Note — Aug 22, 2021

Your Sci-Fi Future

Good newsletter issue by David Mattin on how sci-fi predicts the future… or does it? He looks at a couple of theories about these ‘predictions,’ is it a symbiotic relationship, or do we reach back after the fact to find “a language with which explain this emerging technology”?

I’m drawing your attention to his reflection for the part where he argues that the connection between sci-fi and the present is so strong “because we lack other modes of explanation.” He argues that politics would normally offer those explanations of the moment we are living, provide stories of where we were and where we are going, but these stories are currently absent or unsatisfying, so we reach for other narratives which seem to explain the world to our satisfaction.

I’d argue that even when explanations aren’t absent, a great number of people simply ignore them and create their own fictions (hello conspirators!), so it’s no surprise that so many also reach to fictions that seem to describe our present. Thoughts?

[T]he genre as a whole has no magical prescience. Rather, a selection bias is in operation. We inhabitants of 2021 relentlessly hunt down the sci-fi ideas, such as Stephenson’s metaverse, that best help us describe what we’re seeing, and ignore the rest. […]

It looks as though science-fiction is inventing the very world we find ourselves in. But that effect is manufactured by our obsessive mining of the genre for stories that help us navigate disorienting change. Bereft of real-world narratives, we turn to fictional ones. […]

That means letting go, finally, of an obsolete conservative vs progressive framework that no longer makes sense in the context of planetary ecological collapse. And developing new thinking on how to conserve what is human amid the emergence of new and non-human ways of seeing the world.