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The Hyperreality of Time: Past, Present, Future & Science Fiction

→ by Danieru
As far as conspiracy theories go, this has to be one of the most interesting I have come across:
"Predictive programming works by means of the propagation of the illusion of an infallibly accurate vision of how the world is going to look in the future". Through the circulation of science "fiction" literature, the ignorant masses are provided with semiotic intimations of coming events. Within such literary works are narrative paradigms that are politically and socially expedient to the power elite. Thus, when the future unfolds as planned, it assumes the paradigmatic character of the "fiction" that foretold it. - link
A theory in need of a response if ever I saw one. Thing is, the scope of this idea is not broad enough. It is underwhelming because it assumes too many things about reality and misinterprets many of the fundamental conflicts in the concept of time. An ultimate irony since science fiction is the tool of choice for examining both. Before I go into more detail here I will offer you a question to ponder throughout this post, one which a friend threw my way some time ago now:
If you took a piece of contemporary fiction and sent it hurtling back into the past would it instantly become science fiction? Would a contemporary commentary become a predictive tool? Or would its transcend the time-line, dissolving any futures it might have foretold into wisps of mere possibility?
Science fiction - a transcendence from reality. In an age where progress appears illusionary, each new technological and scientific discovery shattering the realities we inhabit, science fiction has become an escape route equal to that of the literary realism of the mid-19th Century. In order to bring into focus the events of change which surround us science fiction in all its forms has manifested alternate visions of ourselves, not as we wish to be, in the postmodern utopian sense, but as we subconsciously believe we already are.

The scientific optimism of the mid-20th Century was laid waste during the nuclear stale-mates and medical nightmares of the following decades. Mankind wielded science and technology as a tool for reality absolution, infinite possibilities blooming just ahead of us. Yet as science increased in complexity so too did our removal from the worlds it envisaged. Once the specialist of the genius, science became in the eyes of society the leash through which the elite drove the masses forward. Technology lashed us down, science blinkered the truth. Or so many people felt, and still feel. Science became the enemy of the people and yet it remains the opium we crave. Even religion embraced 'theories' that science made 'real' in order to thrive in today's rational climate.

Debate as to what we are has never been so incessant. Debate as to where we will go has never been so readily available. Just buy a cinema ticket and strap yourself in.
"Currently, from one order of simulacra to the next, we are witnessing the reduction and absorption of the distance [between the real and the imaginary], of this separation which permits a space for ideal or critical projection...

Reality was able to surpass fiction, the surest sign that the imaginary has possibly been outpaced. But the real could never surpass the model, for the real is only a pretext of the model.

The imaginary was a pretext of the real in a world dominated by the reality principle. Today, it is the real which has become the pretext of the model in a world governed by the principle of simulation. And, paradoxically, it is the real which has become our true utopia, but a utopia that is no longer a possibility, a utopia we can do no more than dream about, like a lost object." - link
So wrote Jean Baudrillard some 30 odd years ago, his words seeming to knell the death of civilisation. How can we be living a utopia? States with equal happiness for all do not exist, have never existed, could never exist... and yet science fiction has made and destroyed these fictions countless times. What is there left to find in the pages of such utopias?

In perceiving the horror of Orwell's 1984 or the oxymoronic tranquility of Huxley's Brave New World utopia is simulated out of existence. We tend to forget that Hitler and Stalin both grew utopias, all be it from different seeds. In reflection of these utopias, both the simulated and real, our own world has been given a yard stick by which to judge itself by, a false memory of hell by which to perceive our even falser heaven. But we do not. Science fiction and speculation stand here no more or less real than actual history. In all four of these utopias we can perceive our dim reflection peering back at us across the mists of time. It makes them all equally real.

Likewise our present is an illusion for the future populations of Earth, we reflect to them the horrors they will overcome, the utopian visions they are yet to realise. Science fiction is history, is future, is present. We only know ourselves through it, we only exist because of it. Perception of today's real is reflection of science fiction's hyperreal.

And finally, if science fiction transcends illusion, becoming in retrospect a kind of hyperreality through which we better perceive ourselves, what is The Real anyway? The past-fiction presents to the future-real what the hyperreal-present was all about. Only by perceiving the past and future can the present be said to exist at all; only in fiction do we know the real. And in the end, surely it is reality itself that is the ultimate conspiracy.

Extended hyperreality:
  • For more on Simulacrum and Simulation you must read Jean Baudrillard.
  • To perceive time dissolving into transcendent copies of itself, bringing into focus the real, there is no greater guide than Ubik by Philp K Dick.
  • What if the knowledge contained in the most (in)famous book of all time was sent back in a time machine? Michael Moorcock explores this possibility in his semi-forgotten sci-fi classic Behold the Man.

UPDATE: Been twirling the internet highways to find some more on the conspiracy which originally inspired this post:

If you're concerned about science fiction's power over your reality go here and await further instructions - let's just say E.T. and Jesus got some similarity issues. Also, did you know that the Illuminati have been orchestrating humanity's unhappiness for the last thousand years by suppressing the global consciousness from vibrating at its innate, infinite frequency? I didn't either, but don't worry too much. Infinite Love and David Icke are going to sort everything out - taking random events and tying them together in increasingly incomprehensible knots of paranoia since 1990.

You've got to love conspiracy theories, here's to making my own up someday. The Huge Entity isn't one to shy away from utter .

Time has made a stop...
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Blogger Alex said...

Personally, I love how people in the 60s thought they were living in "the future," and their concept of it was pretty hilarious. I wonder if this stands for all kinds of science fiction?

The again, we are not so far away from 1984.

December 11, 2005 4:06 AM    

Blogger Danieru said...

we wouldn't believe we were living in 1984 if it hadn't been written. the book, and concepts within it, has brought an aspect to this reality that wouldn't have been here otherwise. what forgotten books never made the real?

it makes me wonder about how fiction formed the human brain in the first place. as soon as we evolved primitive language there would have been stories, reflections of possible worlds which made more real the one we lived in. stories evolved our socially adept brains. they helped build our concepts and our realities. fiction stands realer than the real because of this.

all those hippy types who were building the future paradise in the 60s are now stock brokers and strict, conservative parents

such was the depth of their reality

December 11, 2005 4:23 AM    

Anonymous Jason said...

"all those hippy types who were building the future paradise in the 60s are now stock brokers and strict, conservative parents"

It's because they thought in absolute terms - as in, "all those hippies" - that they couldnt' see beyond the dream and sold out to the illusion. This didn't happen to ALL of them. Granted it did happen to most and it makes me sick. I wish I had been alive during the days of Tim Leary and Allen Ginsberg, but all I have are a generation of elders who have become corporate whores or crazy bums on the street - but it is the exceptions that make the rule , and I can attest that many of "those hippy types" are still going strong, just as idealistic and subversive as ever, albeit a bit less naive for the experiences ov T.I.M.E.

December 11, 2005 4:35 AM    

Blogger Jennyology said...

I feel that this is the only way perception can exist. Science fiction is, as you say, limited in our concepts of now and the past. 1984 was just an imaginary extension of the fear caused by a historical event onto the possible future. In the same way, I think that religion and history share these problematic characteristics of pinpointing reality. We can write a history book about America, but will it include testimony from Cherokee persons who died from being given disease-infested blankets by the U.S. government? Was this testimony ever taken? There are already those who downplay or blatantly refute the Holocaust and few still who are aware of the effects of the Rwandan genocide. Catholicism created a possible future utopia and horror combined with a pertinent historical basis with which each individual can compare their present. I certainly know a few people who do treat science fiction as their religion, as their reality, and in this sense it is definately hyperreal. However, I do not think it is unique in its ability to create or recreate our perceptions of now, yesterday (Star Wars takes place in the unimaginable past, right?), or tomorrow. I am also fascinated by the sheer volume of texts droning towards their simultaneous perceptions of real and unreal, and certainly each person's perception of their own reality alone might sound like fiction to everyone else. Maybe I should leave this to those evopsychs afterall (Tell me why I think\dream!).

December 12, 2005 8:14 AM    

Blogger Danieru said...

exactly! even the history books portray a slice of the real diluted from anything one could label reality... the illusion at least becomes a semi-shared one over time, something i believe is necessary to keep this world remotely sane.

religious texts/doctrines are another example of the building of shared realities and yet even then, sometimes only tens of years after they have been formed, new religious factions splinter off, new interpretations of the same texts manifest completely alternate realities (which are often protected to fundamentalist proportions).

just like the process of evolution in the natural world, if change occurs frequently and incessantly enough in the end you have many species from the one germ, now unable to share their genetic material. i have a hunch that reality is this too. the human world has been splintering for tens of thousands of years, and before that realities multipied and separated from billions of origins. this process is constant, reality change is part of the evolution of the universe. the more realities the more in focus the universe becomes.

i often wonder whether we should accept the fact that conflicts in these realities HAVE TOO occur or we stand up and pretend that we can draw back the edges of our worlds, sewing them together with humanity's 'wealth' of understanding... the pessimist in me knows it will never happen, and besides, i welcome our different realities.

there is no conspiracy. there is simply change. if we accepted this then the human world might just mould part of its shared illusion back together

December 12, 2005 9:14 AM    

Blogger Danieru said...

"...to bring a real world into being is in itself to produce that world, and the real has only ever been a form of simulation. We may, admittedly, cause a reality-effect, a truth-effect or an objectivity-effect to exist, but, in itself, the real does not exist. The virtual, then, is mearly a hyperbolic instance of this tendancy to pass from the symbolic to the real - which is its degree zero. In this sense, the virtual coincides with the notion of the hyperreality. Virtual reality, the reality that might be said to be perfectly homogenized, digitized and 'operationalized', substitutes for the other because it is perfect, verifiable and non-contradictory. So, because it is more 'complete', it is more real than what we have established as simulacrum...

The virtual now is what takes the place of the real; it is the final solution of the real in so far as it accomplishes the world in its definitive reality and marks its dissolution."

Jean Baudrillard - Passwords

December 14, 2005 4:09 AM    

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The hyperreality of time can be seen from many perspectives, e.g. the evolution of the human hand, starting with the mystery of the 5 fingers. Nevertheless, hand analysis (palmistry) is still merely associated with future predictions - probably because several psychological experiments have shown that the findings made by handanalysts are frequently not accurate. Thanks, Martijn.

August 19, 2006 12:21 PM    

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