Chapter 6 of Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi movies, read by author Andrew Maynard
In this episode: Elysium
The Poor Shall Inherit The Earth | Bioprinting Our Future Bodies | The Disposable Workforce | Living in an Automated Future
Elysium is a very earnest movie. Made at a time when there was a visceral global pushback against wealth inequity, it captures the frustration and anger of massive disparities between the uber-wealthy and everyone else — and the ways in which technology can exacerbate this if we’re not careful.
This divide is reflected in the chapter in Films from the Future that was inspired by the movie. It actually ended up being one of the more personal chapters in the book. In the original draft I even had a long and angry section on healthcare and health insurance in the US, and the sheer immorality around how we’ve monetized health and wellbeing.
That narrative didn’t make the final cut. But what did — and this surprised me at the time, but makes sense with hindsight — is a narrative around workplace safety and technology innovation. This is a theme that the movie touches on with quite some force— again, it’s part of the social inequity narrative. It’s also one that I’m deeply familiar with, having worked in occupational health for over a decade in my early career.
The episode also looks at the emerging technology of “bioprinting” human organs — which may feel like a bit of a non sequitur from the social inequity theme, but I did want to get some tech in there. And of course, the alignment is actually there as, if we could print replacement organs on demand, there are very significant questions around who gets access to them, and who does not.
And finally a bit of trivia about this episode: Jodi Foster and William Fichtner are the only two actors to appear together in two of the movies in the series — with the second one being Contact. But that’s yet to come …
Hope you enjoy the episode, and please do spread the word if you do!
About Films from the Future: I started writing Films from the Future in 2017. The intent was to explore the deeply complex landscape around emerging technologies, the future, and socially responsible innovation, in a way that would be accessible to most readers, and at the same time provide nuanced and important insights that weren’t available anywhere else.
One of the challenges with most books about tech and the future is that they take a polarized stance — we’re either all going to die unless we do something different, or technology is going to save the world. These sell — people love reading about extremes. But they’re not that helpful when it comes to navigating a deeply complex tech innovation landscape where there few right and wrong answers, where it’s important to weave together insights from many different areas of expertise — including the arts and humanities, and where dialogue and discussion are far more important than preaching.
And so I set out to write about emerging and converging technologies in as inclusive and accessible a way as I knew how, with the aim of taking readers on a compelling journey into the future where their thoughts and ideas were just as important as mine.
The result was a book that uses movies as a way to open up conversations about what responsible innovation means in a world that’s changing faster than ever before, and where new technologies are transforming how we think about the future and what it holds.
Of course some of the technologies it covers have moved on since I started writing the book. But at the end of the day this is not a book about science fiction movies, or about specific technologies, but about how all of us can think differently about our roles in ensuring the future we’re building is better than the past we leave behind.
I hope you enjoy these recordings of me narrating it — this is a book that reflects my voice quite deeply in the writing, and so it only made sense for me to one day actually read it aloud!
For more information on the book, visit https://andrewmaynard.net/films-from-the-future/