When movies want to show a dystopia, they show sterile techno-prisons where people dream of escaping cruel progress to the idyllic green countryside. Because death-races between plague and starvation were apparently humanity's high point.
"Whichever of you survives to puberty will work here for 20 years. We only need one seat."
The problem is conflating multipurpose technology with a single sinister application. In the Matrix trilogy, machines used incredible virtual worlds to keep people safe from a poisoned sky and a mass-murdering terrorist organization. That's not enslavement, that's the first law of robotics.
"The bad guys want me to stay indoors playing video games all day, but the good guys want me to work in hell's landfill?
Are you sure you have that the right way around?"
But while movies might get it wrong, the real world's dystopian technology is even more depressing, which is why I've reversed the polarity of five more dystopic technologies that would make the world a better place.
#5. Bar Codes
The bar code tattoo is how movies announce that humans are slaves in machine-readable form. It's the painful calling card of an unfeeling future, a mark of servitude worn by an entire civilization.
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And if you ever break up with the civilization, the only possible coverup tattoo is a zeal of zebras.
Bar coding is decried as the ultimate dehumanization by people who have never moved country, applied for a visa, or filled out taxes where every number isn't already zero. Filling out 5,000 forms full of information you've already given an unfeeling bureaucracy because you've got no choice is dehumanizing. Bar codes are convenient.
"Oh yeah, I feel free as diarrheic shit right now."
Transcribing numbers from one form the government gave you to another they gave you is how you subconsciously learn you're less important than a photocopier. We're already living in a matrix of inescapable numbers. If you think a lack of a bar code keeps you free, try not paying your taxes. See how long the lack of narrow lines helps you. Social security, passport, bank account ... we're not even officially born without a few alphanumeric strings, and as someone living in a world made of numerals, I can't wait for my bar code. If it means an end to the endless bullshit of application forms, I'll let them put the code on my forehead so that I can head-butt my way out of my papier mache prison.
It's also an end to the absolute bullshit of being told you can't have your own flight or vote because you didn't bring arbitrary enough pieces of paper. Can you prove you're you? YES. You are you! Especially when DNA becomes our bar code, which is absolutely happening whether you want it or not. And since big business is going to take the advantages anyway, you might as well. Which brings us to ...
#4. Total Genetic Control (GATTACA)
GATTACA is set in a future where we have total control of the human genome and can design perfect people, replacing the current strategy of rolling 3 million tiny four-sided dice in a puddle of spunk and menstrual fluid and hoping everything works out. It's presented as a cruel caste society where the subtly named Vincent Freeman must fight for his dream, battling bigoted police and institutional prejudice, while never tackling the real master villains: his parents.
"You're too late! We did it nine months ago!"
Vincent's parents live in a time where genetic perfection isn't just possible, it's so standard that you get a genetic printout before they've even toweled off the amniotic fluid. And his parents still decided to literally fuck Vincent's life right from the start. That's the conception equivalent of sending him to a creationist school: destroying the biological basis of his future scientific career based on their obsolete beliefs. It's anti-vaxxing idiocy installed at the cellular level, with the same results: horribly preventable diseases and death.
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Archive photo of Jenny McCarthy. Back when she was against disease.
They decide that their ignorance is more important than their child's life, and he spends that life paying for it. But their selfishness apparently runs in the family. His great "victory" was achieving his dream, getting onto the elite crew of a long-duration space mission despite suffering from a defect that means he's already overdue to die of a heart attack. I repeat: He took a vital place on a small spaceflight crew where everyone's survival depends on everyone else despite knowing he's going to die of a heart attack. Even if he doesn't kill everyone by convulsing over vital controls, he's going to ruin the lives of at least nine innocent people just so he can have his heart explode in space. Because it's not like space travel puts unusual strain on already weakened cardiac vessels or anything.
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"My God, this man is a human Apollo 13."
Genetic engineering will eliminate some of the most horrific things that can happen to anyone, ever, and make everyone better at everything as a mere side effect. Anyone campaigning against genetic engineering is saying, "I was lucky enough not to get cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, or any one of a hundred other unthinkable horrors, and that's 100 percent of the humans I care about! Yay!"
#3. Prozium (Equilibrium)
Prozium is the emotion-suppressing drug that allows future police to learn otherwise unbearably cool double-gun poses without breaking down in laughter of joy at how awesome they look.
The noble art of Chow Yun Fu.
The drug is so temporary that they had to build their entire society around reminders to take more. It wears off faster than tequila (with the exact opposite effects on emotional stability). So you've got a short-term pill with no side effects that makes you immune to stress and fear. If I invented that, exams alone would make me every billion dollars.
"It turns out that answering rigid logical questions is easier without stress!"
Emergency room staff, bomb disposal technicians, airline pilots, the entire legal and government systems -- they'd all do far better jobs with less damaging emotional strain. Imagine a government motivated by logic instead of hatred, greed, and fear. Reduce the dosage a little and everyone can get through an eight-hour shift without feeling a single thing and then wake up to begin living when they get off at 5 (which was my exact work experience as an office temp paying my way through college).
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I measured my earnings in Fosters-per-hour.
There's no disconnect between activities while Proziumed and emotional. John Preston gets to cruise through the grinding years of gun training as an emotionless robot, then kick sweet ass with the results and every single emotion he has. A properly Proziumed population would get to enjoy mastery in all activities by avoiding the frustration and boredom in training. Prozium won't eliminate all the terrible problems in the world, but it would stop them from feeling terrible and let us get on with solving them.