Monday, August 23, 2010

"The togetherness of modern technology"

As if summoned from a novel by J.G. Ballard: "China traffic jam stretches 'nine days, 100km'"

The title of this post comes from a 1979 Penthouse interview with Ballard on the prescience of science fiction in which he observed:

I suspect it will also turn out to have been extremely accurate in the way in which it is now predicting or anticipating the peculiar affectless quality of life in the 1980s and 90s.

Penthouse: What kind of things?

Ballard: Well, for example the way in which the traditional togetherness of the village is giving way to the inbuilt loneliness of the new high rises, or the peculiar fact that people nowadays like to be together not in the old-fashioned way of, say, mingling on the piazza of an Italian Renaissance city, but, instead, huddled together in traffic jams, bus queues, on escalators and so on. It's a new kind of togetherness which may seem totally alien, but it's the togetherness of modern technology, and the science fiction writers of the 40s, 50s and 60s picked it out unerringly as being a dominant feature of the future - often without realising what they were doing.

Not that that togetherness is all that cozy, at least going by the Chinese example:

The drivers have complained that locals are over-charging them for food and drink while they are stuck.

Clearly, our Chinese friends have that capitalism thing down pat. Yet, the real traffic jam seems to nevertheless lack, how shall we say, the rampant psychosexual perversion of the Ballardian original.

You can't have everything. 

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