Back in the 1950s and 1960s classic science fiction promised a future of space travel, with Star Trek epitomizing our hopes. That future has been revised constantly for us Baby Boomers so what does contemporary science fiction promise the youth of today? Will it be The Windup Girl, The Hunger Games or Ready Player One? Is the Final Frontier off the table? The fact that the United States continues to ignore global warming does not bode well for science fictional speculation. Since we refused to solve our problems we must live with the results.
In Ready Player One people are happy to live in a virtual reality that lets them escape the bleak actual reality. The United States at mid-21st century is still in today’s recession. In The Hunger Games, the 22nd century U.S. has collapsed and a new government has formed that’s nothing like what we have today. In The Windup Girl corporations are even more powerful and the negative effects of technology even more pervasive. If you combined the speculation in The Windup Girl with Ready Player One they have probably foreseen a future closer to what will happen than what Heinlein/Clarke/Asimov imagined.
There’s little reason to picture the super-science futures of modern space opera happening at all, and at least not any time soon. By soon, I mean before the year 3000. And what about what Robert J. Sawyer imagined for us in his WWW Trilogy? How close is IBM’s Watson to Webmind?
I grew up believing the future would be what Heinlein/Clarke/Asimov showed us. How do teens see the future today? A generation ago kids imprinted on Star Wars, but is their faith still firm in that galactic empire fantasy? Not if they are paying attention to reality. Ignoring global warming offers plenty of addictive delusions, but really, what science fiction do today’s teens read to see their future in 50 years? That would be a great topic for a SF Signal Mind Meld. Is it dark or bright?
Fifty years ago I was ten and all excited about the Mercury program, waiting for Gemini and Apollo. My early teen years were filled with science fiction books and The Jetsons, Lost in Space and Star Trek on TV. The future was so bright we had to wear mirrored shades. As a high school kid I was absolutely positive I’d be watching men and women walking on Mars by 1980 – instead I got MTV and an Atari 400.
Do today’s kids see the future through rose colored glasses? Do they realize the 1% has already stolen their future by refusing to allow America to work on the problem of global warming, guaranteeing a life like The Windup Girl? The effects of global warming won’t end our world, but it will but the kibosh on Star Trek and Star Wars space age dreams.
JWH – 1/15/12