaf blower, but I’ll leave the nitty-gritty implementation details to somebody else.

8. Fashionable, Automatic Clothing

“All kids in the future wear their pants inside-out.” Rubberized clothing, translucent ties, silk robes, Japanese characters on everything, and Marty Sr.’s weird double-collared shirt thing. The power shoelaces are pretty dang cool though, as well as the auto-fitting, auto-drying jacket with embedded voice synthesis. I can’t wait until my clothes start talking to me!

9. Downright Awesome Trash

“Caution: Silicone.” If the film’s vision of futuristic alleyways is accurate, not only will we still be using optical discs to store data, but Laserdiscs are totally gonna make a comeback. Also, huge information leak there, fellas — Some industrious young hoverdumpster diver could easily grab those discarded discs and have a field day with your discarded corporate hoverdata.

10. Automated Gas Station

Not many people know this, but I grew up in a quaint little village where drivers were legally prohibited from suffering the humiliating agony of pumping their own gasoline. That village was New Jersey. But all jeering aside, it’s actually a very forward-thinking state — once the robots take over, no human will ever need to pump gas again!

11. Jaws 19

“This Time It’s REALLY REALLY Personal.” C’mon Max Spielberg, hurry up and make the other fourteen prerequisite Jaws films so we can finally enjoy the new one. Although if the hologram outside the theater is any indication of the visual effects in the film, I fear there may have been some disaster that wiped all the talented 3D modeling artists off the face of the earth.

12. Video Waiters, Most of Whom Are Dead Celebrities

In the future, we’ll order all our food from buggy Max Headroom-esque images of famous dead people. Ronald Reagan, Michael Jackson… All they need is to build a shouting Billy Mays model and I will buy anything it offers, including a trip to…

13. The Rejuvenation Clinic

They’ll fix your skin, your hair, your blood, your colon, and then you can get a mask to cover it all up to keep from startling your friends. But what about your dog, who by comparison is now much more ugly than you are? Well, for the time being, why don’t you send Fido to…

14. The Suspended Animation Kennel

What better way to express your love for your pet than to freeze it indefinitely. It’s not inhumane! After all, we do it to our Hot Pockets, and we love those… Right?

15. Robotic Journalist

It takes quotations, pictures, video, and audio recordings. Oh, and it also hovers. It is better than you in every single way. Although why it still writes for the dying newspaper industry is anybody’s guess.

16. Robotic Trash Can

You could’ve made something out of yourself, Litter Bug. But no, you spent all your time playing those damn hovervideo games. Well, I just hope you’re happy with the life you’ve chosen. If only you applied yourself, you could’ve become…

17. Robotic Dog Walker

Who has time to walk their dog anymore? This little guy will handle that for you, with a smile on its facial display matrix and a song in its lithium-ion battery pack.

18. Biometric Thumbprint Database

In a few years, anybody can be positively identified based on the pattern of their thumbprint. But if this sounds like a horrible Orwellian type of thing, don’t worry! You can also use your thumbprint to pay for $100+ cab rides and to open your house’s front door. It’ll even play a custom sound when you walk in! (Mine’s gonna be one of the bass licks from “Seinfeld” followed by canned audience applause.)

19. Scene Screens and The Scenery Channel

“Broadcasting beautiful views, 24 hours a day.” Easily forget all about the shitty neighborhood you live in with the help of these lovely scenescapes!

20. Voice Controlled Garden Center

Farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, delivered straight from your kitchen ceiling. And it’s got voice control! I have no idea how it works or why I’d need it, all I know is I WANT ONE.

21. (Edible) Dehydrated Food

The film also managed to do the impossible: It made dehydrated food look downright appetizing, and it presented a future where a Pizza Hut pizza makes it all the way to a family’s kitchen table without looking like somebody used the box to chock an airplane wheel.

So that’s most of it. Hopefully in five short years, all these wonderful things will be ours. Otherwise future generations are going to look back at an amazing and beloved movie and wonder what the hell we were all thinking. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d hate to have to see that happen. So come on world, don’t let Back To The Future II down!

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