Be it Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars or Star Trek, science fiction has always assumed that as the centuries and millennia pass, human civilisation will advance at an astonishing pace and will develop such superior technology that is unimaginable today. Time travel, teleportation, inter-galactic settlements, cloning and new sources of inexhaustible sources of energy all form part of predicting humanity’s future. We, humans, firmly believe that in the future, times will be better to live in and most problems of mankind will be solved. However, it seems that a lot of people overlook the other possibility – what if instead of a Utopia our future is dystopian? It seems rather implausible that the future will be a disaster but it is certainly not inconceivable. I consider three possibilities of a future gone wrong – George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and a movie by the name of Idiocracy.
1984 by George Orwell
Written in 1949, with World War II just gotten over, 1984 was based on fears of communism overtaking the world. It features a totalitarian regime which is headed by Big Brother, an enigmatic dictator of Oceania, one of the three intercontinental super-states, the other two being Eurasia and Eastasia. In Oceania that comprises the Americas, Australia, Britain and southern Africa, the government is all powerful and the rights of the individual are practically non-existent. It is an oppressive world order where the government keeps tabs on every citizen, a concept immortalised by the catchphrase, “Big Brother is watching you”. Interestingly, this idea inspired Big Brother, the immensely popular reality TV show. Even though today communism is not a global threat, there are countries like Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba and China that make the possibility pertinent.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Set in the year 2540 or Year of our Ford 632 (an allusion to Ford’s prominence as the inventor of the assembly line that made mass consumption possible), Brave New World, was written by Aldous Huxley in 1931. As opposed to the communist undertones in 1984, Huxley’s novel features the ills of capitalism. Commercialization, consumerism and hedonism plague the world as the goal of every individual is happiness irrespective of the means. In this society, children are artificially raised and there exist five distinct classes of people. The World State maintains stability based on every individual’s powerful desire to consume as much as possible. A drug called soma (meaning elixir in Sanskrit) is pervasively consumed to keep the populace satisfied and delusional. There are clear signs of today’s world headed into this direction with consumerism and pragmatism replacing self-satisfaction, passion and goodwill.
A movie directed by Mike Judge, the movie Idiocracy features a society where the law, “survival of the fittest” has completely broken down. Darwin’s law states that in a species, only the most suited for survival manage to have progeny. However, in human civilisation, the unfit is protected and is able to reproduce. In this way, natural selection fails and even the inferior genotypes remain preserved in the society. So, after a human hibernation experiment that goes wrong, the protagonist finds himself in year 2505. The world is ruled by shockingly dumb people. The President of the US is a wrestler who has no clue about government policies or administration. The economy is in ruins and there are mountains of garbage because the people are too stupid to find any solutions for their problems. The movie comes off very boldly although I feel that this indeed may be a possibility with the richest and most powerful nation, the US, showing a declining IQ trend among schoolchildren.
The three ideas are very contrary to each other and present different dystopias that may result in humanity’s future. Undoubtedly, as the present and future generations, it is our duty to ensure that the world does not end up being a mess. So the next time you choose money or passion or pragmatism over emotions and follow commands blindly or skip school and catch soap operas on the television, give a thought to how the world would end up if everyone acted similarly.