This article is part of #Future, a new UPROXX section that covers where the world is headed and how things have changed since 1989. Powered by Toyota.
Back to the Future Part II made some amazing predictions about life in 2015 — flying cars and holographic movies and robot-Reagan waiters — but the world they imagined was still a basically good and safe and decent place. Minus the roving hover board gangs, of course.
Other movies made in the same era as Back to the Future Part II imagined far darker future-scapes: post-apocalyptic wastelands, murderous robots, and a battle-diaper Sean Connery. Looking at the problems that faced the world in 1989 — conflict in the Middle East, unemployment, and truly unforgivable crimes against fashion — it’s easy to understand why so many would predict a future full of doom and despair.
But while the makers of Back to the Future II didn’t nail everything about the future (we’re still waiting on those hover boards), they were amazingly accurate on their most important prediction: the world in 2015 is a basically good and safe and decent place. Yes, we’re facing a multitude of problems — conflict in the Middle East, unemployment, our own unforgivable crimes against fashion — but we’re also coming up with amazing solutions on a moment-by-moment basis. As a result, it’s very reasonable to imagine our future will be much more Back to the Future II than Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
Who knows if we’ll ever get flying cars (and even if we could have them, for reasons of gravity and physics and texting-while-driving, we probably shouldn’t), but when you read about the ideas coming down the pike it’s easy to feel confident that our future is safe. Especially with companies like Toyota, Fenugreen, Uncharted Play, and Click Medix who are creating innovations right now that will help fix the problems facing the world.
The Car That Runs on Garbage
Of all the amazing technological advances in Back to the Future II, few were more memorable (or more fantastical) than Mr. Fusion: the engine that was fueled by garbage. In the past few decades, Mr. Fusion has been stuck in the realms of science fiction — just like double neckties and the Cubs winning the World Series. In fact, a car that ran on trash has always seemed almost as impossible as Doc Brown’s flying DeLorean. Until now.
Unlike the Mr. Fusion you can’t stick an old banana peel in the new Toyota Mirai’s fuel tank (technically you could, but it would just lead to a challenging conversation with your mechanic), but just like Doc Brown’s DeLorean in Back to the Future Part II, this car can also be fueled by trash. Landfill waste produces a tremendous amount of methane.While this harmful greenhouse gas has traditionally been allowed to float into the atmosphere, it can be harnessed and used as a feedstock for pure hydrogen that can power fuel cell vehicles like the Mirai. Toyota is also converting a factory in Kentucky that will soon be able to manufacture 10,000 cars a year using power generated from landfill emissions. In other words, they’re not just making lemons out of lemonade, they’re turning lemonade into fuel.
The Mirai will get around 300 miles on a single tank of hydrogen, and the clean-burning engine only produces water vapor as exhaust. Best of all, your engine won’t smell like an old banana peel.
The Paper That Helps End World Hunger
One of the most exciting advances in ending world hunger started with a toothbrush. Twelve-year old Kavita Shukla was visiting her grandmother in India when she accidentally broke one of the rules her parents had drilled into her head before she left for the trip: she drank water from the faucet while she was brushing her teeth.