The Mystery of the Seven Sisters
On August 31, a new anti-dystopia film “The Secret of the Seven Sisters” with Numi Rapas in the title role – a thriller about the world of the future, where due to the overpopulation of the Earth, married couples are allowed to have only one child. Tommy Virkola’s tape is not the first and not the last gloomy fantasy of filmmakers about how life will be organized on the planet, when all the unsolved common human problems will reach a critical point. Cinema often shows the result of such possible solutions. Can people in the future really be deprived of emotions and what will this turn out for humanity? What will happen if the Judgment night is really legalized? What is more likely to threaten humanity – overpopulation and lack of resources or infertility?
KinoSearch asked the philosopher, political scientist and culturologist to comment on the popular plots of anti-utopias and to suggest which of them can expect us in the real future. Answer to the question the candidate of historical sciences, professor NRU “Higher School of Economics” Sergei Medvedev, PhD, and Associate Professor of the HSE Kirill Martynov and professor of the Department and the HSE media Shaninki (Higher School of Social and Economic Sciences) Egor Isaev.
Demography and politics
In the film “The Secret of the Seven Sisters”, overpopulation of the planet reached a critical level, so it was decided to introduce the law “one family – one child”.
The Mystery of the Seven Sisters
Martynov: Specifically, this scenario of the demographic apocalypse seems to me not very likely. On the one hand, the population of the Earth continues to grow, but on the other – many regions remain vacant, underpopulated. And, most importantly, emerging technologies – particularly those related to agriculture (the same notorious GMO, which we all so fight) – that allow you to each step to maintain an acceptable and an even better standard of living for a growing population.
The second argument here is that, from the experience of Western Europe and the experience of developed countries in general, we see that there is a more or less natural regulatory mechanism that suggests that if you have a sufficiently high population density and a fairly long life expectancy of each of a particular person, then people tend to reproduce less and less, as was typical for the generation of their ancestors or for the inhabitants of less developed countries.
Isaev: It’s possible. In fact, the problem of overpopulation is a problem of lack of resources, and the key point here is that the culture of humanity or some group does not have time to adapt due to a powerful technological boom. In this case, the birth rate rises sharply, the death rate of children, say, tends to zero, and all this ultimately leads to hunger and so on and so forth. In general, in any case, everything will be corrected, but the problem is that it will be corrected by this eerie kind of famine or similar things. Here we must immediately note that such measures in China have been used for 60 years already and are just a state policy in the field of birth control.
If we are talking about Europe, then the culture had time to adapt after the technologies, because in general the technologies of the last few centuries were invented here. Therefore, if we now look at the average birth rate in Europe, it is about two children per family. Thus, people self-regulate, they do not need government intervention to introduce some kind of law. My opinion: yes, probably, this can happen if we suddenly invent some kind of technology that will bring a person closer to immortality. And the probability of such an invention in the near future is quite high. Because of this, most likely, such a law will be.
Medvedev: I think yes. More biopolitics can be conducted, as in China. We see uncontrolled population growth in the most resource-unsecured regions of the planet. Especially where there is lack of water, lack of land, lack of work and other resources. This is a tough scenario in terms of regulation and regulation of human life. It gives away such demographic fascism, but I think that this can be repeated when a combination of scarcity of resources and authoritarian rule.
In the series “Pines”, on the contrary, in order to recreate the population, people should pair and give birth to children.
Martynov: While the present state exists in its present form, it is rather difficult for us to imagine such a plot, because forced reproductive activity strongly contradicts the basic values that the Western world declares. And it is connected even with the sexual revolution as such, but with such common liberal rights as a woman’s right to dispose of the body (do not give birth, if she does not want to give birth), the right of people to give up childbearing, if they believe that they have any other values.
In short, to imagine such a scenario, we must admit not only the scenario of some technological disintegration of society and radical depopulation, but also the situation of the state and society’s rejection of the values around which it is currently being built. I would say that the scenario with forced reproductive capacity, rather, is possible not as a result of the appearance of some repressive state agent, but due to some other forms of brainwashing. It is relatively easy, for example, to imagine a sect in which it becomes a reality. But already there is a completely different rationale could be related to the fact that the rest of the world lies in sin, and designed to save merged, and their task – to save as many as possible, but without going into the outside world, this can be achieved only by means of reproduction.
Isaev: An interesting question, which is often played out in anti-utopias, who have come to a more or less stable state. He can decide, of course, far from the way in this series, but with the help of festivals and orgies. This seems to be the most practical solution to this problem, and in part this is why the series “Pines” looks so fresh.
Medvedev: This is also possible. This in some form is in Russia, for example. Kadyrov, forcing divorced spouses to reunite, has already connected a thousand pairs back. There are various programs to stimulate childbearing, starting with maternal capital and ending with various restrictive measures (to make condoms unavailable, to withdraw from the mandatory health insurance system or to prohibit abortion).
More industrialized countries are also trying to regulate the birth rate, demography. In Norway, for example, very good fertility. But there is provided a social infrastructure, it favors the birth and upbringing of the child. Both fathers and mothers are given large holidays to care for the child while maintaining full content. In short, there are positive ways to act through an active social policy, and there are prohibitive measures – abolishing sex education in schools, limiting the availability of condoms. In any case, this is already happening and will occur more and more in different parts of the planet.
In the series “The Story of a Servant”, most women are deprived of the opportunity to have children, and those who are able to actually become slaves.
“Story of the maid”
Martynov: We can absolutely roll back to the Middle Ages. Maybe it will be a rollback not universal, but the rollback of some regions we saw quite clearly in the second half of the 20th century. All perceive “The Handmaid’s Tale” as a kind of social science fiction, but in fact you can just take pictures of Kabul or Tehran in 1950-1970-ies, compared with what looked like the city and its inhabitants, and how, in particular, looked like a woman. And then the story about the establishment of religious-fundamentalist neopatriarchy in the US will not look like something in principle absurd and impossible.
In general, this is one of the characteristic illusions of the modern world: it seems to us that the freedoms that we have are given to us within the framework of a certain natural law. That is, there are people, and nobody tells them how to live. And we as a whole are used to it and feel that it has always been, and in fact the script with the emergence of some species of the Islamic State, or the Taliban, or Christian and neo-Christian sects, or even some unknown nonsense – this scenario is realistic, this is not fiction at all. This is something that is constantly happening in the world.
“Story of the maid”
Medvedev: I see no reason why people should become barren. Another thing is that people do not want to have children. The birth of a child does not become an obligatory stage of a person’s life, it becomes an act of choice. More and more established and advanced people knowingly refuse the birth of a child. On the other hand, more and more we see surrogate motherhood, we see how women from disadvantaged regions of the world provide their bodies for purely biological functions. But still in the world there are basic ideas about human rights. Even if it is a powerless migrant, to use her body as a sow for the birth of children – I do not think that it is possible.
A world without emotions, resources and diversity
In the film “Dropout”, the resources of the planet are exhausted so much that the government introduces a norm – to reduce the population of the country by 5% every year with the help of a test for schoolchildren. Those who failed will be destroyed.
Martynov: Human stupidity, of course, can reach this. By the way, many like it. For example, Plato had a similar version, although he did not offer to kill the most stupid, but he offered to arrange an examination in order to determine who rules and who goes to the peasantry or in custody. I think there are two problems here. First: any test is not a successful way of measuring anything, because many human talents and achievements are absolutely contextual, and by setting an artificial criterion, you do not disclose anything about these talents. There is also a question of who made this test, what kind of political interests they had. And most of all I am concerned about the way the border between acceptable level and unacceptable. The same questions arise in the debate about the electoral qualification, when there are people who say that, you know, democracy is a very bad thing, because many fools vote. Let’s get together, we’re smart, we’ll cut all the superfluous and do everything right. But it does not work very well.
The second problem: even in the medium term, we do not understand well what kind of human inclinations or characteristics will be important for the development and prosperity of mankind. The fashion theme in recent years is neurodiversity, which suggests that one should not consider, for example, autism as a deviation. Perhaps the bearers of this psychological model are able to solve the problems that people face in a different way. And since we do not know what problems humanity will have in the future, the more people are diverse, the more adapted they are to survival. The advantage of the current world is that there is no examination and there are no right and wrong answers, and everyone can try to find answers for themselves independently of others.
Isaev: It is more likely, as it seems to me, to limit the number of children with the subsequent gene modification. And this really should frighten.
Medvedev: Here we are talking about eugenics, the principles of artificial selection, raised in the norms of social policy. But this is pure fascism. Again, everything was already there. This is what the Hitlerite Reich was doing: exiled to concentration camps and burned people who were considered mentally defective, did not belong to the right race, and so on. Partly, in the Stalinist Soviet Union, it was so when they removed the disabled from the streets and actually destroyed them, sending them to the settlement. Unfortunately, the Enlightenment has led us into such dead ends and jungle. I hope that in such a fascist way this will not be applied.
But the same Russia is now based not on the principles of social solidarity, but on the principles of social Darwinism. The weakest and most incapable of survival are being weeded out. For example, how to name the policy of the state in relation to the abandoned villages where old people die, people who sleep in schools, polyclinics, take off buses, trains, do not come to them? In fact, the state cuts off whole regions and whole sections of the population from itself, leaving them to the will of fate. It’s like the old people send to die in the forest, roughly speaking. Entire layers of the population go to the forest to die. This is also a clipping of the least successful.
In the “Divergent”, in order to avoid conflicts, the society was divided into five factions: “Sincerity”, “Fearlessness”, “Erudition”, “Friendliness” or “Renunciation”.
Martynov: It’s like the faculties in Harry Potter. We see that such ideas find a great response in the modern world. Partly because people, of course, need identities and need some kind of collective symbols, totems. In general, people need to be told who they are. If someone came to me when I was a teenager, and explained that I belong to one of these great factions, I would probably be happy. It would be psychologically clearer to me what to do next. But, of course, it all reminds such medieval guilds, roughly speaking. And as far as we can transfer these rules of dividing society into rigid, semi-closed structures in some modern or post-modern world, the question is at least open.
It seems to me intuitively that it would not be very good for society. We rather pay today with estrangement and the fact that we do not know who we really are, for our freedom, although limited, but still more or less real. And, probably, the society of free people is more viable, although more fragile. In general, the theme of the “Divergent” can be imposed on Russia. There are caste siloviki. In your childhood you are told: you have a dad, a major, son, and you too will be a major. Your ability to talk about it. Well, what kind of society can happen? The situation, economic and political structure can simply change, and the whole society will simply disintegrate, as we saw it in 1991.
Isaev: Absolutely crazy categorization. Probably, it is possible to divide by values (not by race, nation and blood), but the point is that, firstly, new ideas and meanings are always born in their contact – it is here that development (and therefore stable, and above all , adaptive state of society). Secondly, their carriers tend to change, so trying to identify some long-term semantic or personal features is silly. The only thing that remains is a temperament, but as you know, people with one temperament often can not get along with each other, because they are too similar.
Medvedev: Why invent something? Everything has already been invented. In India there are castes: caste brahmana, caste kshatriyev, warriors, caste merchants, vaisyas, sudra, untouchables. In Russia, it already exists. We have estates. The estate of power, for example, and untouchable people who belong to power. There is a class of guards, cops. There is a draft population, which is to pay taxes. As a rule, social development goes away from this. Everywhere there should be human rights, equality of man and citizen.
All these anti-utopias are built on a mechanistic view of society. As if there is a demiurge, there are a lot of people in front of him, and he can divide it in five cans like cockroaches in a bank. But humanity is not like that. There is no demiurge who can take and divorce mankind in five stalls. The person becomes more complicated, the society becomes more complicated, new technologies appear, the borders are transparent, the states disintegrate. In this respect, no total scenario for humanity at all is impossible. If we talk about some social realities, I do not believe that there will be one social technology that will cover the whole world. The world is very complex and diverse.
In the film “Equilibrium”, in order to avoid further problems with wars, it was decided to deprive people of emotions with the help of a special preparation “Prozium”. A similar scenario in the movie “Equal”, where members of the new ideal society, in which there are no wars, conflicts, diseases and emotions, are considered dangerous sick by those who are able to feel and experience emotions.
Martynov: An honest answer will be boring, but it is that it does not work very much, because in general the concept of “Equilibrium” and partly the concept of writer Aldous Huxley, on which he is indirectly based, suggests that in the human mind there is a separate intellectual sphere and a separate emotional sphere. The third can be identified strong-willed. And each of them can be either blocked or lifted with the help of some neurochemical means.
Even being superficially familiar with modern neurophysiology, I understand that it is rather impossible. Simply for the reason that, for example, phrases like “the joy of scientific discovery”, “the joy of victory” or “the bitterness of defeat” is not a metaphor at all. This is a real hormonal emotional background for any cognitive process, and without this background no person, no knowledge will simply be. There are concrete researchers – Antonio Damasio, for example – who introduce the concept of emotional intelligence (“emotional mind”) and simply show that all this old division into intellect and emotions is more or less pointless.
Isaev: Stupidity. It is not very clear how to motivate or awaken the creative (creative) beginning in a person after such an experiment. Even the exploiters themselves will be unhappy.
Medvedev: Well, in part all these medications are from emotions – it’s Prozac, antidepressants, mood modulators. These mechanisms are known, they exist. But, I think not. It seems to me an absolutely strange script. It is possible to save mankind from thoughts, to make a lobotomy. You can get rid of emotions. You can all castrate. There will not be any wars either. This is already very speculative, fantastic experiments.
The power of technocrats and technology
In the film “Aeon Flux” the action takes place in the future, when 99% of the world’s population died after the 2011 epidemic. The survivors of several million people are founding a city where the technocratic dynasty ruled for 400 years.
Martynov: There are people who are excited about the idea that scientists are busy with something very important, they understand a lot about life. But scientists are engaged in just quite special things, almost not related to the management of political processes, people, management, and so on. This is not theirs at all. Some other must be super abilities. There is no reason why scientists should rule someone. In all of human history, by the way, I do not know of any example of the government of scientists. Scientists have always suffered because they can invent something that will prove useful to the bosses, and then they will live with it. A typical example is an atomic bomb.
Isaev: Technocracy is an imperious system that is formed depending on the knowledge, abilities and abilities of individuals and is possible only with a very small population, since with a larger population, skills of organization, communication and building relationships with oneself are important. This allows you to create more complex, sometimes even fantastic products. Two important characteristics of the human community is the phenomenon of the collective and the ability to collective organization. It is curious that this also applies to the totalitarian system. It is unlikely that we can call Hitler or Stalin specialists of any narrow (and even broad) profile. These are rather people who persuaded or forced others to act on the basis of their own desires and intentions, simultaneously forming them into radical myths and constructs.
Medvedev: No, it does not seem possible to me. I do not see any kind of subjectivity in scientists at all. Technocrats are always devoted to power. Power grasps the politicians. Scientists do not have such political subjectivity to seize power. Here are the fears of a man in front of the machine, the fears of man before knowledge, the complexity of the world. Against the backdrop of these fears, there are such fantastic, mythological figures of a mad scientist or community of scientists who own some unique technology and begin to rule the world.
Scientists are the same members of society, they are simply put at the service of politicians. Often remember Nazi Germany, here it is for a very short period of time gave clear examples. Here is Dr. Mengele, experiments in concentration camps – is this the power of mad scientists? No, it’s German culture, politics, to some extent the European civilization has produced such a monstrous flower of evil. And he wove into himself and poets, and scientists, and politicians, and military. And then he blossomed, smelled fetidly and burst. Apparently, such flowers will blossom periodically, but this does not mean that scientists will seize power over the world.
The action of Steven Spielberg’s next film “The First Player to Be Prepared” takes place in 2045. The protagonist of the anti-utopian world of the future, teenager Wade Owen Watts, lives in a dirty, overpopulated world where violence and vices reign. People have only one interest – the computer game Oasis, plunges the player into the fascinating world of virtual reality, distracting from the pressing problems.
“The first player to prepare”
Martynov: Here the most important thing you need to know is that there are studies in the field of neurophysiology that intelligibly explain what video games are enjoyable. Video games do not have a strong penal system, that is, no one will tear your leg or kill you in real life, after you lose this video game. And at the same time there is a fairly intensive system of incentives. In its simplest form, it looks like your name in the line of the people who scored the most points, and in more complex cases it looks like a system of achivok, your own stream channel, where other enthusiastic players watch you. Neurophysiology says that, in principle, it does not matter what kind of encouragement we get. In order for you to be happy, happy, confident person, it’s not so important whether you went on some cool date or won in Counter-Strike. The brain both like it.
Therefore, I think that the scenario of the proliferation of various forms of virtual virtual reality in our daily lives is quite reasonable. It’s another matter that we would like humanity to use the capabilities of its brain not entirely in vain. Already, the line between video games and reality is not as rigidly built as Spielberg imagined. Even if we take this story about streamers. The streamer that sits and shows everyone how he plays, is he in what world is he? He went into escapism, into the virtual world? Or does he get real money from real people and generally the show business star is no worse than Spielberg?
The power of the absurd
In the film “The Last Night”, after the US experienced some economic decline, the US government (“the new founding fathers of the United States”) established a totalitarian regime and a police state. Using the 28th Amendment of the American Constitution, they created such a phenomenon as the Judgment Night, when once a year, from 19:00 on March 21 until 7:00 the next day, criminal activity, including murder, was allowed.
“The Night of Judgment”
Martynov: I think many of these stories are written simply from boredom, because the writers did not know what else to do with people to think of. It is clear that this is a reference to the carnival, when respectable citizens turn into murderers. But I have two objections at once. First, it is clearly impossible to kill many people overnight, especially if everyone knows when it happens. And secondly, I do not understand how this could be balanced. After all, if the state does not protect my security for one night, it means that I have to hire a private security agency and take revenge. Or try to do it yourself. That is, it’s just a social contract that looks unacceptable, it leads to absurd consequences. I do not forget what happens this night. No, it does not really work. The benefits are not obvious, but the risks are great. And if the president is killed?
Medvedev: Ask yourself: here you are allowed to do anything for 24 hours. What will you do? Will you go kill your enemies? Steal all the money you can? Grabaneet ATM? Still, then live with your conscience. I just think that man is by nature good. Someone proceeds from the Hobbesian idea that man is essentially evil by nature, only the supervision of the Leviathan state keeps him from cutting all his relatives.
“The Night of Judgment”
I have a slightly different view of humanity, more optimistic, Kant, whether that: “The starry sky is above us, and the moral law is inside us.” In any society there are a lot of deviants capable of robbing, killing, and doing everything to maximize their own profit, but nowhere, I hope, it does not go over critical. So, it seems to me that most people on this Judgment night will not do anything. You just have to go through this night with your loved ones, with those you trust, and then the day will come.