From George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World to the Wachowskis’ The Matrix, Stephen Spielberg’s Minority Report and most recently Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, writers and filmmakers have used science fiction to both forecast the future while also holding up a mirror to the present. The best among these transcend what is largely escapist entertainment and engage their audiences in a critical dialogue about what happens when power, technology and militaristic governance converge.
With its dystopian vision of a post-apocalyptic Earth in which the majority of humanity is relegated to an overpopulated, diseased, warring planet while the elite live a life of luxury and perfect health on an orbiting space station, Elysium fits in perfectly alongside the futuristic books and films featured in my new book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, which warn of a totalitarian future at our doorsteps.
However, while much has been said about Blomkamp’s use of Elysium to raise concerns about immigration, access to healthcare, worker’s rights, and socioeconomic stratification, what I found most striking and unnerving was its depiction of how the government will employ technologies such as drones, tasers and biometric scanners to track, target and control the populace, especially dissidents. Mind you, while these technologies are already in use today and being hailed for their potentially life-saving, cost-saving, time-saving benefits, it won’t be long before the drawbacks to having a government equipped with technology that makes it all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful far outdistance the benefits.