Back to the future, an inventory of imagination and reality

Back to the future, an inventory of imagination and reality

LABS journalist and columnist talks about the place of technology and innovation amidst futuristic projections

Popular imagination stretched the future and visualized it in many ways. However, in one respect, it was always the same: tomorrow, faraway, remote, and sometimes even postponable as much as, in great part of the literature, it had a specific date.

For the English writer George Orwell this future was 1984, which takes place 35 years after the publication of the homonymous novel. Orwell was a visionary in many ways in his manner of mocking a totalitarian state, for many experts, there is a direct parallel to the rise of the Soviet Union, given the historical moment when the writer was submerged and allusions to bureaucracy and unified partisanship. However, among the book’s greatest visions, the writer is at the forefront of what today is seen as information control and historical revisionism. Orwell pioneered, for example, in understanding that a part of society’s control was done through the information it had access to. In his novel, there is, for example, the “Ministry of Truth,” devoted exclusively to rewriting history to fit the objectives of the current government, the party. In this sense, it was not far from predicting fake news and the impact that information manipulation would have on certain societies.

Not so far away were the simulation and simulacrum theories of reality that, for example, supported philosophical thoughts such as the writings of the Frenchman Jean Baudrillard, an inspiration for the Wachowski brothers to bring to the screen the blockbuster movies, idolized by many fans, The Matrix, whose first thriller debuted in 1999. They consisted of an example of an illusion about the loss of the “thread of reality” that the future was bringing, challenging our ability to see reality in a universe divided between parallel spaces and real events, as well as our ability to free will and its impact on the future.

From the mid-20th century to nowadays, several generations grew up with projections of what the future would be. The 60’s cartoon Jetsons, for example, anticipated the mechanization of work in the year 2062 with domestic robots such as the friendly Rose, who despite being a robot, had feelings compatible with humans. The films of the 1980s, such as “Back to the Future”, played with the human curiosity of the future, with the visits to the future and the consequences of changing the reality that this glimpse might bring, a somewhat modest kind of try to control the uncontrollable human desire to influence its destiny.

American writer Carl Sagan was another pioneer in seeking “the future” within the collective unconscious of a generation, drawing on scientific elucidations and the thin line between science and fiction. His book “Contact”, about the search for alien intelligence in space, made into a movie in Hollywood, is an inventory of our curiosity about everything that could affect us in the future, disguised under the metaphor of a space universe still unknown and full of possibilities. He also anticipates future conflicts between religion and science, discussion precipitated by the discovery of intelligent life on other planets in the book. It is at this moment that the future finds one of the greatest mysteries of creation: God. More than that, Sagan questioned the presence before the ineffable and how humanity would react to extreme paradigm shifts, such as “contact” with life forms outside the Earth.

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It is noteworthy that the lack of meaningful and exact synonyms of the word future in dictionaries (time following the present, a set of facts related to a time to come; destiny, luck, etc.), reflects, in a way, the haphazard boat we were sailing on. An imaginary boat whose keel cuts through a sea of ​​projection and doubts. They are more about lack of definition than definition, an irony for a dictionary. But we never stop imagining it. It is curious to see that projections of the future were so rich in the 1980s and 1990s that they led to a certain longing for how we dreamed the world, creating room for hit shows like Stranger Things, which nonetheless reflect this imaginary of the future when we seemed to know so little about it. Which may lead to reflection on what time is, with the Western tendency to see it linearly. An exception to this, for example, is the belief of several Amazonian tribes who do not see time continuously but as a circle comprising everything.

In the 1990s, the cultural industry flooded the world with movies about natural disasters and facts that could physically change our lifestyle: earthquakes, tsunamis, tidal waves, alien invasions and zombie apocalypses, all of them, reflections of a likely future that never ceased to reverberate, in part, our fear of the unknown. Many anticipate, to some extent, current discussions, such as climate change. However, at some point, and in its due proportions, there was a moment when the future ceased to be a fear and started to amaze us, not without concern, with caution, but without the exaggerated weight of fear of the unknown. Much of this happened with the help of technology, bringing civilizations closer to knowledge.

In this sense, technology is a palatable space for discussions and projections of the “future”, always combined with the development of the future. Consumption, innovation, and nature have never gone so hand in hand. The world is now shaken by discussions that include empowering human beings in a context of change, mechanization, and migration of various realities to the virtual world. It is about growing without losing humanity, with inclusive ideas that do not generate poverty and exclusion, but empowerment and inclusion. With all due exceptions to the cliché, the future is actually now, space where it is no longer possible to run from previously postponed discussions. We have come to the exhaustion of various models that are outdated, such as the exploration of nature and the absence of rational use of the planet, human vocation in a system of labor change and development, among other aspects today unavoidable. Within the inconstancy of the world, say several lines of Eastern thought, the only inevitable factor is change. In the same logic, these thoughts stand for acceptance as a means and path that generate contentment. It is not a matter of eating without swallowing, but of evolving without dehumanizing us.

It will be up to the present generation, and those to come, no longer to look subjectively into the future. We won’t any longer be able to diminish in the face of the fear of the unknown, nor to turn a blind eye to what is already known, much less to reject what has already arrived. With the future on the table, we need to treat innovation generously and geniously.