Sunday, 27 January 2019

2019: Blade Runner > "The future has arrived: it's just not evenly distributed yet."

The iconic sci-fi film from 1968 still resonates:
Futures Forum: 2001: A Space Odyssey > the unfulfilled promises of science fiction

As does the iconic sci-fi film from 1982 - to the extent of nerdishness:
2019 | Off-world: The Blade Runner Wiki | FANDOM powered by Wikia
Ridley Scott, Harrison Ford, and the Battle for *Blade Runner* | Vanity Fair

There have been lots of 'how-right-were-the-predictions' pieces in the media over the past weeks:
‘Blade Runner’ Was Set in 2019 but The Future Looks Different Than We Thought | 22 Words
'Blade Runner': What the movie got wrong -- and right -- about 2019 - CNN
RedShark News - Blade Runner was set in 2019. How good were its technological predictions?

It depends on your politics:
MITCH BENN: The real 2019 is weirder than sci-fi's vision | Latest Brexit news and top stories - The New European
It's 2019, so what did Blade Runner get right and wrong about business, economics, and technology? - American Enterprise Institute

One of those 'predictions' was the flying car - and yet, as David Graeber, amongst others, has pointed out those were the sort of promises made some decades ago, only to founder on corporations' declining rates of profit: 
Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit - The Baffler

And so the mass-produced flying car (remember Henry Ford?) never happened:
Futures Forum: "Where are the flying cars?" or, "What happened to derail so many credible ideas and prospects?"
Futures Forum: Of Back to the Future and the promise of flying cars
Futures Forum: Techno-promises unfulfilled >>> Where did the future go?

This is otherwise known as 'the future has arrived: it's just not evenly distributed yet': 

Welcome to 2019, the year in which Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi film masterpiece Blade Runner is set. And as predicted in this loose adaptation of a 1968 Philip K. Dick story, we have flying cars.

The reason you don't have a flying car was explained by author William Gibson, who famously observed, more or less, "The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed."

If you're Sebastian Thrun, you've already flown in Kitty Hawk's Flyer, which is more flying boat than flying car. If you're not, chances are you will have to wait a bit longer to live your sci-fi noir transport fantasy.

It's 2019, the year Blade Runner takes place: I can has flying cars? • The Register
The Future Has Arrived — It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed Yet – Quote Investigator

Here's the FT's sanguine approach:

‘Blade Runner’ palls because real life is already too dystopian

It’s now 2019 and we’re doing a fine job of worst-case scenarios without the imaginings of clever film-makers

Opinion Film

Harrison Ford’s character is lured out of retirement to hunt down replicants in 'Blade Runner', which is set in 2019 © Alamy

Henry Mance JANUARY 4, 2019

What would make you feel truly old? Personally I’m waiting for a historic event — an Oasis reunion, a French budget surplus, a knighthood for one of David Beckham’s sons or a Twitter row that doesn’t involve Piers Morgan.

But many film-lovers passed an even more significant milestone this week. We now live in 2019, the year in which Ridley Scott’s cult classic Blade Runner was set. When the film was released in 1982, this year must have seemed almost impossibly distant, a blank slate. Now, like the main course at an overly fussy Mayfair restaurant, it has finally arrived. Is it what we ordered?

As it happens, I was born in 1982, so the elapsing of time feels like a personal affront. I watched Blade Runner this week and hoped at least to laugh at its excessively pessimistic imagination. Instead I discovered that the plot involves an American cop shooting dead innocent members of the underclass. How could the writers have predicted such a scenario?

Indeed the obvious criticism of Blade Runner, which is based on Philip K Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is that its dystopias are a bit tame. It tried to portray a terrifying future — but overlooked the possibility of Chris Grayling as a cabinet minister. In the film, androids known as replicants complain that they are designed to die within years. In reality, we humans have the opposite problem, that we will be around long enough to experience the consequences of our actions.

Of course, real life 2019 is better than Blade Runner’s 2019 in some ways — we’ve banned smoking and invented virtual chess. There may be more examples, but I confess that I was too distracted by my 2019 smartphone to pay attention to a 1982 cinematic masterpiece featuring flying cars.

When I did put aside my phone, I found myself wondering whether we needed dystopias right now. The country with the most Amazon rainforest is run by a man once fined for illegal fishing, the world’s largest economy is run by a property developer with a record of bankruptcies and the “island nation” about to undergo a bold trading experiment has just awarded a shipping contract to a company with no boats.

It’s all very well in theory for clever novelists and film-makers to imagine worst-case scenarios, but western democracy seems to be doing the job fine without them.

Likewise, tempting though it is to watch the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, I have already read the Middle East section of the newspaper. I did start Lionel Shriver’s The Mandibles, a novel in which the US dollar collapses and there isn’t enough clean water for residents to take regular showers, but it soon felt like I was dirtily flicking ahead through a calendar.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that a Blade Runner sequel, Blade Runner 2049, flopped at US cinemas in 2017, even though it stayed true to the original’s ingredients of suave costumes and confusing plot lines.

We don’t need any more dystopias, thank you. We did a few decades ago, when the world was awash with left and rightwing utopias, and when we needed to be reminded of our ability to make a complete hash of things.

Such reminders are no longer needed. The pendulum needs to swing back — in 2019, we could use a few more utopias and not the kind that involve Peter Thielon a floating island.

I’d like to see a futuristic film in which Harrison Ford’s character from Blade Runner is lured out of retirement to hunt down anyone who uses the phrase “world trade deal” or “clean Brexit”; I’m sure there are other possibilities. These films would ideally be set as soon as possible. If the world does ever become sane again, we’ll all feel very old anyway.

‘Blade Runner’ palls because real life is already too dystopian | Financial Times

See also:
Futures Forum: Utopia/Dystopia: looking forward to the end of the world
Futures Forum: Star Trek >>> 'What happened to the progressive and optimistic vision of future?' @ BBC Radio 4
Futures Forum: "The real-life Mad Max will be about water"
Futures Forum: Climate change... and 'Interstellar': 'Cli-fi' escapism?
Futures Forum: Climate change... and 'Interstellar': degrading soil and running out of food

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