Future Past is basically optimistic. At times, it is even
utopian. But where there is utopia, there lurks its darker
cousin; the dystopia. The most optimistic view of the future is one of
boundless possibilities. It is a string of tomorrows where
science is unfettered, where knowledge has no limits, and
technology is all powerful. It is a world where nothing is
impossible, where we are free to make discovery upon discovery without
reaching the bottom and where what lies over the next hill is always
That's where the paradox comes in.
The future deals with the unknown and, as anyone who has ever eaten
the lunch buffet at the Bombay Curry Palace can attest, the
unknown can be very, very scary. In a world where anything can
happen, well, anything can happen.
And in a universe of infinite
possibilities, most of those possibilities are going to be rather
nasty. Even the most optimistic predictions of man's fate had to
include the possibility of unforeseen pleasures being balanced by
unforeseen dangers. So, any honest predictions of the
future will inevitably end up being tainted by the threats that the
future holds within its promises. Small wonder that our views of
the future have on occasion veered toward the nihilistic or that in
time science fiction looked
less like Buck Rogers and more like Alien.
Dystopias have always floated around in Future Past, but
they've been fairly rare birds up until the '50s and it wasn't
until the late '60s that they emerged in all their pessimistic,
cynical glory, which is why many of our examples are from so late.
Was this due to a more realistic view of the future?
A shaking of confidence? A sign of chronic societal illness?
Or was it just part of that case of cultural indigestion that the West
has been burping over since 1968?
inevitable fate or cautionary tale; as with most dystopian tales, it
will be for the future, and those who build it, to decide.