Now, Neill Blomkamp is the acclaimed director of sci-fi flick District 9 and the upcoming Elysium. But not so long ago he was also an artist at visual effects firm The Embassy, which contributed illustrations to Popular Science articles. We've got those here, and also caught up with Blomkamp to get these two pieces of advice on making great science fiction.
"When I design something, whether it's for a movie or PopSci, I need to believe it can work. If I don't believe it, the audience won't either. What leads to a unified vision is when the director has all those visuals in his head."
TELL REAL STORIES
"Science fiction is just a filter to look at real life. I'm not trying to tell a story that takes place in 2154. Elysium is a rich-and-poor film. A hundred fifty years from now, Earth will probably look a lot like the film: mass poverty, plagues, disease, too many people, and too few resources. And all the crazy life-changing technology will be in concentrated areas of wealth, with armed guards at the gate. What happens then?"
District 9 was fairly obviously a commentary on the unique socioeconomic situation in South Africa where apartheid was the rule for nearly 5 decades. It was a terrific movie and we keep hoping for a sequel. Blomkamp's gloomy prediction of the state of the world in the next century is colored by his experiences growing up in South Africa but it doesn't reflect the situation in the rest of the world.
History has shown that the best insulation against the problems he describes--mass poverty, plagues, and disease--is wealth. And the quickest way to collective wealth is freedom, property rights and free markets. Access to cheap energy is vital and is a function of a free market.
The idea that too many people and too few resources is a problem is a simplified fantasy concocted by population alarmists who don't take time to understand the real underlying dynamics. Draw a line from Thomas Malthus through John Maynard Keynes to Paul Ehrlich; they all got it wrong.
For example, both Hong Kong and Mumbai are densely populated port cities and former British colonies with limited natural resources (arguably India has a wealth of natural resources). One is wealthy and the other poor. The difference? Economic policies. Until 1991, India had a socialist government with strong control of the market. Hong Kong meanwhile grew wealthy due to low taxes and a free market. After 1991 India adopted more liberal market policies and their GDP growth rate has increased dramatically as has their per capita wealth and standard of living.
A future world of widespread prosperity and peace hinges on the promotion of freedom and free markets around the globe, where currently about half of Earth's population lives in oppression and poverty. See Freedom House's annual "Freedom in the World" survey:
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