Enough with the dystopian futures

So say WorldChanging

Why is the dystopian future always literally dark? Why is it always raining or overcast? Why is the architecture always a mix of hyper-modernism, brutalism and squatter slum? Why is the politics always so transparently totalitarian, so fascist-plus-rebels? Why is it so retro and abstract?

Further, some of them, like James Kuntsler, positively revel in the dark, foreboding future they envision that awaits us. Perhaps this is a remnant from the philosophy of early industrial culture and music that posits that we are all so desensitized that only extreme shocks can awaken us from our slumber, something that has always been a shaky argument at best. Besides, if all you posit is gloom, then where’s the impetus for change?

Why doesn’t the dystopian vision ever include sunshine and children playing in its ruins? Why does it not include the constant, untiring efforts of most people to do what they can with what they have to improve their situations? Why are most people in the dystopian future always powerless to change anything? I could go on, but you get the point.

Well, it wouldn’t be dystopian if they were actively creating a better future, now would it? It’s too easy to slip into a miasma of gloom and blame human nature / capitalism / whatever for what ails us rather than, as WorldChanging says, invent a better future.

Look no further than the many Silicon Valley companies that are actively researching and implementing plans for renewable energy and cleantech. I guess they don’t have time to be gloomy.


  1. Since the future encompasses a component of the unknown there will always be those who feed off of the ‘doom and gloom’ possibilities.
    For me the movie “E.T.” was a refreshing departure from the concept that outer space was always harboring some destructive element that would forever alter the future in a negative way.
    James Kunstler is just a variation on the theme of milking a situation for all it’s worth. From my occasional reading of his web site I see that he is well traveled on the lecture circuit, and although he bemoans his consumption of fossil fuels to accomplish this, I notice he hasn’t stopped.
    I think it all comes back to the half filled glass of water that some perceive as half full while other will see it as half empty.

  2. On the one hand, change always bodes ill for someone, and usually good for someone else. Democracy for the masses but the elite lose their heads.

    On the other hand, I remember taking a train that ran through the slums of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka– cardboard and wood shacks built on a narow strip of sand between the tracks and the sea. All the residents are clearly undernourished, and you can tell from the onshore wind that they had no plumbing or even pit latrines. Yet on a sunny afternoon, the kids from this community were playing in the surf and laughing!

    No matter what the future looks like (presuming it provides sufficient calories) the children will play. Will we join them?

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