Why Do Sci-Fi Bad Guys Have Crappy Tech?

Mark Hagerott and Daniel Sarewitz think fiction is doing a bad job warning us about the dystopia around us
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 30, 2013 1:56 PM CDT
Why Do Sci-Fi Bad Guys Have Crappy Tech?
The bad guys in "The Hunger Games" have pretty lousy surveillance capabilities.   (AP Photo/Lionsgate, Murray Close, File)

Fiction, and especially science fiction, is rife with stories of rebels going on the run and challenging the established order. But that whole narrative "has been rendered implausible by the development of pervasive security technology," argue Mark Hagerott and Daniel Sarewitz at Slate. "Who can go on the lam anymore?" Between the electronic economy, and draconian record-every-license-plate surveillance, these days "Thelma and Louise probably wouldn't even make it out of town." How has fiction coped? "What seems to be on display above all is a sort of denial of reality," as storytellers un-invent tech we already have.

The tyrannical society of In Time can't even track one guy in a car. "We bet OJ Simpson wishes he had lived in that world." The government in the Hunger Games books oppresses the provinces with "storm-trooper-suited police, not much more technically advanced than those of 1930s Germany. Really?" Maybe storytellers, hungry for traditional plot devices, "have unwittingly become part of the control mechanism" by perpetuating the rebel myth. These days our only plausible rebels are insider tech wizards like Edward Snowden. And if that's true, "shouldn't we begin to wonder whether the future that such narratives are supposed to be warning us about has already arrived?" For the full essay, click here. (Read more science fiction stories.)

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