Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Cutting Edge II

Here, we listed six kinds of fiction:

historical fiction;
heroic fantasies;
three kinds of sf.

There is not always a convenient label for what we are talking about. The first two kinds of sf are straightforward: future histories and time travel. The third is... Hal Clement-style world-building - or speculative planetology?

In all six cases, we said, "If you read works of this type, then also read certain specified works by Poul Anderson." Next we will mention another two kinds of sf:

alternative histories fiction;
what I have here called "Cutting Edge" speculative fiction.

In these two cases, it is appropriate to mention Poul Anderson in relation to other authors. Thus:

if you have read Anderson's "The House of Sorrows" and Eutopia," then read the alternative history novels and series of Harry Turtledove and SM Stirling;

if you have read Anderson's later "Cutting Edge" sf, then read the works of several later aurhors, e.g., John C. Wright.

For a summary of Anderson's account of an AI-nanotech economy, see here. I have only just begun to read John C. Wright's The Golden Age. To write hundreds of pages of narrative set in a society with such an advanced technology is a sustained feat of the imagination. The reader must accept that everything makes sense in its context but that we do not (yet) see the entire context. Thus, we read that someone was present:

"...only as a partial-version..."
-John C. Wright, The Golden Age (New York, 2003), p. 4 -

- and we deduce from this that AI technology enables a man to be represented at a meeting or a social event by a self-conscious duplication of part of his own mind/personality/consciousness.

My initial impression is that Wright partly imagines a transformed future scenario but also partly projects features of twentieth/twenty-first society onto that scenario. Thus, crime and coercion are outmoded concepts yet some individuals and lineages are immeasurably wealthy compared with everyone else. One character reduced himself to penury by bad investments. Another is described as "...the owner of a vast entertainment empire..." (p. 33) That phrase suggests a population of individuals with incomes which they spend partly on necessities and partly on entertainment. How do they acquire their incomes? If they are employed by and work for owners of entertainment or other companies/"empires" etc, then our economy has survived unchanged whereas if instead each member of the population has a share in the vast technologically produced wealth, then why is distribution of this wealth limited in such a way that there is still a division between rich and poor?


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Commenting on your last paragraph. But I can imagine even a post scarcity economy STILL having people who INSIST competing against each other, no matter how illogical you think that to be. I don't know how people would be EMPLOYED in a post scarcity economy, but, assuming that is the case, then it follows that some will be "wealthier" than others. Nor would I think that to be necessarily bad. Those who are willing to work and strive to achieve more SHOULD gain more.


    1. Sean,
      Competition in sport would continue.
      If some are employed, then others are wealthier. That follows. It is understanding how employment would continue that is more difficult.

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      And competition would continue to exist in many other aspects of life, including the economic. The point I'mn trying to suggest is that some, if given the chance, would accept employment as another means of competition.