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 The Future in the Past

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Anglo-Norman
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PostSubject: The Future in the Past   Sat 07 Mar 2015, 19:50

For the first (and probably only) time today I watched the hugely influential German 1920s sci-fi epic Metropolis (more on which here if you're not familiar with it).  I was reminded of the saying that nothing dates faster than our vision of the future.  According to IMDB the film was set in 2026, a hundred years in the future at the time.  One or two pieces of technology we have achieved - the monorail that speeds around the city looks surprisingly contemporary to 21st century eyes, and they have such a thing as a videophone.  Others we have yet to develop - the android Maria is much more sophisticated that current robot technology, despite efforts - especially in Japan - to produce a convincingly anthropomorphic robot.  Other technology is extremely old-fashioned to our eyes: steam driven machinery, ticker-tape readouts, a 'PC' that is an enormous wooden box with flashing bulbs and brass buttons.  On the other hand, the clothes are very much of the period the film was made, as are the cars, and the aircraft that can be seen buzzing about in one or two shots are boxy biplanes of a type that must have already been starting to look obsolete in the mid '20s.

Oddly enough, 2026 is also the year - according to Star Trek - that World War III will break out.  Mercifully we've still got another eleven years to find out if it will...
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: The Future in the Past   Sat 07 Mar 2015, 22:06

I'd suggest that our view of the past is at least as transient as our view of the future.
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PostSubject: Re: The Future in the Past   Sun 08 Mar 2015, 22:44

Perhaps, but at least we have some evidence for it.  Archaeological remains, documents, images etc.  Our precise interpretation may vary as new evidence emerges, new theories become popular and so on, but we have a pretty firm idea of the basics.  Depicting the future, however, especially the distant future, is far more difficult and therefore dates far more easily.  Technology is advancing at a dramatic rate, for example.  At one time it was foretold that man would travel to the moon thanks to an enormous gun.  Just as fashions change in the way we interpret history, so it is with the future.  At one stage the future was bright and shiny, sleek and sterile white.  Then it was bleak and grimy and functional.  With the success of the new Star Trek films the pendulum is perhaps starting to swing back to shininess.  On the other hand the new Star Wars films (futuristic, if technically set in the past - albeit in an alien galaxy) will bring back the brand of realism that was always the franchise's trademark.  (The elaborate and complex 'Expanded Universe' of the Star Wars franchise could itself be likened to the evolution of interpreted history, but that perhaps is for another thread).
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: The Future in the Past   Sun 08 Mar 2015, 23:01

Surely good science fiction (not Star Wars which is just Space Opera, and near kin to Wild West stories) is a commentary on today - and what sort of tomorrow that is likely to bring, so not to be regarded as "prophecy"?
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MadNan
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PostSubject: Re: The Future in the Past   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 12:37

When Star Trek was on, particularly the Voyager series, the electronic reports were very futuristic but now we have tablets they look rather commonplace.
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PostSubject: Re: The Future in the Past   Wed 18 Mar 2015, 21:06

Watching Doctor Who: The Ark in Space (one of the 1970s Tom Baker ones) - apparently in the 30th century the entirety of human knowledge will be saved on microfilm!
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PostSubject: Re: The Future in the Past   Wed 18 Mar 2015, 21:17

@Anglo-Norman wrote:
Watching Doctor Who: The Ark in Space (one of the 1970s Tom Baker ones) - apparently in the 30th century the entirety of human knowledge will be saved on microfilm!
Plausible. However, there will be no technology capable of reading it, so our descendants will be wholly ignorant of all topics........ a bit like the current situation where you have to store 6 years worth of accounts data. Electronic form is OK. Anyone take a guess how they will retreive it from (say) a zip disk?
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PostSubject: Re: The Future in the Past   Wed 18 Mar 2015, 21:26

Indeed. I can't even access my history degree dissertation from 2005 - saved, as it was, on a floppy disk. Mercifully I still have it on paper.
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