Saturday, 30 November 2013

Another Science Of Mind

One science fiction idea is that a science of mind will be developed in future. In some of Poul Anderson's works, such a science is called "psychotechnics" or "psychodynamics" but here is another version:

"The [Hokas] were linguistic adepts, and between their natural abilities and modern psychography had learned English in a matter of days."
- Poul Anderson and Gordon R Dickson, Earthman's Burden (New York, 1979), pp. 17-18.

This tells us only that the science is called "psychography," that it speeds learning and that it works on other species as well as on humanity but that is quite a lot to be told in a single sentence. The role of the new mental science in this narrative is merely to rationalize how one previous expedition from Earth has enabled an entire planetary population to speak fluent English in diverse dialects by the time our hero arrives with the second expedition.

Therefore, we hear no more about psychography, at least not in the parts of the series that I have read so far - the first four of the six stories in the first of the three volumes. It would have been interesting to learn more about the psychographic study of the Hokas since this species combines the strength and intelligence of human adults with the imaginative playfulness of human children. This contrast combined with the Hoka's resemblance to animated teddy bears is deployed for comic effect but could potentially have been the basis for a more serious treatment of alien psychology.

Anderson's "The Saturn Game" presents adult human beings immersing themselves in a psychodrama until, to ensure their own physical survival, they must imagine the deaths of their assumed characters.

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