Problem that anyone who tries to describe an image from centuries ahead always faces: at what point will your present still exist there in the future?

I can think about how fashion and art are cyclical and how a reduction in population will also cause a reduction in artistic innovation, in addition to reductions in other areas.

But, this does not solve the problem. It is not enough. Why will Charles Mingus, Tom Jobim, Leonard Cohen or Fergie - among others - still be heard in 200 years, not by an erudite audience (like classical music lovers), but by an ordinary audience? What kind of movement could bring these cultural elements all back into everyday life 200 years later?

In history there is a period of near-extinction where 2/3 of Humanity disappears. However, for the survivors and descendants of these later the world becomes much more pleasant. The memory of the Great Depression between 2030 and 2050 is still a trauma that did not disappear by 2220~2240, however the situation is more of a post-scarcity economy, even more so with the colonization of Mars, space mining and more efficient use of energy and resources.

There are still no means for interstellar travel.

Of the 4 billion humans, about 900 million are on Mars and another 600 million are on space stations, most in the orbital rings of Earth and Mars, and a few on errant stations from the regions of Venus to the orbit of Jupiter.

All the answers are great and taking on interesting points, but I think I need to explain some additional things:

  1. The depression period does not come with a major world war and ICBMs nuking important cities on the other side of the planet. National states degrade, collapse and implode. Of course, eventually a nuclear bomb will fall into the hands of some bad guys or desperate and immoral governments will use it against insurgents from the own population, but nothing that will create a widespread blackout so fast. The globalized Internet will fragment into dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of smaller networks. Harm caused by chemical and biological attacks, the consequences of climate collapse, apocalyptic doomsday cults and the emergence of warlords controlling diverse regions are all part of the scenario. Also, there are tons of media files on hds from nostalgic p2p nerds and piracy. It won't be necessary to dig a bunker at the end of the world to recover the Stones' catalog or Beethoven's symphonies.

  2. The devastation caused makes generations growing up in depression more, um... politically responsible. They organize their villages and later their city-states as closely as they can to direct democracy. This brings 200 years of peace and prosperity to the humankind, to the point of building space elevators and terraforming Mars. Certainly the governmental elite developed its methods to keep society tamed, but nothing like the methods of coercion.

  3. This is the problem that made me come here to ask the question: people work less and less, have more pleasant lives than humanity has had so far, with plenty of energy, water, resources that are well used and reused, and space. In these 200 years, there are two great moments of creativity explosion and the story takes place on the verge of a third.

  4. The names I mentioned are specific preferences of some characters who have different ages and origins. It is just as unlikely that 3 individuals who are born in very different places on the planet have a preference for names from the music of 220~280 years earlier than we have today people who like and have strong opinions about Mozart and Bach, without some cultural force provoking it. Of course, other obvious names that were mentioned in the answers and comments will also be remembered, among others. But why?

  5. After disasters where a significant portion of the population dies, the quality of life of survivors increases. Climate collapse will inundate cities, desert farmland and diminish the availability of fresh water, but all the existing infrastructure that once supported 8.4 billion humans by 2029 will be harnessed by 2.9 billion by 2050. These 2.9 billion also know that the inefficient and resource-wasting mode doesn't work and... nuclear fusion! Since all evolution is measured by energy availability, people in post-depression will be able to achieve a lot very quickly, on the one hand. On the other hand, only 1/3 of the population means fewer brains dedicated to innovation.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ Resisting the urge to flag as offense for the assertion that classical music lovers are not "ordinary". Maybe you want to find a more inclusive way to word that? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 1:12
  • $\begingroup$ @ToddWilcox I m sorry but in my native language the equivalent is just a synonim of 'common'. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 2:26

15 Answers 15


23rd Century Subcultures will still listen to our Music

In a realistic setting 20th century music would still exist, but it will be the soundtrack for various subcultures. 20th Century doesn’t stand a chance as the popular form of 23rd century, and by that, I mean Pop music.

First ,the reason why I don’t think we can 100% agree with the idea of retro 20th century music taking the future by storm is possible, looking at this as cultural evidence:

Current Spotify Comparison:

7,301,451 monthly listeners - Johann Sebastian Bach, 1685-1750

25,335,883 monthly listeners - The Beatles, last album, Abbey Road 1969

53,459,001 monthly listeners-Drake, last album, Certified Lover Boy 2021

Total number of Spotify users in 2021: 172 million

I think this chart tells us a few things. A) A sizeable portion of the population still listens to music that is basically considered old or ancient. B)Even the best selling bands of the past, and most revered don’t outsell a current act, at least in a snapshot of one year. However, from this, we can still accept the premise that between 15-30 % of people in some future population could be interested in listening to music that isn’t current.

The idea is further supported by the notion that subcultures never completely forget their roots, the defining artists who were the pioneers. Part of the identity of a sub culture is to carry some of its DNA forward. For example, a modern day punk might be interested in learning about the Ramones and the Clash, even if they didn’t like the old style. Same thing with a Goth and Joy Division, or a Hip Hop head and Public Enemy or the WuTang (Grandmaster Flash anyone?). People like understanding the direction that started a sub culture or sub set. However, a subculture isn’t necessarily a static thing, otherwise it dies. If new punk, goth or hip hop artists don’t arrive, the form dies. That is why even a retro subculture will have a mix of old and new artists.

Technology and Formats: The main point here is that, we’ve already reached a very high level of archiving music, recording music, music fidelity and portable music systems. It is now difficult to truly “lose” anything. We won’t “lose music” because the average person already accesses vast libraries of music. On their cell phones it possible to carry music recorded a hundred years ago and find it in a few seconds. In the future, it is predictable that the technology to preserve listening experiences will not cease to be innovated. It will probably get quicker, more accurate, more portable, more immersive and more virtual, and people will still enjoy going back to our century for listening experiences. For the most part the effect of new technologies will be preserving and re issuing old catalogues which has been done in every stage of recording innovation: records, 8 tracks, tapes, CDs, MP3s and now streaming.

There are very rare exceptions, like recent vinyl sales out performing CDs, that only add to the argument of a subculture existing. There are some very strange statistics here, like vinyl sales increasing by one hundred percent from 2020 to 2021, and vinyl sales being close to 38 % of the current US music market. I think this is more than a retro thing though, because current artists are using the vinyl resurgence to get their fans to buy a physical product, as evidenced by Adele breaking the vinyl supply chain.

I think these examples get to the notion I wanted to discuss which is, although no more than 30% of the population might listen to an old form, this would still be a significant number of the population.

In a science fiction setting we would assume that there have been new artists in every place where human kind has a settlement, and they would be outselling old artists. However, there might be subcultures that would prize retro technologies, buy them as status items, and research the history that lead to certain subcultures in their time period. Furthermore musicians, musicologists, music engineers and technicians, and industry professionals would continue to be interested in the history of music. Lastly, while some people might consider old music genres boring, conservative and stuffy, that won’t be the whole population at all, especially post apocalypse ...People will want to listen to pre-apocalypse music.

Predictions of Success

Charles Mingus: 20%. radical re-imagining of society. Tom Jobim: 43%.Bossa Nova triumphs Leonard Cohen: 48% Lyricists and Canadians rejoice Fergie: 48.5%. There will be another Fergie, one every decade, between now and the speculative future.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ ... and in the same cyclicality of fashion, other cultural elements emerge from subcultures, occasionally becoming part of the mainstream. Furthermore, even with much more efficient communications, there is no cult of celebrities to focus attention on a single style/group, atomizing preferences. Thanks, Goldfish! PS: Fergie is appreciated by one of the protagonists in her adolescence, who studies History. Years later she identifies more with Cohen. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 6:10

Why not?

The classical music comparison falls apart when you remember that we’ve only been recording vocal performances in a way meant for mass distribution for a few decades, and certainly less than a century. We have no idea what the staying power of contemporary music will be. And while songs from the 50s and before tend to be much less played, after popular music was revolutionized by the Beatles, music started having a lot more staying power. Though their first songs were recorded over sixty years ago, they are still the best-selling band of all time, and being a Beatles fan isn’t considered an eclectic or erudite thing,

A good example of this is fashion. After you get past the first few decades of the 1900s, fashion gets increasingly cyclical. There was literally a prairie dress trend last year. People will keep bringing back what resonated with previous generations.

I suspect that a century from now, Auld Lang Syne and All I Want for Christmas is You will continue to be played side by side, despite being a century apart in origin.


Another thing to consider is that the past two decades have seen an increasing rise of sampling in popular music, which continuously revives the sounds of forgotten artists. There’s every reason to think this trend will continue. From hip-hop sampling classic blues, to pop artists like Maroon 5 sampling classic concertos, to the numerous modern songs that riff of Fur Elise, these things come back again and again.

Covers and Remixes

Also, the desire of people to re-popularize music through covers and remixes should not be underestimated. There are countless cover bands for dead musicians. Musicals from the 20s and 30s get revived. Pop culture frequently references Gilbert and Sullivan.

  • 15
    $\begingroup$ To use one example, "House of the Rising Sun". The first time someone wrote down the lyrics was 1925, although it was reportedly sung by American miners at least as far back as 1905, and was possibly around well before that. The best known version was by The Animals in 1964, then Dolly Parton in 1981, then Five Finger Death Punch did a heavy metal version in 2014, Metallica did a version in 2020. Which means that song has been in pretty much constant use by artists for nearly a century. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 23, 2022 at 2:34
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    $\begingroup$ @KeithMorrison for another century or three, but sticking with a similar concept, how about Whiskey in the Jar that can be traced back to the 17th century by some accounts, again reaching Metallica but via Thin Lizzy. $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 23, 2022 at 18:34
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Wikipedia dates Auld Lang Syne to 1788 so more like two centuries apart. $\endgroup$
    – tripleee
    Commented Jan 24, 2022 at 19:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't expect everything (even everything that was au courant at the time) to be in fashion, but bits and pieces certainly can survive for centuries. Platform shoes for men were a thing when I was a teenager. afaik, the last time that had happened was just about exactly three centuries earlier. $\endgroup$
    – Auspex
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 11:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ also: Jeans as a basic piece of clothing have already been "in fashion" in some sort for pretty much ever since their invention $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 13:42

1 The 2000s are viewed as a Golden Age, the time before everything went off the deep end.

You mention that there was a Great Depression between 2030 and 2050, and it left a scar on the world that lasted a long time later, so the people who live in the future time period probably think of the early 2000s as "the good times before the world fell apart".

The people who lived in the immediate aftermath of this extinction probably longed for the time before everything went wrong. They idolized it and cried any time that they heard songs from that era. They then taught their children "The 2000s were the best time ever." Then those children told their children the same.

200 years later the whole of society has been indoctrinated into thinking that the time before the Great Depression was one of the best eras ever. Anything from that time is carefully preserved and anyone or anything from that timeframe is held with utmost reverence.

2 Most of this information was destroyed, but it's suddenly been brought back, leading to an explosion of interest.

For 200 years, people thought that most of the information regarding the culture of the 2000s had been destroyed. It might not have been a total erasure of history, but a lot of iconic songs and musicians had been forgotten, and countless pieces of culture had been scattered to the wind after the great extinction event.

So, after years of thinking that this information was dead, the people of the future suddenly stumble on a huge treasure trove of information about the 2000s that had miraculously been preserved for years. Historians recreate it to the best of their ability and they think "Hey, these songs are pretty good! And the clothes these people wore were really interesting! Let's show it to the rest of the world."

A group of people forms that want to bring back the music of the past. A Cultural Revival Organization, if you will.

They sell products related to the 2000s to the public, so they can use that money to dig up more artifacts, sell those, and keep the memory of the past alive.

Finally, we have the last key piece of the puzzle.

3 Culture ground to a screeching halt after the mass extinction. 2000s music is the only good music.

After society crumbled, what followed were 200 years of cultural famine. Technology may have advanced, but art and creativity suffered greatly. Any good artists or musicians born in this time faded into obscurity.

This could be because people are just too depressed to write anything meaningful. If the society of the future is bleak, then perhaps most of the people are too exhausted to make music.

Perhaps there is a tyrannical government, and it is trying to erase the past and any mention of creativity. For years, they have eliminated any artist or musician who has not supported the regime. The rediscovery of music from the 2000s could spark a cultural and political revolution. The governments want to restrict free thought, but the old songs inspire talk of freedom of expression. That would certainly make for an interesting storyline.

An alternate idea is that music after the great extinction was just bad. Few people genuinely liked it, they just had to put up with it because it was the only music around.

For example, all music is now computer-generated. Not by some complicated AI algorithm that could actually produce anything good but by an outdated program that does nothing more than string beeps and boops into what could only loosely be called "music".

During the 2100s, people were starved for new entertainment, so corporations started making what would be known as New Music.

The lyrics had no depth and the beats were repetitive. It was basically the musical equivalent of junk food. Times were still tough during this time, so no one wanted any music that would make them think too deeply. They just wanted background noise that would let them turn their brains off for a while.

Basically, New Music would start as shallow pop music and devolve into meaningless assortments of words.

By the time the 2200s hit, New Music was so bad that a person from our era would be unable to listen to it without getting a headache, yet people from the future would listen to it day in and day out.

It is the musical equivalent of raw sugar. While some people might hate it, the rest of society is addicted to it, so they shovel more money into the music industry, which is continuing to make worse and worse songs.

Then, people suddenly get exposed to music from before the disaster and go "Wait a second, music can have depth? What a revolutionary idea!" Thus, the rise of Old Music.

New Music represents the culture of your future, where everything is fresh and new but soulless at the same time.

Old Music represents the culture of your story's past, where things are chaotic and imperfect, but the emotions and the intentions behind it are real and alive.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "stumble on a huge treasure trove" So, the pirated music burned on CDs will be worth more than the music stored in the cloud? Ha, take that, Spotify! $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Commented Jan 23, 2022 at 11:57
  • $\begingroup$ The cloud went offline and the CDs are just pretty shiny, unless you can find a player that still works. LPs though, and simple analog electronics... $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 23, 2022 at 23:44
  • $\begingroup$ "Most of this information was destroyed, but it's suddenly been brought back" Ahh... someone finally cracked the Antarctic Archive and found a copy of YouTube? 😁 $\endgroup$
    – Corey
    Commented Jan 24, 2022 at 6:46
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ In the future they will find loads of Atari E.T. the Extraterrestrial game cartridges and Rick Astley Never Let You Down files and consider those to be the most popular of their time. $\endgroup$
    – Arluin
    Commented Jan 24, 2022 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ Love your answer but this "New Music" purpose just reminds it: youtube.com/watch?v=S1jWdeRKvvk&ab_channel=CartoonTV $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 6:18


72 rpm

When civilization fell, things vanished. All digital music, among other things. The prior format, compact discs, were on plastic that did not age well. Vinyl did not fare well either.

What was left was the format from long before: shellac pressed 72 rpm records. A trove of these fragile but ageless discs was discovered in the basement of a radio station outside Manila. The most recent records were those of Elvis Presley. These records were copied, and recopied.

As civilization restarted, it was to the music of the early 20th century. And the culture had changed - as opposed to a culture of novelty and innovation it was a culture focused on regaining what had been lost. In the postscarcity present of your world there is new music. But the old songs remain a reassuring link to the past, like Christmas songs are to us.

Plus all the new dances are still to big band songs!

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Recordings "vanished" and after that, music vanished for 200 years ? Until it "resterted" ? Really ? Why would music not stay, despite absence of recordings ? Song writers keep writing their songs.. surviving composers will keep creating their music.. as long as instruments are preserved, or can be made.. as long as people are able to sing, there will be music. Finding that huge 72rpm treasure could invoke a temporary jazz hype, or a temporary Satie-hype. It would certainly influence culture, It will add two important styles.. but I doubt it will a new beginning, as you seem to suggest. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Jan 23, 2022 at 14:38
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ That's 78 rpm, unless you want it to sound like a dirge! $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 23, 2022 at 23:41
  • $\begingroup$ Pressed CDs and PVC records will survive just as long as shellac. You have to keep all of them in a storage that's not too hot and moist. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Goodies: "Why would music not stay, despite absence of recordings?" Because newer music had become encrypted with subscription-based digital rights management, so music companies would have an endless revenue stream. And then the servers died, making those encrypted recordings useless. $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 23:10

Creativity was stamped out for good.

Prior to the Homeland Security Era, there was a short period of Let A Hundred Flowers Bloom, when musicians felt free to experiment and compose. But after that, people decided that a high school student should be permanently consigned to the lower caste if they utter a single wrong word, an entire movie should be cancelled because of the off-set controversy of a single actor, a comedian should not dare to perform insightful material. Eventually they found the strength to burn entire university libraries rather than risk that an untoward image or thought persisted hidden somewhere in their paper books. Most old songs quietly and quickly faded from the media, without comment, and the new ones were chosen for the virtue and political connections of their performers rather than for what they sounded like.

After a depression that was as much mental as economic, societies slowly and timidly rebuilt. Eventually some of them were able to succeed in narrow areas with military significance, such as the Unified Democratic People's Republic of Korea's highly successful diaspora in Earth orbit. And in time, unthreatened by any memory of dissent, some historians began to dredge up selected early songs as a curiosity that seemed harmless to share with a broader public. The odd thing was that nothing from the subsequent centuries seemed to be as appealing to the ears.


Mozart's symphony no. 40 from 1788 is still alive.

You can find this in mobile tones, orchestras etc. Same for other famous pieces of music from eighteenth and nineteenth century that are still popular among music lovers.

The medium changes with time.

In eighteenth century, music was written on papers only. With time, you could find the same music on tape recorders, audio cassettes, compact disks (CDs), DVDs, BRDs etc. and now on the internet. New generations will always have access to the old music and it will not be lost.

Soothing and relaxing

The old music is much more soothing and relaxing. Those maestros of music had spent their whole lives and great effort to create a long lasting effect on human minds.

Fashion keeps repeating itself.

What we wear are coats, pants, jackets, shirts, hats etc. Over the time, their are some changes in style but some styles repeat with time.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There's a recent(ish - 2020) #1 hit with a melody taken directly from Pachelbel's Canon in D. Music might not be as far from fashion as we think. $\endgroup$
    – Corey
    Commented Jan 24, 2022 at 6:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Let's not forget that the further you go in time, the more selected the music becomes - often only the really good pieces are preserved, or re-recorded. I suspect this produces much of the "music isn't as good as it used to be" effect. And even with modern music, it usually takes something like ten years for a band to actually get good - so if you're looking for good 20's music, you should really be looking for 10's bands or wait until the 30s :D $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 8:04

For the same reason we have experimental archeology sites now. They're rebuilding castles.


The same reason they have entire shows taking modern day people and setting them in Victorian England.


The same reason we're so fascinated with Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome and their wars and life in that age. The same reason we're so fascinated with the 1960s and Civil War re-enactments.

For some, that reason is romanticising the past and re-imagining what it would be like to live back then. To listen to Dr Martin Luther King Jr's famous "I have a dream" speech. To ask Mahatma Gandhi things we're curious about.

For others, it's just about 'getting away' from what we see as a complex time and place. 'The good old days', is a common phrase for a reason. We let nostalgia wash away the bad and want to recapture the good, or wonder if we could/would have done things differently.

Lots of reasons, really. I mean, Renaissance fairs are still common for a reason. And how many of us still read works like Bram Stoker's Dracula or Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Yes, they are classics, and yes they are popular for a reason. But, there's also a feel of being brought to a different world, almost, despite how familiar it is.


Why is classical music or Jazz still popular?

Because it's history and as such recorded and (more importantly) it can still be accessed. And because its accessible historians and music teachers can and will listen to it.

And because they are who they are they will tend to give this music context and introduce to their students and anyone else who is interested in music.

And since great music of whatever period tends to 'reach out' to at least some of those who listen at least some of those students will also sing and play it (make it their own and share it). Which means others in turn will become fans.

Because some great 20th century music (not all of it) will live on just like great pieces from other times have lived on.


This has been addressed in existing fiction many times:

1983 Hugo:

http://www.spiderrobinson.com/melancholyelephants.html http://www.spiderrobinson.com/melancholyelephants2.html http://www.spiderrobinson.com/melancholyelephants3.html

Discusses limitations of laws, expanding musician populations and static, permanent records versus 'originality'.

Another alternative in the Continuing Time:

The ability of anyone to download any music ever recorded makes musical knowledge only something that the lower-class bothers with.

In many, many futures:

Music (and megastars) become a source of religion(s). (Esp. the Elvii) Easy to have religious wars like that.

If you have longevity treatments - influential people may still like the music they grew up with. (The ageless 'vampire' oligarchs/trillionaires, who throve and profited thru your long depression). And people who want to suck up to them drive some of that appreciative class keeping those songs and versions circulating.


A Renaissance Movement

In our own history, Europe saw a massive decline in standard of living and human rights for about 900 years following the fall of the Roman Empire. Yes, technology continued to advance, but the state of life for the average person went way down hill... only most of the generations of people living between ~400AD and 1300AD had no clue how much had been lost. However, in the 14th century, historians began studying, talking about, and publishing about the ancient Greeks and Romans, and it became not just a faded memory of another time, but a blueprint for a better future. The ideas these ancient cultures had about democracy and citizenship and science were all so much better than their current reality that it became a whole movement. When people clung to the things that made Greco/Roman better, they clung to all of it. They began recreating Greco/Roman Architecture, Art, Fashion, Mythology, Iconography... if it was Ancient, it was the new cool.

In your setting, we are the last generation before the fall of civilization. Your 200 year interim was not just a time of people dying off, but also of people seizing power and human rights disappearing. That population decline was not just a random selection of people starving off in famines, but a series of massive genocides as various groups killed off one another trying not to starve themselves. The conflict between Socialism and Capitalism is just a fading memory in a world where all men are just slaves bound to the will of a handful of god-kings who've twisted religions to suit their needs. The old days of Democrats and Republicans seems like a paradise in an age where your voice lacks enough importance to even belong to a political faction.

Then around 2220, those old powers start to slip. Generations of bad leadership begins to unravel the foundations of upper-class society as a new middle class emerges. As the iron heel softens, historians begin uncovering the history of the 20th century and bring to light the high ideals that existed before the world feel into its dark-age. A time where laws were made to protect minorities instead of exterminate them. A time where generals could be held accountable for crimes against humanity. A time where people valued love over power. But these historians are still unable to speak out against their governments; so, they let the past speak up for them.

During our Renaissance, when people could not speak up against kings, they instead spoke up about history. They told Greek Tragedies and Roman Poems as a way to educate the masses of a better way of life. Likewise, in the 2220s, your historians will turn to the 20th century. They can not yet condemn the Theocracy, but they can play Imagine by John Lennon. They can not yet throw off the bonds of slavery, but they can play I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor. They can not yet do anything to stop Eugenic cleansings, but they can play Changes by Tupac Shakur. They cling to these old songs not because they are incapable of writing their own music, but because they represent something that they are not yet emboldened enough to put into their own words.

  • $\begingroup$ The comparison with the transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages and from that to the Renaissance is valid. However, energy availability and the number of brains able to innovate in different fields are orders of magnitude higher. A hiatus of barbarism would not take all 200 years to end in these conditions (if you destroy the entire infrastructure then yes!). I edited the question to clarify this. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 5:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @RodolfoPenteado Then maybe it is not a Renaissance of social justice but self determination. With people working less and less, feeling validation in one's life becomes harder and harder; so, people are looking back to the past when people still did things for themselves may be the revolution they are facing. So maybe songs like "With my own two hands" by ben harper would be more the focus. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 5:43

The Media/Fashion Industry never recovered from the apocalypse

This is pretty much exactly the scenario we have in Star Trek, where inexplicably there's a total dearth of new music, art or media between the 20th century and the 24th.

They never really quite address why, but there's enough material that we can read between the lines.

In-universe, there was a third world war sometime in the 21st century which was typically apocalyptic, featuring all manner of catastrophic destruction.

How much was lost in that war?

The internet? Streaming music and TV services? Data archives around the world? How much knowledge and creative art was lost?

In a society like ours today, I would readily believe that pretty much everything that wasn't stored in cultural preservation archives was destroyed.

Physical media stored well for the duration might survive, but how many CDs and DVDs have you bought in the past decade?

I have a pretty large collection myself, but I haven't materially added to it in a long time.

If there was a nuclear war now, my Computer would be fried by EMP, the internet would go, and the only music I would personally have access to would be a badly scratched CD of Queen's greatest hits and a ripped copy of Karl Jenkin's The Armed Man.

Less than a fraction of a percent of the music I own.
I don't even own a CD player anymore.

If you had to rebuild the world's media based on that kind of survival-rate of media, things would look pretty thin on the ground.

Then on top of that, humanity at large would be crawling out of the dust and rebuilding for a long time, maybe generations.

The human race may simply not have the facility to have a music industry anymore.

The music industry we have now takes modest/high talent and throws huge teams of people behind them, amps up the production value, markets it enormously and spreads it to a vast audience.

After the apocalypse, that industry no longer exists.

If I write an incredible song, it's pretty much not going to travel further than my local community center.

Then in the trek-universe, they shifted to a post-scarcity society, no money, no mass-marketing, no big-budget media.

So Big Media simply never came back.

There's much less driving force to elevate people to fame and fashion and a talented musician in the 23rd/24th century doesn't have the platform to "go viral" or become a superstar anymore.

In the end, the pre-war golden oldies, with their huge multi-million dollar/pound expenditure of resources and sheer optimism and vigor are impossible for a solo artist or even a small group to compete with.

So the Beastie Boys remain a classic well into the 23rd century, and nobody rises to their level of fame and accomplishment again.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ how to describe the 24th century as hell on earth Beastie Boys remain a classic well into the 23rd century, and nobody rises to their level of fame and accomplishment again $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 24, 2022 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ Heck, TNG characters seem to be obsessed with even older stuff, like Shakespeare. Maybe they just rediscovered the guy? Or of course, it might just be our PoV, which inevitably follows essentially the aristocracy of the Federation :D Who knows what people who aren't trying to get into the Starfleet like? And of course, mass media is one thing - but people always find a way to make music. If that music literally can't spread, what does that tell you about the society and government? :P $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 8:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Luaan Good points. Though as I say, if "money is no longer the driving force in our lives", then what's the impetus that would make people mass-market someone as a brand? They're not doing it for the revenue, they'd basically be doing it to support the ego of the artist. Hard to imagine several thousand people putting in the back-breaking work to make that happen without it being necessary for their livelihood. In the ST 24th century, they may look at modern celebrity culture as a bit shameful and see no reason to continue to do it. $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 10:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Ruadhan Yeah, you wouldn't see popstars supported by recording companies, that's understandable. But people don't really do music for money. They do it for fun, for recognition, to share with other people... those are values that should align well with what TNG culture claims to be. And yet... they just rehash old things and aspire to rehash old things. While in contrast, military figures have great recognition in the public! Does that really sound more civilized? :D $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 11:59
  • $\begingroup$ Sort of my point though. There are tens of thousands of highly talented musicians (and many more not-so-talented, but no less enthusiastic) on youtube and other platforms. But they aren't the house-hold names that the ones with a Record-Label and publishing house behind them have become. In TNG, there may be millions of excellent contemporary musicians, but they don't have the marketing behind them to rise to mass-market stardom because ultimately the entire point of that marketing is to make money, which falls flat in the post-scarcity society of TNG. $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 12:39

If SF movies and shows have taught me anything over the decades, it's that future music falls into two basic categories: execrable experimental rubbish that I doubt even the composer could honestly enjoy, or music from the latter half of the 20th century. There doesn't seem to be much of a middle ground. Oh you get the occasional early 21st century artist here and there, but when a bunch of space marines jump into their fighters and take off to defeat aliens, you know they're playing classic rock anthems. I never once hear Blitzkrieg Bop on local radio growing up, but it was the soundtrack for one of the space sequences in 'Space: Above and Beyond.' Apparently the people of the future just can't create decent music anymore, so they have to rely on our music.

What could cause this degradation in talent though? Ruadhan's answer is one very good option - the first idea I had in fact - but what else could account for this loss? 2.5 billion people on Earth, more hundreds of millions off Earth... surely they have sufficiently capable communications infrastructure. Economic collapse and war are perhaps sufficient to explain how the gargantuan music industry could disappear, but why did it never return?

After the collapse, after the wars and the famines and the almost total collapse of civilisation, we just didn't have the free resources to support such a wasteful system. Humans still make music of course - even the serfs and slaves of past centuries did that - but the sheer excesses of fame and stardom have no place in a world where people are struggling to rebuild. Some few examples of old music exist, carefully preserved CDs and vinyl from before the Collapse, but no networks to distribute nor industry to promote new music. People make their own music, as they always have.

Years later, once civilisation has returned from the ashes once more, the resources exist but the old structures are not only gone, they are despised as part of the social rot that led to the Collapse in the first place. The Cult of Celebrity is dead, and any attempt to resurrect it - because of course people still want recognition - is met with stubborn refusal to play along. You want to be famous? Build something. Produce something. Contribute something real to the world.

But music? We have music. There are millions of hours of the stuff, copied from the cultural archives in Svalbard, Antarctica and so on. Originally opened to gain access to the scientific and technical data, the vast musical and video archives were also tapped. Initially a few techs working on the various projects dipped into the entertainment archives during their few off-work hours, but eventually the whole range of archived media was released for public perusal. TV shows, movies and documentaries were of interest to the few anthropologists and historians, but there was music for every taste. Depression-era music resonated with many people, while others preferred the more free and energetic styles of the later decades. Punk anthems were popular with the dissatisfied. The performers were long gone, but the music lived on.

As resources increase it is likely that more people will turn to making music in their spare time, but until societal norms shift again it's unlikely that we'll see a resurgence of Celebrity. There's a strong feeling in the gestalt that this will be a signal that the current social cycle is ending and that the next collapse is approaching. The rise of hedonism and worship of celebrities is, according to the Social Anthropologists, a sure sign that society has reached a point of decay and will, inevitably, collapse under its own weight.

Or perhaps even simpler: media production is controlled by the people in power to ensure that they stay in power. Entertainment is useful only for propaganda and control of the populace. Music is a tool for guiding emotional responses, and population psychodynamics models are used to generate the correct responses through computer generation. Media programs are carefully designed using those same models to produce the desired shift in attitudes and opinions.

Normalization of novel concepts, while slow, is a proven method for adjusting the zeitgeist of an entire civilisation, as is demonstrated by a cursory scan of early 21st-century programming. Almost all major shifts in social dynamics were driven by normalization and indoctrination through entertainment. If you want to change the culture, change the entertainment. If you want to control the culture, control the entertainment.

So the only new media is produced by the establishment, and it's not particularly good. Fortunately there are still plenty of sources of Pre-Collapse media archived in various places, and plenty of malcontents who are happy to put it out in opposition to the programming on the public channels.

Why not just make it all illegal then? Because that would be far too much like the actions of the pre-Collapse states, and nobody wants to be compared to those failed governments. Control and propaganda have to be at least slightly discreet, at least until we manage to reprogram that freedom urge out of society again. We're considering options at the moment, but the Council is deadlocked between starting a new war or a new plague. Both have been great tools in the past for encouraging people to give up their own freedom willingly, after all.

  • $\begingroup$ Arthur Clarke abused references to classical music in his novels. But he was a genius off the scale. And yes, there is simply no place to foster a cult of celebrities. Even the most important people are treated without so much deference and art is seen as a human expression, not a mass entertainment activity. The government has no power to make music illegal, or even the means to maintain these systems of control. In fact, the government is barely able to talk to South Americans about rebuilding desertified biomes or measures of Mars terraform. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 4:41
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "The Cult of Celebrity is dead, and any attempt to resurrect it - because of course people still want recognition - is met with stubborn refusal to play along. You want to be famous? Build something. Produce something. Contribute something real to the world." Thanks, I think this is more or less the point I was trying to suggest, but you got there in better words than me :) $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 10:19

90% of everything is crap

We still listen to music from hundreds of years ago, but only a select sample of it. For every Mozart and Beethoven and Elvis and the Beatles, just realize there were 9 other musicians (probably a lot more, really) who were their contemporaries and probably reasonably popular at the time that nobody remembers anymore. This is almost certainly true of current musicians as well. There are probably only about 10% of popular musicians active today whose music anyone will care about in 100 years. And that's just the popular ones. And while we may have some idea which 10% those are, we really can't accurately predict which artists will have staying power. Many artists live and die in obscurity until their work is found years after their deaths and has a resurgence, so it's not just the artists who are popular today who will be remembered tomorrow.

  • $\begingroup$ And today, we rarely listen to all of Mozart's music. Few people have heard all nine of Beethoven's symphonies. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 15:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DavidR Yeah, the formula works recursively - you could say "90% of Beethoven is crap". (I wouldn't, personally, but let's just say that only about 10% of Beethoven is likely to be well known to people who aren't into classical music.) If you only know the famous bits of the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 9th Symphonies, Emperor Concerto, the Moonlight Sonata, and Fur Elise, (I feel like the average Joe would at least be able to recognize most of those if not identify them) you're pretty close to that 10% mark right there... $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ @DarrelHoffman Recognise 100%, recognise as Beethoven pieces perhaps 30% if you put me to the test, and identify ... Für Elise. ;) $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 20:28

There will be an appreciation for our fashion for men as we dress mostly with comfort in mind. Since we will pick our genes by then the women fashion of our time which sacrafices comfort to achieve artificial augmentations will not be needed and therefor undesirable. As far as music the future music will be created by AI and will be so good we literally can not conceptualize it. With a simple request you can hear a unique song in any genre that would blow away anything in that category anybody today has ever heard and since the AI will know you so intimately it will know what you want to hear how loud and for how long before you even had formed the idea.

  • $\begingroup$ Some say that in places where women live in more egalitarian conditions, they dress less to attract and more for their own comfort. There are those who say that women dress for other women, not for men, and/or that no form of expression should be censored. Add the comfort issue: clothes are more durable (fast fashion and planned obsolescence are considered immoral) and a lot of technology, from fabric production to implanted gadgets. In a freer society also certain taboos fall. Why can't a man wear a piece of clothing like a skirt when he's at the base of a space elevator, a tropical place? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 4:03
  • $\begingroup$ All the research for such an immersive AI ends in 2030 and it is not a technology that is actively looking to rebuild (who would be interested in creating new Musks and Zucks?) in the years to come. By 2100 the idea of enabling creative AI is quite discouraged. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 4:07


Copyright duration is getting longer and longer.

In the 23rd century, everything back to the 21st is copyrighted, but the 20th is in the public domain!

  • $\begingroup$ User3082 answer linked a short story that take this point. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 14:52

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