Science Fiction & Society

22 May , 2012 Culture,Technology

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die.”

This week was about the blurring line between science fiction and science fact. I saw all or parts of 4 Sci-Fi movies this weekend, Minority Report, Gattaca, Blade Runner, and Contact. Three of which are easily in my all-time top 10 films list (not Minority Report). I have always loved science fiction mostly for what it says about society today. See, I believe that in writing about the way the world will be tomorrow, you make profound judgements on what it is today and the decisions we make that will get us there. Therefore, science fiction authors can be some of the great social commentators of our time. Phillip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury and George Orwell being three of the best that come to mind first. All four of the movies we saw this weekend ask powerful questions about if the technology came to be, what questions would we be forced to answer about ourselves.

  1. Pre-Crime, can we punish people for what they may be capable of doing? What are the definitions of justice and freedom when we preemptively decide the guilty and the innocent? Are we willing to sacrifice our ideals of legality for the hope of a safer society. A very relevant question in the face of FOUR multiple killings, three here and one in Germany in the past week.
  2. Does discrimination ever go away, especially when we introduce engineered babies? Must we always tinker with nature for good or worse? Why do we diminish the awesome power of human will to be or do anything our imagination might fathom?
  3. When the line between artificial and human intelligence disappears how then do we define life and rights? Is it still enough to say I think therefore I am, or do feelings become the difference maker? Will we reach a point where we do not know who among us is “real” or “artificial?”
  4. Lastly, there are the myriad of questions raised in Sagan’s “Contact” that I will not dive into here. Save one, science vs religion, who wins and who loses? Or, is there not room for both? Generally, they answer different questions and do different things for all of us. Yet, the struggle remains, here today, stem cells and evolution are the fronts.

I myself, am an addict of technology. I was enthralled by the AJC Auto Show and advances like solar panel windshields that cool the car while it bakes in the Atlanta summer heat. I enjoy the growing presence of electronically cooled and heated seats, speech driven on board computer controls, and intelligent driving systems that keep you safe even when you are doing everything wrong. Yet, I know that technology is not all play things. It is a shower fogged over mirror holding an impending realization and reconciliation between our ideologies and realities. Technology can be our chance to balance our lofty goals with our broken promises. Can it be the great equalizer between over pampered children here, and forgotten orphans there? It can help us to run from responsibility but the technology will become the responsibility that will never let us forget what we owe and to whom.

In the end it is important that we ask and answer these questions before we end up like the future states in some of the science fiction out there.

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