Death Race 2021: Science Fiction Prediction

Moto GP rider Marco Simoncelli’s father is comforted by an official after his son’s death during the Malaysian Grand Prix. Many news agencies ran a video of the incident as it happened. Image: Reuters.

As a teenager, I always found science-fiction novels to be a touch depressing. Whether we’re talking Orwell’s predictions of strictly controlled information flow or Philip K. Dick’s chilling dystopian landscapes where individuals starved of affection find comfort in technology, the future through these guys’ eyes was never quite the hedonistic bundle of fun I was envisaging adulthood to be.

The rate at which their damn depressing prophecies are coming true hasn’t helped my interest in the genre, either.

Without meaning to denigrate the genius of these guys though, how hard was it to predict that humanity was well on it’s way to hell in a handcart, even in the fifties? Human behaviour isn’t as complex and unpredictable as most of us seem to think, and the chances of us all randomly deciding that we should work together for global peace and harmony were not high. All (all, she says!) Orwell, Dick, Asimov et al had to do was consider what had happened before, how we responded to it and extrapolate, while taking into account the inevitable technological advances.

See? Easy-peasy. Ahem.

Depressingly, it seems that we are in the process of taking another step forward in our evolution. The explicit pictures of violent death that everyone is getting their knickers in a knot about at the moment are, I fear, the first step on a slide towards people risking death for entertainment purposes.

A tad hysterical? Ten years ago, the very notion of printing or showing even a still image of a dead body in a mainstream media outlet would have been debated and condemned to kingdom come. Within the last couple of years it has become ‘normal’ for outlets to display images of dead people (okay, so it’s evil dictators, but it’s a precedent nonetheless) and even more recently, footage of them actually dying.

Couple this with the pain and humiliation people seem prepared to endure in order to get on TV in the first place (thank you Big Brother, Jackass, X-Factor etc) and it seems we have all the ingredients for a Death Race 2000 type reality show.

Someone should phone Simon Cowell. He’ll want to be in on the ground floor.

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