Aidan Monaghan/Magnolia Pictures

20 Eerie J. G. Ballard Predictions About the Future

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Kicking off this weekend at Anthology Film Archives is a retrospective of films inspired by the writing of British author J.G. Ballard, ”whose uncompromising, fearless, and sometimes frighteningly penetrating vision of our modern, technological society, and the psychological and erotic dimensions that underlie it, manifested itself in 19 masterful novels and many dozens of short stories.” The series coincides with Ben Wheatley’s new adaptation of Ballard’s 1975 novel, High-Rise. Ballard was rather vocal about his provocative vision of the future during his lifetime, thanks to his interest in media and technology. The author envisioned a reality that has eerily manifested in many ways already, which we capture in these 20 quotes about Ballard’s vision for the future.

“I would sum up my fear about the future in one word: boring. And that’s my one fear: that everything has happened; nothing exciting or new or interesting is ever going to happen again … the future is just going to be a vast, conforming suburb of the soul.”

“The advanced societies of the future will not be governed by reason. They will be driven by irrationality, by competing systems of psychopathology.”

“Everything is becoming science fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century.”

“The future is a better key to the present than the past.”

“The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now: the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Vietnam.”

“What our children have to fear is not the cars on the highways of tomorrow but our own pleasure in calculating the most elegant parameters of their deaths.”

“Does the future still have a future?”

“Some people have suggested that mental illness is a kind of adaptation to the sort of circumstances that will arise in the future. As we move towards a more and more psychotic landscape, the psychotic traits are signs of a kind of Darwinian adaptation.”

“Already we can see, a little sadly perhaps, the beginnings of a world without play.”

“Bourgeois life is crushing the imagination from this planet. In due course this will provoke a backlash, since the imagination can never be wholly repressed. A new surrealism will probably be born.”

“Women have always been suppressed, and never given the chance to flourish intellectually. When the first female Darwin or Freud appears it will have an astonishingly liberating force, and could change the world in an almost religious way. Perhaps this is the messiah we’re unconsciously waiting for.”

“Sex times technology equals the future.”

“It’s always been assumed that the evolutionary slope reaches forever upwards, but in fact the peak has already been reached, the pathway now leads downwards to the common biological grave. It’s a despairing and at present unacceptable vision of the future, but it’s the only one.”

“Everything’s designed to be bland, homogenised, user-friendly. As someone says in the book (and I’ve used it before, I know, but it’s a slogan I’m going to keep pushing) the totalitarian regimes of the future will be ingratiating, subservient. No longer will it be Orwell’s vision of a boot stamping on a human face. We’ll have something highly subservient and ingratiating, where the tyranny is imposed for our own good. We see it all the time.”

“Our governments are preparing us for a future without work, and that includes the petty criminals . . . The psychopath, with his inward imagination, will thrive. He is already doing so.”

“We now live in the present, unconsciously uneasy at the future, and this short-term viewpoint does have dangers. We know that, as human beings, we are all deeply flawed and dangerous, but this self-knowledge can act as a brake on hope and idealism.”

“We’re conditioned into docility. There are hints that a benign version of a Sadeian society is still emerging, of tormentors and willing victims.”

“I think the main threat in the future is not to personal relationships, which will thrive despite easier divorce and the breakdown of the extended family, etc. I think the danger our children and grandchildren face lies in the decline and collapse of the public realm. Politics, the Church, the monarchy are all slowly sinking back into the swamp from which they rose in the first place. We stand on the shore, watching as they wave their rattles and shout their promises, while the ooze sucks at their feet. When the clamour at last subsides we will return to our suburbs, ready to obey the traffic lights and observe the civic codes that keep the streets safe for children and the elderly. But a small minority will soon be bored, and realise that in a totally sane society madness is the only freedom. So random acts of violence will break out in supermarkets and shopping malls where we pass our most contented hours. Surprisingly, we will deplore these meaningless crimes but feel energised by them.”

“The future is probably going to be something like Las Vegas.”

“A lot of my prophecies about the alienated society are going to come true . . . Everybody’s going to be starring in their own porno films as extensions of the Polaroid camera. Electronic aids, particularly domestic computers, will help the inner migration, the opting out of reality. Reality is no longer going to be the stuff out there, but the stuff inside your head. It’s going to be commercial and nasty at the same time, like “Rite of Spring” in Disney’s Fantasia … our internal devils may destroy and renew us through the technological overload we’ve invoked.”