I’ve been a sci-fi aficionado / fantasy fan / comic nerd / role player / gamer pretty much my entire life, or at least since the early 70’s, and accordingly I like to think I’m pretty well versed in the lore and history of it all…
To paraphrase Bane;
“you think geekdom is your ally? You merely adopted nerdiness. I was born in it, molded by it.”
In general, the 80’s and early 90’s were kinda preoccupied with the apocalypse, so it showed up in pretty much every aspect of the the pop culture of the era. I mean, we were fairly convinced that we would all be vaporized in nuclear fire at any moment. And there was a shift in technology that was happening at a frightening pace for many – and it was already creating fantastically wealthy people with questionable morals…
This leads to why I’m fairly convinced that modern day reality is actually just a really good simulation of the 80’s and 90’s dystopian games I played, comics I read, music I listened to, and movies I saw…
Take “Judge Dredd” for example:
“A sprawling conurbation had sprung up in the 2020s, stretching from New York City to Washington and growing. Crime had skyrocketed in the overcrowded sprawl, escalating to the point where an alliance of street gangs under P Street Posse raided the White House itself and successfully intimidate juries into acquitting them. This lead to the rollout of the Judges in 2031 – a proposal backed by the citizens, who voted out the congressmen who opposed Eustace Fargo and President Guerney’s plan.
At first the Judges worked with the existing police forces in the conurbation, with the intention of easing them into obsolesce, and had to force their way through both police and local government. The Governor of New York attempted to oppose the Judges on constitutional grounds, quietly helping to escalate tensions to help his career – ironically he would be saved from a murderer by the Judges, who exposed his crimes and cemented their position.”— Judge Dredd Source Material
That sounds vaguely like a collection of headlines from the last few months…
But it gets even better. Here’s a passage from the “Neo Tribes” supplement for Cyberpunk 2020 – written in 1995:
Gee, that’s not prophetic or anything…
The movies of the era were just as prophetic though; “RoboCop” showed us a future where mega-coprorations run the government while the general population wastes away consuming 24/7 media drivel – but that could never happen. Right?
And while aliens may not fill the world with subliminal advertisements, a-la “They Live“, that’s only slightly more dystopian than a world where tech companies target us with advertising algorithms that know more about us than our own family members.
And that dystopian prescience was even in the music. Take Queesryche’s incredible rock opera “Operation: Mindcrime” from 1988:
I used to trust the media“Revolution Calling” — Queensryche
To tell me the truth, tell us the truth
But now I’ve seen the payoffs
Everywhere I look
Who do you trust when everyone’s a crook?
Or the Dead Kennedys’ “Trust Your Mechanic” from 1982:
TV invents a disease you think you have“Trust Your Mechanic” — Dead Kennedys
So you buy our drugs and soon you depend on them
Pain is in your mind, got you coming back for more again and again and again and again
Gonna rip you off, rip you off!
It really seems that the ominous predictions of the 80’s are coming true in the 2020’s.
Sure, we’re streaming media to mobile devices as well as vegging in front of the T.V., but the non-stop 24/7 media drivel is the same. And while we’re not hacking sentient mainframes in neon-drenched 3D cyberspace, corporations are certainly datamining our virtual lives for profit.
And, sure, aliens aren’t controlling us though advertising – but massive social-media companies built on complex invasive algorithms have no problem getting people to do some really weird stuff at the press of a button…
At the end of the day it really does seem as though we are living in the corporate dystopia the 1980s warned us about…
And we didn’t even get cool hoverboards out of the deal. 🙁