Everyone is a number in this dystopian near-future where cameras track your every move. Score above 90 and you’re set for life. Score below 75 and you’re on your own, kid.
“Where’s my Jetpack?” is a phrase I used to see emblazoned on tee-shirts at science fiction conventions. Now it’s a book, with the nifty subtitle, “A Guide to the Amazing Science Fiction Future that Never Arrived.” I haven’t read it. Sounds nifty. The idea appears to be a fun tour through all the amazing things that science fiction imagined but which society failed to deliver. I share the author’s frustration. It’s depressing to me that we’re still primarily conveying ourselves via controlled petrol explosions rather than mag-lev. And don’t even get me started on technology for the handicapped. I mean why are people without the use of their legs stuck in go-karts that force them to wheel around at waist height in a world with stairs, curbs, and adults over five feet tall when we have robotic rovers exploring Mars via earth-bound remote controllers? Can’t somebody create a reasonable mechanical exoskeleton that would allow the handicapped to locomote in a way more conducive to life in the real world as opposed to life on a go-kart track?
But I think I know what’s wrong.
We have lost our passion for the future. We have allowed ourselves to become frozen in a backward-looking stance. We (and by “we” I mean primarily Americans) have allowed ourselves to be distracted by small-brained nitwits whose power amasses from the controlled release of pre-scientific philosophy. We are wasting precious mind-space arguing with each other about the “ethics” of life-saving stem cell research, the theological ramifications of abortion and birth control, the “sanctity” of heterosexual marriage. Meanwhile, we are inundated by horror stories from people even more backward than us. People who stone people to death. People who sentence women to punishment by gang-rape for crimes committed by her brother.
The world is choking on its own backwardness.
We need to start moving forward. Moving forward makes people happy. It gives them the sense that things are going to be better for their children than they are for themselves. On the other hand, backwardness only makes people grouchy because they pine for a hazy imagined past that never actually existed. So let’s start moving forward. And, no, I’m not just talking to my fellow transhumanists out there. I’m talking to everyone.
So here are some suggestions for how we can get ourselves back on track to create a future worth living in.
1) Embrace the scientific worldview. It’s beautiful, robust, and awe-inspiring.
2) Avoid nostalgic kitsch. This goes out especially to my fellow science fiction writers. I’m well bored of all those images of and references to the so-called “golden age” of SF. All those domed cities and buxom space babes. Enough. Let’s envision the future without all the irony. It’s not going to envision itself after all.
3) Philosophize technology. If ever there were a worldview that could replace the shroud of backwardness that is organized religion, I believe it is to be found in the spirit world of the Interweb. I am not talking about pulling an L Ron Hubbard and inventing some weird SF religion. I’m talking about exploring and communicating the inspirational capacities of the wired world.
So there. That ought to get everyone started. Any other suggestions would be most welcome.
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