"Have a better one."
This line, a social expression from Blade Runner, is an example of the genius of the genre. In case you weren't around in the 80s, it had by then become the post-post-modern cliche to part company with the phrase "Have a Nice Day." Both sincere and meaningless in its over-use, easy off-the-cuff parting-shot. What literally appears as an intention to bid pleasantries upon person becomes a signifier that culture had slipped into dystopia. Optimism IS pessimism, the double-think of Orwell's 1984 (now in 2017 thanks to Trumps inauguration as President has rapidly become the American best selling book of all time). Everybody has ended up hating 'nice'. What exactly does that word mean anyway? While on the topic, how significant is the suffix '-ration' in augers?*
"Have a better one" sums up that we are now in the post-nicety world, retaining the original nicety of intention by admitting to the shit we live in daily. The general common understanding, 'the level' as Masons describe it, is now the wry cynical irony which is not quite yet bitchy satire. Perhaps it is but even so we have shifted over: yesterdays bitch is today's common sense practicality simply because of Normalization. Nice and Normal.
In the distraction of escapist fiction we identify with the dystopian situations of the Protagonist because it helps us to come to terms with our own. We find solace in familiarity and there is a bitter-sweet brutal-soft comfort in that. Because our generation had it hard.
Technology was the stained glass window citadel promising A Better Tomorrow if we can only get through today. Better than facing up to the depression of futility.
It changes, inevitably. In the 80s "cyberpunk" was all about integration with the machine through cosmetic consumer cyber-augmentation. In the 80s most people did not own what we now call 'computers'. The media told us we needed strap-on digital watches. People owned pocket calculators. A thing which can do what your desktop can do would occupy a whole floor of an office block. The word 'tablet' had not been invented yet. The memory size of desktop computers was measured in kilobytes. Virtual Reality was the promise of tomorrow.
It was about synthesis, replacement, although (outside of the pharmacology and petro-chemical industries which now monopolize lifestyle) that theme did not truly emerge as its own stronghold until the 90s. By the late 90s enough people had desktop computers that you knew someone who had one, or had one yourself. Their memory size was measured in megabytes. Most kids had game consoles the memory size of which measured in kilobytes. Augmented reality was the promise of tomorrow.
Linden Labs opened the worlds premier Virtual Reality platform SecondLife on June 23, 2003. By 2013 Second Life had approximately 1 million regular users.** It was 2015 before Virtual Reality Headsets became a viable consumer commodity. The Oculus Rift headsets sold out just 14 minutes after being made available.***
So here we are almost in the 2020s and it is a long way from Cyberpunk2020. What cyberpunk did not foresee is that enough thought, energy and finances would be invested into cleaning up the shit left by generations of 20th century industrial consumerism that despite the oil and nuclear spills, our energy needs will be provided by ecological sources. The transition out of 80s cyberpunk and into post-millennial solarpunk (eco-punk) is occurring. Elon Musk's cost effective solar-panel roof-tiles will guarantee this even if the drive toward free energy technology is not occurring on a corporate scale because humanity has not yet proved itself responsible enough to deal with that.
Are we yet at that stage? No not quite. The oceans are full of plastic which has irreparably destroyed large parts of aquatic ecologies. The oceans are contaminated with nuclear fallout from the Fukishima disaster which has still not been plugged and is worse now than when I began writing this blog. Technologies are being (slowly, too damn slowly) developed to fix radiation by genius scientists such as John Hutchinson and his pioneering work into Scalar physics.
We are still living within "have a better one" because there is still a lot of work to do. Yet we can now see a light at the end of the tunnel, something which did not exist previously within the classic Cyberpunk milieu. The despair is lifting. We are aiming to achieve our grandkids regularly saying "Having a good one."
Cyberpunk as a genre is retro at its default setting. When it drops the dystopian outlook it becomes something else. Post-cyberpunk which is currently being described as Solarpunk due the focus on free energy technologies and ecological sustainability. The 1990s/2000s millennial rising awareness that permaculture is necessary for sustainability has two facets. That we are self responsible pioneers and do it for ourselves is made almost impossible because of state control, land ownership and poverty. That mass-produced consumerism is, because of the overriding rule of 'convenience culture' is mainstream Human lifestyle by default setting' going to be how it happens for most people. The new wave of eco-corporations will be instituting ecological sufficiency for us in such a way as to make it easy. It didn't happen overnight which "the hippies and crusties" have been trying to do since the 70s. Transition takes generations. The transition of attitude is no exception.