John Holbo has a fun post about the old H.G. Wells-based movie Things to Come, which embodied a vision of the future that used to be quite popular among intellectuals — that of a temporary dictatorship, not of the proletariat, but of the scientifically literate meritocracy, which would give way to liberal democracy — plus some truly terrible fashion choices — once the masses had been sufficiently educated.
Actually, you could say that something like this vision is still popular in elite circles; instead of envisioning Raymond Massey enforcing peace through air supremacy, they would have Michael Bloomberg enforcing budget discipline through bipartisan commission, but the spirit of the thing is the same. As it turns out, the second vision is proving as far off base as the first.
But surely you can’t discuss all this without referencing George Orwell’s Wells, Hitler, and the World State. It’s a short essay, and the perfect corrective to any notion that technology automatically leads to social or political progress.