Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Better Tomorrow?

Perhaps I'm a fatalist. Maybe I lack faith in the basic goodness of humanity. It could be I'm more influenced by dark-future sci fi than I realize.

A dystopian future isn't an uncommon idea in science fiction. With films like Elysium, Demolition Man, and Minority Report contrasting the gritty versus glossy tomorrow, I can't help but imagine a twisted underbelly to the literal green-peace of Venus City.

I'm not exactly a Luddite. I run a few blogs, relish wiki pages, and mostly because I have never smashed an automated stocking machine. However, I also swear against iphones, kindles, and Google glasses. It's not that I believe them to be bad ideas or products, I simply can't work anything with a touch screen. That, and I believe that herds of people could use much fewer shiny objects to distract them. Nothing irks me more than the thought a pedestrian with their head down over their tablet and white ear-buds dangling as they shuffle into oncoming traffic because they simply couldn't be bothered to pay fucking attention!

Also, think of how much we share, completely oblivious to the fact that we are sharing entirely too much. What isn't plugged into something else these days? Google knows which adds to show you based on your browser history and preferences before you even turn on your computer. And that assumes you ever turn it off. From the moment you open your eyes, you're bombarded with products you don't really need to live a life you don't actually live. Is fulfillment really about purchasing stuff? Shopping online to get the exact same thing (well perhaps in a different color, or a newer, better model) that everyone else got from the same virtual big box store.

Personally I find it terrifying to think of this as the City of 2050. Sure, farmtowers and smart buildings sound like a great idea. White-washed smartscrapers standing next to eco-dome parks carve a sparkling, sterile skyline. Bioluminescent trees act as organic streetlights and everyone lives every day to the fullest because machines to all the work. The power can't go out. Crimes are stopped before they occur. Diseases are cured. The air and water as as pure as Eden. All because everything from public utilities to government facilities, schools, hospitals, and transportation hum smoothly on one intertwining, nanotube nerve center. Nothing ever goes wrong because everything is alright...until it's not. Saskia Sassen asks the well-stated question "When does sensored become censored?" in this article.

Have books and movies not shown us over and over what happens when you take control away from us and give it to "them"? I, Robot for example. Terminator for another. Gamer.

If people are free to do as they !@#$%^&* well digitally please, what's to keep them from stirring up mischief? If we live longer and pursue intellectual education instead of material accumulation, who pays the bills? Who raises the children? Is breeding even a physical connection between people, or is Gattaca-esque where optimal genes are selected and children are grown in test tubes? Maybe gladiatorial humans like Jango Fett are bred because they fulfill some sick, entertaining purpose. Or perhaps only a limited number of the most desirable population are allowed to reproduce.

What if resources aren't as sustainable and space so abundant? Are whole families, neighborhoods, populations deemed expendable and systematically exterminated? Of course no one is aware of it because it's not that overt. The throw-aways are offered "something better" elsewhere. They board a glimmering train to nowhere, smile and wave to their used-to-neighbors and friends, and then lean back in plush seats as they're whisked away...never to be seen again. This could happen every 5-7 years as new data is correlated and tabulated and the herd must be thinned for the continuation of the future. This all takes place openly under the grinning guise of "betterment for all." I can see the holographic billboards now. "Board a train to a brighter life. Bring the whole family. The light at the end of the tunnel."
*Character ideas: Heaven Gates, I.M. "Mac" MacCool (from immaculate), June (mom) and daughters April, May, and Summer Ward, (sisters) Hope and Faith Cross, Warden White.  

Ultimately, are we truly in control of our own destiny and well being? Or are we gladly handing over the reins/reigns of responsibility to Rosie the Robot because we're eager to be clean, "happy", healthy, spoiled children frolicking in the sterile sunshine? If government, corporations, we are not in control of our lives...who or what is?

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