Monday, July 29, 2013

Science fiction's five best guides to the present

"It's 2013 and there are no bases on Mars or even Luna. We aren't exploring the galaxy at warp speed and, given the impossibility of faster-than-light travel, we never will be," notes Damien Walter in the Guardian. Yet, he adds, science fiction is "the only reliable guide I've found to the weird present we're now all living in."

One of five SF realms that Walter suggests helps us understand the world today-- psychic powers:
Far be it from me to make any claims to psychic powers, but in the last 24 hours I've plucked thoughts from the minds of hundreds of other humans in 140-character bites and read dozens of news stories published only minutes before they hit my mind. Octavia E Butler's Patternist novels are a speculative vision of psychic powers operating between human minds, and it's remarkable how many parallels to the internet are to be found there and in other SF tales of psychic powers like Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man. We may not have reached the full Vulcan mind-meld just yet, but our smartphone obsession is not a million light years away from it.
Read about the other four themes Walter mentions: Algorithmic robot overlords. Microsoft Big Brother. Post-Scarcity economics. Quantum reality.

--Marshal Zeringue