Saturday, 13 June 2015

Power through Science: more science or fiction in our novels?

 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.'
- Arthur C. Clarke
I apologise for using such a cliché statement from the eternal Clarke, but it is true. 
It is easy to imagine some future settings in which our heroes are having the usual adventure accompanied by a plethora of events of drama, action, envy, emotions ect. The Science in the Fiction sometimes comes from just comfortably inventing technological gadgets that take care of the small, but somehow crucial details of a story. Without much consideration and/or research it is easy to fall in a trap where technological advancement serves the only purpose of facilitating how those crucial details are affecting and helping the dramatic unfolding of events to take place; and an entire universe to exist in a speculative realm. Thankfully, in my mind there is a line drawn between speculative fiction and Science Fiction. Take for instance power consumption.
Giant interstellar ships are somehow omnipresent. Huge hulks sailing the constant solar winds in open space, either through hyperspace jumps, or through some fusion reaction; non-existent alien fuels also come to mind. Quite comfortably a very crucial element of ship propulsion is taken care of by a method that will essentially provide enough power that any other form of weapon-usage becomes obsolete. A mere plasma pulse will be enough to mess up the delicate balance of a planet's geological systems. And that power is readily available to any sufficiently advanced civilizations that can operate ships, giant enough to transfer entire legions, carry innumerable nuclear heads for orbital bombardment or just casually punching anti-matter bombs from space. In the curious case of anti-matter, the very encapsulating of the material will consume enough energy in the form of electro-magnetic fields that it will not make sense to spends it all on exotic weaponry with the addition that extra energy will be needed to propel the additional weight in space.
But that would take care of so much of the drama needed in novels, would it not? The last thing I would like somebody to think of me is that I am some sort of an iconoclast that is here only to criticise endlessly the work of other people. No! I do respect anyone who had the time to sit down and write a book, a novel or an article; or whatever it is for that matter, as long as it is in proper English. I do, however, like to point out there is an increasing presence of actual nonsensical scientific development being present in the world of SciFi today. Characters casually sail the shifting seas of emotions and dramatized climaxes in a space opera where all of the most interesting concepts are somehow concealed behind the omnipresent background of anything-goes technology that is there to serve whatever needs are emerging in the minds of somehow superannuated sentient beings. Even if it is using machine guns in an universe where characters travel through hyperspace. The very fact there is such technology available implies a huge energy harnessing potential. So huge that the destruction of an entire solar system is a mere push of a button. But wouldn't that be a bit too much, too far, too final and too abrupt for the case of long pieces of novels. Yes. Perhaps too much would be decided too quickly and too much would be erased from the long pages of a book, so that the characters would be sitting there wondering whether they should just dissociate their nemesis and probably several AU(astronomical units) worth of a distance in space. 
Nanoids come to the rescue for any illness, any DNA irregularity and any need to produce a stronger physical body. As long as there is a whole theatre to be played, it is worth the inclusion. But in such a developed stage the very same nanoids become so absurdly proliferated that self replicating, extremely small swarms of bots penetrate the vast distances of space to utterly wipe out life on entire planets, produce indestructible and eternal bodies or create vast space complexes from mere space debris. 
With today's exponential growth of science, extreme enlargement of academic knowledge it is not an easy task to predict where things will be in a hundred years. Less so in two hundred, probably*.
But Science fiction can be so much more than that. In a sense there is no need for so much destruction, when the actual destruction is so devastating that entire civilizations are wiped out in an instant. Despite our proto-consciousness and huge cave-man brain there are other external factors that play a crucial role to the development of a human being. Culture, society, language, family, written knowledge and art come to mind. In a stage where so much power becomes available to a civilization the overall maturity will invariably rise and produce a specie that is more self-aware and careful of it's environment. All of this in the attempt to preserve it's existence. Because life first and foremost tries to preserve itself. No, not by war. Exactly scientific development and the availability will produce conditions in which a being will be most likely beneficial and well dis-positioned towards the outside world. Or perhaps just ignoring it altogether. After all you don't spend much time looking and dealing with ants. No offence to the insectologists.

*Asimov's Foundation series comes to mind, where mathematics is used to calculate the collective outcome of humanity's progress in the millennia to come.