When I was a teenager living in Latin America, my family used to remark on how to even the poorest looking shacks would often have a large color television displayed prominently. These televisions were larger then ours and usually faced a window where it could be seen from outside the house. (Our own smaller television faced inward; large televisions would have been considered extravagant, and just a little déclassé.) How could poor people afford such expensive televisions? Because they were manufactured goods.
Which brings me to the movie Elysium. None of the economics in the movie made any sense. According to the vision of filmmaker Neill Blomkamp, in the future all the rich people will live on a space station where they hoard from earth their advanced medical technology, including especially a device called the “re-atomizer” (IIRC) which can heal at the molecular level any illness or disfiguration. Yet for some reason Elysium keeps on standby a fleet of massive medical spaceships that are apparently 1 channel bi an automated governing system add a moment's notice. These spaceships come complete with bays of re-atomizers. But why have these spaceships been built if the entire intent is to never launch them? And why not launch them? Apparently, the future is devoid of not only the humanitarian impulse but the profit motive as well: it occurs to exactly nobody to sell what on Elysium is a household good to the earth’s hospitals, which are left to labor along with 20th Century medical technology.
The world of the future has robots smart enough to do law enforcement, and Elysium builds (or rather, has built for them on earth) these robots in sufficient numbers to police the earth’s multitudinous poor. Yet these fluid, interactive AI creations are manufactured by . . . earthlings, performing tasks done by manufacturing robots today.
I realize that Blomkamp is creating an allegory, of course, but in at least these two respects it taxes my imagination to figure out what aspect of the economy or industrialization is being allegorized.
Yet other aspects ring truer. I was particularly struck by the way that once (SPOILER ALERT) THE Elysium master program resets with all the world’s population identified as its citizens, the people of Elysium become powerless to defend themselves against the onslaught. Surely they would find a way to reassert control over their own space station, you might object. Yet consider us! Once the fringes of Society had the numbers to capture control of the executive by the magic of “democracy”, our own borders were left wide open, and nobody did anything.