Monday, June 3, 2013

Second Decade of the 21st Century

We're living it. Well... perhaps not exactly the events imagined in Star Trek, not exactly... but this is it, this is "the future!" We're whipping out communicators, we're using computers all day, every day, and we're seeing scientists invent things that people only dreamed of a few decades ago. The worst thing about it all is that just as Star Trek predicted, something most Star Trek fans seem to forget about, is that the 21st Century actually sucks pretty bad.

If Star Trek had a Dark Ages this would surely be it, and while Star Trek was just a science fiction television show, we can look around and wonder just how accurate this show was in it's technological imaginations, it seems nobody ever points out that even in Star Trek, the 'utopian' futuristic adventure show, that there's some pretty dark imaginings there. A lot of people look at all the fancy gadgets in Next Generation like the Holodeck which LeVar Burton already pointed out to us in a few articles back that they're working on as we speak, and say, "See we're getting there!" There's one thing they forget though, not only did Star Trek imagine genetic engineering in the 90s, and they were wrong about when these genetically engineered people would be here to kill us all, their dates weren't always on the ball, but one thing they suggested was that in the midst of all these technological advances, we didn't do much with developing our society and it lead to catastrophe. 

Star Trek imagined back in the 1960s that sometime in the 1990s, a genetically engineered super-man named Khan Noonien Singh would go nuts and something called 'The Eugenics Wars' would begin. This didn't happen in the 1990s, but I'm not sure we've actually dodged this bullet. Eugenics is a concept that goes all the way back to the very early part of the 20th Century where basically white people decided to sterilize humans who they saw as 'unfit,' and this happened BEFORE the Nazis came around. Their plan was to breed certain characteristics out of the human race, and while they weren't familiar with things we now call DNA, they were already sterilizing people for being alcoholics, drug addicts, mentally ill... and not being white... 

The Eugenics Movement also created a particularly interesting concept that is still being thrown around today on daytime radio talkshows, a catchphrase called 'the welfare state,' and it was suggested that 'society' not waste its resources or taxes on the weak, the sick, the mentally ill, and 'fixing' these 'social ills' was to be achieved through many different essentially inhuman means, and all argued that 'society needs to eliminate these problem people.' The nazis took up this banner in the 1930s in Germany. Eugenics was born in America.

Today, if there is a Eugenics Movement, it doesn't go by that name any more, but there are still many people out there who believe in its ideals. One goes by the name of 'transhumanism,' but they're constantly adapting and changing their names, 'biohacking,' 'biohackers,' 'techno-progressive' and 'biopunk.' They embrace technology and genetic engineering in a way that fuses the Eugenics ideals with Social Darwinism, and 'survival of the fittest through technology.' Khan would most definitely identify himself as a transhumanist.

While people basically cannot genetically engineer themselves, and neither did Khan, people are developing in ways that could most certainly lead to a Eugenics War. However, before we get to that point, we may have more pressing concerns regarding wars of another kind. Religious wars, drones, mind control weapons, wars for oil and resources seem to be on our horizon. Poverty and the wealthy conspiring to maintain and keep their wealth at all costs are turning the planet into a depressing and hostile place. Nobody can really say for sure what will happen soon enough, but check the news and it's like watching the new in Robocop. The future is here and its already out of control.

Between the 1990s and the 2050s in Star Trek, many things are mentioned as possibly occurring to take note of, obviously, the Eugenics Wars, there's certainly a variety of technological advances that occur during that time, something called the "Mind Control Revolts," and of course World War III. We look to Star Trek as it gives us a positive vision of the future, something to look forward to, something to strive towards, but as many people out there who think of it merely as a silly space show are probably not familiar, it also warns us about our immediate future. It is not so naive to think that we can get there tomorrow, nor that everything's headed there to happy Federation-land right now. We've got problems to solve, and we need to consider some of these things it's telling us. It's not all happy space-people in the future, as soon as we invent faster-than light travel, or some other gadget. Though many die-hard Star Trek fans who do look to a better future believe this. 

We have many technological advances already, but are we really using them in a way that the people of the 23rd Century would admire? Certainly not. We have genetically engineered food, but the companies that manufacture it lie about it, they bribe and blackmail congress when people want their products to be labeled as such. Nobody knows just how dangerous any of it is, and coming from the company which lied about Agent Orange among a long list of other things I won't get into here, we have absolutely no reason to trust them. Ethics are not part of corporate schemes. Most of our technology isn't being used to cure diseases, stop poverty hunger and suffering, because most of the people who develop this technology do it for the money and they are only interested in doing those things if it makes them rich. So they don't cure diseases, they invent things to make money off the sick, they don't stop poverty and hunger, though they are always promoting themselves as doing such, always we find they do nothing of the sort. Nobody's interested in the social aspects of Star Trek any more, only the technology, only the 'power' such technology would give them. If Star Trek's timelines were more accurate, the time of Khan Noonien Singh would probably start around now. 
The Eugenics Wars would likely begin within the next decade, since nobody seems interested in bioethics any more, and more and more people are becoming interested in the ideals of Eugenics and social darwinism, from the right wing, as well as the left. As soon as DNA databases of citizens are collected so that either companies or governments can go through that data, soon enough somebody is going to abuse that and start declaring people unfit 'scientifically' as they will call it. Murdering people the way Colonel Philip Green does in Star Trek will be a socially acceptable act, just as people condone drone assassinations today. Unless we change, and there's one thing that Star Trek does offer to us, is that we do have that ability to change, to alter course, to develop ourselves differently, to see the ethical dilemmas for what they are and respond to them. To build a better future, if we don't, I would argue that we won't make it out of the 21st Century as Star Trek might suggest, because the kinds of global problems we have are possibly more catastrophic than the ones in Star Trek, problems that could cause the extinction of the human race, and possibly all life on this planet by the year 2100. We simply have to change course, we cannot live like this any more, and if you don't believe this, well not only isn't Star Trek going to influence you, likely nothing will, the belief in the "End of the World" is simply going to be a self-fulfilled prophecy and the death of us all. 

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