A recurring feature of our television dreams is the exploding machine. Not a bomb, a machine built to self-destruct, but a machine built to make life better that instead makes it worse, and even destroys it.
Le Corbusier called the house a machine built for living, but so is the city. He called the city of New York unlivable, but so is every city. When he heard what the residents of Pessac had done to his planned community, he said that life is always right, and it's the architect who is wrong.
Cities that self-destruct are the stuff of human history. Every machine eventually breaks down, and every dream proves to be an illusion.
The house and the city aren’t the only machines that self-destruct. Almost every television crime drama – and all television dramas are crime dramas now – features an exploding car. Whenever someone is shown walking to a car and climbing into it, almost always the car explodes. What better evidence can there be that we know our machines can’t be relied on to take us where we want to go?
Where we want to go is not another place, but another time. Another persistent dream, one which even those we call scientists dream, is of time travel. We dream of returning to the scene of a past crime, and undoing it.
We used to imagine we know more than our ancestors did, and thanks to science would avoid making the same mistakes they did. We now know that even if we do avoid making the same mistakes, we'll make different mistakes. In order to change the world and make it better, we'd have to change ourselves. We'd have to stop dreaming and wake up.