We see it in the news every week. Some new horror story. A disease; the chance of a meteor strike; volcanic explosion; war; terrorism. It seems like there are an ever increase number of ways for people to suffer or die.
Of course this really isn’t anything new. For several decades nuclear weapons was how we were all going to die and it was going to be caused by the communists. When trains first appeared, people were genuinely scared that travelling at such speeds would be more than the human body could stand. The future is always more terrifying than the past.
It’s not hard to understand why. The past is known. The future is a mystery. Human’s as a species are poorly equipped to deal with the unknown. We are designed to live in small easily knowable areas surrounded by a group of people we can individually recognize. We resist change and we dislike the new. It’s built into our DNA. You should fear the future. It’s a survival instinct.
Thats why there are so many religion’s in the world. To help us cope with life’s mysteries. Its why we invented science, to give us answers. And in some cases it’s why we write or read. Engaging with a fantasy world is a safe way to explore new ideas and concepts. It gives us an opportunity to view them from a variety of perspectives without actually having to experience them ourselves.
I guarantee there isn’t an end of the world scenario that hasn’t been written a dozen times in science fiction. There’s barely a science paper that hasn’t been scoured for new material. But it’s not just about the science or even the ideas. It’s about how the world, how people respond to those ideas.
People shy away from views that are radically different from their own. They instinctively surround themselves with people who have similar experiences to their own. Books are one of the few places where new ideas can be presented in a non-threatening way.
The world is infinitely large and infinitely complex. In order to survive we have to reduce it to manageable concepts. But in doing so we run the risk of shutting ourselves off from many interesting possibilities. Does the future scare you? Read more. You’ll find that whatever it is that scares you, someone has thought of it and explored it before.