It's like it's the future already, only it's happening, like, now.
Yesterday afternoon, Tim showed Dave and I the Jetsons episode of Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law. It was extremely funny on many different levels, but something that was touched upon but not explored was the disparity between the futures that were projected and the realities that came to pass. Science fiction is full of stories that take place in dates that have come and gone, the most obvious example of this being 2001: A Space Odyssey. Where are our public space stations, Moon Base Alpha and colonies on Mars? The technology does not yet exist for a HAL 9000 either, although that may be one of the most precient elements of that book and film. On the other hand, as time grows nearer, the neon nightmare landscape of Blade Runner becomes more and more a reality.
Futurists can only predict based upon trends and extrapolation, I understand, but I wonder why it is that for the most part, our positive projections tend to be less accurate than our negative ones. I think that this may be because the two extremes - dystopian and utopian - tend to dominate the futurist. Star Trek, of course, is the perfect example of escapism in that regard. It depicts a society in the future in which not only has mankind settled all of its differences and reached for the stars, but also somehow manages to serve as a beacon of enlightenment for other planets. Of course, Star Trek is also depicting a very altered concept of the human beast. It is fantastic at removing all responsiblity from the right thinking people for how shitty everything seems to be getting. Of course, a more incisive view reveals that Star Trek has a disturbing underbelly, that the economic policies that are hinted at are ones that never work once the human equation is added to them. Similarly, 2001 postulates that many of the great advances in technology it depicts stem from Cold War competition.
It is now 2006. The world is dominated in many ways by the internet, an aspect of technology that very few futurists ever concieved of. Consistent with 2001, it was a military initiative that was its direct parent, and in the decade that it has been available to the general public (the internet really didn't start to become a truly public forum until the introduction of Windows '95), it has altered society in ways that have not yet been fully quantified. Communication has altered, news has changed, art has altered, formerly obscure areas of law such as intellectual property have been thrust into the public eye, and one may even wonder whether or not the technology has surpassed our ability to harness it. This is certainly true in the case of the environment; while we may not yet have reached the "point of no return," the idea that something will be done about it before it becomes too late is not consistent with human behavior.
So, while I am a little disappointed that I can't take a shuttle up to an orbiting space station in this two thousand sixth year of the common reckoning, I may also take heart knowing that fact. 2001 has a famous jump cut in it; the man-ape Moonwatcher tosses up the bone that he has used to kill another man-ape to claim an opposing tribe's watering hole, and suddenly we're three million years later, looking at an orbiting missile platform.
I don't want orbiting missile platforms.
There are a lot of recaps about 2005 and what happened in it; I could do this, but it wouldn't really serve much purposed beyond being a review. I don't expect to have any real revelations here; while I was skeptical of the abilities of the administration to begin with, I was completely horrified at the complete failure of our government to perform its most basic duties this year. I've avoided talking about the current political situation because I spent so much time dealing with it in 2004 that I feel that I've burned myself out. However, I enter 2006 a little heartened that many people who were living in denial about how worthless this administration is have had their eyes opened, and that the current backlash against the NeoCons in the media will weaken their power base. Hurricane Katrina cause a more critical eye to fall upon Bush and his cabinet of self-interested filth, and now the war in Iraq is being brought into question by people who formerly were supporters. Do I think it will be enough to wrest the country from their grasp? Absolutely not. There is no centralized opposition to the NeoCon Republican machine (the Democrats are scattered, divided, leaderless), and that will create a problem during this year's elections. I do hope, however, that people have been forced to realize that it is always necessary to scrutinize authority.
"I am Sancho. There are many Jeffs in the world, and many Toms as well. But I... am Sancho. Are you Sancho? No you are not. Neither is Scott Baio Sancho. Frank Gifford is not Sancho. But I... I am Sancho."
I've been asked to come up and join the world, so I'm going to do that now.