7 June 2010

Futurism and the negative Nancy's of today's future thinkers...

I realise that it's late in the night and that, possibly, my self-induced drunken stupor is writing this response reflexively instead of my intellectual self writing this in an engaged manner but i was spell-bound by Jim Rossignol's musings on post-apocalyptica.

The thing i found most interesting was the paragraph where school children were found to have become more melancholy in their visions for the future. This resonated with me because, well, for a number of years now i've been quite melancholy in my visions of the future as well. I think that while Iain MacLeod's observations probably ring true in general, they are an indication of a much larger trend in human behaviour. Jim mentions the rosy past of futurism but, again, that was purely a reflection of the social feeling of the time. You look at the period from the end of WW2 towards 1960/70 and you see an unprecedented economic recovery AND expansion of knowledge which, coupled together, led the way forward to where we are today. It's not surprising that this period sparked fantastic imaginings for the world of tomorrow.

However, look a few years earlier (before and during WW1/WW2) and you quickly find that futurism was so much more darker.... indeed, even those works drawn up on the eastern horizon during the post WW2 - 1960/70s period were darker than those we are more familiar with in the west. Why? Because life was harder for those people. Let's face it, we are a collection of our experiences and art reflects and magnifies the hopes and fears of humanity.

So, while the golden age of western comics and sci-fi dealt with unlimited expansion in technology and zeal (while reminding us of the terrors of tyranny/bigotry/racism coming from the world wars), recent times reflect the more realistic imaginings of science and technology as depicted through the eyes of a sensationalistic and morbidly-focused press. We know so much more now..... we know what can be possible and what is more likely to be improbable. Where once our pages were graced with flying cars for everyone, we now realise that clean fuel technology is more likely to be present in the transportation of the future. Spin that image around in the politicalised news-reporting machine and you end up with an energy deficient future where only the privileged can afford to travel. Send it back through the poltical reporting machine of the 1950s/60s and you would instead end up with the Mr Fusion's of the Back to the Future franchise - a car that runs on rubbish and which has no emissions.

I guess what i'm trying to say is that the attraction of the golden age of sci-fi/imagination isn't that it was all positive and amazing... but how naive we were to believe what we thought it was okay to believe. I think, in this regard, Fallout 3 has this sentiment nailed perfectly; a place where each car has its own nuclear power supply and radiation disperses within a few minutes or years..... where unbound optimism has lead to a land devoid of hope. The new age is a place of reality and is where we strive for more realistic goals and in doing so we achieve hope through our efforts. Humans have survived as long as we have done because of our foresight: we can predict outcomes and though they're not always 100% right, knowing that something can happen means that you can be prepared for it. This means that we can be hopeful for the future despite naysaying that same future.... we must just be mindful in order to preserve our kind.

This isn't neccessarily bad, it just IS. It prepares us for the inevitable in such a way as to keep us motivated to do better. The old us would have made the expensive and hugely inefficient Concorde, the new us is going to make planes that can fly around the world non-stop on half the fuel load of a normal long-distance flight.

Isn't that amazing?


DocBadwrench said...

I appreciate your thoughts about this. The future sure isn't what it used to be, but how much of that is about US and not the future?

I recently wrote about this, too.


Keep the musings up, sober or not. :)

Duoae said...


Read your thoughts too. Seems like they're aligned pretty closely with my own.

Looking back at the media of the last ten years (movies, games) i think it's easy to see that we've had a long period of "near future" sci-fi. It's interesting to me how some authors from much earlier in time have fit so well into this period - specifically Phillip K Dick. His writing is prety much the epitomy of "now" - little things made normal and just within our reach technologically and socially.

Unfortunately i don't read much modern sci-fi (more of a fantasist myself) so i'm not able to try and predict where the next wave of futurism will come from, nor if it's already here. Certainly, the post-apocalyptic theme is still going strong in both movies and games but it'll be interesting to see what comes after in 2 or so years. I'm still waiting for Precursors to be released.