In this article, Dai Jinhua problematizes the notion of the future in our current age of global capitalism. Her central question is “do we still have a future?” She connects the proliferation of end-of-the-world imagination in world cinema with an underlying sense of crisis that has spread across the world since the end of the Cold War. The end of the world in filmic representations, she observes, has evolved from being caused by manmade disasters to being the result of natural events, reflecting a shared inability to deal with the crisis of capitalism. Another prominent global issue that is manifested in recent science-fiction movies is the growing gap between the rich and the poor. Dai pays particular attention to the role of technology, which increases the polarization rather than promising a better future for all. Recognizing that a solution cannot be found within the current system, Dai calls for a renewed utopian imagination to bring humankind into the future.
What does the Future Mean?
As we walk deeper into the twenty-first century, the future—as a destination that has been set aside and that has almost entirely evaporated—has suddenly become real and urgent to me as a point of reference and a matter of debate.
However, speaking of the future is not speaking about time: although time appears as a natural, physical dimension, it is more of a conceptual “fact” of the human intelligence. Time in the “Chinese temporality” with which we are becoming gradually unfamiliar concerns natural cycles: the sun rises and sets; one sows in the spring and then harvests in the autumn. It is a monistic cycle, with dynasties succeeding one another and sea changing into mulberry field. Buddhism arrived later and introduced the notion of reincarnation, the coming and going of life and world. Of course, what we are more familiar with and what we have internalized is the Christian time: a directional time that has a beginning and an end. Paradise, paradise lost, and paradise regained. It gave rise to the so-called modern time—capitalist or modernist—that emphasizes progress, developmentalism, the self-improvement of humanity, and the infinite rise of human society. It is also known as linear time, in which the future is imminent and inevitable.Read More… about The Dimensions of the Future