The Dystopian Dream

By Sigmund Lunde.


Through history humans have dreamt of somewhere better; a promised land, a paradise, a heaven on Earth. Instead of a life of hard work and struggles, they imagine a society of prosperity, wisdom and beauty. An almost divine place to feel blessed by the surrounding and live a life of luxury, free from hunger, pain and war. In our time, we seem to imagine a technological utopia of the future. At least according to Google. Self-driving cars, A.I. assistants, automatic devices that on their own will supply and support you with whatever you need and did not knew you needed, all to make your life a breeze of convenience.

Recently, the major technology-company Google held a presentation [1] and announced their latest products. The prominent theme this time as last time was automatism and ease of use. Most proudly do they present their “smart” products able to recognize what you are doing or what you want, while itself stays unseen in the background. This idea of hidden ears and eyes connected to A.I. controlled products seem to be a huge trend in electronics. Behind it there must be a utopian vision of a world alive with technology serving the humans while remaining out of sight. A technological paradise of sorts. Where people can live without worries or the struggles of life.


In contrast to the scene of consumer electronics, there is the popular theme of the dystopian in creative media. In much contemporary artwork, in movies, comics and video games, even in music and their videos, the concept of broken-down and malfunctioning worlds appear. Often the dystopia is created in the in the wake of a catastrophe. Post-apocalyptic worlds and their settings left behind by nuclear wars, zombies, robot rebellion or viruses are popular scenes to explore how humans could react to the loss of civilization. Following whatever calamity there was, these worlds are socially rough as people revert to fighting for their survival. With the safety we have grown used to in our society torn apart, life is now on edge as people can be hard to trust and basic necessaries are again given their value as the basics of life.


Dystopia-themed works often showcase fundamental struggles of the human existence and a relation to reality that somehow gets increasingly blurry as we reach for a utopia. In the safety of our modern, cultural world, certain aspects of life seem to be revalued. Food and shelter, for example, are just as needed as ever, yet many stay obvious to this until they themselves experience the loss of it. By displaying shocks similar to this, I believe the dystopian genre could make a cultural statement. It is the classical message of waking up from a cultural dream.


In the rough world and the reality of simple needs, characters get to act in ways they could not in the old world; they are given a certain freedom for self-realisation. A chance to be the hero, as is a common story in action movies. In a setting that is defined as bad, the motivation becomes quite clear as there is a common enemy. In a well working society, a comparable purpose can be harder to find.


Optimism for a world of possibilities of agency and empowerment could be a moral aspect of dystopian works. Optimism in hoping the world would burn, sounds quite strange. To me it seems to be an anti-sociality in a lot of these works. A message of the current trends, the dreams of a future as a utopia where one does not have to live one’s own life, being absolutely terrifying. The dystopian dream, as I titled this idea, is a counter-cultural concept which promotes a future opposite of what might seem to be the populistic idea of the good future, the utopia certain actors in power dream of.

Notes

[1] Google, Youtube:«Made by Google 2018». 9. October 2018.


References


Google, “Made by Google 2018”. 1 hour 11 minutes. Livestreamed on 9. October 2018. Found as a uploaded video at URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wURy8AdsS4


Image

Square Enix. Key Art for Nier: Automata. Found uncut at URL: https://www.creativeuncut.com/gallery-31/na-key-art.html

OSLO FORM LAB 2018