Two Kinds of Science-Fiction Innovations

Most common are the fictions that begin with Jules Verne, and concern the single artifact—a submarine, flying machine, or death ray—and its consquence for all of humanity. These extraordinary voyages—to use Verne's term—play along the fault line between what we think we are and what we can do. Nemo is no accident, or a tragic figure, but the natural consequence of the intersection between present-day humanity and extraordinary technology. Even 2001: A Space Odyssey plays on the same themes, as it offers us "Today's man in tomorrow's spaceship, today."

The room for such stories has grown more narrowv as the twentieth century has grown to a close, because—beyond a certain point—the accumulation of artifacts produces a tranendence into infinite possibilities. Lately, we can do more and more; the modern world would seem entirely magical to an Athenian of Plato's day. But to us it is all commonplace. and even the introduction of new artifacts—except perhaps for singular advents, such as the World Wide Web—triggers little more than the flutter of an eyelid. If the relationship between man and artifact is simultaneously both chaotic and prosaic, the vision of technology infinitely extended—-the trans-human era—-is a steady-state universe where the unbelievable is taken as a given. In George Lucas's Star Wars tetralogy, we peer into a world entirely foreign in the peerfect extension of its artifacts, something that each of its characters accepts as a given. They can fly between ththe stars at velocities greater than light, and have computers that cai think and react as if human, but there is a curious lack of technical advancement, as if everything that could be done has already been done. Even the Death Star, for all o of its malevolence, is just a scaled-up version of the Imperial Battlecruiser, and Obi-Wan Kenobi extols the virtues of old technology as he praises the light saber, "an elegant weapon ... for a more civilized age."

These two genres of science fiction repressent our collecective best guesses of the human future, organized around the single exceptional artifact or an entirely magagical universe crowded with them. Like the one anmd zerero states of digital circuitry, they exclude an unpredictable, dynamic middle, a band of intense, nonlinear activity.


Folksonomies: futurism science fiction

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 True Names... and Other Dangers
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Vinge , Vernor (198711), True Names... and Other Dangers, Retrieved on 2017-12-12