1/Far-future sci-fi is coming to an end.— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) March 14, 2015
2/This is because of technology. Tech is starting to change the basic parameters of the human experience - emotion, communication, etc.— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) March 14, 2015
3/We're starting to realize how little our lives resemble those of our ancestors - and how much less our descendants' will resemble ours.— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) March 14, 2015
4/All the far-future sci-fi now is posthuman/transhuman stuff. You read a Hannu Rajaniemi book and you think "These people aren't like us."— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) March 14, 2015
5/Or you read a Charles Stross book, and you think "These people *are* kind of like us...but how does that make sense??"— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) March 14, 2015
6/Far-future sci-fi was always about how technology changes a ton but humanity stays the same. Now we know that just doesn't happen.— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) March 14, 2015
7/Maybe in the early 20th century, when tech advances mostly augmented our physical abilities, far-future people acting like us made sense.— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) March 14, 2015
8/But nowadays, IT and biotech advances are changing our societies and our minds, not just letting us move faster and life heavier things.— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) March 14, 2015
9/On the plus side, near-future SF, like Ramez Naam's "Nexus" or Margaret Atwood's "Oryx and Crake", is getting more mind-blowing.— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) March 14, 2015
10/And what near-future sci-fi used to be - Neuromancer, Snow Crash, etc. - is now just called "real stuff happening in the news".— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) March 14, 2015
11/I'll miss the dreams of spaceships and aliens. But living in the sci-fi future is even more fun than reading it! (end)— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) March 14, 2015
Having tried lots of demos recently, I wonder if VR will inspire a growth spurt in near-feature sci-fi movies just because it is more cinematic and compelling on screen than most of today's tech in which the primary action consists of a programmer typing on a keyboard.
Steven Spielberg is set to direct the movie adaptation of Ready Player One next, and I see it as a natural spiritual successor to Minority Report, which contained a lot of ideas from futurists that Spielberg gathered for a brainstorm session prior to production. Minority Report felt like medium-term sci-fi when it came out, and it's already clear that many of its predictions were off. From a technological point of view, if not a social one, Ready Player One reads like very-near-term sci-fi.
There's a shortage of good near-term sci-fi in the movies, often because the filmmaking cycle (from idea to spec script to script to the option to years of sitting cold to finally going into production) is still so much longer than the actual technology industry cycle. Given the momentum of VR now, it's time to mine this fertile ground for more high concept movies that explore the norms after mass adoption of the technology. Given the incredible price pressure on VFX shops in Hollywood, many of which are closing up or suffering margin compression, a spurt of movies featuring a lot of VR scenarios would be a welcome supply of work, too.
I realized the other day that I will watch, in my lifetime, a VR movie about VR technology. I'm excited. No spoilers please.