Science fiction writers are so intent on imagining fantastic futures for Humanity, that we have looked up from our keyboards to find that we have ended up wandering into a less-than-fantastic future...
In one of my favorite short stories in the magazine STUPEFYING STORIES, “We Don’t Plummet Out Of The Sky Any More”, author M. David Blake bases his work on the fact that despite fantastic predictions, we do NOT have practical flying cars yet! Implied in that lament, is the issue it encompasses – the lack of technology capable of bringing such a thing about. The situation begs the question of “Why not?”
It’s my contention that we’ve wandered into a mediocre future in which the greatest advances in technology have to do with us being able to take endless pictures of ourselves and our dogs, as well as talk to our “friends” while sitting in a room across from ANOTHER set of “friends” who are also not talking to us but their other “friends” who are not in the room…
We have somehow wandered into a future that creates endless iterations of video games and gaming systems but continues to be OK with a lame-o “space station” (actually a collection of aluminum cans wired together and in perpetual danger of being abandoned because space stations don’t aid “friend” communication nor do they entertain me…) that is neither state-of-the-art, nor particularly impressive.
Infighting even among practitioners of the future – the SF community – have helped derail the fantastic futures SOME OF THEM HELPED IMAGINE. For example, David Brin once dazzled me with a fantastic vision of a future in which genetic engineering and bold steps into space allowed us to meet alien beings both wonderful and frightening. That same author now decries any attempt whatsoever to contact that selfsame alien life (http://www.davidbrin.com/setisearch.html).
The glut of horrific “dystopian” futures pandered by myopic elder-angst to our best dreamers – teens who see much of the future as POSSIBLE (and who needed to be “put in their place” by old folks too disappointed in their own generation’s performance to feel comfortable allowing the NEXT generation the opportunity to do better than they did) – has made a bold attempt to preempt the effort of any of those dreamers to make the world a better place.
And so we have this lame-o present, full of near-sighted scientists whining about the current state of “science education” (http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2014/10/possibly-irritating-essays-science.html); and after an announcement that a pick-up-truck-sized fusion reactor is imminent…hordes of nay-sayers HOGPILE on it in general jealous whining driven by the fact that someone ELSE might make more money and be able to take a selfie with the President then text it to their buddies in the next room...(http://www.businessinsider.com/scientists-bash-lockheed-on-nuclear-fusion-2014-10).
Speculating on the future rarely takes in the attitudes of our future selves. While we’re adept at naming our generations – GenX, The Me Generation (my generation of Boomers), The Greatest Generation, Millenials, Gen Z, et al – the title is based on when they were born. Then we assign attributes to those folks and call it a day. The Me Generation, which happens to include most of the authors of the “teen dystopian” novels I’ve talked about before (and which same Me Generation “poo-poos” the concerns of people like me and Neal Stephenson (http://hieroglyph.asu.edu/)), is largely part of the effort to break up the landing strip of the only people who can really DO something about the future.
Teenagers and kids in late elementary school are the ONLY ones who can shake off the siren call of a mediocre future. It’s time we GAVE them the tools to do so rather than taking sledgehammers to their runway.
Resources: http://theskunkpot.com/index.php/visions-of-the-future-19-past-visions-of-21st-century-metropolis-vintage-posters/, http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/1939-the-electric-house-of-the-future.html, https://uk.news.yahoo.com/letters-to-the-future--old-postcards-from-1899-reveal-accurate-predictions-of-life-today-131054580.html#5lcCvVz, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/predictions-for-educational-tv-in-the-1930s-107574983/?no-ist, http://www.11points.com/Movies/11_Predictions_That_Back_to_the_Future_Part_II_Got_Wrong, http://www.11points.com/Movies/11_Predictions_That_Back_to_the_Future_Part_II_Got_Right, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space:_1999