Saturday, November 12, 2016

Last Call For The Jackpot Years

Legendary science fiction author William Gibson wrote The Peripheral in 2014, a book split into two possible futures, a bleak near future maybe 20 years out from now, and a further one in the 22nd century after a mutli-decade long systemic collapse of human civilization called the "Jackpot".

Gibson defines the Jackpot here:

William Gibson defines the Jackpot Years from m1k3y on Vimeo.

"Something that...struck me that I never noticed before is that our cultural model of the apocalypse is uni-causal and of very brief duration. So, Triffids come, world ends. Post-apocalypse. United States and U.S.S.R nuke each other to mutual destruction. Post-apocalypse. Like it's one thing and it happens.

And I thought "What if the apocalypse were multi-causal, complexly systemic, and took 40 or 50 years?" Actually, I initially thought "What if it took 400 years or 500 years?"  But that was too much time for my story, so I got it...down to 40. There's no reason why that wouldn't happen, that I can see. And actually, that's a lot more likely than a brief, uni-causal event.

But...I don't think we have the cultural equipment to hold that idea readily in our heads. It's not part of our mythology, despite the possibility that we might be already living in it. And that that fact may account for these creepy feelings that some of you have been having (laughs). Myself included!

"Jackpot" is of course a term of bitter irony, where all the wheels of fate came up perfectly in a once-in-an-epoch spin that left most of humanity dead after a systemic cascade failure scenario, one event led to a "new normal" and another even followed that, and another followed that, and by the time people realized what was going on the avalanche was in motion and nothing could stop it. The Dark Ages after all didn't just happen one idle, sunny Thursday

Probably the best parallel historically we have here is the US Civil War, merely the culmination of a number of events that began in the 1820s with states entering the Union after the Missouri Compromise, which led to Nat Turner's rebellion in 1831, the Mexican-American War, and so on, multi-causal, systemic, and deadly, costing 2.5% of the country's population over 40 years.

Are we in a Jackpot years scenario now?  I don't honestly know.

Worth thinking about though.

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