October 20, 2008
Back to the social welfare future
It's rare that science fiction actually predicts the future. Sure, the first Star Trek series got the cell phone right. But especially on social issues, most plots are about the here and now. This is not a bad thing, as science fiction and fantasy settings provide an aesthetic distance that gives freer range to the arguments being made.
One in a while, though, an artist sees the future so clearly that you can believe time machines exist. Namely, the British newspaper The Telegraph recently quoted "medical ethics expert Baroness Warnock" saying, "If you're demented, you're wasting people's lives--your family's lives--and you're wasting the resources of the National Health Service."
Now watch Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society. It covers the same issues and their implications brilliantly. Referring to the "Noble Rot Senior Citizens" (to translate the Japanese literally), in his grandiose, ends-justify-the-means soliloquy, the villain in the movie practically quotes Lady Warnock verbatim.
Two years ago, Kenji Kamiyama saw the future. Okay, he only saw two years into the future, but do that on a predictable basis and you'd be richer and wiser than Warren Buffet.
I don't fear the kind of revenge exacted on behalf of Kamiyama's senior citizens against their Lady Warnocks ever becoming a reality, but I wouldn't be surprised by something metaphorically akin to it. In any case, I do expect to see this battle between the "haves" and the "want-to-haves" looming up in our rearview mirrors very soon.
To be sure, I'm not too worried, as I happen to be just old enough (a very late baby-boomer) to anticipate getting grandfathered into whatever soak-the-younger-generation scheme gets conjured up in the name of compassionately "sharing the wealth," just before the whole system goes broke.