Today the weather is beautiful: sunny and warm, there is green and flowers everywhere. While the ambiance does not really fit, I realised that I now live in a cyberpunk world. As regular reader of this blog might have guessed, I read quite a lot of science-fiction, and cyberpunk literature has a special part in my heart. Mostly this has to do with the fact that it was new when I was a teenager, and therefore way better than anything ever done before.
Despite what some deluded physicist believe, science-fiction is not so much about science than about ideas – if you want science, read hard-science. Whereas classical science fiction was usually set far in the future to concentrate on one idea, alien life forms, robots, exotic conflicts, or strange societies, cyberpunk stories were usually set in the near future, and concentrated on themes closer to reality: globalisation, advanced computer science, powerful corporations.
In the eighties, the near future was basically now – the setting for the first Cyberpunk RPG was 2013. During the last twenty years, something really strange happened: a lot of the stuff predicted in those books happened. This is strange, because not many of the ideas underlying the classical science-fiction literature have ever become reality. We have the communication satellite envisioned by Arthur C. Clarke, but not much more. No spaceship: the last space shuttles went out of active service this year. I have two robots, but while they are quite good at sweeping the floor, they really have no clue about the laws of robotics. While there have been tremendous improvements in genetical science, the most interesting mutation around is the ability to digest milk, and it has been around for some time. While obesity is one the rise, nobody is about to morph into a sand worm…
Considering this, many cyberpunk predictions were pretty accurate:
- Overreaching corporations that influence nations: ✔
- Arab countries getting on the net in their own way: ✔
- Europe a single economical entity: ✔
- Economical collapse of countries, including the USA: ✔
- Huge asian influence: ✔
- End of fossil fuel: ✔
- Everything is connected to a computer and can be hacked remotely: ✔
- Widespread body modifications: ✔
- Fetishist fashion: ✔
I can’t say I’m overjoyed by the way things turned out, and some things ended up differently than expected. Japan was then the super-power to become, this role will probably played by China.
We have not run out of fossil fuel but that’s on track, the US economy has not yet collapsed, but we still have two years until 2013. While cyberspace is an accepted idea, we can’t visualise this thing properly and Keanu Reeves seems to have colonised the place. The sad thing is that while piercings and tattoo are too common to even mention, the only body modification I really wanted, a direct connection from my brain to the computer, is nowhere to be found.