Beyond dead Greek guys: philosophy set to illuminate science fiction’s future

Science fiction is being influenced by famous philosophers, which is shaping the genre to be more realistic.

Image used with permission from Google Commons

Science fiction is being influenced by famous philosophers, which is shaping the genre to be more realistic.

Instead of sitting on decrepit, stain-filled brown seats in a dull room, waiting for your therapist, imagine opening up your computer, stimulating your artificial intelligent machine that empathizes with you at every moment you need. While this isn’t something that inhabits the foreseeable future, this, according to philosophy, may be a growing horizon as this kind of futuristic conception situates itself in various science fiction books and movies influenced by philosophy and vice versa.

In 1968, while having grand visions about metaphysics, philosopher Gilles Deleuze, in his magnum opus Difference and Repetition, declared that just like science fiction must contain philosophy, a philosophy book must be “in part a kind of science fiction.” Even though Deleuze is known to dramatize many of the ideas that he conjures up, perhaps his claim about the intimacy between philosophy and science fiction is accurate.

Whether it is shown in Mark Fisher’s idea about “flatlines” or McKenzie Wark’s idea about “vectors,” science fiction has infiltrated all of contemporary philosophy. However, “science fiction has also been heavily influenced by philosophy,” sophomore Lucas Kissh said.

The Matrix series, a collection of science fiction movies that depict a future where humanity is trapped inside of a simulation, were heavily influenced by the philosophical ideas of Jean Baudrillard as not only were Baudrillard’s books shown throughout the movie, but Baudrillard was also required reading for all the actors. Even though Baudrillard immediately disapproved of The Matrix, claiming that the producers misinterpreted his ideas and that The Matrix was a movie that “the matrix” would produce, his influence is still obvious. Baudrillard imagined the modern cultural landscape to be what he called a “hyperreality,” or a world of representational images with no correlation to actual reality.

The idea that we live in a non-real world is also shown in the 1988 science fiction movie They Live – a movie about a drifter who discovers sunglasses that, when worn, reveal the totalitarian mechanisms of capitalism – where philosopher Slavoj Žižek points out, in a commentary, that the action of keeping the sunglasses off, not seeing corporate capitalism for what it actually is, is exactly how everyone under modern day capitalism operates: within an ideological fantasy. Just like The Matrix was influenced by philosophy, They Live was also “heavily influenced by the ideas of hypercapitalism, materialism, and corporate totalitarianism,” junior Naveen Ramamurthy said.

Philosophy has also been heavily influenced by science fiction. Nick Land, for instance, is known to be the theorist of “hyperstition,” or a concept that states that science fiction ideas “have the power to create reality when they […] gain enough societal traction,” with an example being how “the logo of the US Space Force […] looks eerily similar to [the] fictional logo from the Star Trek Series,” ELD teacher Daniel Ring said.

With Land’s conception that certain science fiction concepts eventually actualize in reality, one begins to wonder when other science fiction ideas will actualize, when machine therapists start existing. Maybe the actualization process has proceeded too slowly; perhaps we need to, as Deleuze said, “accelerate the process” to create that cyberpunk future.