To The Stars ....or Bust.

on Friday, August 10, 2007

Star Trek is a television and movie franchise that has many fans and perhaps has introduced more people today to the science fiction genre than any other work of fiction. I , myself am a fan of the series. My favorite is still the original with Captain Kirk, Spock and gang. At least they had to solve their problems with a mix of brawn and brain. Unfortunately, too often in Star Trek the Next Generation, Data wins the day by "reversing the polarity of the positronic matrix in resonance with the flux amplitude" or some similar pseudo-scientific gibberish.

My purpose in mentioning Star Trek is merely to point out one popular view of man's future. This view is optimistic; believing that science and technological advances will improve the quality of life, give us all forms of conveniences like the food replicator or the transporter. That it will gives us new toys to entertain us like the holodeck and all kinds of medicines to prolong life. This view believes in a bright future for man amongst the stars where even the superior races are impressed by man's intellect and drive and before long man takes there place amongst the star travellers as equals. "The Contact", starring Jodie Foster, also subscribes to this view of a bright and glorious future.

For many years, the science fiction community also promoted the opposite view. This is the view that man's future is a dark one, where man's own technology leads to a breakdown in society or worse where man's technology turns against him. "Blade Runner" and "Brazil" are examples of this vision of the future where society has lost its way and life and freedom are frequent casualties. This is also the world of the Terminator series and the Battlestar Galactica series where our robots and technology turn round and try to eliminate mankind in mass genocide.

The vast majority of science fiction stories fall into either camp. This in turn, I believe, reflects the confidence and beliefs of the general public.
Over the years, other more innovative variations of the theme have appeared. In movies like "Serenity", science and technology may advance but man's basic problems of greed, intolerance and lust for power remain unchanged. This may be considered a form of middle-ground between the Star Trek universe and the Terminator universe.

One variation which I really enjoy is the one portrayed by Arthur C. Clarke in his "Rama" series of books. In this story, an enormous cylindrical spaceship enters our solar system. The story relates how man prepares to meet this impressive sign of extra terrestrial intellegence. From the time it is first spotted going pass Pluto on its way through our solar system, all the nations work franctically to get a spacecraft up to meet it. Despite our best efforts, the cylindrical ship passed through the solar system without recognising man's efforts to make first contact. In fact, it ignores man. This is a very interesting view of the universe, which holds that man may continue to advance in science and technology and may one day reach the stars but when we get there, we discover that the superior races not only do not find us interesting, they ignore us as being insignificant. Would man then survive this blow to his ego?

Do you believe our future is the hands of technology is a bright one or a dark one?

25 comments:

Open Grove Claudia said...

It's a little frightening to me that I have seen, and liked, all the movies you mention. Did you watch Firefly? We Netflixed it. YAY!

I think love always wins - anything else is just human nightmares and fears projected into reality. Look around - you mostly love, live in peace, and enjoy.

Can I have some ice cream? I'm a bit jealous of your avatar

...Kat said...

I rather fear that the future, in the hands of our biological natures, will be a hard one....we have much to overcome

Odat said...

That's a really tough question to answer on a Friday afternoon..but..given the nature of man and his ego, it will probably be a dark one..i hate to say.
Peace

MedStudentWife said...

hmm.. I dont know :S but given my fav TV shows were UFO & Space 1999,and then later Firefly and the movie Serenity...

And I totally relate to Robert Heinlein...

Maybe I think technology will help but also lead us into a mess of trouble..

Josie said...

LGS, good questions. I think so far our track record with progress is pretty good. We seem to be going in the right direction. Or perhaps I am just the eternal optimist. This very thing we are communicating on right now - the Internet - was unheard of a generation ago. But it has changed the world and how we communicate, store and retrieve information, how we relate to each other, and all for the best.

So I would have to say that I believe our future in the hands of technology is a bright one, because I believe that the average person is a good person, and I believe that these sorts of things are driven by the average person.

leslie said...

I cannot predict the future of man, but I LOVE A. C. Clarke!
I cannot read his writing withoutt 'hearing' him speak it.

riseoutofme said...

I think "they" are going to continue to ignore us until we mend our wicked ways. When we show signs of behaving like sentient beings, maybe, then, they'll see fit to visit us and not just watch us from afar.

Haven't read the Rama books ... must remedy that situation, pronto.

the walking man said...

Do you believe our future is the hands of technology is a bright one or a dark one?

I think a lot of it depends on how the courts of the nations of the world hold up individual rights. For example GW and his ability to tap into anyones electronic communications without prior court supervision is Orwellian in it's smell. This move can be echoed by any government on the planet,

But on the other hand it is a fantastic tool for getting the revolution started if only enough people knew where to look.

Me personally I like to write as politically heretically observations on the current administration as I can so they will come a kicking in the door of my house and take me to a secret court.

But like all things technology can be called good or evil, Henry ford put the world on wheels and then it was great but now a century later we find it to be a not so good thing, not because of the wheels but because of the by products, if we use the technology to stop ourselves from personal interactions face to face it could lead to a darker place but if we fit it in and communicate in cyburbia with interesting people learning new things then yes it could be a tool for commonality between people.

Because of you, LGS, I watched a bit of a rugby match on tv. Strange how much it is a bit like every contact sport out there. American football, soccer, hockey..definitely would take some rule learning to get it/

Peace

TWM

...Kat said...

I am an original trekkie... not in the sense of dressing the part and attending conventions and such.... but that I was a huge fan of the show when it first aired (Spock was my favorite character)
Gene Rodenberry's premise that humanity had solved its internal conflicts and united to take the next great step.... to go where no man has gone before.... was a hopeful laudable view to take.... may it be so.
as all the episodes took place in outer space, it would be interesting to have seen what Roddenberry's Earth looked like at that time....

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

claudia,
Strange that we have watched all those same movies. I enjoy Firefly very much and have the series on DVD.

I see from your comment that you are a romantic optimist. Good for you.

Please have all the ice cream you want.....I'm supposed to be on a diet. Obviouslt my avatar is not.

kat,
I share your pessimism based on our current track record.

odat,
Sorry to do this to you on a Friday. Yes, come and join us on the dark side.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

msw,
Snap on UFO, Space 1999, firefly and Serenity. All on my favorite lists too. And,.....another one for the dark side.

josie,
good point about the internet to which my response would be, "but see, the top two reasons for internet use is pornography and pictures of cute animals!"

leslie,
Well, Arthur C. Clarke did a lot of predictions in his stories and a lot have come true.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

riseoutofme,
Another pessimist. I like it. I liked the Rama books. I felt that the human reaction to the first contact was more real and less idealised as in Carl Sagan's "The Contact".

Mark,
Indeed technology is neither good nor bad but depends on how we use it. Unfortunately, man is quick to use it or rather abuse it for personal gain. As I replied to Josie, internet is great but quickly, pornography is probably the most common use. With the wealth of knowledge on the net, it is sad that perhaps the most searched for information is on Paris Hilton!

kat,
You are exactly right that Gene Rodenberry's world would have been interesting. A united Earth. Interesting but unlikely.

Janice Thomson said...

I love the original Star Trek too Lgs and have watched it many times over.
In the hands of technology AND GOD the outcome would be perfect...unfortunately there's not yet enough spirituality mixed in with the technology...not yet at least. It could all vanish like the famed Atlantis if mankind is not more willing to understand this.

squirrel said...

Being that I am VERY tired from cooking 500 slabs of pork ribs for a little league football fund raiser I can't think clearly enough to come up with any good answer to your question. So I'll leave you with this... I loved Star Trek the series and thought Captain Kirk was extremely hot! LOL

geewits said...

I lean towards "Serenity." Nothing will change, there will just be better gadgets. There have always been enlightened thinkers - think Marcus Aurelius. He died over 1800 years ago and great things and horrible things have happened since his time. In a recent poll a lot of people still thought the sun revolves around the earth. Sad to say, most people are dumber than spoons. Until we can adequately educate everyone without social or religious biases nothing will change. We'll just have better gadgets.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

janice,
I think you hit on an important point. Technological advance must be tempered by moral and spiritual advance too but regretably, technological advance is moving at a frantic pasce and the consequences aren't even fully understood and debated e.g. Genetically modified organisms and cloning issues.

squirrel,
You've been busy being a good mom. My hat is off to you and yay for being a Cpt. Kirk fan.

geewits,
You make a strong arguement for the Serenity scenario. The problem is that technology is advancing but man and human civilization continues to be immature in its thinking. Kids with technological toys. A dangerous combination.

http://www.creativewriting.ca said...

I think Star Trek's thesis was that all of the world's problems could be solved by all the world's great books.
I think they had it right.

But who reads the great books anymore?

Science?
It seems to have three pawnbroker's balls hanging off it.
It is in hock.

Science fiction?
Devil worship...Scary, no?

Ivan

Jocelyn said...

I think it will be how technology and humanity marry that will determine the future's brightness. That is to say, the technology can be almost anything, but it's how deliberately and thoughtfully and ethically humans handle it that will pave the way.

Oh, and I'm all about Jean-Luc Picard.

etain_lavena said...

We as humans always find a way to destroy ourselves(obesity, violence, anorexia, drugs, drink) and this does not even have tegnology built in. Trying to find tegnology to do operation, go to space and all the weird bla bla's will I think one day blow up in our faces. Ja that will hurt mans ego if someone should ignore them, maybe we will try and blow them up and we will see our lilly white bums;) What the future hold...hhmmm....dont we all wish at one stage for a crystla ball?.....:)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Ivan,
If your thesis that Star Trek based its hope on the great books for the world's problems is right, that indirectly says that technology can only aid us but real progress for humanity still lies in our philosophers and thinkers....in the hope of more enlightened civilization.

I fully agree that Science is in hock and some science fiction really is like devil worship....the idolization of soulless and amoral technology.

jocelyn,
I agree with you that technology should be controlled by a thoughtful and ethical humanity but I fear it will really be controlled by the lowest denominator within society who has the money.

etain,
How are you? Thanks for the comment. I think you are with us on the dark side (i.e. a pessimist). I like the idea of man's ego deflating when we find out that intellegent life doesn't think we are...intellegent,that is. :)

CS said...

Neither light nor dark, I'd say, but the usual mix of helpful, knowledge-advancing and life-saving discoveries, and the usual greed and ignorance Clarke is writing about. Plus ca change, plus ca la meme chose.

Claire said...

I love science fiction. It might be my favorite genre. I want so badly to believe that people will wise up in the future, but I'm not sure we can overcome our basic human flaws. I know I'm equivicating here but my future predictions usually depend on my mood.

eastcoastdweller said...

I can't believe you didn't mention the cheesiest and most horribly depressing science fiction monstrosity to ever be filmed -- Planet of the Apes.

Proxima Blue said...

I like Captain Janeway and the crew, not just because she's a female captain and with a Native American as a first officer, but because they are so far away from home, they picked up new crewmates that we get to watch develop seven of nine, the Holographic Doctor, Nelix.

As for technology of the future being good or bad, it will be both. There will always those who pursue the new frontier with greed and those who pursue it because they want to learn more. The difference is, the one group makes silent revolutions and the other clamours about things of little real signifigance.

-P

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

cs,
A very balanced view. Probably the right one but I tend to be a bit more pessimistic.

claire,
future, I guess is in our hands.

ecd,
Wow, I forgot about Planet of the Apes! But you are right to raise that as an example. Well, it went into some ridiculous time travel thing.....cheesy as you said.

proxima,
Unfortunately the quiet revolution can be overtaken by the noisy but meaningless.

Capt. Janeway! I have a problem with the actress. I think she tries to hard and anyway, she'll always be Mrs. Colombo to me. Okay, I'll admit it. I would prefer a nice French hottie as Capt. Janeway. And why not? After all, you ladies have Jean Luc Picard.

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