Thanks to Neal Stephenson’s The Confusion, (Vol 2 of The Baroque Cycle) I’ve had to do something that I haven’t done since I started reading – read two books in parallel. Every 200 pages of The Confusion, I take a break and read a volume of The Hunger Games. Neal Stephenson, to me, is genius, and I’ve been a fan since I first read Snowcrash. I could speed read The Confusion, but I really want to pay attention and understand the nuances, the humour, the larger thought and so on. I cannot do that for 800 odd pages, hence this shift.

I only understood the ‘connection’ after I started reading The Hunger Games. The Baroque Cycle is set in late 17th-early 18th centuries, and uses an excellent mix of historical and fictional characters to cover a whole variety of themes. In some ways, it uses the past to understand the present. The Hunger Games, on the other hand, is set in a dystopian future, and shows a potential fate of humanity. It uses cues from the present to predict the future. The connection ends there, almost. Though at massively different levels, both require imagination, the former at a much more larger scale.

That’s what led me to think about imagination in the present. We’re in the midst of probably the biggest upheavals in the history of humanity – new technologies emerging at a rapid pace, institutional realignment, socio-cultural changes, behaviour alteration and so on. All of this means, that collectively, we’re having to run really fast just to cope. Where does that leave time for imagination? In fact, such is the assault on senses that I wonder if anything really disruptive is being written in the science fiction genre these days (I hope to be proven wrong and pointed in the right direction) because except for things like teleportation and time travel, pretty much everything that was science fiction is getting played out now, and so busy are we – trying to keep abreast – that science fiction is merely extrapolating the present (read) or giving alternate versions.

There is a term in psychology called Functional Fixedness, wiki-defined as “a cognitive bias that limits a person to using an object only in the way it is traditionally used.” With my limited knowledge, I wonder if that’s the dystopian future of the human imagination.

until next time, the end of collective imagination