Science fiction is a genre of storytelling concerned with imagining alternate worlds and futures based on scientific principles, while predicting how our lives will be affected by these new realities. It examines our relationship to technology. The genre provides a roadmap of the evolution of the imagination as we have moved from dwelling in caves to skyscrapers, and ultimately, space colonies.
Science fiction writers often use the genre to explore controversial issues confronting society and warn about the bleak future awaiting us, if we do not change our current behavior. If you have read my book, Spun: 101 Movies to Recreate Your Reality, then you know that even when a utopian society is envisioned, where everyone is free from want, unhappiness, pain, and suffering, it winds up becoming dystopian in nature, which suggests there’s no escaping the darker side of human nature.
Today, we live in a complex world with so many major problems still needing to be solved. We are witnessing more natural disasters as a result of climate change, buildings collapsing with no means of rescuing people buried beneath the rubble, people losing limbs in wars and terror attacks without the ability to regrow them, the rise of Social Darwinism, pointless partisan gridlock in Congress hastening America’s decline, and an increase in cybercrime and cyberwarfare. If the future is now, then the following Science Fiction movies seek to interrogate our current social and political systems, and the impact of technology and medical science on our morality, identity, and belief-system:
Prediction: The activities of citizens will be monitored and controlled by a totalitarian government.
Reality: Recent revelations about the NSA indicate that Big Brother is watching us in the name of fighting terrorism. However, Americans appear more reconciled to losing some rights to privacy and other civil liberties for greater security after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Prediction: We will become a dystopian society because of the pollution, overcrowding, and bombardment of corporate advertising. Human clones or replicants that are created to work as laborers will rebel and have to be hunted down by Blade Runners.
Reality: The cloning of humans still remains illegal, although animals have been successfully cloned. The infrastructure for gravity-defying automobiles is still not a reality, but the first driverless car has been built by Google. Even though we are bombarded by nonstop advertisement, it is what enables us to access free infotainment.
Prediction: Lifelike robots will take care of the basic needs of humans and may even fill the emotional void in their lives.
Reality: Humans have become dependent on their smart phones and electronic devices, rather than on personal robots. Despite the many benefits of technology in the workplace, it is responsible for causing worker obsolescence.
Prediction: Law enforcement agencies will predict and stop crimes before they occur.
Reality: Homeland Security is engaged in an ongoing battle to anticipate and prevent acts of terror before they occur. It is not unusual for drone strikes to be ordered on suspected foreign terrorists.
Prediction: Clones of human beings will be harvested for replaceable body parts.
Reality: Advances in medicine and bio-technology are helping to extend the lifespan of humans. Once we better understand stem cells and DNA, we will be able to cure life-threatening diseases, reverse aging, and grow replaceable body parts.
Prediction: Criminals and other misfits will be removed from society and cryogenically preserved.
Reality: Even though cryogenics still remains in the realm of science fiction, some people have chosen to be cryogenically preserved once they die. Their hope is that a breakthrough in science will enable them to be brought back to life. Meanwhile, with the rise of the prison industrial complex, prisoners are being buried alive in prison cells for twenty-three hours while they go quietly insane, which seems to suggest that cryogenically preserving them may be far more humane.
Prediction: Less privileged women will be forced to become surrogate mothers for the elites in society.
Reality: Surrogacy is voluntary in America and all parties are protected by a written contract. However, some Western couples pay women in developing countries to become surrogate mothers. Ironically, lawmakers in America are racing to turn back the clock by enacting new laws to force women to bear children against their will, even in cases of rape and incest.
Prediction: Climate change will cause a severe natural disaster.
Reality: On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the East Coast and caused $60 billion in damages, which goes to prove how prescient this movie was in its timing. There are still many people who do not believe in climate change and maybe that’s why there is not enough funding to build more warning systems and shelters.
Prediction: Society will be divided based on the genetics of its citizens.
Reality: As we become better at manipulating the DNA code, more parents may be tempted to decide the sex of their unborn children and their physical characteristics. Expectant parents are already being informed of potential birth defects and have the option of not carrying the babies to term.
Prediction: Climate change and overpopulation will cause severe food shortages.
Reality: As more forests and farmlands are being converted into cities, it is becoming increasingly hard to feed the world’s population. It’s no wonder we are seeing more genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our foods. As a result, more people have opted to purchase organic foods, instead.
Prediction: An alien invasion will force nations to fight together for the survival of earth.
Reality: We are yet to be contacted by Martians or other aliens, although NASA recently sent a rover to Mars on an exploration mission. It will be interesting to see our response if Martians are encountered, since we already have a hard time getting along with other humans who are the same species.
Prediction: A pandemic disease will leave sole survivors, who must navigate their way amid an infected population.
Reality: We are in a perpetual race to find a vaccine for one infectious disease after another. The most recent is the Ebola virus, which is ravaging many communities in Africa. The good news is that it has galvanized the West into action after their citizens became infected.
Prediction: Survivors of an apocalypse will encounter lawless cannibalistic gangs as they travel across a post-apocalyptic America.
Reality: After the financial crisis that caused the Great Recession of 2007, many Americans have found themselves still traveling a metaphorical post-apocalyptic road. Many neighborhoods have been turned into ghost towns after the factories closed and jobs were outsourced.
Prediction: People will gladly pay to experience fake memories and alternate states of reality to find meaning in life.
Reality: The Internet has created myriad ways for us to be entertained twenty-hours a day, ranging from cable network programming, streaming movies, videogames, and social networking sites. If creativity depends on stilling the senses, then one is hard-pressed to imagine the kind of future being invented.
Prediction: Free thought and individualism will be suppressed because of people’s inability to access the right information.
Reality: Instead of a totalitarian government, it’s radical talk show pundits who suppress the truth and further divide the nation with their misinformation and disinformation.
Neil deGrasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins – The Poetry of Science
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