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By (February 8, 2009) ()

A suprising number of the things on the technovelgy.com list has come to be, to varying degrees of verisimilitude. This should be thorougly exciting, shouldn’t it? It doesn’t feel that way. Looking at the whole list I wonder, was the 20th century a self fulfilling prophecy or the inevitable fulfillment of an itch being scratched? Are these inventions, devices, services that were inherently necessary or are they just extraneous desires that were created simply “because we can” or more specifically, “because we finally could”?

One of the pages that made me pause was Carniculture Plants: Industrial plants that grow meat protein. Considering the rapidly increasing food prices worldwide and the riots that broke out in developing nations last year, an earnest desire for this would be appropriate. Placed in the context of a better understanding of how little we understand the risks of genetic engineering, the prospect seems far away (not to mention naive.)

So many of these devices represent a sterile, unfriendly, purely functional approach to resolving problems in a way that celebrates our problem solving capabilities more than an elegant solution. Granted, so much of sci fi technology is actually stealthy plot devices, empowering deus ex machinas that puts human intellect in the middle of the narrative; our strength and downfall in one. Maybe sci fi is better suited for a very simple perspective that doesn’t take into account a complex eco-system, and the complex individuals within it.

There were also writers like Kurt Vonnegut and Phillip K Dick, who had no illusions of how horrifically naive (and absurd) we could be as a species. Vonnegut’s ice nine is exactly the kind of result we could expect from scientists working without consideration of the consequences their own work has in a larger organization with mutiple agendas. Vonnegut’sCat’s cradle is one big metaphor for a chain reaction with far reaching consequences. But then again, he swore he wasn’t a science fiction writer.


February 8, 2009


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