Stephen Kahn

The future could go either way…or both…

In Hard to tell on February 22, 2011 at 3:13 am

As a child and as a young adult, I read a lot of science fiction. As I got older, my taste for reading it mostly disappeared. In part, my interest diminished because the I saw the world around me turning into something like the imagined world I had read about, and it was less amusing and less attractive in “real life” then in the pages of a book.

Some of the science fiction I read when young was dystopian, describing civilization collapsing and worlds being destroyed or enslaved. Some of it was optimistic, imagining startling new technologies working for the benefit of humanity and discovering amazing new worlds, civilizations, and beings.

It can still go both ways, and perhaps both ways at once (as many stories predicted).

Humans may still land on Mars and explore more of space. Many diseases may be eradicated and life extended longer than is normal now. The cultures and races of the world may learn to live together in greater harmony and tolerance.

On the other hand, as peak oil diminishes, as we mine our fertile soil with factory farms, as fanatics get their hands on ever more powerful weapons, civilization may collapse.

This may all happen at once. A common theme in science fiction has been a few people surviving on other planets (most likely Mars) or on multi-generation “star ships” setting forth for other solar systems while earth disintegrates.

There are many possible variations and combinations. None of us can foresee the future with certainty. Who foresaw that a mixed race man would be elected President of the United States, or that Russia and China would turn into tyrannical “capitalist” powers, or that China, India, and Brazil would challenge the economic hegemony of the United States and Western Europe?

  1. I know one thing–I’m tired of everyone-dies-but-us flesh-eating zombie vampire books. And dystopias–with any luck we’ll continue as the human race and somethings will suck and some won’t. Hopefully no Big Brothers (or Sisters). Good luck with your blog.

  2. Marjorie, thank you for reading and commenting on my blog. Years ago I saw a movie about zombies and it made me tired all over. After that I lost interest in zombies.

    I take “zombies” as metaphorical for modern life and modern emotional despair. Watch out–you may be in danger of growing up! It’s a risky enterprise. That’s why at 67 years of age I never really grew up.

    However, I doubt that some benevolent aliens from outer space are going to drop out of the sky and help us grow up as the science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once imagined. We seem to be on our own.'s_End

    • I loved Arthur C. Clark. I think flesh eating zombies do express some of the paranoia we all feel. We’re all very mistrustful by necessity–looking for Big Brother in a Black Helicopter. Kind of a shame.

  3. I’m fascinated by the current fascination with post-apocalyptic zombie worlds in popular culture. Its almost biblical in its thinly veiled ‘after the flood, only the righteous survive’ ethos.

    As for science fiction utopias/dystopias, I’ve always like the fact that Plato and Sir Thomas More wrote two of the best ones 🙂

  4. Who said, “Nothing new under the sun of global warming?”

    (Ecclesiastes 1:9-14 NIV) What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. {10} Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. {11} There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow. {12} I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. {13} I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! {14} I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

    Perhaps “Heaven” and “Hell” were the original utopias/dystopias.

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