In Denial of the Future
This course has shown me how scared I am of the future. Not the scared that gives me goosebumps, and an adrenaline rush, but the scared that is so deep seated I did not even know it was there, and I cannot really even feel it. The reason I have come to this conclusion about myself is that all of the high tech, and virtual reality literature that we studied in the class either completely lost me, or irritated me. I am sure I am not alone in this feeling from discussing with some of the other students in class, but also I know that some people are embracing what seems to be inevitable. The future is coming, a virtual reality, and a high tech world are already here. However my denial flourishes, even as I type this on my Bluetooth keyboard, and my brand new tablet. I still push it all away. When reading the low tech, and actual reality scenarios I love them, I can follow them, and I also have a sense of "I told you so," that of course I knew heading into this high tech world things would go wrong. Any time a utopic world turns dystopic I feel justified in my denial. This is something I need to get over. In this essay I will compare low tech and high tech scenarios and the pros and cons of each (even if I do not want to admit that there are pros of high tech).
Virtual reality is coming whether we like it or not. In "The Onion and I" by Thomas Fox Averill it shows a world where virtual reality is a great saver of resources, and can give people experiences that they never would have been able to have otherwise. This conservation of resources in stories about virtual reality is an amazing thing. Literature about virtual reality gives answer to conservation problems in a way that is interesting to the reader, and makes it an appealing option. People can travel the world without wasting the resources they would need to use to travel at this point in time. Also a virtual world would be much safer than our world is now. You could send your child on trips without the worry of someone in another country abducting them. The high tech world is already heading in the direction of virtual realities. Yes there are faults in some of the details that a virtual reality is able to provide as shown in"Onion": "A cyber onion' said my father, 'is not a real onion.' He liked to call one up, peel it, try to enjoy its Cybersmell and Cybertaste. 'A real onion can make you cry.'" (Averill 15). I tend to side with the dad in this story, and say, "yeah a Cyberonion cannot make you cry". However in reality I hate that onions make me cry that is something I would not miss at all. Plus the virtual reality shown in "Onion" was a just a beginning version of virtual reality. Virtual reality would get better, and I am sure with the advancement of technology you could eventually decide if wanted your onion to make you cry or not. Virtual reality could be a good thing, and it would not surprise me if it was in the future of our reality.
While virtual reality, and the high tech world are an inevitable, and probably good thing that is coming to our world, there are definitely things that could go wrong. "Chocco" by Ernest Callenbach shows a possible look at what will happen to us if we let our high tech world go wrong. In "Chocco" an ecotopia is presented to us where there is no overpopulation, and everyone works together for the good of the community, almost entirely without technology. This is typical of ecotopias in literature. Although some technology is still used in "Chocco", like the sun panels for example, most of what we rely on day to day is not shown to be necessary in an ecotopia. The Socratic discussion between the characters in "Chocco" calls attention to many of the negative things about high tech that we depend on. Aside from the fact that in "Chocco" our civilization led itself to its own demise because of its dependence on technology, the thing that was blaringly obvious to me as a negative about high tech was the lack of actual history that could be found. Because everything was being kept on computers, and on virtual devices when all of that was gone all of our information was gone. Imagine how much we would know if suddenly there were no Google, or no computers at all. How much of our history would we know? In "Chocco" Jon thinks that we did not know many things about the world around us: "They were ignorant of biology-- all our excavations and analyses have revealed no knowledge" (Callenbach 193)". If something goes wrong with this high tech world our society is running into unaware of the consequences, we will have lost all access to our knowledge. This thought is terrifying. Low tech and actual reality literature often show what can go wrong in a high tech world. High tech literature has the potential to show us ideas that are beyond our wildest dreams, while stories of low tech and actual reality can shove us into our worst nightmares.
Low tech literature is not all scary, it also provides a hope. Low tech literature provides a hope that no matter what does happen in this high tech world we will find a way to survive. Low tech and actual reality stories are often post apocalyptic tales of survival. These have appeals, such as humans being the underdog, and prevailing no matter how terrible the world around has become. In "Speech Sounds" by Octavia Butler the reader is thrust into a disease-ridden, post-apocalyptic world, and the focus is placed on human interactions, which is typical in low tech literature. Another aspect pointed out on the low tech website is that actual reality and low tech stories often focus on women and children, which is definitely done in "Speech Sounds". Low-tech also often focuses on the importance of relationships and family. Low tech often shows relationships in families you choose yourself, the ones you are born into, or both. The idea in "Speech Sounds" that there would no longer be language is the scary setting the story places the reader into. The part that brings hope is the fact that even without language, human relationships, and families can still exist. Even when all seems lost we will survive. This hope in actual reality has a draw that comforts the reader while the rest of the story is scaring the reader with its sometimes horrific ideas.
While high tech stories scare me with the idea of the unknown, and uncontrollable, they in their own way can offer hope to the reader. The possibilities that high tech, and cyberpunk literature offer are endless. In "Burning Chrome" by William Gibson the narrator has a robotic arm. This an amazing possibility, that gives hope to those who do suffer from the loss of a limb. However, those with such a great loss would not be the only ones affected by this hope. In that world there is a level of security that can be felt because humans are not limited by just the bounds of their physical bodies. In a high tech world maybe a physical handicap will be unheard of because of cybernetics. This technology is already being developed to some extent, although there is still a long way to go in regards to replacing human body parts with robotic ones. One of the ways that high tech literature brings in, and handles so many high tech ideas that could overwhelm the reader, is often by depending on the romantic narrative as a story structure. Doing this allows readers to follow a familiar pattern in the overall plot, so that they can attempt to take in all the new technology, and the differences in the settings that can be found within the pages of high tech, cyberpunk, and virtual reality scenarios. These high tech stories can sometimes be precursors to what really happens, and sometimes be completely off. However an appeal of high tech science fiction is that anything is possible, the imagination can run wild with the possible outcomes of our future.
In science fiction there are no limits to what can be written. Whether the author wants to paint our future in a positive light, or a grim, and scary one, no one can contradict what will, or will not happen because there are no boundaries to science fiction. It is scary for me to think about how much everything will change, and the lack of control that I have in what does change. As Elizabeth L. Suffron wrote in her final exam in 2013 "lives forever change"The idea of change is what is actually scaring me when thinking about high tech futures. In reality change is already here, and has been present my whole life. Things exist now I could never have imagined when I was little. So maybe I need to exchange my apprehension of the rapidly changing world that science fiction presents me with, for excitement of the possibilities that high tech has to offer. The assurance that no matter what turn the future takes, if I look at the actual reality scenarios, low tech stories and the ecotopias presented, there will be families, survival, and hope no matter what happens in the future.