Once upon a time in The Future

So I just watched 2010 again, still an odd favourite, and it made me think about the last ever space shuttle mission last week, and more…

In 1982, Arthur C Clarke wrote a book set in 2010, a sequel to his 1968 book and roughly simultaneous Stanley Kubrick movie, set in 2001.

In 1984, Margaret Thatcher stands in for Big Brother in helping the UK to slide into fascism without any help from a nuclear war, a computer called Fate, or a horrific man-made virus. The United States re-elects a Cowboy who is probably not a robot.

In 1984 I’m in grade 3.

Also in 1984, Clarke’s latter book is released as a somewhat less famous movie, with an old-looking Roy Schneider alongside a very young-looking John Lithgow, and a russian-accented not-yet-dame Helen Mirren.

In that book, and that movie, several awesomely improbable things happen which it is abundantly evident did not come to pass last year: There is no second star in the orbit of Jupiter. No nuclear stand-off was narrowly averted by aliens. We clearly do not have any AIs, let alone enough to take one for granted.

But that’s all boring.

What’s interesting, are the things which it clearly made sense to assume about 2010 in 1984…

  • The Soviet Union will still exist. In fact it will be just as healthy as the USA.
  • The Soviet Union will still be the USA’s biggest military concern.
  • The USSR and the USA will still be engaged in a neck-and-neck space race.
  • In fact, both nations will have a permanent presence in space.
  • Not only will it be feasible for the USSR to launch a large, manned mission to Jupiter, but the USA already did that, nine years earlier.

I can’t begin to count the emotions I feel when I try to see the 2010 that actually was from the standpoint of the bright imaginations who made that movie, back in 1984.

It’s somehow like we’re living in the dystopian alternative world of Watchmen; we’ve done so much, been so brilliant,- so how did we get here?