Ray Bradbury died on June 6th. He was 91.
With Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein, Bradbury was one of a quartet of science fiction writers whose work kept me off the street, at least some of the time. I read John Wyndham and Anne McCaffrey, too, and plenty of other, more “literary” works; but in the 1960s it was the output of Bradbury and company that kept me coming back to my town’s modest library.
Bradbury wrote a lot of short stories, hundreds of them. There are at least two anthologies, each with 100 different stories. Many found their way to television as content for The Ray Bradbury Theatre, originally on HBO in the mid 1980s. The show was in the same vein as The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone, to which Bradbury contributed one episode, “I Sing The Body Electric,” itself based on a Walt Whitman poem of the same name.
Ironically, for a science fiction writer, Bradbury was perhaps something of a technophobe. Famously, the author of Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, eschewed even a driver’s license – no small thing for a Los Angelino.
In fact, Bradbury’s writings evinced a deep mistrust of technology, all the while demonstrating a thorough understanding of it, and not just the technology of the day, but of the future.
One of his more poignant pieces, “The Veldt,” was Bradbury’s take on virtual reality. The technology central to the story undoubtedly served as the basis for Star Trek’s “holo-deck.” It was written in the late 1940s and first published in 1950.
This (very) short story deals with the effects of technology on children. It is a cautionary tale of obsession with tech and it’s alienating effects on our lifestyle. “The Veldt” is a polemic on the diminution of interpersonal communication. Talk about prescience!
You can read “The Veldt” in its entirety here: http://www.veddma.com/veddma/Veldt.htm
The story lives on. In 2012, it spawned a song of the same name by Toronto uber-producer, Deadmau5. If electro-house music is your bag… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSANu-oAHHQ .
In any case, I’m not so sure about technology as the instrument of the demise of human interaction. There’s an obvious case to be made that it can do just the opposite.
What I am sure of is that technology, particularly social media, predicted with varying degrees of success by science fiction writers of the 1950s and 60s, has changed not only how we interact with one another but the way that consumers get information about companies and the products and services we provide. So much information is available online from independent sources that plain old “advertising” is seen as just that: plain, old, even untrustworthy.
Print ads and TV spots still have their place of course, in positioning products and companies, providing context and, drawing attention to “conversations.” Nevertheless, they are unidirectional in a new reality that is increasingly responsive to “dialogues.”
To be fair, it should be noted that banner ads on websites are also one-way only. General Motors made noise recently by pulling its advertising from Facebook just ahead of that online behemoth’s IPO. I suggest GM is simply applying an old paradigm to new media. One-way information flow isn’t working the way it used to, irrespective of the where it’s deployed. Maybe the General hasn’t changed that much after all.
Consumers seem to want the ability to interact, to question content or get independent perspectives. Trust in brand alone isn’t enough.
Increasingly PGePROPEL is being asked to create interactive programs that are measureable, that capture information about visitors (with their permission, of course) via a compelling web experience – typically a contest or value-add promotion. This information is then used to create a dialogue, a genuine two-way conversation. Clients as disparate as Dell Canada, Travel Guard Insurance and Prostate Cancer Canada seem to get it.
Technology has in fact become the enabler for people demanding interaction. It would have been fun to have a conversation with Mr. Bradbury about that. Since he lived in Los Angeles and I live in southern Ontario, we could have done so via Instant Messaging or Skype. Too bad we’ll never have that opportunity.
RIP Ray Bradbury.