Have you ever wondered when we will invent those cheerful animals that help princesses clean and tidy their homes in Disney movies? Oh, we can dream, I guess, but alas my dog Troy is a happy, sleepy dog who would much rather relax in the sun after running the farm than help me with the chores.
While we might never see that figment of Disney’s imagination come to life, there are many others that are now plausible or part of the real world.
Take the film Wall-E, in which a robot with artificial intelligence falls in love and finds new purpose in the near, not-so-far-off future. Devices include the Cleaning Bots, a very primitive version of which I now have at home. (I can’t wait until mine realizes when it needs to switch itself on.) Humans in the film float on chairs with built-in holograms, technology that is now possible. Just look at the new Samsung phone with a holographic keyboard. And at the beginning of the movie, money is seen strewn on the floor, indicating that in Wall-E’s world currency runs through Bitcoin, blockchain or something that doesn’t exist yet. In the movie, the original thought of the people on earth was to wait for the earth to regrow. That generation gave up, but future generations didn’t. This shows that it is never to late to change or think differently about the environment.
Perhaps most intriguing is the ubiquitous presence of robots. Nearly all service-oriented jobs are staffed by robots; even children are looked after and taught by robots. The robots have incredible capabilities. Wall-E, run by solar power, can sense when a storm is coming. His love interest EVA has bio-laser scanning to identify life, as well as the ability to fly and change shape and functionality to save the day.
In another favorite film The Incredibles, a superhero family navigates a comic-book world with James Bond-like gadgets and gizmos. An automated spaceship (is Hyperloop a precursor?) takes Mr. Incredible on a flight whilst offering him his chosen drink, which we assume is known through data science and analytics. Costume designer E delivers outfits made of indestructible, fire-proof, flexible, bullet-proof and invisible materials to the family. If that’s not enough, the outfits also have homing devices with automated tracking.
Artificial intelligence appears throughout the film. Mr. Incredible must ultimately fight a learning robot that becomes aware it will have to be shut down. It’s amazing that Disney had the foresight in 2004 to show an AI robot with evil intent.
While Disney has helped so many of us imagine the technology of the future — creating stories and new worlds that bring to life some of the questions and challenges we may ultimately face — it has also given us many life lessons. Here are a few that I take with me into the IT workplace and my home everyday:
The Little Mermaid (1989) – Follow your dreams, even if there is risk.
Aladdin (1992) – Remain true to self, and don’t misrepresent your intentions. Self-worth trumps external riches, even an ancient cave filled with gold.
Finding Nemo (2003) – Listen to those who lead you, accept help, step outside your comfort zone and never forget the importance of teamwork and friendships. And, most of all, remember that famous takeaway: Just keep swimming.
The Incredibles (2004) – Do a job that makes you happy, be yourself and, even if you have natural ability, practice until it becomes a skill.
Wall-E (2008) – Look after the world we live in and be open to falling in love.
Disney has inspired me to push for innovation in my field and in the workplace, if only to get closer to those happy, singing birds that can help with the chores 😉 As Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Keep imagining, Disney, and we’ll keep building the technology of the future for generations to come
Do you have a favorite Disney invention or lesson?