In recent years, science fiction has become a favorite spotlight among other genres, from Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit to hi-tech world of Wakanda. In fact, science fiction has been a fellow of human evolution since the primitive of the science and technology era. By analyzing in depth the typical sub-genres with examples and comparisons between sci-fi creations, this research paper aims to point out the actual influences of science fiction to the human society and technology evolvement in shaping the modern world and securing the path to a bright future. The result from this description could help us understand the further meaning of science fiction and the relationship between this fiction genre and the modern world.
In the year of 1818, Mary Shelley – the Mother of Science Fiction, as many people called her – lit up the first spark for the genre of science fiction – Sci-fi – with Frankenstein (or The Modern Prometheus) . More than two centuries later, the science fiction genre has been restlessly developing itself, alongside with the society. Through such amount of time, history noted uncountable remarkable sci-fi creators – Jules Verne, HG Wells representing the books or Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg representing the movies. Extraordinary sci-fi works were also created in a variety range of categories; particularly marked from the old-school Star Wars, Star Trek to the iconic Blade Runner, Interstellar or Inception.
Science fiction means differently to each individuals; some see the human’s unlimited imagination within, many consider it the proof of human being’s society reaching their dreams or to others it reflects their dreams towards the future. However, in a big picture, science fiction is one of the primary thing that have shaped the modern world and will shape the future. The objective of this research is to investigate in depth the relationship between science fiction and the society, how science fiction influences the world, focusing on society and on technology. The research will illustrate three particular ways science fiction impacting the world, which in this paper will be known as Technology & Society Inspiration, Forming the Concept of the Future and Balance among Society, which will be discussed by three science fiction sub-genres – Adventurous Science fiction, Dystopian Science fiction and Social Science fiction correspondingly.
TECHNOLOGY DREAMS & INSPIRATION
The effects of Exploratory Science fiction
Science fiction sparks the dreams for innovation and keeps them burning. When telling stories of living robots or races in space, science fiction does not give the exact answer of how to get that future. Moreover, it encourages something that is more logically prior to technological mastery: the stimulation of imagination and identification of human desires towards those advanced worlds. However dreaming these science fiction desires can be, they are originally from human’s needs and therefore, they are technically possible . 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1870, Vern, J.) and From the Earth to the Moon (1865, Vern, J.) – two creations of Jules Vern, considering as monuments from the beginning of science fiction genre – portrayed the similar idea.
20,000 Leagues under the Sea narrates the Nautilus – a large submarine and its adventures around the world’s oceans at great depth of 20,000 leagues (~80,000 kilometers) under the sea. In the story, the Nautilus is equipped with full of technologies so advanced that science at that time could only dream of; like huge windows that people can watch the view around or machine that turns sea-water drinkable. Vern preferred imagining the all the desiring future over trying to figure out how to make them in real life. However, the history proved those imagines of him are actually possible. Vern’s popular books didn’t help the scientists, but the effects in the long run were perhaps more significant. It fostered the dreams, which – later on – came to be viable .
In From the Earth to the Moon, Verne imagines that the United States would launch a mission to the moon, which is made of aluminium (which turned out to be correct). He gives an unimaginable vast price tag to the venture; the equivalent of more than the entire GDP of France at the time. And that, too, turned out to be a respectable guess at how much the Apollo programme would cost.
However dreamy it seems, Vern was not against science. Instead, by simply putting aside the question how and concentrating on the idea that it would be wonderful to do such kind of thing, he brought small pieces of the future into people’s mind long before science can be able to make it real. At the end, the world must answer the question how, but science fiction reminds to concentrating on imagine the future first, as it will happen eventually .
At this point, looking back at recent modern sci-fi creations and imaginary things like Black Hole Exploration (Interstellar, 2014), Human consciousness transfer into Computer (Transcendence, 2014) or Tony Stark’s Nanotech Armor (Avengers: Infinity War, 2018), are not just fantasy at all. At some point, they will totally be possible.
FORMING THE CONCEPT OF THE FUTURE
The effects of Dystopian Science fiction
As a genre, science-fiction is one of wonder and magnificence. Specifically, technology plays a huge role in sci-fi stories. With a typical science-fiction story, a significant advance or change in technology prevails, or an enormous change occurs in cultural norms. Most of the time, the science-fiction story will be a combination of the two. However, these stories may not be as farfetched in principle as they may seem at first glance. In fact, many science-fiction stories are based out of real-world strife.
Besides of the advanced future kind of science fiction, there is also an opposite kind called Dystopian Science fiction. In which, the imaginary worlds conceived as being dark or pessimistic, they appear with a society where people are miserable and depressed by how the world is set up, usually because of negative impacts from technology evolvement . Wall-E should be typical examples for this sub-genre of science fiction.
Wall-E (Pixar, 2008) – a Family-fun animated movie but caries a dystopia weight – follows a Wall-E, a trash compactor robot, in a deserted Earth, where all people left behind for a new life in space. In which, behind the love story of two robots – Wall-E and Eve – a disappointing reality has been displayed: The Earth has been heavily damaged by an over-controlled amount of trash; People are obese, lazy and dependent on technology; Social interactions are destroyed. The Earth in Wall-E is in fact similar to the real Earth, it also suffers from the dark-side of modernization and industrialization – trash over-control, obesity, technology over-use – yet in different scale .
In Wall-E, the fear of technology misdirection and take-over have also been mentioned when the evil autopilot robot refuse to allow human to return to the Earth and even rises against the captain. As a science fiction fear, the fear of robots taking over, aliens’ invasions or, in another saying, humanity losing freedom has been a rising topic for a massive number of sci-fi creations lately. As this era of technology and science is about to be at the peak of its growth, when AI – Artificial Intelligence – and smart robotic machines are turning to existence, the fear is no longer a recreating fantasy for books or movies. Looking back at Bio-engineered Androids Take-over in Blade Runner (1982) or AI Rebellion in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), they are now more like warnings for the future science, reminding them to take careful steps on the path of conquering technology.
BALANCE AMONG SOCIETY
Science fiction is also descriptive. Technology is indeed an essential part of the genre. Yet not always it is used as the center of the story. Creators used science fiction as reflections of social issues, emphasis on personal psychology and interactions; while technology play only a role on how it affects individuals or social groups. This forms the terms of Social science fiction, which is primarily concerned with the often problematic effects of technology and science on humans and human society. In returns, science fiction itself is also in the social field, characterized by its own cultures, logics, and inequalities as its progress formed along with human history .
This particular sci-fi sub-genre was not so popular until lately, especially when technology and science have significantly covered most aspects of social life. For this specific issue, there is a simple logic: When one technology is overused, it will be counter-productive, which can clearly be seen in smart devices and networking abuse within social interactions and relationships. This entire logic is being used in social sci-fi, yet in the future or with futuristic types of technology.
The Black Mirror TV series (2011) perfectly interpret the same message. Each of the 19 episodes is a distinctive world, in which the technology-mediated lives of future humans are shown to be full of both incredible potential and horrific pitfalls. However, those societies are set in a near-future context, in which the creators simply take the advanced technology that are relevant to nowadays and show the audience the dangers beneath it. One example is on display in The National Anthem (Season 1 – Ep.1 – 4 December, 2011). In this episode, a man or entity forces the Prime Minister to perform copulation with a pig on live TV as a ransom, while holding a British princess hostage with only basic technology.
In another example, in Nosedive (Series 3 – Ep.1 – 21 October, 2016), the world get to a point where everything in society functions based on likes and people are obsessed with their virtual ratings. The main character, Lacie, started as a quite successful women with pretty high rating in her virtual social network. Though, one day her life fell down as quickly as her ratings and in only a short amount of time, she became a social inferior and ended up in jail while she appeared to be a person with a kind heart. However, in jail, she could see clearly, speak up without deceit and live by her true natural feelings . This convey another message to the audience, that however innovated the world can possibly be, social interaction matters, relationship matters, moral matters.
There is still much to explore and to invent in a modern technology and there are no limits to the human imagination. However, acknowledging the boundaries between construction and destruction helps keeping the world revolution on the right path, too.
After two decades of birth and growth, science fiction literature and cinematography has proven to have a great impact on a modern science, technology and society.
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