Pop the Cornucopian; A Bright Future Awaits
How can we make the future better? Is it possible to extract knowledge from future literature that helps society imagine a progressive future? As the world’s population grows at tremendous rate, future technologies must be developed to sustain prosperous living conditions. My midterm essay focused on certain technological ideas that could possibly improve future scenarios including 3D printers, and personal ideas of technological advancements. The midterm lacked certain real-world problems in the stories including the lack of electricity available to the characters in, Parable of the Sower, as mentioned in Dr. White’s response to my midterm. Available resources in different future scenarios can provide examples of communities that fail, and those that succeed. This paper will focus on the Cornucopian vs. Doomer debate researched in my midterm by examining the available resources and technologies of different future societies.
First, let's begin with a simple examination of resources available in one future society. The futuristic story, Drapes and Folds by Audrey Ferber, holds an abundance of high-tech technologies that provide resources for a prosperous life. Communication devices called, "word ribbons" are placed in every household. (Ferber 126) Nipples with a variety of taste options are placed on the wall that provide "adequate fuel" (128) for the 100 year old characters in the story. The nipple technology corresponds directly with the meaning of Cornucopia mentioned in my midterm, “The term cornucopia has its roots in Greek mythology. It translates to the “horn of plenty”, which magically supplied its owner with endless food and drink” (web). The story also mentions unsuccessful attempts at feeding the growing population including "ninety pound, six breasted chicken" that caused human deformation, and a "Pasta Project" (134).The society is not a utopia or perfect for the characters, and the exact size of the remaining population remains unclear. Overall, the story avoids the apocalyptic nature of the Doomer's ideology by providing adequate resources for the characters.
A key concept for Cornucopian achievement is technology. The YouTube video link on the course website, "Humans Need Not Apply", showed technologies impact from the past to today's future. Despite the growing population humans have to do less and less. The narrator comments on how "we have gone from everyone needed to make food, to almost nobody needing to make food" (web video). Who needs to make food with fast food on every corner? The animated film Wall--E contains a future vision with this exact type of society. The citizens in a future spaceship have technology provide every resource for them, even movement. It is realistic to picture life becoming easier with advancing technology, but as the YouTube video says, "mechanical minds might soon take the place of human minds" (Web). Certain future scenarios provide technology with feelings and intelligence, like Xena in Drapes. The thought of technology leading to a dooming apocalypse without human assistance remains in the realm of science fiction, for now.
Previous researchers help provide metaphors of the battle between Doomers and Gloomers. In Jeet Heer's article, "The New Utopians", the ideas of catastrophic visions of the future are compared to the hopes for a utopia. Keets compares his thoughts to the utopian novelist Kim Stanley Robinson. They acknowledge, "There's a real possibility that humanity won't get its act together to solve core problems" (Keets 20). It is easy to imagine society crumbling into the apocalyptic future scenarios demonstrated in "Stone Lives" and "Parable of the Sower". Also, the Doomers may be right; a near-future catastrophe is always possible due to uncontrollable circumstances. A disease might begin tomorrow that wipes out humanity, aliens might attack, or the ever popular nuclear holocaust. Keet explains how Robinson challenges readers to imagine a future utopia despite these possible catastrophes. In an almost Cornucopian view, Keets quotes one of Robinson's interviews on the future in 2009, "imagine what it might be like if we did things well enough to say to our kids, we did our best" (7). These views are remarkably similar to the ideas of Larry Wilcox in the midterm. Why focus on possible future catastrophes when society can attempt to create a bright future.
To examine a personal, and collective approach to future learnings I will examine my personal future vision from our class. I recently presented a future vision with no electricity and primitive lifestyles; comparable to the future vision found in the reading by Robert Silverburg's "House of Bones". The society would function on primitive tools and dance all night. Despite my urge to visit the past/future society while reading the story, I do not have a "zeller rainbow" (Silverberg 107) to travel back in time on. Almost immediately two main problems arose in the class with my vision. First, it would only work with a small community. With more people comes the lack of community agreement. Second, conflict and technological change would be unavoidable. Even on the small scale of our class of 20 students arguments arose on how the tribe would deal with rule breakers and competing tribes. Not to mention the majority of the class proclaimed they would be unwilling to part with modern day technological conveniences including electricity. This brought me to a daunting conclusion on our collective future. A future sustaining a large population is realistically impossible without technology. So personally, I am working to shift my views to imagine a technological driven utopia.
It is difficult to determine the amount of resources that will be available in the future. Future literature can provide ideas on how to use the resources that do remain in different future scenarios. High-tech devices including the feeding nipples from Drapes and Folds, and 3D Printers, and other tools from science fiction could possibly alive the needs of our growing population. Technology is already advancing at a highly rapid rate to supply the needs of growing populations as shown in, “Humans Need Not Apply”. The optimistic Cornucopian philosophy is proving to be possible. There is always a realistic possibility of a global catastrophe as promised by the Doomers, but there is also the possibility of a bright future. It may not be the low-tech utopian society of my dreams, but I’ll settle for a collective future based on technology and knowledge that provides a prosperous society for future generations. It is our job to provide resources that reach past our personal futures. By doing this the Cornucopians will pop, and the apocalyptic future narrative so popular in literature can be avoided in reality.