Alternative Futures: Growth and Decay
Appendix A to Alternative Futures describes a world in which we see a continuation of the current economic status quo, big corporations reign supreme, and government power is absent or sidelined. We can recognize technological improvements, although they are more advance in the near future than they are today, and there are hints of societal collapse.
This archetype involves the continuation of the current capitalistic status quo, which grows even more rampantly. Corporations reign unalloyed, potentially extending their power to policing, urban security, the management of public infrastructures, and law enforcement. Governmental power is absent or sidelined. Current technologies also grow steadily, pushed by monetary gains and controlled by corporations. Hints of societal collapse or decay are found in society. Decay can manifest in various forms, from abject life conditions and patent disparities to mismanagement of urban hygiene and bleakness of the atmospheric environment, or in a combination of these elements. Decay can also manifest in the decadence of common values, or in the conflict between values between different groups of individuals/factions. For example, leadership can be evil, primarily profit seeking and dominative, while subordinates are subjugated. (Fergnani & Song, 2020, p. 8)
Continuation of current Capitalistic Status Quo: 7 examples out of 7 novels = 100%
Descriptions Summarized: All of the books featured (100%) a backdrop that reflects the current capitalistic status quo. Characters go about their business by participating in easily recognizable jobs such as pizza delivery driver, looking for a big TV reality hit, or being called out of semi-retirement. Two of the books reviewed illustrate the potential for both massive fortune and poverty.
Corporations reign unalloyed: 3 examples out of 7 novels examined = 43%
Descriptions Summarized: Corporations did not play a significant role in the books examined. There is one example of the establishment of a vast economic empire and two examples where corporate interests overwhelmed military operations and subverted the missions for nefarious purposes.
Governmental power is absent or sidelined: 3 examples out of 7 novels examined = 43%
Descriptions Summarized: It is not surprising that the absence of governmental power would reflect in a low score. When national power is mentioned, it is in the form of semi-independent nations or personalized in the form of calls or contact from old friends who work in the government. Corporate power tends to sabotage government efforts.
Current technology grows steadily: 8 examples out of 7 novels = 114%
Descriptions Summarized: The advancement of current technology is one of two major themes that ran throughout all the books examined. Readers will instantly recognize the virtual realms, quantum computing, computer viruses, and metaverses from their own daily interactions with technology (albeit in much more advanced and dramatic forms). Some of the more advanced technological innovations require more imagination. However, the intellectual leap to bio-engineered lab rats, towing dead satellites out of earth's orbit, and the development of a deadly new disease using nanotechnology, is still fairly easy to make.
Hints of societal collapse or decay: 8 examples out of 7 novels = 114%
Descriptions Summarized: The second major theme that ran throughout all the books examined is the ever-present threat of societal collapse. This is likely due to the fiction writers' need to build a sense of urgency and danger into their stories. Numerous wars are fought, and even players in virtual games are willing to kill one another to win. Characters are motivated to undertake a search-and-destroy mission, track down a disgraced athlete, and survive in a total surveillance environment. Adversaries kidnap the children of prominent members of society or attempt to conceal the development of a new bio-weapon by burying thousands of victims in mass graves.
Creswell, J. W., & Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: choosing among five approaches. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, c2013.
Fergnani, A. & Song, Z. (2020). The six scenario archetypes framework: A systematic investigation of science fiction films set in the future. Futures, (124, 102645) ISSN 0016-3287, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2020.102645
Merritt, T. (2022). Imagining the future: The rapid classification of fiction archetypes. ResearchGate, (PDF) Imagining the Future: The rapid classification of fiction archetypes (researchgate.net)
Rovai, A., Baker, J. & Ponton, M. (2014) Social science research design and statistics: A practitioner’s guide to research methods and IBM SPSS analysis (2nd ed.). Chesapeake: Watertree Press, LLC.