Came the Apocalypse

This week featured the premier of a new TV show – Revolution – which offers a view of America 15 years after electricity mysteriously disappears. Needless to say, this has a profound effect on life as we know it.

Popular entertainment these days has a big thing for the End of the World.  As Brian Stelter of the New York Times notes:

…the new show calls to mind the entertainment media’s current cycle of fascination with postapocalyptic survival stories. The zombie infestation of AMC’s “Walking Dead“ and the alien invasion of TNT’s “Falling Skies“ have resonated with viewers, as have films like “The Hunger Games” and “The Book of Eli.” Reality show makers have responded with series like “Doomsday Preppers” on the National Geographic Channel and “Doomsday Bunkers“ on Discovery.

One thing that’s notable about “Revolution” is that it strikes at the heart of what has changed our world so profoundly: modern technology.  As I’ve noted before (like here, for instance), modern technology has greatly disrupted our world. Thanks to all of our electronic devices we are much more interconnected – which has an unsettling effect on many of us and our institutions.

A potential appeal of this TV show is it offers a “reboot scenario” where we can escape to a perceived better past.  As the show’s executive producer Eric Kripke the Huffington Post’s Maureen Ryan:

“We talk about the world [the audience sees in “Revolution”] not as a bad or harrowing place — we talk about it with a lot of wish fulfillment. Like, “Wouldn’t it be great to live that simple life and be with your family and be connected?” I’d be dead on Day 2, by the way. [Laughs.] But hardier people would find it a very romantic place to live. [We’re] hoping that that concept resonates with people, because we all sort of feel in our guts that we’re over-extended as a technological society. Beyond all our Blackberries and iPhones, we’re dangerously separated from our food and water supplies. And this idea — where hopefully everyone asks, what would they do in that world and how would they survive and realizing how reliant we all are on technology — it’s hopefully a way in that makes people think, as that’s happening in the background of what is really a character drama.”

As I noted back in January in “Keep the Change,” all of the upheaval technology has provoked in today’s world has made us uneasy about the present and wistful about the past. I believe this is at the heart of the current fascination with post-apocalyptic stories. I think it’s also the major reason for the appeal of ultra-conservative politicians for many people today. Things seem so strange and complicated these days. How tempting it is to return to a simpler past – even if it’s just in the fantasies of a TV show or ambitious politician.

But sooner or later we have to escape fantasy and return to reality. The world has changed, and we either must adapt to its new rules or pay the price. Which brings to mind another video that had a lot of viewers this week…

A hint for politicians – and anyone else – speaking at supposedly private gatherings. The world really has changed: with today’s technologies, anything you say can and will be used against you!

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About Dave Higgins

I've been interested in current events since at least the mid 1960's, and in ideas from modern science since the early 1990's. My website Quantum Age, which has been online since 1996, presents a basic framework for applying ideas from modern science to today's world. In this blog I discuss current events in the context of that framework.
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