Saturday, 30 May 2015

Genius Revisited

It is nearly time for me to go up the apples and pears to Bedfordshire but there may be enough time for one last post. The object of the exercise is to reread "Genius" in order to ascertain whether its leading characters express moral opinions that Poul Anderson disagreed with. See here.

However, that objective will not be achieved tonight. Preliminary remarks... This short story was published in the month before I was born. Think about it. I did not know anything about the story at the time. (And I expect to know as little about anything in the month after I have died.) As I became able to read, I noticed displayed for sale paperbacks with titles like I, Robot and wondered about them.

"Genius" begins with a conversation, almost a confrontation, between a soldier and a psychologist. The soldier claims that, in order to preserve their interstellar Empire, it is necessary to suppress rebels, barbarians, pirates, serfs, slaves, criminals and the insane. That is quite a list! The insane need care and, if possible, cure. Pirates and criminals need to be arrested and charged. Barbarians need to be civilized. Serfs and slaves do not need to exist in a high tech society. And, if the Empire is ruled well, why should anyone want to rebel?

The psychologist remarks that military power is a tool but that the Empire is based on "'...applied psychological science...'" (Call Me Joe, p. 197) Further down that page, he uses the term "...psychotechnician." Can psychology become a technology as in Asimov's Foundation and Anderson's Psychotechnic History? A big question but no answer tonight.

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