Tag Archive: near-future

I remember a time when cyberpunk was the shit! Not just something that was cool, but something that dominated the landscape.

It seems crazy to say that now, since to a lot of people it has lost its edge and even disappeared from the public eye. Today, its themes of rebellion in a world of corporate control, freedom of expression and self-empowerment through technology are still relevant, if not more so, but are frequently used as part of trans-human stories. Humanity has moved on, shall we say.

The Cyberpunk ideal, 1990-ish

Back in the 80s and early 90s, the world was, obviously, a different place. There was no freely accessed Internet and the cultural impact that would come along with it. Computer technology was something at most people’s arm’s length, not even in the form of cell phones (as someone who painfully – and expensively – followed the trends of portable computing (from Psion Series 3, Palm Pilots all the way up to iPaQs and eventually iPhones), it took 16 years before I was satisfied that truly mobile computing had arrived.)  Cyberpunk at the time was less of a “it will happen” and more of a dream. It was us still being hopeful for the future, even though it was grimly dystopian – even if we were held under an oppressive force, we’d still have the toys and the will to use them.

For me, and perhaps many others like me, Cyberpunk was not just a SF movement but a zeitgeist, and perhaps even like the punk genre that inspired it, most of us didn’t realize that it was “over” until someone said “Cyberpunk? What’s that?” (and i for one would argue that its not over, but just that there aren’t many practitioners left.)    Cyberpunk not only encapsulated the future I thought would come to pass, but was also a reflection of who I was, or who I felt I was – something that I can’t really say about any other genre of SF. It was something I didn’t want to leave behind, nor have taken away from me, but suddenly it had transmogrified into a dead genre, which because of the perpetual churn of technology became too real, even mundane. We live in a world very similar to the Cyberpunk ideal: the Internet binds us all together informing and controlling us. Corporations rule lives: jobs, national policy, describing the future with their products, redefining ecologies. Technology has become part of civilized life: blogs, smart-phone assistants, AIs, the “Cloud”. There are the freedom fighters and the malcontents: Anonymous and similar groups having huge impact on the world around them, for good and bad.  Sure, the Steppin’ Razors, implanted sunglasses and some of the other cyberpunk bells and whistles haven’t come around yet, but they’re just around the corner. The thing is, we’re living Cyberpunk – the dream is real.

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What will happen in 20 mins?

One of the big draws of SF, either science or speculative fiction, is the ability of its authors to prophecy the developments of the future. In practical circles, it has become the driving purpose of Science Fiction, specifically, whose greatest practitioners are consulted by governments and think-tanks for dealing with the alien invasions of the future, or warning humans from the distant future about the dangers of our nuclear waste. But really, what is futurism and how much sway does it have with us?

I, like many people, am still waiting for my jetpack and hover car. It was promised a long time ago, but I don’t see it anywhere. Still, the idea of it has captured my imagination, so one could argue that that is really the point of SF. Not to predict the future, but to encourage its development. To inspire, rather than predict.

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