That World’s Fair vision of the future, born out of pre-World War II science fiction and post-war optimism, had plenty of issues. It was at its heart an ugly sort of futurism. I love the iconography and significance of the 1939 World’s Fair as much as the next nerd, but aesthetically and philosophically its origins were a little too aligned with fascism for anyone to accept unquestioningly—rejection of the past, idolatry of speed, technology, and war […]

Put aside for a moment that everyone in charge of this vision was basically a hyperrational white dude, which introduced all sorts of exclusionary problems. The fact is, the people who ran the World’s Fairs actually succeeded at everything they were touting.

Like what? Well, transnational corporations built “conveniences” for everyone like televisions, telephones, robots, and interstate highways, and then kept finding new ways to market them to a diminishing middle class. The problem with world’s fairs isn’t that the vision of the future they sold didn’t come true; the problem is that it did.

–Adam Rogers on zeerust.

Interestingly (and as the article alludes to), this is the same argument you hear as to what killed cyberpunk.

In other words, the 2010s are the bastard offspring of early 20th century World Fair Tomorrowlandism, and late 20th century cyberpunk dystopia.1 Funny how that works, innit?

  1. Incidentally, Pat Cadigan is, I think, the 90s-era cyberpunk author who best captured what the 21st century would really be like, in part because she was able to write a realistic lifestyle for the cyberpunkian suburban middle class. Go read Synners to see it, if you don’t believe me. []