Back to the Future Day is coming -- October 21, 2015. Talk of this is likely to ramp up as the actual date approaches, but for those not familiar with the trilogy, that is the date to which Michael J. Fox's Marty McFly character travels into the "future" (from his own 1985) in Back to the Future II, there to prevent his future son (who looks just like him, naturally) from falling into deviancy. Some things seen on screen in that film do exist now -- like big flat-screen TVs, video conferencing, and wearable technology. Observers have made some sport of what discrepancies this future world presents held against our own reality of this day. McFly's future included self-tying shoes, flying cars, levitating skateboards, and holographic 3D movie marque ads. And yet it showed no sign of the ubiquity of smart phones and the internet. A vital message is conveyed by the now-archaic fax machine, as if use of such a thing were still routine. Telephone booths are still around and a newspaper headline reveals that Princess Diana is not only not dead, but is the Queen of England.

The conventional thing for writers to do seems to be to call these out as "failed predictions" -- but to do so misses the whole point of the whole Back to the Future thing. Time is fluid, and changeable. Small changes in one time can massively impact later eras, including the direction of technology and societal trends. And so the future presented in Back to the Future II is not a failed prediction, but an eventuality which did not come about because some meddling time travelers went and mucked about with the future. Who knows, perhaps Doc Brown stopped in the 70s and accidentally encountered a young Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and convinced them to pour their entrepreneurial spirit into anti-gravity devices or holography instead of shrinking computers and making them more telephonic. And any number of things could have occurred to change the style trends exhibited in Marty McFly's 2015 visit. A quick jaunt to 1997 could have saved Princess Di's life. Perhaps some counseling even earlier on could have saved the marriage.

And indeed, after visiting the future, McFly and Doc Brown travel (from their own linear perspective) to other points in the past, where they again change events, effectively guaranteeing that whatever had been seen in their future visit would no longer be the future to actually come about. So at the end of the day, we can't claim anything is "wrong" with the future as predicted because we don't know what changes were made along the way to prevent it from coming about. We can only lament that the changes made eliminated our future of flying cars, and perhaps rejoice in our lives being as they are despite whatever has not come about.

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