Last weekend was Thanksgiving weekend. For those of you that don’t live in the United States, Thanksgiving is a long holiday weekend filled with lots of eating, and time with family. As is traditional on the Thanksgiving holiday, many families often travel great distances to visit one another for the long holiday weekend.
This means there’s plenty of opportunities for grandparents to watch the grandkids, while exhausted parents take a well-deserved night-off… and this is exactly what we did last Saturday night.
Mrs. Tako and I met up with another couple for a peaceful night-out on the town. We had dinner at a nice Thai restaurant, and also went to see a movie at the theater. These two activities are both exceedingly rare for us (We rarely eat-out or go to the movie theater), but they’re not actually the point of the story.
This is just the setup for how I got to thinking about a dystopian future.
Anway, so we went to the movie. Anyone who’s gone to a movie recently knows that new movies have A TON of previews before the actual movie starts. Roughly 20 – 30 minutes of previews. Typically those previews are for upcoming big budget films.
So I was watching the previews (wondering if the movie was ever going to start), and it struck me how EVERY Sci-Fi movie trailer presented a depressing post-apocalyptic dystopian future.
One film in particular, Mortal Engines, (which opens in a couple of weeks) looked particularly bleak. The movie, based on the novel by Philip Reeve, tells the tale of “tractions cities” that EAT other cities for resources and people. You can watch the trailer for the film here.
I haven’t read the book, but based on the trailer it looks like Mortal Engines is going to a popular film. With a $100 million dollar budget, this film seems destined to attract a huge audience this holiday season.
This got me thinking — Why are ALL the recent big budget Sci-Fi movies tales of a dystopian future? Why is this negative concept so popular?
Reality Needs Escaping
The most likely answer that comes to mind, is that these post-apocalyptic visions of the future are simply tales of escapism, transporting us to other worlds and other lives very different from our own.
Which begs the question — Is modern life so terrible that we need to escape from it?
With full bellies, hot showers, plenty of consumer goods to consume, and spare cash to entertain ourselves, you’d think the world would be pretty happy with the state of things. Not something that needs escaping from.
Yet in these dystopian futures, people usually have to fight over the few scraps of resources that remain. Instead of dreaming about a better future, we seem to be inventing new ways for it to end. It paints a bleak picture for the future.
How is this better than what we have today?
Clearly it isn’t. Most people wouldn’t willingly want to live in a world like that, but they’re still attracted to these stories… I believe because of the incredible freedom they represent.
The World Wants Freedom
What kind of freedom? Freedom from monetary burdens, and debt. Freedom from a life that’s scheduled down to the minute. Freedom from an endless commute, and the drudgery of job that seems to consist entirely of meetings.
That kind of freedom.
You never see the characters in these “end of the world” stories worrying about paying the mortgage or student loans. If you think of the typical Mad-Max style dystopian future, the characters are completely free to adventure and explore the world. Everything is DIY. Money doesn’t exist, but they still manage to find enough to eat.
Instead, the characters adventure around without needing to hold down a job. Sound familiar?
To me, it sounds a lot like a life of Financial Independence… except we don’t live in a wasteland populated by ravenous and violent scavengers. Once you’ve reached Financial Independence, you’re completely free to do whatever you want. You can adventure and explore the world without the burden of debt and a job.
Money doesn’t really have a lot of meaning anymore either. Once you have enough money to suit your basic needs, you hardly ever need to think about it.
In fact, Financial Independence might just be the not-so-dystopian future everyone is dreaming of.
What About Environmental Destruction?
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the themes of environmental destruction that are all to common in popular dystopian movies and books. In most of these stories, humanity wreaks incredible havoc on the environment to the point where the Earth is barely livable.
This rather closely reflects current real-world scientific predictions of environmental destruction brought about by global warming. I see these predictions in the news almost every day.
Yes, it’s true that environmental change is happening. There’s no doubt about it. But I’m optimistic that it won’t be the end of the world. In fact, it could end-up being a good kick-in-the-ass for humanity.
Let me explain…
Stress Means Change
If we look back a few thousand years, for the longest time planet Earth had resources that were easy to extract. People could literally poke a hole in the ground and a fountain of hydrocarbons would come spewing forth like a geyser. Huge forests were available for harvesting. Animal life was plentiful. Land was cheap, empty, and uncomplicated to farm.
Eventually though, the giant geysers of oil dried-up and the old growth forests disappeared. The planet got more crowded and resources got scarce. Mankind needed to get smarter and more efficient with its resources. Eventually we even realized that humans even needed to be proper stewards of the planet.
All this took time, but in response to the challenges mankind developed better technology. Without those challenges and stresses, we wouldn’t have advanced.
Technology helped us solve A TON of problems, and it’s still helping us today. It’s because of our ability to develop new technology that I don’t believe the world isn’t just going to roll over and die because of global warming.
Yes, there will definitely be new problems to solve. Certain resources are going become more precious. Extreme weather will probably cause issues. Life might get a little harder until the problems are overcome. Yet it’s these stresses that will almost certainly bring about change in our society.
I’m hopeful that mankind will continue to become smarter, more efficient, and become even better stewards of our planet as a result.
It’s this hopeful message that I want to pass onto my kids one day. Ultimately it’s the individuals that are the most efficient with resources that are going to be rewarded with wealth and prosperity. Financial Independence is just another form of this efficiency reward at work.
Dream A Better Dream
Frankly, I love a good story as much as the next person, but we really shouldn’t be dreaming of a world that’s covered in sand, sadness, and savages.
Instead, we should be dreaming of a better world. One where we learn to use far less energy per person, yet still live modern comfortable lives. A world where the energy we use comes entirely from renewable sources. A world where efficient electric cars, buses, planes and trains have completely replaced inefficient hydrocarbon burning versions of these vehicles. A world where people take the time to recycle almost everything, instead of throwing it into a landfill. A world where forest preserves have been expanded.
That’s a future I’d like to live in.
Maybe this is a little bit too “Star Trek” for people just looking for a couple hours of escape from the daily grind, but I believe we first have to dream of a better world before we can build it.
[Image Credit: Flickr]