Watching the film Logan, my thoughts led me on an interesting route; one I thought of sharing in this post.
This latest installment in the Wolverine series, takes place in 2029; well over a decade from now. Keeping in mind that this X-Man tale unravels in a universe parallel to ours, what struck me as strange – well, one of the oddities, was that the future looked too much like our own current reality, that is, of 2017. The only notable difference was the self-driving trucks on the highway. Everything else, including the mobile phones used by the film’s characters, were very much like what we use today. Really? I was thinking, mobile phones change semi-annually, if not more frequently, and the filmmakers show us 2029 model that are similar to the ones used in 2017? Granted, it’s a parallel universe, and there is creative freedom, but still, is this simply lack of imagination, or there is something deeper going on?
It is quite rare to find authors who can envision a future that is truly original. To dare contemplate a Black president back in the 1960s, or even just voice I have a dream, to write a future that includes robots back in the 1930s, such as Asimov did, to image paradigms that will be so dramatically different, is no easy fit. So many aspects of our lives are bound to change; so many factors involved in such a transformation, that a storyteller cannot be put at fault for holding on to some elements of our current reality. Even Star Wars, the film that didn’t invent Sci-Fi but definitely affected the genre like few others, was able to be just so original in conceiving its far, far away galaxy. If we take a closer look, the Star Wars universe is mostly made of variants on our own reality. In other words, one would hardly find in it totally new ideas of the sort that we do not know that we do not know.
There is no need to travel far in space and time to illustrate the above. Looking at our society today, it occurred to me that we consider ourselves progressive; well, at least a number of us do. Maybe the Amish and some members of the GOP still think progressive is a rude word, but for the most part, I find that even conservatives feel that, as a whole, humanity had made a significant progress in a fairly short amount of time. Yet, let’s look at something as basic as measurements; units we use to call out length, time, and the likes. We use 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour.
“Our 24-hour day comes from the ancient Egyptians who divided day-time into 10 hours they measured with devices such as shadow clocks, and added a twilight hour at the beginning and another one at the end of the day-time.”. And 60 minute? Oh, that we own to the ancient Babylonians “…who had a predilection for using numbers to the base 60. For example, III II (using slightly different strokes) meant three times 60 plus two or 182.”.
While I am sure this made perfect sense at the time, does it still make sense today? Wouldn’t a metric system be more rational?
“In 1998, the Swiss watch company Swatch introduced the concept of a decimal Internet Time in which the day is divided into 1000 ‘beats’ so that each beat is equal to 1 minute 26.4 seconds. The beats were denoted by the @ symbol, so that, for example, @250 denotes a time period equal to six hours.”.
So far there are no takers for this innovation. Progressive as we may be, we still use ancient and quite irrational, at least in my opinion and by today’s standards, time system.
When it comes to other units such as length, we didn’t measure up much better either…
“At first an inch was the width of a man’s thumb. In the 14th century, King Edward II of England ruled that 1 inch equaled 3 grains of barley placed end to end lengthwise.”.
“A yard was originally the length of a man’s belt or girdle, as it was called. In the 12th century, King Henry I of England fixed the yard as the distance from his nose to the thumb of his out-stretched arm. Today it is 36 inches.”
The whole Imperial System of measurements seems to me more like a nightmare taken from the Brother Grimm fairy-tales. And while I understand how it came to be, decades have passed by without much innovation in that arena. That being said, some countries made the switch; yet others, including the USA, still linger with no clear end in sight. Metric makes soooo much more sense. But… to be fair, there is also the cost of change that must be considered. Moving onto a more rational time system, a metric system, is so superbly complex that the long-term reward does not seem to justify the immediate high price.
This line of thinking led me realize, that the same applied to us, as individuals, through our own lives.
We may stare at the tall pile of papers sitting on our desk, quietly cursing as we sift through it, searching for that single document, rather than make the onetime effort of sorting that mess once and for all, making our lives much easier thereafter. We may hold on to a broken relationship that we recognize doesn’t work, with the notion of ‘better the devil you know’, than dump it, and go through the full process of getting to know someone else anew. We weigh the price of change, compare it to the immediate benefits, and make a short-term decision: keep rather than change.
My insight out of this long and winding thought process that started, mind you, with the film Logan, is that cost and reward are not as simple to calculate as I first wanted to believe. This is because the price is typically immediate and thus hurts much more, while the reward is long-term and requires vision and patience. And we, humans, society at large, myself absolutely included, find patience in short supply. I have not yet found a way to more easily comprehend long-term reward that will motivate me to pay the short-term price. That is not to say that I do not change; change is something I practice daily. One large-scale example for me is the relocating of my family from NY to NC; a move that was done with a long-term vision in mind, and that, so far, proved beneficial and absolutely worth the material, mental and emotional price. But on a smaller scale, is it so much easier to duct-tape and patch, rather than take care of the root cause. This too is work-in-progress…
Learned from: a scene with a mobile phone in the film Logan
p.s. Read my review of the film Logan here.