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High Culture

Sexbots and flying cars: Real life is already like “Futurama”

The fictitious 31st-century world portrayed by the series is actually quite a bit like our own in the 21st century.
Credit: Futurama / Syfy
Key Takeaways
  • The TV show Futurama is set in the 31st century. It features a highly advanced society with sentient robots, aliens, and humans living side-by-side.
  • Many of the technologies in the show are being developed right now. Flying cars, for example, are coming very soon.
  • Good news, everyone! Hulu has just ordered 20 new episodes of Futurama.

Futurama was a show that first aired more than 23 years ago and still holds a special place in the hearts of all sci-fi lovers. It was set in the year 2999 (and beyond) and featured various innovations ranging from the career chip to the Smell-o-Scope to the mind switcher that many of us still wish to become a reality someday. 

Apart from the gadgets, the show was also remembered for its super-advanced robot society that was not only driven by machine learning but also by emotions, spirituality, and gender. Futurama also gave us an idea of how society might function if humans, robots, and aliens (from different worlds) co-existed together on Earth.

The show represented many of our expectations and fears related to the future in a humorous and satirical way. And, in some aspects, the real world is beginning to resemble Futurama.

Futurama today

We don’t have to go too far into the future to see that. In fact, some aspects of modern life already resemble Futurama. For instance, in a 2011 episode called “Cold Warriors,” a contagious disease spread across New York City, infecting nearly everyone. Given the high rate of infection, authorities decided to quarantine the city. Sound familiar? 

The only difference is that, in Futurama, the authorities sealed off the entire city using a gigantic plastic sheet. “Cold Warriors” originally aired on August 25, 2011, about eight years before COVID-19 emerged.

Talking heads and flying cars

Life in Futurama’s 31st century is full of amazing inventions and technologies. People can interact with dead personalities (including former U.S. presidents, celebrities, and scientists) through their talking heads preserved in jars filled with an unknown liquid. Does that sound far-fetched? Perhaps not. 

Amazon can deepfake the voice of anyone, like your dead grandmother. Additionally, various companies and nonprofit organizations are offering to preserve heads, brains, and bodies in the hope that you get a second chance at life if science ever cures aging and death. Many wealthy people like former PayPal CEO Peter Thiel have bought into this idea and are ponying up big cash. In the meantime, those of us in the living world will soon be able to get mind-controllable robotic arms, if we find ourselves in need of a replacement.

We also won’t need to wait until the 31st century for other inventions featured in the show. Social robots? Those are already on the way. Last year, the makers of Sophia the robot announced that it (she?) will be mass-produced. What about flying cars? We have those now, too, though they’re given the more formal name “electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.”

Big Tech

If you think Big Tech is big today, Futurama predicts an even bigger Big Tech in the 31st century. Today, social media giants collect our data and employ algorithms to monitor and even manipulate our actions. Of course the same will occur in the 31st century, according to Futurama.

The show features a tech and toys company called MomCorp whose CEO uses her position and power to exert control over everything on the planet. In the episode “Attack of The Killer App” (which first aired in 2010), Mom releases a virus called Twitform that takes control of the mind of every internet user who crosses the mark of one million followers on social media. The virus ends up turning the lead characters into mindless zombies who would do anything that Mom wants. In another episode titled “Mother’s Day,” Mom takes control of every robot on Earth and creates chaos by triggering a robot uprising against humans.

One of the more interesting features of Futurama is how it handles incredibly complex philosophical and ethical topics. For instance, Futurama highlights both the good and bad sides of intelligent, self-thinking robots. It asks the question: If humans can be both good and evil, then why not robots? Indeed, the robot named Bender can be a good friend, but he also likes to steal money, drink alcohol, and have sex — with robots, humans, and aliens. Once again, this is not just goofy cartoon-world. Sexbots are real. And sex tech is thought to be a $30 billion industry.

Futurama, redux

Every day, our real world inches closer to the fictitious one portrayed in Futurama. Fans of the show should be happy to learn that, in February 2022, Hulu approved an all-new 20-episode season of Futurama. Good news, everyone!


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