Berlin, 2009

Berlin, 2009
We want more voices, thoughts and languages!

Friday, March 4, 2011

More time

The interlinked worlds of technology and science-fiction are naturally preoccupied with time and progress.

In one sense, their claim of 'progress' is stronger than the political counterpart -- it's about adding extra possibilities/knowledge to the existing sum, rather than replacing one system with another. [theoretically one could claim that things are being forgotten as much as they are remembered, but this would be hard to defend on empirical grounds]

So I'm personally much happier to class, say, the development of new high-tech weapons as 'progress' than I am to think of left-wing politics as 'progressive' -- even if I disapprove of the former and approve of the latter.

Anyway, a very well-known remark from this field is by William Gibson: "The future is here -- it's just not evenly distributed"

This is sometimes used as a 'smell test' for science fiction. Realistic depictions of the future should be not entirely full of gleaming new technology. Rather, the new should be interspersed among different generations of the older technology, in varying states of decreptitude. And the patterns of old and new will likely track social patterns of power, wealth and possibly age.

Would these patterns of newness and power also be found with more controversial claims to the 'new' -- of modernity or social progress? Only if there really is some idea or practice gradually imposing itself on an environment.

I'd imagine it being true, for example, of the early years of Islam -- a new meme, with its associated architecture and other effects, gradually spreading across society, unevenly distributed at least until it stops being 'the future'. Or (with the hopeful possibility that the tide is turning) with the marketization of life over the past 30 years.


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