'Hunger Games' Exposes Myth of Technological Progress

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THE GIST

- "Hunger Games" depicts a futuristic, high-tech world where reality TV showcases teens fighting to the death.

- Many futuristic technologies are depicted, but others -- like the Internet -- are not represented.

- Such "gaps" in technology don't necessarily represent plot holes, according to historians of science and technology.

Tomorrow's world of "The Hunger Games" doesn't just showcase the reality TV spectacle of teenagers battling to the death -- it also features futuristic hovercraft, force fields and bioengineered "Mutt" creatures.

Those technological marvels represent tools of oppression for the dystopian nation of Panem, where the Capitol elite live in high-tech luxury supported by the old-fashioned sweat of district coal miners, farm hands and factory workers.

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But the popularity of the "Hunger Games" series has not stopped some fans from eying the technological imbalances of the story.

Some question why a post-apocalyptic North America filled with futuristic technologies would still rely upon coal for its electricity needs; others wonder about the story's complete absence of the Internet. One character in "The Hunger Games" books complains about "forgotten" military technologies such as high-flying planes, military satellites and robotic drones, even as he rides inside a hovercraft.

Such "gaps" in technology don't necessarily represent plot holes, according to historians of science and technology. Real societies have adopted or rejected technologies based on whether they suited their particular economic, political or cultural circumstances.

"Technology is not pre-determined as "better" -- it becomes better when a society deems it to be better or more advanced," said Joline Zepcevski, a researcher with a Ph.D. in the history of science and technology at the University of Minnesota. "With respect to "The Hunger Games," there is no reason why a new society, rising from the ashes of an old society, would necessarily re-invent the same technologies."

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Technology has come and gone throughout history, said Marie Hicks, an assistant professor of history of technology at the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago. Electric cars appeared on U.S. roads at the start of the 20th century, but disappeared for almost a century before making their recent comeback. Supersonic civilian jetliners made their debut with the Concorde in 1976, but ended up grounded in 2003.

Even high-speed trains that took off in Japan, China and Europe have mostly failed to catch on in the U.S. (the Capitol rulers of "The Hunger Games" still have a high-speed rail system).