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The Paradox of Dystopian Future Memes


When we look at the stories we are currently telling in film, television, social media and video games there is an odd paradox. In spite of the innovation emerging around the globe, most of our stories about the now and the future have a dystopian theme to them. Even if you eliminate the apocalyptic films like the Road Warrior series, Book of Eli or 2012, where something terrible has happened and humanity is just trying to hang on, we have another very large category of films that depict some sort of corporate feudalism. In this story the super-rich and powerful live behind walls and rest of humanity fends for themselves in a world of scarcity. Examples of films like these are Blader Runner, Children of Men and the Hunger Games series.


In this section we take a look at this phenomena by framing what stories we are creating about the now and future and  three videos which address different aspects of this theme of dystopia in novels, and films. We have also included the Pentagons view of the future of life in mega-cities.  The question remains, IF that is all we are imagining, are we then just going to live into it?

What Next Conference - What Are We Imagining

At the What Next Conference we designed a conversation track to explore what we are imagining about the now and future in our films. In this video David Riordan and Bert Parlee introduce the four categories of future films to be considered and show trailers from films in those categories which became the conversation starters at the conference.

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How Stories Transform Your Mind

In this video, the author looks at the power of stories to influence your view of the past, present and future. He begins with a look at two seminal novels, “1984” by George Orwell and “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. He continues by looking at research that shows how our bodies and minds react to a novel, film or video game portraying a dystopian theme. And concludes with some suggestions of what to do when confronted by stories of a dystopian future.

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How to Recognize Dystopia - Alex Gendler

In the video, Alex takes a look at the qualities of cultures we label as dystopian. Additionally interesting are his suggestions for how cultures that begin with the best of intentions descend into dystopian states. You will have to answer for yourself how much of this is currently going on in the world at the moment.  

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Pentagon Warns of "Unavoidable" Dystopia

In this video from the US Pentagon, the authors warn of the impact of the emergence of mega-cities. This trend is already underway as more of the planets population moves to ever expanding cities. In the developing world these mega-cities can be breeding grounds for violence, poverty and terrorism. Not to mention health epidemics. The US military is one of the best at looking forward to explore future threats to human culture. You might want to consider a country home.

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