“Science Fiction as the Reflection of a Dystopic Present”
In the early 20th century, Henry Ford perfected the production industry by developing a highly specific and efficient assembly line; while many people loved the assembly line there was also concern about the replacibility of each person on that line. In the middle of the century, technology shrank mainframes and inspired the idea of time-sharing; this idea of distributed computing time, combined with a fear of nuclear war wiping out standard methods of communication brought us the Internet. At the end of the century, the power of networking allowed distributed systems, moving computers to the realm of the virtual.
In each of these eras we find that science fiction does not, as commonly believed, predict dystopic futures. It actually reflects and resonates fear of current technology and what it means to be human. The fear of being turned into a cog in the machine can be seen in Fritz Lang’s dystopian movie Metropolis, and continues to resonate in the works of numerous science fiction authors. With The Simulacra, Phillip K. Dick moves postmodern science fiction away from the idea of the automaton replacing humans and towards a disembodied computer that augments, and often begins to control, humans. William Gibson brings us Neuromancer, which re-embodies the virtual. Utilizing the work of Maturana and Varela, Niklas Luhmann, Katherine Hayles and others, this paper explores the idea that science fiction does not represent the potential for dystopic futures but instead reflects our fear current technology and how it impacts our humanity.