Thursday, 30 January 2014

Do We Benefit From Being Exploited?

In Poul Anderson's "Interloper" IN Anderson, Fantasy (New York, 1981), representatives of several extrasolar species have told the viewpoint character, Beoric, how in different ways they exploit humanity yet an Arcturian adds:

"'...such civilization can be very beneficial to the subjects.'" (p. 200)

In humanity's name, how? Well, there is an answer.

"'About two hundred years ago, we started an industrial revolution here and made its progress as rapid as the Denebians permitted. We controlled the booming industry...We led the native researchers to take the lines leading to success...'" (pp. 200-201)

The Arcturian lists the results:

population doubling every century;
standards of living steadily rising;
planetary resources put to use.

Beoric reflects on the reverse side of the coin: wars, pollution, waste, poverty, misery, lack of self-determination. These fictitious non-human characters discuss real issues of human history. They also have two sides of the truth, I think.

It would have been better for humanity to have been left to its own devices - or to have received some benign intervention if such were feasible. However, interaction is how life works and, if there are diverse rational species with faster than light drives, then some will interact. An industrial revolution with the consequences listed by the Arcturian is preferable to a continuation of ancient despotisms, especially since industrialization creates at least the possibility of human beings learning the truth and acting upon it. The Arcturian hypocritically rationalizes his own species' manipulation of humanity. Clearly, he will not help any human beings towards understanding or self-determination but unintentionally he has made those outcomes more possible.

Society progresses, and can regress, through contradictions and conflicts with or without extraterrestrial intervention.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

The alternative I prefer would be for humanity to be left alone to succeed or fail without aliens meddling or coercing us. Unless those aliens came openly and honestly and simply offered their advice.


Paul Shackley said...


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

And that was exactly what one of the human characters told the alien meddlers near the end of "No Truce With Kings." They should have not meddled at all or came openly and honestly. But I know you agree!

See? We don't always disagree! (Smiles)