It seems like people have used the written word to try and predict the future since the invention of the pen and paper. Mark Twain even predicted the Internet and the flood of social media back in 1898.
Not every prediction has come to pass, with the Internet sort of changing the trajectory of a lot of technology. In fact, the Internet has actually had an effect on the way science fiction is portrayed and our dreams of the future.
Technology As the Oppressor
Many of the most prominent Sci-Fi stories in history deal with invasion whether it be from alien forces, like in Orson Well’s “War of the Worlds,” or from machines from the future. At one point, Terminators were going to take over the Earth and destroy all mankind, at least that’s what the movies implied.
George Orwell’s “1984” portrayed a world where citizens were under constant government surveillance through the use of telescreens and hidden cameras. Others, like H.G. Wells, imagined futuristic machines that could travel through time to horrible places.
The technology always seemed to serve as a prop to take characters to a new, exciting place or was used to oppress the masses. Technology always posed a threat, whether real or imagined.
The fear of the unknown was a strong theme throughout Sci-Fi and even in the real world, so perhaps that influenced people’s perception of how the future would turn out.
The Internet Makes us Oppress Ourselves
Gone are the days when the biggest threats are from outside technological forces. With the integration of the Internet into our everyday lives, technology no longer brings with it the kind of fear that comes with the unknown.
The Terminators are now our friends, helping us to battle their own kind and machines are used as weapons to help protect us from others and sometimes ourselves.
We now know the Internet can be used to connect people and devices in numerous ways and technology is no longer as cleanly separated from us as we once believed. We have tattoos with electronic circuits on the way that can help us control our devices.
Technology is less something to fear in todays’ Sci-Fi and vision of the future and more something to embrace. It’s allowed us to connect on a level never before seen, to share ideas and to make things that actually help our overall health. Wearables might seem goofy, but they can help us live longer.
Rather than novels about the dangers of technology, we have stories about the dangers of allowing technology to cause us to lose our connection as humans. “The Giver” by Lois Lowry is a great example. In the novel the characters remove their memories of events that give them happiness and love, because a life devoid of personal interaction and emotion is thought to be the height of a utopian society. That turns out to be horribly wrong.
The parables between the novel and society’s movements toward eliminating personal interaction in the Internet age are striking.
In today’s Sci-Fi, it’s not the technology that is the enemy, it’s the way we choose to use it.
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