Tweet of the Day: Bidding Farewell to the Comfort Zone
If science fiction makes an argument, it is one centered around technology: either it will improve our lives or it will devastate us. Each sub-genres within it stakes a place along the scale of idealism versus cynicism. Born out of the combination of the shift of paradigms of the Age of Reason plus massive technological advances during the Industrial Age, science fiction writers envision a world where technology revolutionizes the way we live. New forms of transportation, communication, modes of living and travel beyond the confines of the Earth seemed within reach.
It is, what today we might call a progressive view of the world. Humanity marching toward an inevitable technological utopia.
Yet early science fiction writers like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells made an interesting argument that has largely been forgotten in our Nuclear/Information Age: be wary of Man, not Machine. So while many early science fiction stories propose an idealistic vision of technology as always improving the life of men, the masters of the genre were far more astute and tempered the idealism with a counter argument, man must change first. Men of virtue can put technology to good use, but it is also the nature of man to use any tool available to dominate other men. This is a great example of a genre putting forth an argument and then subverting it or contradicting it. It usually happens as a genre matures and following generations of authors who grew up reading the earlier examples counter the arguments in those tomes with some of their own, although in the case of Verne, he did it within his own writing and lifetime.
Yet science fiction retains the basic argument, if at times subverted by itself and its children, that humanity is moving to a better place through the use of reason and technology. The jury is still debating that one.