Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Cardboard Condominiums (Part Too)

I recently read an article entitled Cyberpunk, Orwellian Fears, and the Faces of Tyranny: Changes in the Future, and What They Tell Us about What We Fear by Daniel Silliman in the most recent issue of Comment, (The Work Research Foundation's Monthly Publication). He compares today's Cyperpunk authors (represented by William Gibson) with work that reflects our fears during the Cold War era (represented by George Orwell).

Comparing the dystopian future of today with the dystopian future of yesterday can bring up, in the similarities, the nature of our persistent fears, and, in the differences, the particular dangers of our age. The differences come in three areas that offer themselves for investigation-changes in technology, changes in society, and changes in information can tell us about our fears of today.

As I walk by these cardboard condominiums, my thoughts turn to William Gibson's book and it is no longer imaginary. It is real. I suspect Gibson has seen similar dwellings in his travels. In another of his books (I think both in Johnny Mnemonic and Idoru, unfortunately I can't check since my library is in Canada) he describes the Golden Gate Bridge as a place of complete metamorphous. In a very Japanese way the bridge has been taken over by the less fortunate, the riffraff, the lost sheep and the immoral and become a world of noodle shops, narrow alleys, and small out-of-the way dwellings. Gibson applies the population density paintbrush to this world of his making.

Nevertheless his extrapolation of increasingly higher population densities is perhaps telling of another one of our societal fears. In seeing these cardboard shanties my I think my fear was exposed.

Incidentally I was also published in a previous issue of Comment. The Craft of Machine Design.

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