Arts & Entertainment

Naked City: Future shock in Sydney!


Back in the early 1970s the Dr Who annuals liked to make daring predictions about the future, thirty or forty years down the track. In their 1974 edition they forecasted that in the year 2003 relatives at Christmas would speak to each other using a videophone. They were obviously spot-on. Their techno-prophesy should stand as a challenge to us all and we ask – what will Sydney be like three or four decades from now?

If sci-fi tickles your mind we could well have daleks fulfilling many of the roles now occupied by Council inspectors and rangers. In dalek-patrolled zones, illegally parked vehicles would be shown no mercy and simply “exterminated” to make way for yet another of the thousands of vehicles that have reduced the traffic flow to almost total gridlock. Daleks would also replace lollypop men at school crossings and “exterminate” the rubbish in your council wheelie bin.

If that all sounds a bit far-fetched let’s reflect on a story which appeared in this publication recently about a series of 150 unauthorised boarding houses throughout the city cramming 12 or more students or backpackers into apartments designed for three or four people. It’s a scandal that’s been going on for years and one that the Sydney Council seems almost impotent in dealing with.

In the year 2050 overcrowding in boarding houses and city apartments could well become the norm as the urban population swells and total deregulation takes over. A Council-imposed bed tax will rake in millions, as dodgy landlords are encouraged to pack more and more bunk beds into their sleazy rundown dwellings. The city will throw open all manner of spaces for backpacker and student housing from the St James station tunnels to hastily clad bus shelters. The Lower Town Hall will be turned into a factory, churning out hundreds of bunk beds, right around the clock. Daleks might even be entrusted in delivering them to the latest slumlord hovel.

If the videophone seemed improbable back in 1974, then a form of anarchic laissez-faire capitalism might seem equally implausible for the year 2050, but isn’t that the way we are heading? The Bladerunner style dystopian world where technology and greed combine to form a stultifying force is just around the corner. Forget about the NSW police having access to your Opal card records or Facebook exploiting your personal data. That kind of surveillance will pale into insignificance when everybody is implanted with a global positioning device at the local tattoo and piercing shop.

If you’re not one of the privileged few you’ll probably be living in a container at Alexandria and if you are unemployed you’ll more than likely be ‘working for the mole’, informing on any potential dissidents to an intrusive, state-run Stasi. Sure there will be a bunch of Jetsons-style techno-gadgets to keep us preoccupied, much like smartphones and iPads, but in 2050 you could well be sleeping on a bunk bed, stacked high on top of four others, in an old detention centre in Villawood. Hey, that what’s they call progress!

THE HIT LIST: Vince Jones is one of Australia’s leading jazz vocalists, composers and musicians and the original ‘Mr Cool’ of the local music scene. Vince Jones’ latest recording is The Monash Sessions, a recent album of the week on Eastside Radio, released on Jazzhead Records. Catch Vince and his all-star band this Saturday July 26 at Sydney’s newest and hippest jazz club Foundry 616 in Ultimo.