The last literary essay I wrote was about dystopian fiction. At the time, in 2016, I had been struck by the publication, within the space of a few months, of a large number of novels offering visions of the future in which some catastrophe—climate change, natural disaster, financial collapse, a pandemic—destroys society as we know it, plunging humankind back into a nightmarish anti-Eden. I was curious about what such novels—written by authors who did not characteristically write science fiction—said about our current state of mind, our anxieties and fears.
Recently, I was in a Lyft in Los Angeles discussing the British dystopian television show, Black Mirror, with my driver. I told him about the episode in which every person you interact with can rate you: coworkers, friends, baristas all have the power to determine your social capital. “Oh!” the driver interrupted, “they already have this in China!”
Posted on January 15, 2020 - 9:53am
Brave New World author Aldous Huxley came to Berkeley (his son’s alma mater) in 1962 and delivered a speech on campus entitled “The Ultimate Revolution.” It ended as follows: “Our business is to be aware of what is happening, and then to use our imagination to see what might happen, how this might be abused, and then, if possible, to see that the enormous powers which we now possess thanks to these scientific and technological advances be used for the benefit of human beings and not for their degradation.”
It was a half a century ago this year that Berkeley High grad and Cal drop-out Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? hit the shelves. Set in 2021, the story follows the systematic annihilation of renegade androids in a post-apocalyptic, nuclear-ravaged San Francisco. (In short: man made robot, robot outsmarted man, man crushed robot.) Though a work of fiction, the novel is revered to this day for its astute insights on the future of man and machine—perhaps because so much of the story has, in some form or another, become reality.
Posted on September 9, 2019 - 10:55am