Humans have gazed at the stars for centuries upon centuries in attempt to place ourselves in the scheme of the universe, and ascertain an idea as to exactly why it is we exist on our little pale blue dot. Who are we and what is our purpose?
With the consistency of brilliant and thought provoking work being produced in science fiction, some people have come to see the genre's writers as trailblazers or psychics of a sort. And now that we're living in an age of scientific and technological advancement, the likes of which sci-fi writers of the past could literally only dream of, where does today's sci-fi believe we're heading?
Join me as I have a look at five upcoming and beard strokingly interesting sci-fi features and attempt to figure out what it is they are trying to tell us:
1. The Martian
The Martian, starring Matt Damon, comes across to me as a debate regarding our ever expanding world, and the desire for solitude.
As communication between distant countries becomes as easy as poking someone in Zambia via Facebook, or the growing cacophony of voices on social media, or the constant bombardment from marketing companies vying for control of our wallets, we all desire a bit of silence every now and again.
Or could The Martian allude to the West's current view on immigration? Or the enigmatic void of death and the fear of perishing alone?
Doesn't this scream humanity's fixation on perfection, fear of aging and death and the pursuit of immortality?
Playing God has long been one of the many focuses of sci-fi and humanity. With Kardashian and Minaj like body modifications being all the rage, and, of course, the scientific breakthrough of the upcoming history making head transplant, the validity of the age old tussle between nature and science has been thrown even further into the public consciousness once again.
Assume for a minute that the practice of consciousness transferral was readily available in the real world, but only to those with vast amounts of wealth. Would it be carried out with clones, or with volunteers tired of life?
It could become a viable way for people living below the poverty line to earn sufficient amounts of money for their families to prosper, but at what cost? Enabling the 1% to live forever while literally using the poor as batteries, never seeing their families again or the host's original consciousness reemerging and coming into conflict with the new ego, being but a few.
Now that scientists in Japan have managed to reverse the aging process in human cells, we may have realized our dreams of immortality. Whether or not consciousness transferral could become a possibility remains to be seen, but seeing as personality is a make up of electrical impulses, it may not be too difficult to replicate the sparks in a host's brain.
3. Z for Zachariah
If it's not the rapture, a viral epidemic, global warming or countries arming themselves with nukes, the ending of the world, or the world as we know it, is a fear that has always been in the back of our minds.
Z for Zachariah tackles the aftermath of a global cataclysmic event and the subsequent lonely existence of a survivor coming into contact with another human after years of forced solitude.
We have been privy to numerous cataclysmic events throughout the course of history, and right up to present day. And the fear of a threat being carried out on a global scale is ever present, what with the huge influx of disaster movies appearing in cinemas.
Despite the world being even closer thanks to the internet, a multitude of technological advancements widely available and information lingering at our fingertips, we still seem content with causing insurmountable harm to each other in the name of peace or power. Sometimes the two can be blurred, and until the day we, as a race, learn to co-operate fully, the fear will remain.
4. Terminator Genisys
The worries over the birth of artificial intelligence and a robot uprising have been the subject of numerous works of science fiction, and the ethos behind The Terminator and its plethora of sequels and reboots highlight our interest in what could indeed come to pass in the decades or centuries to come.
Almost eradicated by our own creation, in The Terminator franchise man struggles in a post-apocalyptic war against machine. Our own hubris and vanity was once again our downfall. In his book Short History of the World, H.G. Wells was forthright regarding man's foray into technology beyond his control:
"If the dangers, confusions and disasters that crowd upon man in these days are enormous beyond any experience of the past, it is because science has brought him such powers as he never had before."
This coming from a visionary who passed away a year after the end of the second World War, and the emergence of nuclear warfare. We should be careful where we tread.
Robots and A.I. are already commonplace in society, with intelligent NPCs in video games and robots that build the vehicles that ferry us around the world.
The prospect of being made redundant by sentient machines cut from our own image is frightening, but thankfully distant. But with how much we already rely on machines, and the fact that our reliance will grow exponentially with self-driving cars and drone warfare, being but two examples, is our fate already set in steel?
Based on the novel of the same name by J.G. Ballard, High-Rise is a comment on societal groups and the phenomenon of in-group favoritism. The story is set in an incredibly tall and luxurious apartment building built to isolate its inhabitants from the rest of the world.
Quickly, the peace turns to violent chaos as in-fighting begins to occur over trivial things such as swimming pools and elevators, which results in the inhabitants being split into three differing groups - the lower, middle and upper classes (with the upper class residing in the decadent apartments at the apex of the building).
Back in 1906, sociologist William Sumner posited the idea that humans separate themselves into groups instinctively, saying how "each group nourishes its own pride and vanity, boasts itself superior, exists in its own divinities, and looks with contempt on outsiders."
You can say this idea is upheld by each society's view on the other and, on an even closer scale, the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor. There are people starving all over the world, homeless people festering on street corners while some people live in homes with 30 rooms. Does that seem right to you?
Man's apathy and drive for capital is, I believe, one of the many forces that pulls us apart from being a unified people. And unless that changes, we may have a very dark future ahead of us.
With the monumental advancements humanity is seeing - technology, health, et al, it’s interesting to see that the main crux/weight/focus of science fiction's analysis are our own shortcomings.
Our undoing at the hands of our own curiosity and hubris. Our fears and problems haven’t dramatically altered over the centuries people have been committing them to history, perhaps we've just been too placated with tablet computers to consider the bigger picture:
Unity is perfection. Or maybe I'm completely wrong.