When I watched Blade Runner 2049 in the theatre two years ago, I was profoundly moved by Denis Villeneuve's vision of Las Vegas, a sandblasted, orange-hued, radiation-scarred wasteland littered with the gigantic fallen idols of exploitative, runaway capitalist excess. Just as in Ridley Scott's original Blade Runner film, Villeneuve presents us with what some science fiction critics call a "crapsack world," one ruined by some kind of catastrophe, usually caused by humanity's shortsighted folly. In the case of the world of Blade Runner, the wildly overpopulated and perpetually rain-slicked dystopia of November 2019 (we know the date from the film's title card) is an environment so oppressive that the abused androids have more humanity than the actual humans in the film. If anything, the world of Decker and the Nexus androids has grown even more bleak by 2049, still a world divided between the rich elite and the exploited masses, human and manmade, kept in line by bread, circuses, and to perhaps a lesser extent the implied threat of quasi-fascist police violence. Both movies are gorgeous, thought-provoking, and ultimately heartbreaking. The films, together with the book, are a warning: this is the way the world is headed, if not in fine detail, then in general outcomes.
Now our timeline has caught up with that of the first Blade Runner film. It's November 2019, and while our world can't quite yet be called a dystopian crapsack, I wonder how it will look in 2049, or 2099. If we are very fortunate, the visions of Scott and Villeneuve and, of course, the visionary Philip K. Dick, will have scared just enough of us just enough to steer the ship of history on a better course.