Movie released: 1997 | Set in: circa 2000

Summary Table
Event Likelihood Time frame
Alien signal intercepted low? at any time

Approach to the future

Scenario exploration


Futurism: 6

Entertainment: 9

Plausibility: 8

Interesting depictions

Alien contact:

Programs are underway to detect signals from alien races, and are picking up speed. A signal might be intercepted at any moment—provided aliens exist, and provided some of them are using signals we are trying to monitor.

Timothy Ferris has written that such signals might be the only real way that species from different stars communicate with each other. Actual travel may be prohibitively difficult and time-consuming, and conversations at the speed of light will take decades or centuries. The alternative might be a kind of interstellar Internet, with each contributor’s “home page” encoded in massive, continual transmissions. These would be sent on ultra-high bandwidth beams through the system, and could be accessed at any time. The key, then, would be gaining access to one of the information beams.

The aliens in Contact remain essentially invisible, communicating only indirectly or metaphorically, suggesting some of the genuine difficulty that contact will entail.

See: A note on aliens.

The film impressively portrays the massive, overpowering machine built to the aliens’ specifications.   It also plausibly depicts the range of response that would result from such a contact, from fear to philosophizing.

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The futures depicted in the movies