Science Fiction Science Fact
I’m going through a phase. We all go through phases. Blaze reckons he goes through phases and wormholes. As you know from another blog of mine he is convinced he has time travelled.
He also thinks that circumstances alone prevented him from being a contender on the Pro surfing circuit, cats are listening to our conversations and slowly learning English so as to takeover world banking and the members of the band Greta Van Fleet are actually made up of illegitimate offspring that Led Zeppelin members fathered on their infamous tours through the USA.
None of these things are of course possible. One is so vague as to be psychobabble [what circumstances Blaze, what circumstances?] another is slightly libellous and from a time point of view impossible but all persist in Blaze’s mind.
He might have something with the cat thing though; they are definitely hanging around for a reason.
My phase is much more reasonable.
I am reading some really interesting books about humankind’s possible future and then I am reading science fiction and seeing where things cross over. I am not trying to see whether we are getting factually closer to what someone wrote as a novel years ago but trying to see how something might actually work in the day to day if it really happened.
Of course future predictions are usually shit. We never quite get the subtle ways that the technology might end up being used and the ramifications. For example has the Internet brought us all closer like it was supposed to? Well in one way yes, I know what my girlfriend from 1981 is doing today and I can watch the waves in Hawaii in real time etc. but at what cost to the actual face-to-face contact that humans have thrived on for hundreds of years? All that Internet and more people than ever report being lonely and disengaged and unhappy. And there are still no levitating skateboards, let alone cars.
But enough Debbie Downer, in the spirit of getting happy and spreading the joy can I introduce to you to the book Factfulness by Hans Rosling with some help from Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund. This is a book analysing where we are at on this planet in fixing all the bad shit. You know disease, poverty, war etc.
Now Hans reckons that while everything is not all tickety boo there have been vast improvements in most of these burdens over the last 50 years and the world is actually a better place than you might think. Given that on the back of the book he has endorsements from Barrack Obama and Bill Gates and he backs up his assertions with some good hard data it’s a good read even if it does feel a bit text book at times. His rationale on why we are turning into glass half empty guys is really good so I recommend you read it and get happy and be reassured things are and will get better. Unfortunately he makes no attempt to explain if things are getting better then why do we still have mindless gangster rap, reality TV and road rage but you can’t have everything.
Now in fiction terms how can I go past two classics that addressed facts neither of which are science fiction in a pure sense, but are better described as dystopic novels?
They are Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984.
1984 is the better written and obviously more influential but I think Brave New World may end up being the closer to the future reality.
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World gets around the problem of worrying about how things are by genetically engineering people into different castes and having everyone off their nuts on a soothing happy drug called Soma. In Brave New World, life is an endless pleasant utopia with fear and doubts forever removed. There is no such thing as worry.
The insanely prescient 1984 by George Orwell just gets more scary and real as the years go by. In 1984 the truth is constantly altered so the totalitarian government is always and has always been right. Again no need to worry about things for they are always exactly how they should be, just like they said they would be. Being more a glass half empty guy I read it every few years just to give me a chill.
In my own piece of ironic, scary Orwellian engineering I would make it compulsory for all humans to read Brave New World and 1984.
You might recall I raved about a book called Homo Deus by Israeli Professor and writer Yuval Noah Harari. In it he outlined what humankind’s future might be like with the rise of AI and robots and other groovy things.
He has a new book that is about the present called 21 Lessons for The 21st Century. It too is a cracker though I am kind of wondering why he didn’t give us the book about the present first then we would be better prepared for the future, given what we do now will have an impact on what we do in the future.
Rookie error was Blaze’s opinion when I asked him for his thoughts.
Anyway you should read his latest book for the same reason you should have read the last one. Those amongst you who are also fans of Harari’s work are probably yelling at me from in front of their screens that he has also written a book about humankind’s past called Sapiens and when am I going to mention that. The answer is well I can’t do it now because I have not read it at the present but I will read his book about our past in the near future. So there.
On the same themes of AI and the merging and man and machine but fictional is the William Gibson jawdropper, Neuromancer. Original, powerful and one of the most awarded science fiction books ever this is the first cyberpunk novel. Here is the source material for The Matrix, Ready Player One and plenty more. All the things that Harari discusses in his books has happened or is happening in Neuromancer.
Unfortunately as in any genre everyone who loves sci fi has already read everything but those of us who don’t normally go there have read next to nothing.
I am only half way through so I will update you but this book goes off. If you have never read it I think you had better so you can be ready for 2050. Of course it was first published in 1984. Says it all really.
On the music side since Bowie was a genius and so far ahead of the curve on most things why should we be surprised to hear he was all over this stuff in a number of his songs. Plenty of 1984 references in his work especially on his underappreciated Diamond Dogs album, the last of his glitter era and a release already showing hints of the plastic soul USA era to come. Contrast Rebel Rebel with Sweet Thing for example or the wonderful Rock and Roll With Me.
So six songs about facts, positivity and the genius of Orwell and Huxley
1984 – David Bowie
Soma – The Strokes
2+2=5 – Radiohead
Brave New World – Iron Maiden
Ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive – Bing Crosby
Cross-eyed and Painless – Talking Heads