Are We Tired of the Future?
On a recent BBC interview, science fiction author William Gibson has recently suggested that we may have ‘future fatigue’ that’s resulted in us not looking forward to the future with hope and excitement. While this might be understandable given all the negativity about the world that is discussed in the press, there might be a better reason for our seeming lack of interest in the 22nd century.
I remember growing up in a time of excitement and fear. My first memorable years were the 1980s (although my first futuristic inspiration was the original Star Wars movie in 1978). Not only was I interested in futuristic military aircraft, but there was a general excitement as personal computers came on the market, soon to be followed by the world wide web..
The 1980s were also, however, a time of fear over global nuclear war, talk of militarizing space with Regan’s Strategic Defence Initiative, and the beginning of concern over global warming (after a decade of fear over the coming of a new ice age). And it was the decade that spawned cyberpunk — the hi-tech dystopian future version of science fiction for which William Gibson is famous.
So I am somewhat surprised to hear William Gibson suggest that “All through the 20th century we constantly saw the 21st century invoked” as something to look forward to.
In fact, we were constantly told of the horrors that lay just beyond the event horizon of the new millenium. Those horrors were said to include: energy shortages, food shortages, over population, rampant pollution, totalitarian mega-states, life-dominating mega-corporations — well, one of six came true!
We did talk about the 21st century a lot. But much, if not most, of it was in a negative light, just as the future is often described today.
1980s Future Fears
- energy shortages
- food shortages
- rampant pollution
- totalitarian mega-states
- all-controlling mega-corporations
So, clearly, even if we invoked the 21st century frequently, it was just as often with dismay as it was with hope.
But I believe there’s another reason that people aren’t often invoking the 22nd century yet and it’s down to simple math.
The truth is that most people don’t look too far ahead. With the exception of science fiction authors and other futurists, the majority of the Western population sets it’s sights no further than a decade in front of it.
And since we’re currently still so close to the beginnig of the 21st century, the 22nd century seems incredibly far away. It’s almost three generations distant!
So, while William Gibson is write to suggest there is a lot of negativity in about the future in the world today, and that does cause some to stop dreaming, I believe the current era is no different that the past. As we get closer to January 1, 2100, we will once again be invoking the next century with reckless abandon.
But what do you think? Am I right in believing the attitudes of this cycle of history are little different that the last ones, or do you believe people are tired of the future and just want to live in the ‘golden ages’ gone by? Let me know below.