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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Young adult dystopias more relevant than ever

Several years in the future, civilization as we know it has all but been destroyed by wars, environmental disasters and a technological uprising. Technology has skyrocketed but is in the hands of a group of totalitarian rulers. The majority of the population is oppressed by the government and naive to the world outside of its own.

Sound familiar? It’s the premise of most dystopian future fiction for the past few decades. It began with subtle dystopias like in Aldous Huxley’s 1932 book, “Brave New World,” in which society has abolished natural reproduction and babies are conditioned from birth to fit into a specific class and to be “happy” in that class.

The dystopias have been getting more and more distressed, such as in the recent “Hunger Games” series, where children are literally being forced to kill each other.

Many people believe that dystopian novels, TV series and movies are perpetrating a generation of fearful cynics, but these works of fiction are usually just exaggerations of the problems in our own society.

Is artificial intelligence going to break free from human control like in “The Terminator”? Will the earth run out of resources to sustain us, forcing us to find habitation in space like in “Interstellar”? Can wars and rebellions destroy society such that the “Hunger Games” could actually occur?

Chances are all of humanity’s flaws will not manifest themselves in a single ruling government. But in a way, dystopian fiction is meant to prevent this from happening.

With technology booming and the climate in a more precarious state than ever, our generation needs to be cautious and think about the consequences of our actions.

It is important that in a debate about the genetic modification of embryos, works like “Brave New World” or the movie “GATTACA” are brought up so that we are aware of potential risks.

If you asked people whether bringing back the dinosaurs was a good idea, many people would likely claim that no, it would be a terrible idea, or at least that extreme caution should be taken. Most of them would attribute this conclusion to the events that unfolded in the “Jurassic Park” movies.

While it does not depict a futuristic society, “Jurassic Park” is a perfect example of how dystopian fiction in pop culture can help society become more cautious and skeptical of advances. Instead of rushing into dramatic, new technology, people are more inclined to weigh the options because of the barrage of warnings around them.

In one of the most memorable quotes from “Jurassic Park,” the mathematician character Ian Malcolm argues, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” This can apply to nearly every advancement that society makes. This isn’t to say technological advancements are bad or that we should be afraid of moving forward. In fact, many of the advancements shown in dystopian societies are nothing short of extraordinary, but a healthy degree of skepticism is important to keep us in check.

The dystopian vision is actually really important to our future. It keeps us on our toes and reminds us that our actions can determine the path that society will take.


Follow Apoorva Bhaskara on Twitter.


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