I am writing a science fiction novel on Facebook on an account named Summers Progress. In it I feature a number of my own inventions. Perhaps none of them will see the light of day outside that fictional universe. I am not sure. I see people casually discussing what amounts to surrender to the Taliban. From a scientifc progress point of view this is quite different than delivering Iraq to the influence of an Iran which is at least eager to compete in science no matter how much else I may find reprehensible in its regime.
In recent months we have had the new Star Trek movie introducing a new young cast and we have had the release of GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra on our movie screens. I think people are hungry to believe in a new and better future. The role of Science fiction in shaping the dreams and hopes of young people is a complicated one which we cannot easily fully analyze and understand. But it does play a role. I hope that as the world struggles with all its current problems it can still make time to perfect its dreams of the future. Perhaps in some ways those are blueprints of many future policies.
This post first appeared on my Facebook page on March 27 of this year.
This is the kind of topic that I will surely have to revisit and take in small pieces in other notes if this series is long enough. However, there is a place somewhere in the wide universe for an overstretched brief personalistic essay about the future generally. Maybe this is the time and space for such an essay I have taken the lense of science fiction and have ended up focused on really a small part of the future itself. Howver, the future itself is still my topic.
I often or even usually have a strong or weak religious and spiritual element in these Facebook Notes. I usually do not single out religious groups by name for the purpose of distinguishing them from the point of view I am taking. However, in this case I am taking the somewhat unusual course of discussing both Christianity and science fiction and how they relate to our apprehension of and planning for the future. I think that I have a decently adequate basic nonadherent’s understanding of the following three religions: The Church of Jesus Christ Scientist (Christian Scientists), The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints (Mormonism) and the Scientologists. I can assure any of you that I would be happy to influence thinkers in any of these groups but that I am not taking a position which is anywhere particulary near to the orthodoxies of any of these religions. Indeed it is I believe within the range of Catholic and Orthodox Christianity.
I do believe that Space is within the meaning of the heavens and heaven as are other things which Jesus indicated when he said that “The Kingdom of God is within you”. I do believethat Jesus as a fully human man was a poet, a liturgist, a prince, a lector, a rabbi and among other outstanding achievements he created a body of achievement that could be classified as science and engineering — all his human attributes do not detract from his claim to divinity. Nor do they answer the poetic ambiguity in the verse from the epistle “Though he was at one with God he did not claim equality with God as something to be grasped at…”. I do believe the Scriptures I cal the Sacred Scriptures have a call on us to care for the Earth, for our fellow man, for our families and (that at the state) we have now reached Space colonization is exigent in order to fulfill those obligations. Nonetheless, I do not intend this note to be primarily a religious or Scriptural Facebook Note.
One way in which I subject my own talents in predicting the future to public scrutiny is that I play a variety of viewable online games in which prediction is a vital skill. These games include fantasy football at NFL.com, the NCAA Bracket Challenge on Facebook and various kinds of online Texas Hold ’em Poker. I am not the very best but my play is fairly respectable. Outside of online gaming I have demonstrated other signs of function in the current technological milieu. I have earned a couple of degrees, some licenses, some commisions and certifications and they all demonstrate that I am not drawn towards futurist endeavors because I cannot find anything I am able to do anything worthy in the present. Nonetheless, I would proudlyidentify myself as a humanist rather than a scientist.
I have thought about the future a great deal. It seems that a lot of people have. We all express a certain faith in the future everytime we put milk in the refrigerator, puchase stock, go on a job interview or call someone to set up any kind of date, meeting or get-together. In fact probably nobody reading this really thinks that the known universe will cease to exist in the time it would take an ordinary person to read to the end of this note. In that sense faith in the future seems pretty universal.
However, beyond simply believing that life will go on for somebody or something somewhere, most of us think we ourselves have some continuity beyond this throbbing or fleeting instant we call the present. I am writing about the future in a bit more specific way than this however. I am trying to discuss the future as a kind of grand subject.
I like to think about forming the shape of the human and earthly future as well as trying to influence it myself. I am deeply unhappy about many signs of how the future may turn out. However, I am also very optimistic about what is possible. A decent number of historians and antiquarians read futuristic literature and science fiction. Certainly, I have read a great deal of history and seen a lot of antiquities. However, science fiction and futuristic writing have played a big part in the formation of my mind and the filling of the time I have had available to read. It is tru that Styar Wars is a science fiction classic franchise and big money in our time which is set long ago and is full of Biblical and royalist allusions to past societies. But it outlines launches, gravity wells, spaceships, linguistic analysis, imaging systems and countless other things which were new with seeds and roots in the time Lucas began the series andwith fruit and flower in the future as far as we are concerned. A substantial minority of science fiction is set in the past in that sense but in a cyclical sense still maps a reality technicaly set more or less in our foreseeble future. Star Wars is actually less, as some of it is not anywhere near our technical capacity.
One of the intersting things about Michael Crichton the writer of books such as Andromeda Strain, Terminal Man, Jurassic Park and State of Fear is that he was a medical doctor. This is why his series ER was so sound in so many ways. There is an authenticity in his imagined science because he was able to live and function in the world of real science in his time. While a devout Roman Catholic, I belong to a struggling old secret society which gives a particular double interpretation to some scripture passages as coded preservations ofsome amazing achievements of Jesus in science and engineering. For us Jesus’s lofty goals and the ideal on which he founded his church are more and not less credible because of the other ways in which he exerted leadership and showed genius in his world. In a certain minimaly similar way writers like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Michael Crichton have some increased appeal as writers of their type of imaginative fiction because they could do real science in the real world.
We often find science fiction refereshing because it is devoid of some of the reminders of religious, national and familial obligations which surround is. That is true even for those who generaly are and seem to be pushers of family, nation and religion with their incumbent obligations. People such as I am still enjoy Dune’s vacation from the Roman Catholic Church to the Orange Catholic Bible. In instances where they are similar there is still no actual Orange Catholic community that either the Protestant House of Orange or the Catholics of our own time have to actually get along with. However, to notice that sense of fictional escape is not to say that tradition, religion and hard nosed reality have nothing to contribute to both the making of science fiction and to its enjoyment by its readers.
It has been also on the promise of really remaking the future that leaders as diverse as Adolph Hitler, Mao Tse Tung (Mao Zhe Dong), Vladimir Lenin, Lech Walensa and Thomas Jefferson have made their claims. Not all to the same dgree but to a greater degree than most leaders who have not lived in the last ten centuries. Contrary to the vast body of modern opinion I would argue that in many ways almost everyone born in the last thousand years shares a basic sense of desperation and insecurity that was far from being the norm prior to that time. Humanity spent a great deal of its early formative period expanding at a walking pace across and from Africa, across Europe and Asia and then across the vastly long journey of the Americas to Patagonia. Then there were crude and slow crafts and dogs and horses that brought in Australia and remote lands and mountains not safely reachable before then. Then the vikings in the tenth and eleventh century to a degree far greater than any history book will ever tell visited large and small islands in all four hemispheres (East and West, North and South) often leaving there only slaves and captives often of mixed ancestry from varied culture with whom some of their genes and technology were mingled. They also drove waves of refugees in ships from burning towns ro new islands in almost every part of the world. All of this happened before 1492 and the age of Discovery. Since about 1100 the Earth has been a fairly old and settled place as far as hunmanity goes. The mythical and infinite earth of great undiscovered creatures and lands with unknown and incaculable potential really died in about 1100. Since then all leaders of all places have sort of known that many of the happiest and most hopeful options for their descendants were foreclosed and that we all had entered a phase of negotiations (whether lethal or peaceful) with other humans. Most humans have never lived on the edge of the unknown lands but their existence did affetct allhumans at some level. Their experience did define the possible for leaders everywhere. Population control, vertical integration, oppression, xenophobia and tedium always had to compete with the whispers of the wild and undiscovered world and the vast genetic and historic cultural ties which linked all humans to the process of discovery. There have always been serious planners and as long as there were truly unpopulated lands around their plans could be different. Since then we live in a different human experience than formed us and only serious colonization of the solar system can address that basic change in a way that preserves some of the best of who we are for the future.
Both adventure and resources await our species throughout the solar system. There is little doubt in my mind that we damn ourselves quite seriously if we fail the challenge of securing access to both the adventure and the resources. Yes, I believe God has given the Moon and Mars to Earth’s people as part of our manifest destiny to colonize. It is part of becoming who we are meant to become.
If we had self sustaining and vibrant colonies on the Moon and Mars trading with Earth. Peopled by growing populations and settlers then our lives would resemble that of our human ancestors for long ages past. Most of us would not go to space and would not live their but we would know that we were living in a world of expanding possibilities. Inddeed it would be better than much of the past because almost all could see that were were bringin life where no life had been before. Being both sane and optimistic would again be really possible. The prospect of interstellar travel right now is a near impossibility. The possibility of interstellar travel in the future of a moderately badly run human society with real colonies on the Moon and Mars is substantial. The possibility of interstellar travel in the future of a society descended from us if we have a few centuries of colony driven development on the Earth, the Moon and Mars is very hight indeed. Once honest people can say to their children that our species is on its way to colonizing the worlds around as many stars as it seems right and convenient to colonize then our whole frame of reference will have changed for what the Human race is about and can expect.
We find science fiction in Dante’s Inferno and the rest of the Divina Comedia where the pilgrim with his guide takes a single path down through the center of the Earth where the pits of hell are deepest and the follows the same line past the center of gravity as down becomes up. Now he follows Beatrice through Purgatory to the high mountainous realm of heaven. The science of understanding gravity in a sphere is the central device. We find science fiction in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein when Dr. Frankenstein freed from the Medieval prohibition against dismembering corpses is able to put his monster (named Adam after the man God made) together form spare parts and give him life. We find science fiction in bits and pieces in old Greek mythology.It reaches some heights in Jules Vernes fictional depths as Captain Nemo adventures in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. There is a poetic wildness to science fiction in CS Lewis’s Perelandra Trilogy named for its second book. But while I read all hese things I also read the vast body of more hard-core genre science fiction.
CS Lewis wrote of the various reasons for writing science fiction. On class of novelists and short story writers he chose to distinguish from himself were the “engineers” who tried to tell stories set around the use of potentialy useful future technology. Arthur C. Clark who wrote 2001: A Space Oddyssey made famous by the great Hollywood film was many things but certainly he was an engineer writer. His hard science fiction told of communications sattelites, space stations, moon landings, computers of the type we call artificial intelligence and other things before they existed. Besides deiscovering shipwrecks, at least one of which was full of treasure, he wrote many novels and short stories. His treatment of starships in 2001 is sort lost in the presence of working portals, one of which was left on the moon at the dawn of mankind. But in several of his novels he describes human s seeding the stars in ships that travel fro hugely long periods of time run by computers which retrieve crews from suspended animation and then help them rise to new function when they reach the star. He may even discuss the use of frozen embryos in providing the bulk of the population base. This is very far from Star Trek’s warp drive or Star War’s hyperdrive or Dune’s Spacefolding Guildsmen.
I have never published a novel and most of the of the ones I have written could be classified as unfinished. However, I have written several set in the period when the solar system is being colonized. A future I feel should be our focus of attention. I have set one or two in the period when human civilization well established in the whole or much of the solar system is invaded by interstellar aliens. I have written very lirrle about humans going to other stars. Partly this is because I feel science fiction ought to entice us into the right future when it is engineering science fiction and our thoughts should be on colonizing the sloar system. However, in my view of the future I have a pretty good idea of how starships ought to come into play.
The most important factor about interstellar travel initiated by the human race is that it would be by far the best if it came after about 500 years of intense development of the Solar System. When there are thousands of operatiing populated spaceships, a dozen or more space stations and large factories and ports on the Moon and Mars fed by Lunar and Martian farms and with labor and finace experienced in space then interstellar travel and starships will have a different appeal than they can as we live in a world where perhaps none of the things listed above will ever happen. I believe we can begin to envision many of the steps we have to undertake. I have included some drawings and illustrations that I have posted in the Crater Cap Concept Colony Group as milestone on that projected road.
What we need to do to get to be a species that lives engaged with the universe of our perception is first to dwvlope this solar system. This process will of course vastly impact our societies and culture. Not doing it is already having an impact. I believe this process can involve creation of entire Earethly eco-systems in canyons. It can be largely humane and part of a larger blossoming of human culture. One of my new Facebook friends Shaun Waterford is developing (and has largely developed) asystem of underwater habitats. I think colonizing the Moon and Mars can lead toa great synergy and cross-fertilization of ideas with those who want to explore the great potential of responsibly colonizing the pelagic ocean floor, seamounts and underwater coastal flats. Most problems will be different between spae and the sea. However, a huge number of problems will be the same, similar or have complimentary solutions. So what could life in space be like?
This would enable a cooler driier microclimate to make for a more pleasantly diverse living environment.
There is of course a lot more to the future than we can address by looking to space colonization. I am very much aware that John Hope Franklin has died this week. He was a black man and a scholar of African American History as well as being an active leader and scholarly planner
of the civil rights movement. John Hope Franklin died at ripe old age. However, the possibilites for collaboration between various groups and peoples would be much more promising if we were colnizing space and greatly increasing real and potential resources. Jesus said “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.” Frankilin spent a great deal of time trying to figure out ways for varied people to live together in a way that seemed more abundant to him. There is no guaranty that we will act wisely and fairly in a world of objective abundance but objetive abundance is part of what all people of goodwill should be working towards.
Science fiction is one of the arts of our own time and place. We are invited by it to look at what we can do and how e can do it. I do hope though that because somuch of our fiction is interstellar we are not distracted fro the great adventure in our solar system which really is calling to us and which will shape much of our destiny.