In high school, because it was assigned, I read Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four, but left to choice, never saw The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi or The Matrix.
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with science and technology, space travel, time travel, parallel universes and extraterrestrial life. And truthfully, for the most part, those things didn’t interest me.
I’m not one for dramatic change, and science fiction forced me to participate in scenarios that required a lot of imagination, and even if only for the duration of a film, acceptance of a life that looked way different from the one I was living. I didn’t want to contemplate an existence with aliens or a future bleak with Big Brother. Those things, and Spock’s ears, frightened me.
Turns out, I was right to be frightened because science fiction movies and books have predicted our future.
“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley portrayed a world in which people escaped through the use of mood-enhancing drugs called “soma”.
“By this time the soma had begun to work. Eyes shone, cheeks were flushed, the inner light of universal benevolence broke out on every face in happy, friendly smiles.”
Huxley wrote about mood- altering drugs in the 30’s, years before antidepressants became prevalent.
And in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1948), written by George Orwell, government control was questioned. Orwell described a future where “Big Brother,” knew exactly what you were doing and when.
“There was no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system…It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time.”
With surveillance cameras, computer hacking and information forever stored in the cloud that concept is not so far-fetched today.
As a young girl, I couldn’t have imagined a future world without landline phones, encyclopedias or marriage. And yet those things are either already obsolete or on there way to being outmoded.
The same way I couldn’t have imagined a world without those things, I’ll bet you can’t imagine a world without food. And yet science is taking us there.
Interestingly enough the concept of not needing food was depicted in a 1973 science fiction movie called Soylent Green. I’ve never seen the film but it takes place in a dystopian future suffering from pollution, overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans and other problems due to the greenhouse effect.
In the movie, people survive on wafers called “Soylent Green”; and as if an overpopulated, polluted, world weren’t horrifying enough -spoiler alert- Soylent Green, viewers find out at the end of the movie in a surprising twist, is made of human remains.
In 2012, three young men ran into financial trouble while working on a technology startup. They needed a way to cut expenses. They found food was a problem: costly and time-consuming.
Rhinehart, who was studying electrical engineering, began to think about food as an engineering problem and concluded that food was an inefficient way to get what you needed to survive. Rhinehart put his startup on hold and focused on nutritional biochemistry. He invented a potion made up of 35 nutrients required for survival, and being a bit derisory called it Soylent. He started living on it. Only.
Rhinehart claimed Soylent was saving him time and money and physically, he wrote, “I feel like the six million dollar man. My physique has noticeably improved, my skin is clearer, my teeth whiter, my hair thicker.”
Read: The End of Food published in The New Yorker for more details. The article describes how meals in the future will be separated. There will be meals for utility and function, and meals for experience and socialization.
Liquid food has played an escalating role in diet regiments for years. We have Ensure and Muscle Milk and because of health concerns and time constraints there is juicing and green drinks and smoothies.
Tim Gore, the head of food policy and climate change for Oxfam says, “The main way that most people will experience climate change is through the impact on food: The food they eat, the price they pay and the choices they have due to availability.”
The New Yorker article states that Chipotle announced it might phase out guacamole due to climate change.
This might be proof that Gore is right.
In Interstellar, a recently released science fiction movie, humans can no longer survive on a dying planet Earth and a crew of astronauts travel through a wormhole in search of a new home for humanity.
It doesn’t sound like my kind of movie but I’m reconsidering if I’ll see it. That’s what art does: it shows us who we are, and what we want. But also what we fear.