- “The Twilight Zone” ran from 1959 to 1964 and explored many topics that are relevant today.
- In one episode, the show explored the idea of robots taking over people’s jobs.
- In other episodes, the show addressed climate change, immigration, and surveillance.
“The Twilight Zone” was an anthology show that ran from 1959 until 1964. The television series, hosted by Rod Serling, told the tales of alternate realities, possible futures, and other stories that centered on science fiction themes and concepts.
Here are 10 technological advances and issues that the show predicted that are relevant today.
“Midnight Sun” predicted climate change.
In the episode “Midnight Sun,” earth has deviated from its orbit and is moving ever closer to the sun. The protagonist, Lois, attempts to survive the heat inside of her apartment as her landlady dies from heat stroke. Lois then wakes up to realise that she had been living a nightmare brought on by a high fever.
Lois’ dream showed an exaggerated version of something that scientists say is actually happen –climate change. Extreme highs and lows, as well as more intense natural disasters, are expected to get worse if global warming is not addressed in future years.
“The Brain Center at Whipple’s” showed a future where factory workers were replaced by robots.
In “The Brain Center at Whipple’s,” businessman Wallace A. Whipple replaces his employees with automated robots to increase productivity and save money. As he confronts a fired worker, Whipple defends his actions: “Two of those machines replace a hundred and fourteen men who take no coffee breaks, no maternity leaves, no vacations with pay!” At the end of the episode, Whipple himself is replaced.
The episode was ahead of its time, predicting automated workers and laborers outsourced, as well as a disparity of wealth between corporations and underpaid employees.
“He’s Alive” reminded audiences that racism and hatred will always need to be confronted.
“He’s Alive” imagined a universe where Adolf Hitler was alive and in hiding, advising new Neo-Nazis like protagonist Peter Vollmer on how to lead through violence and fear. The episode ended with Rod Serling’s narration as Volmer was killed by the police: “Anyplace, every place, where there’s hate, where there’s prejudice, where there’s bigotry … he’s alive. Remember it when you hear a name called, a minority attacked, any blind, unreasoning assault on a people or any human being.”
Serling’s warning is prescient today, with mass shootings,hate crimes, and bomb threats in every news cycle. Ignorance and evil are still rampant today and will continue to thrive as long as society remains complacent.
“Number 12 Looks Just Like You” imagined a world obsessed with perfection.
In “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” young Marilyn Cuberle is forced to receive plastic surgery over her entire body in order to be deemed acceptably beautiful. Though she initially rebels against the beauty standards set before her, Marilyn joins her best friend and mother as a perfectly sculpted clone.
Although modern efforts are progressing to address toxic and unrealistic beauty standards, plastic surgery and dangerous weight loss regimes are seemingly everywhere in women’s magazines and popular social media accounts. Many people struggle today to value natural beauty and self-love in a sometimes perfectionist society.
“From Agnes with Love” presented a world where humans and robots were closer than ever.
In “From Agnes with Love,” a computer programmer named James Elwood confides in his computer Agnes for advice on love and life. Elwood then realises that Agnes has been purposefully giving him terrible advice because she has developed feelings for him and wants him for herself.
Although the ending seems far-fetched, Elwood’s intimacy and reliance on Agnes has become all too real with modern artificial intelligence programs like Siri and Alexa. Today technology users can use programs like Siri and Alexa to ask questions, order tasks, and make commands with the touch of a button.
“Static” predicted a future where people can easily access nostalgic memories.
In a 1961 episode of “The Twilight Zone” titled “Static,” a character listens to a favourite radio broadcast on demand from when he was a child. Though it seemed impossible at the time, the internet has made it easy for users to access endless amounts of media content online, including beloved television shows, films, and classic commercials that stir up nostalgia for the past.
The concept for revisiting media for nostalgia’s sake is so commonplace that entire montages of decades-old content is online just for that purpose.
“The Twilight Zone” predicted driverless cars in “A Thing About Machines.”
In “A Thing About Machines,” a 1939 Lagonda coupe follows a man around without a driver behind its wheel. Although the car was possessed by a spirit and not the product of computer programming, the episode predicted the invention of driverless automobiles.
Today self-driving cars are all too real. Technology has progressed far enough to create vehicles that can sense their environments and make driving choices without human control. Only a few driverless cars are on the road today, with some hiccups still popping up in their design. Still, society is getting closer every day to world where driverless cars are a daily reality.
“The Obsolete Man” estimated an overreach in government surveillance.
In “The Obsolete Man” a librarian is considered obsolete in a future where government influence is widespread and overreaching. With the invention of the internet and increasing government intrusion in the lives of its private citizens, the episode seems all too real today.
For example, many Americans are concerned with over surveillance from the National Security Agency, website cookies, and data sharing. Additionally, the importance of public libraries has grown as more and more are shut down due to lack of government funding.
“Valley of the Shadow” featured a device that made atoms disappear.
The “Valley of the Shadow” is a 1963 episode that centres around a device that makes objects invisible. It also has a “replicator” tool that can reproduce atoms as well as technology that can reverse injury and death.
Although we can’t make atoms disappear completely, modern scientists are creating technology that renders objects invisible to the naked eye. These products, named metamaterials, are made of different materials including foam and photonic crystals that bend waves of light. Products include “invisibility cloaks,” communication devices, and earthquake-proof buildings.
“The Gift” focused on an irrational fear of immigrants.
In “The Gift,” an episode set along the Mexican border with Texas, a spaceship accidentally kills a police officer as it crash lands on earth. Though the alien inside is benevolent and offers to bestow the townspeople with a gift that will save humanity, the townspeople react only with hatred.
The parable warns against the fear of immigrants and seems particularly prescient today when the fear of immigration is at its 2nd-highest level ever in the US. The issue is so prevalent that it has become a dividing issue in American politics.
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