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A Better Future
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Robert J. Sawyer reviews Margaret Atwood's latest dystopian future, Oryx and Crake. (Via Locus)

In Atwood's view, every problem we face now is going to get worse, not better.

I disagree. Human ingenuity will give all of us a wonderful future.

I don't know about "wonderful", but I do agree with Sawyer's general premise that there has been such a thing as cultural advancement.

But a utopia? I don't think so. Sawyer asks if we think this should be considered far-fetched.

Not after a century that gave us widespread indoor plumbing and electricity, civil rights, feminism and a nascent world government; jets, TV and microwaves; heart transplants, antibiotics and insulin; computers, lasers and space stations. Not after 100 years in which we learned about other galaxies, the double helix and quantum mechanics.

Atwood has a nostalgia for a simpler past. But our past included slavery, 50-per-cent infant mortality, abject poverty, epidemics and ignorance. Today is better than yesterday; tomorrow will be even better still. If, as we look into the future, we can't precisely see the wonders yet to come, it's only because there's so much glare from the bright tomorrows ahead.

The last century also gave us Hitler, the A-bomb, and AIDS.

Point is, the world has always been a mixed bag...always will be. Technological advancements are tempered by potentially harmful side-effects or negative uses. That doesn't mean that they're not advances, though. I'm not as pessimistic as Atwood, nor as rosy as Sawyer, but if I lean to one side or the other, it's definitely his.

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