Thursday, 2 April 2015

On Science Fiction.

Two very different opinions are echoing in my mind at the moment. One of them is Michio Kaku's words 'Science brings prosperity', the other is a close friend of mine, who said 'Science is driven only by desire to control'. Looking around my room today I see a kind of a scholarly cell that has become universal in its function, that is to say is used in more than one ways with(thankfully) relative satisfaction. And science had a lot to say in compressing large amounts of actual space into a tablet, laptop, smartphone and a broadband router. So an immediate conclusion is that science has kept me better connected to the knowledge base out there as well as with other human beings. And it has also provided means of entertainment not only through the easy access to media, but also by easy-to-reach inspiring ideas around which books, games and movies are based.

To say that I have a deep fascination with science fiction is to generously describe me as ...well...'generous' - I still haven't read a piece of SciFi that I can honestly say that I truly love. I like some ideas, but I never felt absolutely immersed or particularly impressed by the worlds drawn in the pieces of work I've read. Not too 'science'-y, not too 'fiction'-y; quite 'drama'-y, though. And here is the slight irony! As I myself am writing SciFi as we speak, probably no body would like what I write - hahaha, who's the loser?! But there is light in the tunnel! I've grown a bit and I, not only see, but also appreciate the hard work needed to produce a whole book, with all the characters and scenarios and 'turn-around's and the plethora of details needed to finish a piece, be it a SciFi or whatever other book. Sometimes I can even see where the author might have struggled for words, where their writing had come to a halt, and leaning back on the chair, hand on their mouth, serious and calm gaze staring into the wall, thinking about how to pick it up again. For that, every author deserves support!

What somebody might call 'critical thinking' to me shapes itself as a dialectical 'other' voice in my mind. It is thinking if the presentation of a certain technology - non-developed at the moment, would be feasible, realistic, economic and properly simulated. A little example. Humanoid robots have been, are and will be popular in SciFi. But modern science says that, even if we had true independent AI (which we don't), humanoid bodies are not exactly easy to engineer. In fact to construct a humanoid is to take away from a very specific physical task, that a particular robot could have been adept at doing and introduce a multitude of tasks that the robot would be mediocre at best. Out of pure pragmatics humanoid bodies are initially highly unlikely, either as mindless and obedient, all-sufficient servants or as temples of independent and unique consciousness. A much more likely scenario would be to house that independent thinking mind into ... any form given, and then realistically lay down the facts and limitations of homo-sapience in a reciprocal conversation. And if we could please, with the help of your computational power and critical thinking, construct a body YOU would feel comfortable with.(Sorry Chappy, I still like you!) Singularity, after all, can have many faces.

What immersion in hardcore modern science does, is that it provides a point of origination to a very wide framework, in which a mind can simulate at will. We do need a solid ground to begin with, though.(Is somebody pointing a gun at me already?) Drama can exist in any fictional situation, but to create drama that exists in properly simulated world in the future, requires acquiescence of facts and insights that are coming from researchers on top of the tide of R&D in academic communities. In a recent work of SciFi I have read, there is an extreme focus on sentient robots depicted as sex machines and all the other technologies just stand in the background unaddressed. Sexual Connoisseurship is what is attributed to them most often and scenarios presenting sexual acts(be them rapes or whatever...yes the robots get raped) fill a significant part of the text. In other words, to have proper sex, we - the hairy monkeys, have invented consciousness and brought it into submission with short circuits that will fry the hardware of we are not obeyed. Such a cowardly act!(I am wondering if this is what it takes to sell the book, though?!...)

But to get back to the very beginning - 'Science brings prosperity' vs 'Science is here to control us'.
I have positioned myself safely in between these two, almost opposite sides. I can definitely see where each point is coming from and I agree with each one of them in a way, perhaps making making myself comfortable in the process? But I truly see the meaning of them both. Science also makes SciFi very interesting and challenging! I mentioned earlier the word simulation. Our brains are actually so good at it. A tool that has served us well in our evolution. The schedules, the buses, the education, the shopping, the planning, the organising, the reviewing, the writing, the conversations we sometimes have with ourselves(if you don't, you must be one of those lucky 0,001%) and so many more activities. We are just good at placing ourselves in a different situation and ponder on the outcomes. Anxiety control can be an issue. But it is, never the less, a fictional simulation(beware). And without solid base in the form of external facts and limits, be it humans, time, ideologies, religion, rules ect. our simulation can be harmful to us. A tool well used is a tool well placed. You don't stick a handle into the screw, in other words.

So Science Fiction as a simulation of what the world would be if... And the "simulation" bit is already handled by the "fiction" in the name. That would leave 'science' to be defined. The predictable, measurable, reproducible, factual, testable on demand. This is the point of origination that the simulation would be right to have. What is today, projected into the future, develops into something different over a period of time, during which the "fictional" had happened. The 'Science' then would include human morality, nature, cosmic principles of behaviour. Further - nature, ideology, technology, religion, all rooted in the 'right now'.  And the beauty of expression needed to glue it all in one continuous flow - start to finish. These sound like quite the prerequisites for writing a piece of SciFi already!! But at the root of it all lies deep curiosity and fascination with knowledge.