How Science Fiction is Shaping Modern-Day Technology and Commercial Real Estate

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By: Christan Basconcillo, Senior Research Analyst

Science fiction has long been a source of inspiration for technology, touching upon our wildest imaginations. From flying cars and artificial intelligence to advanced utopian or dystopian societies, the boundaries for technology in science fiction are limitless. Believe it or not, sci-fi authors have been shaping the future for some time, using their stories as a sort of testing ground to spark the ideas of ambitious inventors looking to make dreams become reality. In an interview with Smithsonian.com, renowned futurism novelist Ursula K Le Guin stated, “The future is a safe, sterile laboratory for trying out ideas in, a means of thinking about reality, a method.” Now that technology progressing at a rapid pace, the need for talent to drive innovation has come with it, creating a need for new generation office space for today’s young tech workforce.

Highly illogical?
The original Star Trek series debuted in 1966, eventually creating a cult following of “trekkies” that would redefine the term “geek” for years to come. The Klingon Language Institute can teach you how to order a drink in Klingon while trekkie references and phrases like “redshirt” (red shirt officers always died when under attack), “beam me up Scotty,” and “warp speed ahead” are known far and wide in pop culture. However, Gene Roddenberry’s vision of technology would eventually come full circle. Remember Captain Kirk’s communicator? 30 years later, the Motorola Startac became the first “clamshell” mobile phone on the market. How about the Personal Access Display Device (PADD) in Star Trek: Next Generation? Today, it’s called an iPad. What about Uhura’s earpiece or Picard’s communicator badge? I’m pretty sure many of you have used a Bluetooth headset, while the Orion(OnBeep) “Onyx” communication device went mainstream in 2014. Lastly there’s my favorite, McCoy’s Tricoder, which has been the focus of Qualcomm’s Tricorder XPRIZE competition. Of course Star Trek wasn’t the only sci-fi story ahead of its time. There’s also a bucket list of intelligent computers like “HAL-9000” (2001 Space Odyssey, by Arthur Clark) and “WOPR” (WarGames with Matthew Broderick), only today you could probably call them “Siri” and “Cortana” thanks to Apple and Microsoft respectively. Sci-fi greats such as Asimov, Roddenberry, H.G. Wells, Orwell, Le Guin, and Clarke; little did they know that their vision of the future would eventually be realized.

Resistance is futile
I’ve always believed that in order to figure out where you are going, you need to know where you came from. Which brings us to today’s technology. Since the dot.com implosion, today’s tech has spread into other industries. Like the Borg, it has assimilated itself into other facets of life, forming an ecosystem of interdependent clusters. Houses that know when you walk into a room and will automatically adjust the lighting and temperature. Automobiles that can drive themselves. Displays that you can operate with just a wave of your hand (think Tom Cruise in Minority Report). Goggles that will allow you to virtually teleport to another world. While this sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, these types of technologies are currently being developed today by leading tech companies. Other non-tech companies are also joining in, from General Electric’s investment in the industrial internet and big data analytics to fashion retailers like GUESS developing their own smartwatch.

Dammit Jim, I’m a Real Estate Analyst not a sci-fi geek!
Growth in the tech sector has grown exponentially since the last recession, and is approaching “warp speed.” Since 2010, Silicon Valley tech companies have been rapidly expanding throughout the region, which has translated into a demand for office space. The Valley has seen 17 consecutive quarters of office occupancy gains, equating to approximately 10.8 MSF, much of which has been for high-image Class A product. This is reflective of today’s workforce as the traditional high-wall cube farms of the dot.com era are being replaced with open office environments, high exposed ceilings, and collaboration areas. Meanwhile in Q1 2015 venture capitalists poured approximately $4.5B in high-tech funding toward startups in the Bay Area, accounting for nearly half of the U.S. high-tech funding volume. Unemployment continues to decline as companies have been battling for the best and brightest talent, while high-tech manufacturing is slowly making a resurgence thanks to companies like Tesla, Flextronics, and Foxconn. The Bay Area has a vibrant, growing tech economy. While there are many who worry that we are experiencing a, dare I say it, “bubble,” it’s hard not to believe that our tech ecosystem has the strength to weather another downturn. If social media loses popularity, it can be held up by the app economy. If wearable tech slows, there’s still growth in big data analytics given our massive consumption of data, to ease the blow. Unlike the dot.com, we haven’t necessarily placed all our Federation Credits toward internet companies. Regardless of when this ride is going to end, one thing is certain: as long as novelists, writers, movie producers, and other creative minds continue push their vision of the future to the masses, technology will continue to evolve past people’s imaginations.

100 years from now, I’ll likely be blogging from a virtual terminal in cyberspace from a floating glass office building in the sky. My entire conscience will have been imprinted to a nanochip and inserted into a cybernetic android, and I will live forever digitally. I wonder, “do androids dream of electric sheep?”

Until next time, live long and prosper, and hug a tribble.

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