09 April 2017

The Wertzone: “How Judge Dredd predicted the future”

The “classic” Judge Dredd background is that presented between the 1982 storyline The Apocalypse War (which reduced the city from its even larger and more implausible beginnings) and the 2011-12 epic Day of Chaos (which all but destroyed the city altogether). The primary setting for Dredd stories in this time period is Mega-City One, a massive super-metropolis extending down the Eastern Seaboard of the former United States, stretching from Boston, Massachusetts to Charlotte, South Carolina and extending inland to the Great Lakes and the Appalachians. Over 400 million people live in this vast area, many of them crammed into huge tower blocks containing up to 50,000 people apiece.

By the early 22nd Century, AI, automation and robots have replaced all menial jobs in the city and many others related to customer service and even medicine and science. The unemployment rate swings from around 92% to 97%. The overwhelming majority of the population survives on a basic, state-provided income. Some people use their free time productively and energetically, creating works of art or music or literature. Others do not, spending all day in front of the television and eating unhealthily. Mega-City One is prone to fads or crazes, where a new idea sweeps the city and people take it up in droves before getting bored and moving on. Crazes can be relatively harmless to downright unhealthy (competitive mass-eating, reducing people to immobile blobs trapped in their apartments) to extremely dangerous (such as “Boinging”, or bouncing around the city in indestructible plastic bubbles, causing immense property damage along the way). Bored citizens sometimes get involved in crime or tribalism. In the worst cases, this tribalism can boil over into Block Wars: the people from one block blame the neighbouring one for having better food or services, or stealing their water, or being too noisy, and they end up fighting. Mega-City One is a seething cauldron of boredom, tensions and grievances, constantly on the verge of boiling over.

Adam Whitehead

While aspects of this fictional world are exaggerated, many of the trends predicted here are already taking shape in reality – some much faster than any sci-fi author could have imagined.

Map of the Pearl River Delta Megacity
The Pearl River Delta Megacity

There are other examples of prescient writing in science-fiction, like Heinlein anticipating the current political developments in the United States.

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