Do you want to know what the future holds for you?
Okay not exactly…but I can give you a good idea. Let me introduce you to one of the most popular genres of literature, science fiction. Unique in its purpose because well…it actually has a purpose. Doing more than just servicing your boredom it allows us to poke holes in our long-term societal goals, analyze our shortcomings, and gives us a better understanding on the manipulation of human values.
With that being said I believe science fiction is important beyond just being another story.
The first reason has to do with providing you the ability to think critically about long-term societal goals.
Letting us think logically about the reality of a situation. Science fiction’s number one rule is that it must be possible and explained through science. This lends its hand perfectly to what makes this genre so great, that we have an explanation and possibly a peak into the succeeding society.
A great example of this is space travel. Launching ourselves into the never-ending abyss sounded ridiculous at first but as time passes these ideas have come to fruition. In partial thanks to the authors for challenging what we believe to be impossible. Now we face the task of longer and longer expeditions which have been written about for decades at this point with countless perspectives on how we will achieve the next big journey.
The genre also presents the opportunity to fully flesh out these long-term ideas, giving us a rule of thumb in terms of possible solutions and consequences. It’s like we are going into a test with cheat sheet.
Not to say that they are giving us the blueprint to success but in that same vein of thought behind space travel, we can ask what consequences could arise from being living in a flying computer for centuries? Would that lead to a crippling dependency or an astronomical jump in what we believe to be average intelligence? These are questions answered all throughout science fiction writing and I don’t know where else we can tinker with concepts in both great detail and tremendous presentation.
Secondly, it allows us to amplify our flaws of today and see how translates moving forward.
Taking a long look in the mirror to reflect on our current behaviors and the consequences that we may be leading ourselves up to. Schools have been on the quest to level the playing fields with children when it comes to rewarding exceptional results. In the efforts to make sure no one’s feelings are hurt. Slowly diminishing the hunger of being better than your peers at something. What would happen if we took this degree of equality and applied it to all of society, what would it cost to make sure everyone was accounted for?
Kurt Vonnegut has a brilliant depiction of a society that has gone too far with trying to make every last person equal titled “Harrison Bergeron”. Though our intentions may be good, he says that following this path we are on may have irreversible consequences. Explaining that in the pursuit of true parity we are only rationing equal misery amongst one another.
Makes you think about if you really deserved that participation ribbon in fourth grade, doesn’t it?
What makes it so fascinating is that these depictions of society are focusing on current issues that may serve a greater prevalence many years down the line. Stories being told decades from now either have the world slowly withering away or in the clutches of government power.
In more recent years there has been renewed spotlight for political actions which has prompted many acts and legislation to be reviewed. As the world invests more and more time online this scares the government because it’s one place where they don’t have a prominent hand in curating its use. I think we are seeing that starting with Bill C-10 in Canada where media has become such a powerhouse for influence that it frightens government heads. Now they are trying to wedge their way into having a voice in how the systems operate. This was quickly put to a halt by the public as subconsciously I feel we’ve tapping into our anxieties instilled by science fiction themes of government corruption and class uprise. Living with hindsight like its groundhog’s day.
Lastly, science fiction has been a great source for analyzing human values.
There are so many scenarios and world altering variables that feature in the stories these authors present to us. When faced with great adversity we can see where morals, ethics, and values play their part in people’s behavior. Dystopic environments paint a new society that is incomparable, smashed into fragments of what it once was and stripped of its resources.
When there is no control and chaos ensue, people tend to work together in the efforts of building the next society. Unity amongst the human race seems to only show itself when there is true threat. Either by war, disaster, or aliens being the most notable which makes sense because humans love to fight against other races. I mean World Wars, The World Cup, Olympics, you get the point.
The flip side brings us to a world that soaks in resources which pits man against itself. When there is no scarcity greed fuels the wicked to position themselves one step ahead of their peers.
Cyberpunk plays with this premise in its worlds since there is a hierarchy that holds humanity under control, and they must operate under the microscope of the powers that be. As they may not be able to acquire higher value materials, resource, or modifications. Here is where we see the presence of black-market entities promoting your ability to hoard and rotate value with one another, with both sides feeling like they got the better end of the deal.
The stories told show how human behavior can be manipulated as humans will adapt whenever necessary. So, if you ever wanted to know how to manage in these next-gen scenarios there is endless catalogs to reflect on.
Science fiction has the ability to take what you are familiar with and package it completely different ways. And the reason its familiar is because you are living the prologue. Engaging in this genre gives you great insight on where the world stands today in a way that no other can. Workshopping our concepts, reflecting on our flaws, and better understanding ourselves. Providing almost an arial view for our problems.
Truly unique in that sense so, it’s up to you on if you want to look through that window and see what your future has in store.