Inside out: Back to the future

Teenagers screech around on hoverboards, flying cars fill the air and holographic billboards adorn the buildings in the town square – welcome to 21 October 2015, 80s style.

It may seem like a scene from a bad 80s sci-fi movie and that’s because it is – this is the modern world according to Back to the Future II.

And, while we may not have done away with roads in the way Doc had predicted, if Marty McFly really were to land in October 2015 fresh from the 1980s, he would still be in for a culture shock, particularly when it came to communication.

In fact, communication is an area that Back to the Future II was conservative about. Yes, it got a few things right – video phones and bad 3D movies being just two – but it also included firings by fax, not email.

So, if the communicator of 1985 were able to travel forward to the present day, what would they admire and what would they seek to change?

My hunch is that, like McFly, they wouldn’t want to change too much. Our cinematic hero wasn’t interested in reversing progress – he just wanted to keep his loved ones on the right track.

Likewise, I think our time travelling communicator would agree that communication today offers more opportunity and freedom for their trade than they could have imagined back in 1985.

Instead, like McFly, our hero would probably focus on changing people. They would seek to remind us of what really mattered: the heart, integrity and hunger to communicate, the journalistic values that could be lost when a world of information is already at our fingertips.

 

Back to the Future II is a cautionary tale for all communicators. On paper, it should have been a better movie – it had more effects, action and potential, coupled with the same winning team.

Unfortunately, what it lacked was the heart and soul of its predecessor. It was essentially retelling the same story, just with a different cover.

We can’t afford to fall into that trap. Technology has given us an unrivalled opportunity. As communicators, we’ve literally never had it so good. Equally though, in a world of communication freedom, we can all play a small part in ensuring the art of expert communication isn’t lost along the way

We may not have the luxury of a time-travelling DeLorean from which to shape the future, but it’s our responsibility to ensure that such freedom doesn’t come at the expense of thoughtful craft, fresh thinking and, most of all, a focus on the people, not the technology.