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What can the politics of science fiction universes tell us about the perils and possibilities of politics in the twenty-first century?

The politics of science fiction universes tend to warn readers in the twenty-first century about what can happen when political systems meet extreme technological advancement. However, some science fiction universes, like that in Star Trek, suggest that technological advancement could also be used in positive, productive ways.

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The politics of science fiction universes often serve as a warning about the potential negative impacts of our contemporary politics or as a positive model of what our world could one day be like.

Consider how many science fiction universes feature totalitarian governments or fascist-like rulers who have eliminated personal freedoms and exert complete control over their citizens. For example, in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the government uses a drug called soma to regulate everyone’s emotions.

Yes, political structures like this are fictional, but they all feature human behaviors that readers can conceptualize happening if the technology was possible. For example, in the twenty-first century, the government does not have a drug like soma, but the government does benefit from certain social media applications that distract the public from current events, make ungrounded political statements, and even track citizens’ personal information. In science fiction universes, this sort of behavior has resulted in totalitarian control and loss of individual expression, which suggests that the political track society is currently on might result in a more controlled society in the future.

However, some science fiction universes feature more positive behavior and values and suggest that in the future, humanity might be able to live in a more peaceful and productive world. For example, consider famous televisions series like Star Trek, in which humans have mastered space travel and can explore faraway planets in short periods of time. In these universes, humans have used technological advancement for good, to learn about the world and learn from the creatures on other planets.

Ultimately, science fiction universes combine features of contemporary political systems with new practices that critique contemporary values or suggest what values we should have now to get to a better future.

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