It’s 2015. Now let’s shut up about Back to the Future II.
I swear, within minutes of the ball drop in Times Square, there were already several posts about Back to the Future II. And, of course, even more this morning. And they all say roughly the same thing: where’s my flying car/hoverboard/self-lacing sneakers/etc.
Now, here’s the thing. I love the Back to the Future trilogy, I really do. I spent Thanksgiving day hunkered down with a cold, marathoning the series. And October 21, 2015 should be a holiday or something. But these sorts of posts are going to get really old, really fast…especially since there’s a very simple explanation for our 2015 being different (besides the obvious that it’s, you know, a movie):
Marty McFly changed the past.
One of my favorite short stories is Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder.” In it, a man travels back in time on a safari to kill a dinosaur that was doomed to die anyway. In a panic when facing down a T-Rex, the man breaks some rules and leaves the designated path; when they return to the future, they discover a future very slightly changed for a significantly worse outcome; the man lifts his shoe and reveals a very dead butterfly.
Bradbury isn’t unique in speculating that small changes can have huge impacts, of course; it’s pretty common in Sci-Fi involving time travel. It’s the basis for the timeline reset in the Star Trek reboot, for example. Heck, Dr. Ian Malcolm references a similar concept—chaos theory—in Jurassic Park.
And what are the Back to the Future movies, exactly? Marty McFly merrily running amok in his own family history, destroying all sorts of 1985s and 2015s in the process.
Heck, we see four separate 1985s in the movies alone:
- Alpha 1985, where George is bullied by Biff;
- Beta 1985, where Biff waxes cars and George and Lorraine have a remarkably strong marriage;
- Gamma 1985, where Biff rules supreme and George has been murdered; and
- Delta 1985, which we assume is similar to Beta ’85, but where the Clayton Ravine has been renamed to the Eastwood Ravine.
The 2015 of Back to the Future II is Beta 2015. Now, there’s one other key piece of information we know about the Beta timeline: in 1985, Marty and Jennifer ram into a Rolls Royce. By the Delta timeline, Marty has underwent personal growth and puts his truck in reverse, thereby avoiding said accident. If Marty doesn’t get into that automobile accident, he doesn’t injure his hand…and therefore he may not have given up on music. And even if he never surpasses garage-band cult status, who knows who he inspired? Did Tim Berners-Lee listen to a mix-tape with Marty’s songs when he invented the World Wide Web a scant four years later? Did Jennifer once rant to Steve Jobs at a bar, wishing she had an easier way than a Discman to share her husband’s music with the world, thus leading to the inspiration for the iPod?
I could go on. I mean, we don’t know the true impact of Marty’s showdown with Mad Dog Tannen, or how many people were inspired by the legend of Clint Eastwood, who drove a train off an unfinished track (but his body was never recovered)? And, of course, who knows what havoc Doc, Clara, Jules, and Verne are wreaking with their time-traveling train?
We don’t know these things, but we do know that we don’t have flying cars or hoverboards. We’re in Delta 2015, or Epsilon 2015, or Psi 2015. And to quote Back to the Future III:
Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one, both of you.
So to sum up? Sit back and enjoy the future that’s here, and revel in the fact that your future hasn’t been written yet.
Unless, of course, you’re a Calvinist.