Is humanity's future headed for Utopia or Dystopia?
By Joe Harker
"Look to the future now, it's only just begun!"
Forgive me for stealing a line from a Christmas song just after the festive period but this article concerns the future and the great mystery of what exactly we are heading towards.
Humanity has often wondered what the future will be like and in some ways we are living in a more futuristic world than we could ever have imagined. But that is not necessarily a good thing as we are more than capable of imagining a world where the future has gone wrong.
We may hope that our future is a utopia where it's all sunshine, rainbows and robot butlers, but it might be full of oppression, intrusive technology and annual competitions where children kill each other as a means of pacifying the population. Most likely we will be headed for somewhere in the middle, with certain parts of life changing beyond recognition and others remaining much the same as they have for years.
There are a number of dystopian films that have "predicted the future" with technological advancements and their portrayals of society. While some show the advanced future of flying cars and lifelike AI, others that may have been more accurate show how the control of information and the spread of disinformation can influence opinion and belief. 1984 can surely claim to have predicted "fake news" while Blade Runner shows Earth in 2019 with flying cars, colonies on other planets and artificial intelligence made to do menial or dangerous jobs. In the actual 2019 some cars will have onboard AI that serve as assistants to the driver, although we're fairly certain the cars won't fly.
A future where robots do all our work for us could either end up being a utopia or dystopia depending on the provisions made for all the humans put out of jobs. Perhaps in the future things will be like Star Trek where money won't matter so much because there's plenty of everything to go around. In their utopian future technology is used for the betterment of humanity to ensure that everyone is provided for and people can work for their own betterment rather than to put food on the table.
However, if proper thought is not given to the ways a new technology could change the world then it could be used for the betterment of a few rather than everyone. Technology can change the way we live, but it can also be used to keep us in the same circumstances with relatively little difference. Automated cars are seen as a part of the future, but they may actually change very little about our world if implemented incorrectly. James Harris of the Royal Town Planning Institute believes that automated vehicles could change very little besides making everyone pay for a new car. He said: "The dystopian future you could head towards is everyone who can afford it substitutes their vehicle for an autonomous vehicle at great expense.
"You have the same amount of people in the same number of cars – and with the exception of moving slightly quicker, you have the same problems of car dependent sedentary lifestyles."