IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 9

Book Reviews
Katina Michael

Films from the Future
Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi Movies
By Andrew Maynard. Mango Press, 2018, 293 pp.

ilms from the Future
is an ambitious collection of well-organized reflections that
attempts to explore
the technology and morality of twelve
science fiction movies. It is intriguing that author Andrew Maynard
has chosen to take away significant
positive learnings from cult classics
such as Minority Report that would
otherwise be considered as backdrops for a dystopian future.
I was once told by Brian Cantrell
of the World Building Media Lab
at USC that "dystopia was easy and
utopia was really hard" [1]. Cantrell's
lab director is Minority Report's
Production Designer, Alex McDowell
[2] who has given many a talk about
how stories can shape the future [3].
So I questioned from the outset how
Maynard's book might well make us
stop and think and ask questions
like: "how can we learn from science fiction scenarios, and how can
we do better without making the
same mistakes in the real world"?
In essence, what is the takeaway
message for society from dystopian stories?
To an extent, some of the visions
presented by films like Minority
Report have come true, despite that
the movie completely missed the
role that smartphones and social
media would play. In "Can we predict

when and where a crime will take
What all of the science fiction
place?" BBC reporter Mark Smith,
movies that Maynard has purposely
takes us on a brief introduction of the
hand-picked for us to engage with
capabilities of software like PredPol,
have in common is conflict. It is not
Palantir, and CrimeScan [4] but cauonly that these movies are couched
tions we are not there yet in terms
in suspense, and are thrillers, but
of AI-based predictive policing. But
that their contents challenge our
we can already contrast this retropersonal values: plainly, what is
spective hot spot analysis capability
important to every one of us. They
with new forms of facial recognition
take us out of our comfort zone and
software detecting persons in mass
somehow reinforce all that is healthy
crowds, a s has been demonstratabout our world, and help us to see
ed in China [5], and even the hope to
more clearly those things that are
create a crime time machine [6].
unhealthy. In the endless possibility
Maynard's book, which is writof technological and scientific traten in a very accessible manner, in
jectories, the reader knows instincalmost a conversational tone one
tively which are destructive. Death is
might say, comes with excellent
the ultimate harm, the ultimate toll
sources, providing evidence
to content that would other wise b e challenged by
some who would claim that
they are distant futures. MayIn the endless possibility of
nard uses peer-reviewed
papers to support assertechnological and scientific
tions as one would expect
from an academic and fortrajectories, the reader knows
mer columnist for Nature
instinctively which are destructive.
Nanotechnology, but un ashamedly inter mingles
this with references to mainstream media. There is something to
humans may have to face for their
be said about this methodology by an
discoveries; only extinction of the
expert communicator of science in
species can be worse. But how can
general. The further one gets into
we make things better for our presthe book, the more one trusts the
ent and generations to come? If we
insights of this author implicitly askcan detect those things that are
ing the same questions preemptively:
obviously not good for us, might we
"where is all this leading us, as a globbe able to prevent falling into the
al conscious community?"
purported "inevitable" [8].

F

Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MTS.2019.2948418
Date of current version: 2 December 2019

DECEMBER 2019

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IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE

9



IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019

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