“The future ain’t what it used to be.”
We are all passengers of “now”; this is our common bond. If we were suddenly transported to another century we would be temporally and culturally marooned, wandering like orphans through an alien sensibility. If we came upon other time-travelers from our own period, we would greet them like brothers or sisters, no matter what country they were from, because the bond of “now” is stronger than nationality. But our “now” is a Hollywood concoction, the result of a century of time manipulation by various media… and it stretches from the Jurassic era to the distant future.
Here, in McLuhan’s “end of history”, all fashions, all cultures, all stories exist at once. This puts us in a special situation, a paradoxical one, where the present, with its idiomatic sayings, dress codes and assumptions, is advantaged over not just the past, but the future as well.
The future, at least as it looks in science fiction films, is either inhabited by the kind of nerds who attend Star Trek conventions or it is a high-tech showroom where villainous scientists battle oppressed heroes in a dysfunctional society. It is certainly no place for the urbane sophisticates of today’s popular culture. For them, the future is only slightly more repellant than the earnestness of the recent past. The evolution of fashion, if such a thing could be said to exist, is now stymied by a future we’ve already been to. There is nowhere to go. This unconscious inertia is manifesting itself on many fronts. The following list is a partial survey of the…
Top twenty signs that the Future is over.
1. Supersonic passenger travel is finito.
2. 3-D films are back.
3. A gall bladder operation in California costs $70,000.
4. The SR 71 Blackbird was mothballed.
5. Online purchases are delivered by trucks.
6. Bacteria are out-evolving antibiotics.
7. Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near didn’t make the cut at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.
8. People still drive SUVs.
9. The last two medical breakthroughs, heart transplants and a cure for AIDS, are decades old.
10. Cell phones are getting bigger.
11. Lady Gaga’s meat bikini.
12. The Saturn V missile exists only on DVDs of Apollo 13.
13. Google searches on Blackberrys and iPhones are no faster than dial-up.
14. Fusion reactors just don’t seem to be happening.
15. Tetris is the most downloaded game on iPhones.
16. Cruise ships dump their sewage overboard.
17. The Mars mission was postponed, again.
18. We are in the middle of the biggest mass extinction event since the Cretaceous.
19. The space shuttle was cancelled.
20. Tattoos are more popular than ever.
Christopher Dewdney is an author and erstwhile futurist. His most recent nonfiction book is Soul of the World; Unlocking the Secrets of Time.