The science journal Nature reviews the new book Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism by Christine Poggi. The review itself is a decent synopsis of the Futurist movement in art and literature and the role that modern technology played in shaping European political thought in the early 20th Century. (Note: the Italian Futurist utopian dream devolved rapidly into the very frightening march of fascism, and would eventually become our model for Blade Runner-style sci-fi dystopia…not something to idealize, but worth learning a lesson from)
The Futurists imagined a world governed by electricity. Their electrical fantasies, writes Poggi, take a Utopian turn in their vision and evolve into an orgy of violence. They saw Italy as being “fertilized” by electricity, banishing hunger, poverty, disease and work. Air temperature and ventilation would be controlled automatically, telephones would be wireless, and crops and forests would spring up at speed. But in this world of ease and plenty, fierce competition would arise over superabundant industrial production. War would break out, fought by “small mechanics” whose flesh resembled steel. Deploying “steel elephants” and battery-powered trains from afar, they would wage a thrilling interplanetary war.