December 7, 2017
Imaginative Predictions of our Future
Everyone has an idea of what the future holds. Though these ideas may differ, they seem to be derive from four distinct kinds of scenarios: high tech, low tech, utopia/dystopia/ecotopia, and alien contact. Scenarios refer to a description of an imagined situation or sequence events that outline a possible sequence of events. The scenarios mentioned may seem like farfetched ideas in a realistic world, but each hold promise of happening.
The high tech scenario, often discussed alongside virtual reality, is the idea of technology being the main substance of the future, in which everything is dependent on it. Virtual reality is specifically a mimesis (media simulation) of actual reality. One of the most prominent features of high tech is the cyberpunk style. “Cyberpunk” is a combination of the words “cybernetic,” which means artificial intelligence or computer systems, and “punk,” which means street style or semi-outlaw; therefore, cyberpunk refers to a style that boast high technology and a low life status. In the text, “Johnny Mnemonic,” the high-tech qualities can be seen in the description the main character uses to describe his “hundreds of megabytes [of memory]” that he has in his head. The low life quality is seen in the setting, for example, “generations of sharpshooters had chipped away at the neon until the maintenance crews gave up.”
The personalities and demeanors of the characters in high tech scenarios are another giveaway to the cyberpunk style. Male characters are usually depicted as computer nerds while females are depicted as an icon/celebrity image or a warrior-chick. In the short story, “Burning Chrome,” one of the male characters, Bobby, is described as a “thin, pale dude with the dark glasses.” Chrome is a female that “looked fourteen as for as long as anyone could remember…she was one of the Boys…a member in good standing of the local Mob subsidiary,” fitting the “warrior-chick” persona found in the high tech scenario. The technology aspect of the high tech scenario is comparable to the low tech scenario, but there are major differences between the two.
The low tech scenario is often connected to actual reality. Low tech has a stronger focus on biological human existence such as: family relations with more inclusion of females and children and real food versus synthetic food. In “Drapes and Folds,” the main character, Pearl, who has a granddaughter that was a “ghastly mix of human and roboid” (VN 129) with whom she desperately tries to make a personal connection. At the end of the story, it seems Pearl was successful in creating a connection stating, “I leaned my head on my granddaughter’s shoulder…Beneath the cool volymer…she carried my message. I pulsed inside her, warm as blood” (VN 139).
“Drapes and Folds” also feature another important feature of low tech – the use of synthetic food over real, organic food, seen when the characters “likked” from nipples; but the short story, “The Onion and I,” is based over synthetic food concept. In this story, the setting is one of an immersion into a virtual environment, Cyberspace, where anything is possible and within this environment, the people are to eat cyber food. The main character’s father was originally a farmer before the integration into Cyberspace; therefore, he knew the taste of onions, and missed it, showing signs of depression, saying “a Cyberonion is not a real onion. A real onion can make you cry,” (VN15). The emotional feel found in the low tech scenario can be found in the utopia scenario and its subgenres, but there lies differences.
The utopia scenario consists of two other subgenres: dystopia and ecotopia. The characters of utopian scenarios lose their individualism and are portrayed as communities. Specifically, dystopia refers a utopian world that has collapsed or a world that comes before or after an apocalypse. The characters of dystopian novels are also portrayed as strong, rebellious individuals but would gather together in the name of survival. In “Speech Sounds,” the use of language has gone obsolete. At the end of the novel, the main character, Rye, comes across children that possessed the ability to speak but chose not to in fear; however, Rye urged them to speak saying, “I’m Valerie Rye. It’s all right for you to talk to me” (VN 108).
Ecotopia is another genre of the utopian scenario that is similar to dystopia. The ecotopian world is one that has low-tech human values with some high-tech gadgets and show more concern and consideration to the environment. “Chocco” is a ecotopian-style story in which the characters of the community recognize and appreciate the environment for providing their sustenance; they refer to themselves as the “River People” and show the most respect to the Sun, which is “the source of the ultimate good, life—but also of death” (FP 190). In this world, technology brought the downfall of humans because the Machine People, their ancestors of the modern world, became “[in]competent to insure their own biological survival” (FP 196).
“House of Bones” takes place in the past and being told by a narrator that traveled to that time period from the future; though, this story technically takes place before technology, the technology that brought the time traveler to the past failed and left him abandoned in the past. The dependent and appreciation of nature in this story. The tribe “hunt huge woolly elephants and build houses out of their whitened bones” (FP 90). In this story, especially, the community aspect is strong, emphasizing the ecotopian style. Each person has a different name for one another; no one knows the real name of a person except the person him or herself. Even the reason behind this strange system symbolizes the ecotopian style that if anyone finds out the reals names “every ghost from Cornwall to Vladivostok” would haunt him or her (FP 93). Technology seems to be a huge part of future scenarios, so the last scenario is certainly a possible one—alien contact.
The alien contact scenario, the most popular of the future scenarios, consists of stories that include humans encountering aliens, mostly because of curiosity from each party. The aliens are either friendly or villains; however, no matter their personality, they are the invaders and explorers of planet Earth, sometimes leading to a dystopia. In the story, “The Poplar Street Study,” the aliens were not exactly friendly, but they were oppressive and experimented on the humans conducting “physicals…balance tests, reflex tests, and questionnaires” (VN 154). There is the other side of alien contact in which the humans are the ones doing the exploring and experimenting. The humans of the story, “Hinterlands,” discovered a way to travel through space and collect artifacts of alien contact, such as “Olga’s seashell.” Though the curiosity is the same among humans and aliens, it appears, according to “Hinterlands,” aliens fare better in space travel than humans. Whenever the humans return back from space travel, they are either “live…DOA…[or] automatic candidates for Wards…” The alien-contact is the most interesting yet farfetched scenario, but could it not be possible?
Stories of the future are usually told using one or a mix of four scenarios: the high-tech, the low-tech, the utopia/dystopia/ecotopia, and the alien contact scenarios. The future is unpredictable yet with active imaginations, ideas are constantly being told through media and literature. Technology is already vital to the modern world, could then society not become overly dependent on technology? Technology is manmade; therefore, there is a chance of failure which can lead to a low-tech or utopian/dystopian future. Though it seems unlikely, alien contact may not be such an unbelievable idea since the universe is so vast and unknown to humans. Society is only left to dream and imagine what the future may be like.