Movie released: 1986 | Set in: unknown

Summary Table
Event Likelihood Time frame
Wired soldiers very high 2020+
Intelligent human-like artificial life low 2050+
Fast interstellar travel low? 2070+
Hibernation for space travel medium 2030+

Approach to the future

Setting for action


Futurism: 4
The future depicted is contradictory: interstellar travel suggests a distant date, but there is no sign of social change, and many technologies, such as warfare and communications, are barely advanced.

Entertainment: 10

Plausibility: 4

Interesting depictions

The space marines are an interesting future combat model, but their technology is very near-term. Monitoring of individual soldiers, multifunction weapons, and handheld sensors will be coming into service in the U.S. military in the 2020s, and some aspects have already begun to roll out.

Smart robotic munitions and sensors will proliferate in the next several decades. It will become ever more dangerous for even individual infantrymen to be exposed on the battlefield.

The space marines’ ground combat vehicle, while imposing, would be highly vulnerable on a smart battlefield, and would also have terrible off-road capabilities due to its low ground clearance.

Other technologies/topics depicted

Artificial life:
Bishop is an artificial life form: seemingly, an artificial intelligence (see below) embodied in a pseudo-biological body.

We are creating artificial parts for ourselves: hearts, blood, skin, and so on. Within decades, it would be possible to replace most individual parts of the human body.  This will probably not be the route taken, however, as it will be easier to grow replacement parts out of real tissue.

So why build Bishop? It is unclear, for we do not know whether he is a sentient being or a simulation of one, or whether he is considered an object or a person. If he is a sentient object, then he is essentially a new kind of slave.

Artificial intelligence:
Bishop is highly sophisticated, though we do not know whether he is self-aware. We also don’t know whether his brain is based on biology, which might allow a quicker route to high intelligence.

Since the movie seems to be set at least 100 years out, Bishop-level intelligence (real or simulated) cannot be discounted as a possibility.

See: A note on artificial intelligence.

Space travel:
Interstellar travel seems to take only weeks or months, though they do employ hibernation chambers for the crew. So they seem to be using faster-than-light travel, and it must be fairly cheap, if the ship in Alien is a bulk ore freighter.

Hibernation chambers are not currently possible, but it is likely that they might become so. The body’s processes can be drastically slowed with traditional meditation techniques, and these same effects might be achieved with drugs and devices to influence the brain. See: A note on space travel.

Two types appear: the spacefaring race whose pilot has served as an incubation chamber, and about whom we know nothing, and the predator species that eliminates most of the humans in both movies.

Ripley’s adversaries are more plausible than most aliens: they are simply intent on surviving, and may be no more intelligent than many predatory animals on Earth.

See A note on aliens for more.

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The futures depicted in the movies