Dator’s 2nd Law of South Park: Imagining (poorly animated) Futures of Religion, Technology, & Culture

by John A. Sweeney


If one looks past the inflammatory language, adolescent humor, and rather poor animation, South Park is one of, if not, the most profoundly political shows on American television. Airing since 1997, Comedy Central’s popular program is known for its fiery satirization of the here and now, but it also serves as an unlikely reservoir for “images of the future,” which function as the very lifeblood of Futures Studies. As Dator elucidates, “Futures Studies is not about correctly predicting The Future. It is about understanding the varieties and sources of different images of the future, and of coming to see that futures studies does not study ‘the future’, but rather, among other things, ‘images of the future.’” (Dator, 2009, p. 6). In an age of big data and strategic foresight, this sentiment, which resides at the heart of the Manoa School of Futures Studies, is as important as ever. When Nate Silver’s algorithm correctly predicted the outcome of the 2012 American Presidential election down to the electoral vote tally, which was lauded by numerous pundits as being too close to call, some commentators cheerfully noted, “Predicting the Future Is Easier Than It Looks” (Ward & Metternich, 2012).(continue…)

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