Science Fiction Asks and Answers:
I am sure that many of you have already read at least one science fiction book, from cover to cover, only to be haunted days after by the possibility that the writer might be on to something. Science fiction taps into our innate fear of the unknown revealing through the tools of imagination that the future holds endless possibilities of resolution for mankind.
Will the Earth’s population be destroyed by a new Ice Age? Some say that this is a very likely hypothesis, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There is still much time at hand for us to colonize another planet in our solar system or to discover time traveling and find another Earth just as welcoming and resourceful as our own. Let’s have a look of some of the best known future scenarios that science fiction has to offer.
1. The Foundation Series – Isaac Asimov
The Foundation Series starts by sending us way further into the future, on a journey to a fictional galaxy that might as well be our own. Only that this Galaxy’s planets are all populated, amassing into one amazingly and diversely cultured galactic empire. The intellectual elite of this Empire is unquestionably ruled by Hari Seldon and his ideas, also known as the father of Psychohistory.When the writer introduces the concept of psychohistory it is obvious that he already “sees” a future in which Psychohistory would be the key to understanding the unknown. So what is this incredible discovery that sounds like the mingling of two grossly unrelated fields of knowledge? The science of Psychohistory is based on the mathematical analysis of history taking into consideration people and their actions as variables, and by making use of intricate formulae it is accurate in formulating all alternatives to the future. But the most interesting fact yet to be revealed, is that those who will be responsible with guarding the secret of this science, have been able to develop extra sensorial and telepathic-like abilities, like reading one’s thoughts, redirecting them and even erasing them, thus reprogramming the whole human mind.
2. Permutation City – Greg Egan
Set out in a near future world ravaged by the destructive forces of climate change, economic and cultural globalization have reached their peak, offering fertile terrain for dramatic discrepancies between the social classes. The major technological discovery is that the computer can produce and replicate an exact virtual model of consciousness and of reality within certain processing and storage limits. Many people choose to live their remaining time or their afterlife in a virtual replica of reality created by them, while acting as mere observers to the real world. However, not everyone is entitled to a “copy” (a rendering of a human brain with subjective consciousness). The privileged ones are members of the high-class elite and are offered only the best as long as their pockets go deep enough, while at the opposite end of the spectrum, the less fortunate might as well sit for years frozen as a snapshot until they can afford computer power, thus virtual life.
3. The Roadside Picnic – Arcady and Boris Strugatsky
This famous short science fiction story that has been the inspiration for Tarkovsky’s well known “Stalker”, opens the doors of imagination to a world that has been visited by extraterrestrial entities. Unusual phenomena are constantly reported by the citizens in various places over the earth and thus, are quarantined to prevent daredevils or “stalkers” to enter them and steal precious artifacts. The main character, an experienced stalker, is helplessly drawn by the zones, not only for financial gain, but because his illegal activity has mutated his DNA in such a way that his daughter is no longer human. He searches for an explanation, a meaning to all these strange happenings such as why copies of the dead are rising from their graves. The wish-granting “Golden-Sphere” deeply hidden in one of the zone, is his last resort.
So, we have had the opportunity to go over some of the best science fiction material ever written and now I am left with a curiosity most annoying about something in particular: how would you rate these scenarios on a 1 to 10 scale as possible alternatives to our future?