Living in a Dystopian Present

Wikipedia defines dystopia as “an imaginary community or society that is undesirable or frightening. It is literally translated from Greek as ‘not-good place,’ an antonym of utopia.” For as long as there have been fiction writers, they have been stories that envision a dystopian future. Such as Mad Max, Enders Game, Blade Runner, The Walking Dead, Book of Eli, and 1984. The dystopia future allows writers to paint a bleak future where people run amuck. They can then have plot freedom which cannot be achieved in a “normal” world.
There is a twofold reason people get drawn to this kind of plot. Let’s use the Mad Max franchise as an example. The characters in Mad Max are on the brink of starvation and they drive around in crazy cars attempting to survive. Why do we like this? Because society does not allow outlandish (exciting) behavior. If somebody were to drive a “non-street legal” car around while committing crimes, it would be big news and the person would be arrested. This is a good thing because bad driving and crime are detrimental to a pleasant society.
When we let our imagination wonder away from our normal society and enjoy the Mad Max story, it is fun. How cool would it be to drive around in a super charged monster car? Breaking everything in sight and overcoming adversity? That is precisely why we like the Mad Max dystopian future. There are no rules and this helps us cope with the rules we dislike in our society. The result is an entertaining pressure release because we know this Mad Max world is not in our future.
The second aspect we like about the dystopian future is to compare this horrible future world to our own. For example, we might think, Meatloaf again? Well, that is not as bad as when Mad Max was grateful to eat a can of dog food. This terrible future reminds us how good our present lives are.
The only problem with dystopian future stories is that the envisioned grim future does not come true. However, it sometimes inspires readers to panic over what they think might happen. For example, The Walking Dead inspired MANY people to buy guns.
When writers attempt to predict the future, the results are lofty and creative. If we rewind back to the ‘50s, many writers predicted that in the ‘80s, there would be flying atomic powered cars, robots walking among us, space travel, oppressive governments and nuclear wars. Obviously, none of these basic predictions came true. Of course, there were more realistic (conservative) writers that did a much better job of predicting the future, such as Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov. Their stories predicted satellite communication and realistic computers.
Another aspect of the dystopian future aspect is the oppressive society. For example, the George Orwell book 1984, written in 1949. It predicted a tightly controlled state watches everybody. Any crime gets instantly detected and the people are severally punished. Many people have said that this dystopian future is here today. The point out that there are millions of security cameras along with millions of computers that automatically monitor our everyday activities. In addition, they point out an effective criminal system that uses technology such as DNA, resulting in an unfair trial.
I do not disagree that there is an abundance of cameras, spying computers and unfair trials. However, our present is not even close to the dystopian future that George Orwell predicted. Only a few cameras are actively monitored and the rest are recorded images only reviewed after a crime has occurred. Has the abundance of cameras stopped crime and improved our world? Arguably, yes. Has it taken away some of our privacy? Yes.
As for the computers monitoring our every move? Yes, there are sophisticated computers automatically monitoring us. Are big government organizations monitoring me? Yes, but the government does not have the resources to prosecute petty crimes.
The fundamental goal (for normal people) of computer monitoring is advertising and better marketing. (Do I really know what I am talking about? Check out the now denied patents 09/589,552 and 13/507,371) Is this computer monitoring wrong? Ya, probably. What effect does it have on me and my blog readers personally? I buy more stuff. Some of that stuff improves my life and some of it is junk.
Are computers listening to my phone conversations? Technically yes, actually no. Are my rights being violated by computers? Ya, probably. What is the worst aspect of this dreadful violation? The worst (in my opinion) is when criminals use hacking for identity theft. Do I like it? I have been the victim of identity theft several times and I should shoot the people that perpetrate this crime without trial. Why? When they took on my identity and, they lost their own identity so technically they did not exist. Will my punishment ever occur? Absolutely not. What does this have to do with government and society? Not much. Identity theft is just a new way for criminals to operate. People will always look for short cuts and identity theft is the new shortcut.
What about AI? Will it destroy us all? It’s very unlikely. Computers are programmed by people and people still want to live peaceful lives. If we rewind back to the ‘50s there was a big scare with robots and computers. Robots first entered the factories and started taking the jobs from welders. What percentage of the factory did they take? Up to 1%. How about today? Now robots may have taken up to 1-80% of certain assembly line jobs. But that is misleading. Who builds and maintains the robots? People. Robots have just moved the jobs around.
Computers in the ‘50s took away jobs from people that worked with mechanical calculators. Today, computers take away jobs like, supermarket cashiers, bank tellers, newspaper printers/paperboys and record/tape/CD manufactures. However, like the factory robots, these jobs just got moved around to places like Facebook and Google. The overall result is that computers have permanently taken some jobs away. One could just as easily argue that increased government regulation, taxes, economic changes and worldwide labor shifts (jobs moving to different countries) are far more responsible for job loss than AI, robots or computers.
What about the oppression of the poor and disadvantaged? People will always be taken advantage of and this has been going on since before even writers could put words on a printed page. The good news is that the poor and disadvantaged now have many more options, including legal help and excellent educations (scholarships).
Dystopian future writers have envisioned a world where the poor and disadvantaged rise against “the man” and overthrow society into chaos. I would argue that this is actually occurring, but in a different form. The poor and disadvantaged are able to vote. It also turns out that they can use the internet/media to organize/publicize their opinions. It also turns out that people can use internet/media in countries that you cannot vote to change the government and society. So, the revolution has been going on for a long time with significant results.
The point of this blog is that the dystopian future predictions that these ‘50s writers completely failed to predict the present. Now let’s look at some things that happened. There have been horrific events since the ‘50s that have deeply disrupted our lives. This included wars, natural disasters, manmade disasters, terrorist attacks, and great social shifts because of technology.
For example, the horrific 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. This dreadful natural disaster was so big that it actually changed the maps of Japan. After the horrific incident, the proud people of Japan mourned their losses, cleaned up, rebuilt, learned some lessons and got on with their lives.
The people of Japan did not turn their country into anarchy like The Walking Dead where everybody killed to survive. Their society naturally dwelled on getting back to a peaceful existence. Why did their society not turn into anarchy? The people of Japan wanted a peaceful society. They enjoyed having safe streets, clean water and their children going to school. This horrific situation is a great example of how all the makings of a dystopian future were present and yet the people went far out of their way to make sure that they went back to a peaceful, boring existence.
Our world is going to have wars (as I write this, North Korea looks like they might even start a nuclear war) and epic world changing natural disasters such as, super volcanos, comet impacts and plagues. Like Covid! Humans are survivors and it is in our core values to get through the bad times. It won’t be easy and there will be significant losses. However, it is in our “human” nature to return to a peaceful, boring existence. When the next tragic event occurs, we will tough it out and get back to the way we are now.
There is a natural drive within humans to live boring lives and that’s just fine. I like boring! There will always be writers that write about the dystopian future and that is also fine. I like the Walking Dead and never miss an episode. We like stories that have excitement/drama/conflict and therefore the dystopian future stories were invented.
However, we must keep the concept of the dystopian future in check. These dystopian future stories are farfetched, predictions are simply will not come true. If you watch an episode of the Walking Dead and decide to build an underground survival shelter, reconsider your motives. History simply does not support that kind of possibility.
I am hope that my readers do not feel that I am whining about dystopian future works. There are plenty of specific examples of fictional dystopian futures that did indeed come true and I enjoy reading/watching dystopian future stories. I even have an idea for a dystopian future novel, that I might write. Stay tuned!
Now for the important part. BUY MY BOOK. PLEASE!!! MY CHECKBOOK IS LONELY! MY BOOK IS ONLY $2.99 ON AMAZON!!! Putting a review online will help me out even more.

You’re the best -Bill
September 24, 2017 Updated, February 26, 2023


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