Does technology inspire art? Or do the scientific imaginings of yesteryear shape the tech we see and use today? Or is it really a case of life imitates art imitates life?
Because we exist to probe deep philosophical ponderings on topics like this, we’ve put together a convenient list of TV shows and movies that have shaped the design and engineering of many of today’s technological marvels.
While we might not have actual Terminator-types yet, what we have are aerial drones and military robots that roll along autonomously with machine-guns and small RPGs. Close enough, in theory anyway. All this military technology was ominously foreshadowed many years ago by James Cameron and gang.
We might be decades away from a bipedal cyborg covered in fake flesh, but the current US unmanned drones already resemble the Hunter-Killers in function, if less in form. Let's hope they don’t connect everything to a central system called Skynet or more likely, Google.
What does a cartoon detective series that started in 1937 have to do with you? If you own a smartwatch, then you should know that first popular idea of a wristwatch capable of telling anything more than time started with Dick Tracy’s wrist communicator. Sure, it only had a 2-way radio, but remember radio communications equipment used to take up half a room in the 1940s.
With Dick Tracy’s wristwatch, imaginations were set aflame with visions of future full of wearable tech. Fast forward to the present day and we’ve got veritable computers on our wrists.
In a galaxy far, far away, there were robots, spaceships and Jedi masters. Even though Singapore’s best attempts to build a Death Star have not amounted to much (hello, look at Marina Bay Sands' Art Science Museum), there is one thing from Star Wars that we’ve managed to engineer in real life - lightsab- sorry, we mean holograms
What are you pouting for? Holograms are just as cool as lightsabers. If they can bring back Tupac Shakur, you can bet that one day you’ll be able to send naked holograms to unsuspecting strangers on the net. Oh, the endless possibilities.
Also from Star Wars, robotic limb replacements. Luke’s super life-like robotic hand set the standard for what might be possible for an artificial limb. And we’re getting really close now. But don’t go getting your hands chopped off yet - a super-robot hand is bound to cost you your other arm. And maybe a foot.
The action-packed teen manga of the 80’s and 90’s might have dazzled millions of geeks with copious amounts of hand-fireballs and incredibly extendible spiky-blonde hair, but behind this martial arts epic lies an incredible imagination of future technology.
We're talking capsules that could expand into full-sized vehicles and houses, hyper-space travel, androids, and most importantly super cool ear-mounted computers with semi-transparent visor displays called “scouters”. If that description sounds familiar, you might have been thinking of the latest ear-mounted computers with semi-transparent visor displays called Google Glass.
We’re living in a world designed by Trekkies. Seriously. Everything you encounter on a regular basis was imagined on the show. Star Trek Communicators became our smartphones. Padds became tablets. Telepresence was the forerunner to video-conferencing. Universal Translator? Meet Google Translate. Set Phasers to stun? Stun-guns that is. And automatic sliding doors inspired well, automatic sliding doors.
How will our descendants look back at us, many eons later? Perhaps chuckling from a Biosphere on Mars at how great-great-great-great-great-great-grandpa needed half an hour to get to work everyday, twice as long as an interplanetary commute in the year 3014.