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Futurism and Fantasy

by Ethan Thompson

[commentary by Clay Reynolds] Visualizing the future is a subject of great novelty, thanks in no small part to television, which, as an engine of fiction, has greatly accelerated our capability to wonder about the unknowns of what’s to come and allowed for a departure from realism in the way we speculate about it. Futurescape is birthed from the wildly-sensational understanding of the future that gave us The Jetsons: an approach marked by science fiction and fantasy that portrays a world where technology has re-defined the constraints on human faculty, the laws of physics and the boundary dividing possible and impossible. The elements of the future that this program presents are founded on infant research happening today, but it goes out of its way to presume both the success of those advancements and the viability of the technologies they could make possible. This episode illustrates scientists’ progress in efforts to map out the circuitry of neurons in the brain, but does that in the expectation that such knowledge could lead to the creation of robots that can feel and reason just like humans - an utterly fantastic notion. Such is the fun of portraying a hypothetical future in which the limits are bounded only by one’s imagination. As absurdly-unrealistic as these ideas seem (along with the fictional imagery of a city with totally different architecture and flying vehicles), that kind of adventure into the realm of the unthinkable is perfectly permissible in this genre of futurism. While Futurescape makes an effort to root its concept of the future in some degree of conceivability, its quixotic projection of the world years down the road is an example of how even in 50 years, television’s visualization of the future hasn’t come much closer to earth.

Futurism and Fantasy

This episode of Futurescape visualizes a hypothetical future based on modern research where robots are nearly just like humans

from Futurescape with James Woods (2013)
Creator: Science Channel
Distributor: Peabody Archive
Posted by Ethan Thompson