Future Tense

Francis Fukuyama Explains Why Children of Men Is So Great

Does the knowledge that our species has a collective future influence the way we live in the present? For Francis Fukuyama, the author of The End of History and the Last Man, the answer to that question is a resounding yes.

Fukuyama, who is also the Olivier Nomellini senior fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, explored this question on Sept. 19 in Washington, D.C., during a screening of Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men. The event was part of Future Tense’s “My Favorite Movie” series, in which thought leaders host screenings of and discussions on their favorite movies with science and technology themes. Children of Men, the 2006 film adaptation of PD James’ dystopian novel, is set in the year 2027, 18 years after the last child was born, due to worldwide infertility. In the video at the top of this post, filmed Sept. 21, Fukuyama expanded on the thoughts he shared at the screening.

Unlike apocalyptic tales which humanity’s existential crisis is brought about through an abrupt event—like an alien invasion, nuclear war, or the threat of an asteroid crashing down to earth—Children of Men creates an alternative end-of-the-world scenario. Here, men and women continue to live out their lives, but must do so with the knowledge that the future is no longer accessible to their (our) species.

Fukuyama believes the film allows us to question what it means if there is no one to come after us, and whether our very existence is predicated on the understanding that others will follow. Fukuyama noted that this work of fiction increasingly resembles a reality, at least in some respects—some aging, increasingly infertile countries such as Taiwan and Japan will begin to face population crises in the not so distant future.