In my last post analyzing what happened to Omni-esque Cool Futurism, I focused in the issue that Sedar and I both covered to an extent; that we didn’t imagine the future would involve improving ourselves. That kind of left out a major part of building the whole future right there.
The problem is the better future needs better people, and we had to aspire to become them; and usually there was a mix of laziness and a kind of Integrationist sense of perfection. However I think another factor played into a loss of Cool Futurism, one that amplified and embodied the issue.
The earlier Cool Fururisms of the 60’s and 70’s and part of the 80’s at least did have some surprising elements that seemed anticonsumerist. Star Trek was not about the marketing team of Starfleet worrying about their image. The neat cities of Omni weren’t plastered with advertisements. No one worried about buying the next Pokemon game in our fiction. The evolving Cyberpunk genre was one of the genres that kept consumerism in mind (though I have theories of how Cyberpunk presented its own problems), but that wasn’t the Cool Future.
However, I think that as real amazing technical advances happened, we just . . . bought them. New computer. New car. Cool device. Associate with a cool future by buying the poster (or the magazine). By the time the late 90’s came around and High Tech consumerism began a reign that continues to this day, it seems like we were busy buying all the neat things from our stories and movies. It was easier. You just used your credit card.
Of course we didn’t build those dream cities. We didn’t create the Hyperion space plane. In fact, after awhile we figured we’d just cut our taxes, watch TV, and everything would magically work out and be sold to us. You’ll note that this didn’t happen, our economy melted down, and now some of us hope the future includes such amazing things as an actual retirement.
Meanwhile, ironically, we really DO have amazing and incredible advances around us. It’s like your Cool Future and your Cyberpunk Dystopia had a bastard child.
I think an increasing emphasis on consumerism and technology was a distraction and a detriment to building a real Cool Future. You get used to thinking you can buy the future – and that distracts from the effort, sacrifice, and self-evolution required to build that future. It’s too easy to get a gizmo or put the poster up on your wall and give yourself an illusion of progress.
I think oddly, this is one of the reasons I see a kind of Cool Futurism among Makers. Being extremely hands-on and being skeptical of rampant consumerism, they’re able to visualize a better future and think of building it. It’s a culture shift that I’ll be following.
I also have hope that technology has enabled people to do more and bond together more to change the world. I’ve actually been surprised what social groups, advocacy groups, and movements are born in social media.
But right now, and as not-positive-me as it sounds, I think too many people think the future is waiting in line for the next popular gizmo.
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.