Saturday, 4 March 2017

Energy And Knowledge

The Avatar by Poul Anderson.
The Lords of Creation series and the Emberverse series by SM Stirling.
Other recent sf novels about powerful civilizations.

The following propositions are reflections on themes in such sf novels. Please add, agree or disagree.

This generation is immeasurably more powerful than its earliest ancestors.
We can destroy the Earth.
Therefore, we also have a corresponding power to rebuild and renew.
If we survive, future generations will be unimaginably more powerful than us.
With enough energy and knowledge, anything that can be done will be done.
Interstellar travel will happen even if it has to be STL.
Time travel will happen if it is physically possible.

Can entropy be reversed?
Or is "entropy reversal" contradictory?

In The Avatar, the Others traverse space-time and influence future universes.
The Lords of Creation terraform Venus and Mars.
In the Emberverse, someone selectively changes the laws of physics at least on Earth.

I suspect that such power combined with unresolved social conflicts would be self-destructive.
Beings wielding such power would have no need to exploit others to gain anything that they wanted or needed.
Therefore, very powerful beings should be at worst indifferent, at best benign.
However, we should meet them without presuppositions.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

This blog piece of yours inspires many thoughts in me--so I may need to write more than one response.

Agree, our current generation is the most powerful our Earth has yet seen. But, if we are to surpass our current levels of technology we need to get OFF this rock and begin developing the resources of the Solar System. Including the colonization of other planets. And that should lead us to seeking the stars!

You should have mentioned another possibility: we may, in our folly, only PARTIALLY destroy ourselves and the Earth. That is, in Anderson's Maurai stories we see successor civilizations to ours (destroyed by the War of Judgment) struggling to rebuild--but with far fewer and poorer resources available to them. With the Maurai Federation trying, in my opinion foolishly, to prevent the reinvention of controlled nuclear energy.

And Poul Anderson suggested an even bleaker possibility in "Murphy's Hall." The human race might get to the edge of a real developing of the Solar System, even sending a STL star ship. However, disappointments and reverses, and bad social and political ideas, might cause the human race to reject leaving Earth. With FATAL consequences for the species.

I am totally unable to comment on whether entropy can be reversed. I would first need to study some basic physics, just for a start.

If vastly powerful non human rational beings from other planets caused the Change, that undermines your hope that such beings would not be hostile to us. But you did say we should meet them without presuppositions, including hopeful ones!


S.M. Stirling said...

By the standards of, say, the Neolithic, contemporary advanced societies are already "post-scarcity", but we still have politics and we still kill each other over it.

The reason is that politics isn't really -about- material things at all; those are just 'markers' of success, the counters in the game in some forms of the game. Hunter-gatherer bands are materially rather egalitarian, but they have politics, violent competition and (between bands) war.

What politics is really about is -power-, and power by definition cannot be in abundant supply because it's a positional good, like beauty (which is a form of power).

Paul Shackley said...

Mr Stirling,
An interesting perspective on politics, power and even beauty. I value blogging because it gives me access to different perspectives.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

Exactly! You more clearly explained why I have doubts, to put it mildly, about the more Utopian hopes I've seen for "social reform." My view is that people WILL continue to compete, scheme, and intrigue against each other, no matter how rich--even post scarcity--their society might be.

We see exactly that in Poul Anderson's HARVEST OF STARS books and GENESIS.


GibsonGirl99 said...

"Therefore, very powerful beings should be at worst indifferent, at best benign."

And in quite a bit of fiction, they are neither--the ones to be feared are those that are BORED. Ennui, dreaded affliction of the omni-beings.
That alone might explain politics!

Just discovered your blogs. Fantastic!!

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear GibsonGirl,

Interesting, that boredom and ennui might well drive competition and politics. I should have remember that because Poul Anderson shows us one society in GENESIS, for example, where sheer ennui plays a role.