Innovative slowly becoming a thing of the past.Human

Innovative inventions & the fuel of futurism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

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The future and what tomorrow may hold has been an enigma on the mind
of mankind for centuries. From ancient philosophers to modern film makers,
Humans have always tried to forecast the future. But as Science-fiction writer
Bruce Sterling once said “the future obeys a futurist just as lightning obeys a
Weatherman”. During the 20th century “The future” was a place of ideas,
anticipation, imaginings, and anxieties. It was a golden age of sci-fi, were
technology knew no boundaries taking us to the moon and back . Now In The 21st
century with technological capabilities increasing at exponential rates and
barriers between Imagination and reality disintegrating rapidlyis the idea of
“The future” slowly becoming a thing of the past.Human progress seems to have
caught up with human creativity & imagination. The mobile phone, touch
screens, online gaming and virtual reality have immersed users into an
unparalleled realm of visual complexity and engagement.But with these
technologies & our modernnetwork of mass connectivity –has the
instantaneousness of “now” become the new home of our imaginings, and anxieties.

The goal of this paper is to examine the effectground breaking
invention (The Atom bomb &the internet) has had on popular culture and the
creative arts & how influences run in both directions between the two. The
nature of the topic dictates the use of both a chronological and a comparative
analysis of popular culture at points before & after the invention of said
technology.Exploration of the definition of
futurism and its synergistic relationship with, man, technology, and our culture.

 

 

The atomic age V The digital age

It was prolific
novelist and father of science fiction writing HG Wells who first envisioned
the nuclear bomb some 30 years before its creation.In a 1914 book called The
World Set Free, Wells imagined a uranium-based bomb that could “explode indefinitely”.
Although Wells got the shape and size of the bomb wrong,he did catch a glimpse
of a technology that became a reality in his lifetime. Some decades before nuclear
warfare became a harsh reality in the modern world Wells coined the term
“atomic bomb”.Wells even envisioned these bombs would be dropped from
aircraft. However, what wells could never have imagined was how far reaching
the ramifications of such a destructive technology would be when ideas from fiction
came to be a reality.

The world’s
first atomic bomb codenamed “the Gadget,” was created by the U.S as part of the
Manhattan project in 1945, its first testing took place on July 16, 1945. This
was the first atomic explosion in history. Not only did this testing lead to
the construction of the two bombs that would later be dropped on Japan, but it
officially ushered in the Atomic Age. Generally, changes in a cultures way
of thinking happen slowly many years; They are seen by historians looking back
on a time and not by the society living through them.  But the atomic era sprung into the world with
alarming abruptness. This abruptness manifested itself in the media of the time,
in Movies, magazines, radio and television. 
With this came a flood of attitudes, ideas, perspectives, and other
phenomena within the mainstream. The model of the teenager arrived. A new generation
of “teens” was a product hungry, thrill-seeking individual that perfectly adjusted
to the new psychology of a world with fears of imminent destruction around
every corner.In the cultural void of 1945, the teenager provided optimism for
the future and the prototype of youth took hold. But with
this optimism came new fears and anxieties of what the future holds.American
youth faced the stark realization that just as easily as bombs had been dropped
on Japan, they too could fall victim to such an attack.  Soviet Russia`s atomic testing in the late
1940s piqued these feelings of anxiety.  Information
about the effects of nuclear energy began to surface, sparking a new fear in society,
the fear of nuclear fallout. During the atomic age this fear was encapsulated
in visual culture by films such as Godzilla in which a rampaging radioactively
mutated reptile captivated worldwide audiences still terrified by the bombings
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their atomic and environmental effects.In the
final scenes of the original 1954 Godzilla, one of the films main protagonists
Kyohei Yamane unknowingly predicted the future of Godzilla in pop culture: “If
we continue conducting nuclear tests, it’s possible that another Godzilla might
appear somewhere in the world again!”

Nuclear testing
continued, fueling the blustery, fearsome, often wacky Godzilla franchise: all
the while managing to emit an undying undercurrent of ethical & moral danger.
Nowadays Godzilla is a global icon and his big screen allure goes beyond viewer’s
appetite for cheap thrills and destruction. Japanologist and author William Tsutsui reminds us that “Godzilla in all his
glory was spawned from a virtual primordial soup of political concerns,
cultural influences, cinematic inspirations, genre traditions, economic
crassness, simple opportunism and sheer creativity.”Tsutsui continues
“Teasing
out the charm of Godzilla is no easy matter, for in our embrace of the beast
are entangled strands of nostalgia, the phantoms of nuclear war, the mysteries
of childhood, the hard-nosed business of movie making, the unresolved tensions
of world history. Freudian desires, fantasies of violence, and fundamental
questions of humanity, spirituality and the eternal struggle of good versus
evil. Understanding the appeal of Godzilla, when all is said and done, means
understanding ourselves.”

 

The Future & Value of the past

Not all was
doom and gloom during the atomic age, optimistic outlooks on nuclear power
coexisted with feelings of fear. Comic books, TV shows, film & music, celebrated
a liberating side to this technological potential. A world where this sort of
technology would one day power flying cars, space colonies, & robotic
servants started emerge. An aesthetic of “The future” began to take hold. An
aesthetic that for some intangible reason still often feels much more
futuristic than modern depictions of the future. “It feels like our futuristic dreams are stuck in
the 1950s and 60s. And there’s actually good reason for that.:”  says matt novak, writer for the Smithsonian ”
The period between 1958 and 1963 might be described as a Golden Age of American
Futurism, if not the Golden Age of American Futurism. Bookended by the founding
of NASA in 1958 and the end of The Jetsons in 1963, these few years were filled
with some of the wildest techno-utopian dreams that American futurists had to
offer. ”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We seem to be
living in a time were yesterdays thoughts about the future are more alluring than
our own. There are many images from this era that are easily recognized as
being from the past, but nonetheless have a semblance of “the future”. For
example, here is a picture of a 1950s nuclear power plant control room:

 

 

 

 

Utilitarian
spaces with fancy embellishments like the chandelier & herringbone floor. Images
like these echo a time when technology was analog & rudimentary in nature all
the while giving off an air of future aesthetic.

Futurism in the
U.S really began to take off during this period with the Gemini space program
starting in 1961. Then came the Apollo missions. Futurism was now respectable. But
with this new reason for futuristic optimism came a frivolous spate of
predictions and anticipation. futurists believed men would land on the Moon and
space would quickly be colonized. And while man did successfully land on the
moon, futurists were far off the mark on the latter. The public began to lose interest
in space after the moon landing and the Apollo program was cancelled. Computers
and control rooms from this time were big pieces of machinery, they had
spinning wheels, moving parts and flashing lights. Depictions of more powerful
future computers from this era were demonstrated by how colossal they were. Then
in the 70`s the direction of innovation shifted dramatically. Microsoft and
Apple burst into the mainstream and suddenly big was no more. Computers became
personal small black or grey boxes. Suddenly smaller meant more powerful. Nowadays
when a film wants to portray a machine as being more powerful they show a tiny
quantum sized object. No spinning wheels in fact no physical controls at all. That
shift in the direction of innovation left big lumbering computers with flashing
lights and depictions of moon colonies, in a junk pile we now call
retro-futurism, a tomorrow that never came.

 

By
the early 1960s, the dominant tone of American atomic culture began to change,
due largely in to the Partial Test Ban Treaty, the assassination of President
John F. Kennedy the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Cuban missile crisis was the
nearest the world had come to nuclear destruction since 1945, when US atomic
bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 11 October 1962, the Beatles’ first
single for EMI, Love Me Do, entered the UK charts. The relationship between the
atomic bomb and postwar popular culture is as intimate as it is complex. The
profound effect of the bomb on teenagers was examined by Jeff Nuttall in Bomb
Culture, his 1968 survey of postwar youth culture: “No longer could
teacher, magistrate, politician, don or even loving parent guide the young.
Their membership of the H-bomb society automatically cancelled anything they
might have to say on questions of right or wrong.” In his view, “the
so-called ‘generation gap’ started then” and had been widening ever since:
“The people who had passed puberty at the time of the bomb found that they
were incapable of conceiving of life without a future,” he wrote.
“The people who had not yet reached puberty at the time of the bomb were
incapable of conceiving of life with a future.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE DIGITAL AGE

The
1970s onwards saw a shift from analog to information based technologies, the
digital revolution was born. High speeds, media files, mass connectivity, and
devices in the digital domain. But this digitization of the world around us has
caused a yearning in many for the past. Some are asking is digital better and what’s
wrong with the real world? after all we live in an analog world. We touch, hear
and smell with analog reception devices. For this reason it seems we have
developed a strange relationship with things in our world. Holding some things
in a different light than others.  A grand
piano is as just as contrived as an electric keyboard or a piano app on an iPad.
They are all great feats of engineering, but since the creation of the grand
piano has been around for much longer, it has been imbued with an immaterial
sense of supremacy over other more modern items. It somehow feels more real,
because of its perceived history and authenticity. Of course, these qualities
we infuse on objects such as a violin or grand piano are completely arbitrary.
Older technologies do not have actual greater value than one that has come
after it. Or do they? In his book Value Creation and
the Internet of Things: How the Behavior Economy will Shape the 4th Industrial
Revolution Author Alexander Manu writes “Every time we consider concepts like
the concept of value, we need to place in the center of this conversation the
main actor for which value has meaning, and that is the human being. There is
no value in ‘Things’ if the human element is removed; because it is this human
that gives meaning to the ‘thing’ and thus value. Value is not a fact, it is
not a number and it is not a particular tool. Value is a feeling, a way of
becoming something that has the power to transform us. We permanently seek the
best circumstances for the way we experience life, and this is where value
resides for us.”

Vinyl
records produce sound different than CDs or digital music, is either one more
real? Analog photography creates images with a different grain, texture and
atmosphere than its digital counterpart, but are the photos therefore more
authentic? We divide our surroundings into authentic and inauthentic, real and
fake. It seems to help relieve some of the agitation that has come with digitization. Digital technology has given us access to a near infinite amount of
resources and information, news from remote parts of the globe and a continuous
feed of images and video which we would have never been seen before in mankind’s
daily life. With this instantaneous digital connection has comes new reasons
for concern. According to Robert Leahy, director of American Institute of
Cognitive Therapy, the average high school kid today has the same level of
anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950’s.”We human
beings need things to give us meaning. We need to spend our money and be
passionate about something. The great promise of digital technology was that we
could officially do all these things in one place with less cost and less
clutter.” But it appears this lack of clutter directly opposes our human nature
in some way. Take kindle or an eBook for example. While eBooks are more
convenient and easily accessible then owning 100,s of books, many still prefer
the printed version of a book. They enjoy the touch of the paper between their
fingers, the smell of the pages and the tactile feeling only a real book can
provide. While you may imagine this is just a symptom of the older generation
in fact a recent study showed that – 92% of college students would rather do
their reading the old-fashioned way, with pages and not pixels. The finding
comes from American University linguistics professor Naomi S. Baron, author of
the book “Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World.”
Baron led a team that asked 300 college students in the United States,
Slovakia, Japan and Germany how they preferred to read. Physical books were the
choice of 92% of the respondents, who selected paper over an array of
electronic devices.- Time is also a consideration when it comes to why this
renaissance has had such an effect. Digital was supposed to make our lives more
streamlined and efficient, but instead we’ve become slaves to the cult of
busyness and are seeking a release from this.Digitization has seemingly
jeopardized the bookshelves that sit in our houses making them homely, it has
challenged our notions of what is authentic or real. At the point when physical
items are swapped out for their digital equivalents, many things in our homes
and our surroundings begin to disappear.

 

 

 

FUTURE SHOCK

With the
digitization of the world around us and technological capabilities accelerating
at greater and greater speeds, Many futurists of today see a coming
“singularity” on the horizon. A point in time in which we cannot see further
as machines will be many more times intelligent as us. These super intelligent
machines could create machines many times more intelligent than themselves. Google’s
Director of Engineering, Ray Kurzweil, is an acclaimed futurist and inventor. Kurzweil
believes this singularity will come to pass in the next 30 years. “2029 is the
consistent date I have predicted for when an AI will pass a valid Turing test
and therefore achieve human levels of intelligence. I have set the date 2045
for the ‘Singularity’ which is when we will multiply our effective intelligence
a billion fold by merging with the intelligence we have created.”

 It`s thought these machines will have emotional
intelligence. They could easily be sophisticated enough in matters of affection
so as to induce humans to fall in love with them. A strange thought for sure,
And that’s Not to mention the fact that defense departments are putting forth
billions of dollars into the development of weaponised A.I. This was the musings
of sci-fi writers just a short few years ago. The projections of film maker’s
fantasies. Living in a future world like this feels slightly distressing and
hard to imagine. The idea of the future seems to be rapidly closing in on us.
But it’s not just Seductively killer AI making it difficult to survey what’s
ahead. Virtual reality, 3d printing, and nanotechnology are advancing at a speed
so fast that the there is no way to envision a future in which their true
capabilities are realized. If one assumes the near future will be like today,
one underestimates the potential of the innovations being developed. What is
left is a sort of white haze of monumental possibilities, a blank vision of future.
In his most recent book, Ghosts Of My Life, The late Author Mark Fisher argues
that this blank future is due to cultural time stalling “we’ve become
increasingly incapable of producing the ‘new’, the ‘now’ and postulating the
‘next’. At the end of history, all that’s left is an endless return of dead
forms and failed futures, haunting us from a grave we keep digging up.”

 The future as a space in which we used to
envision our world of tomorrow is starting to fade like the physical beauty of
a dying flower. And instead of grieve for our fading future, we instead are
submersing ourselves in the dreams of yesterday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

Futurism
was born out of the extreme development exuberance of the 1940s and 1950s. The
1960s was fueled by a race to the moon. But, in 1969, when we finally stepped
foot on the moon, we were also deep in the mire of a war for French Indo China
that the French didn’t even bother to fight. 1969 was the top of the
roller-coaster. The widest view, the most anticipation, the pressure just
building in your ears…and then the high-speed run to the end of the line.
Futurists try to extrapolate the future by looking at the trends of their day.
Retro futurism is what happens when something shifts the path of advancement,
making a clear distinction between the dreams of the past and the reality of
the present. As is so often the case their predictions fell some way off the
mark, failing to go far enough in thinking outside the confines of their
current technological milieu (hence the ubiquity of propellors, not to mention
the distinctly 19th-century dress).the promise of the future was fueled by the
quickness that technology leaped forward during WW2.We look back on the past
versions of the future with nostalgia perhaps
because we`re considering them in the midst of that way of life disappearing. Thoughts
and ideas change over time for reasons outside of anyone’s predictive
capability or control. Retro futurism100 years in the future will be all the ill
considered innovations and inventions of today. As marshal macluan once said “We
look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the
future.” Perhaps that is why So there is no way to look at today’s world
and tell what will be retro-futuristic. At any time there are many visions of
the future. Only one can be prophetic. All the reset end up retro-futuristic.