Posts Tagged ‘utopia’

Nostradomus Junior

24 February 2010

Dear J-

Every modern society has its vision of a future, whether it’s a dystopia (if you read sci-fi based in the 1950s and 60s, it’s a post-apocalyptic wasteland — see Bradbury and Walter Miller; later on it progresed to an uninvitingly violent and increasingly mechanized socity — Gilliam’s Brazil, Scott’s Blade Runner, Cameron’s Terminator, works by Neal Stephenson and William Gibson) or utopian, replete with flying cars and jet-age inspired fashions like The Jetsons. It’s less important that we dream of the future than how those dreams change given our current situation.

For instance, it’s understandable that the age of the Atom unleashed extreme insecurity and pessimism; here we had planet-destroying weapons and the lack of good sense not to use them. Thus at the same time we were digging bomb shelters and stocking up on canned goods we had our fictioneers plotting out our course once the few survivors emerged. In the 80s, when it seemed that robots had become ascendant and computers were growing ever more intelligent, we feared how technology would disconnect and supplant us; our nightmares gave rise to some of our most iconic fictions, just as Frankenstein and Dracula fed our fears of the unknown but advancing scientific and medical knowledge of their time. On the other hand, folks like Gene Roddenberry thought we could overcome our differences and so extrapolated the space program into a sort of interstellar Boy Scouting policy..

So what’s in store for our future? Based on the current crop of anxieties — deadly Toyotas, mutating viruses, economic fears — we might be thinking of the collapse of society through inequalities and pestilence; on the other hand with the political atmosphere of Tea Parties and large programs, perhaps an overbalanced pyramid of faceless bureaucracy and endless red tape. If I could have predicted anything, though, I’d have hit the lottery long ago and would be writing from some place like Kauai instead; we will eventually leave the nest and expand into space, if we ever get over this cripplying two-party system (how many questions in your life have yes or no answers, and explain to me how having only two parties is any different); the state of the medical art will continue to amaze, and our world will grow smaller, not larger, with technology linking our lives.

Mike

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