Sunday, 9 October 2016

Various Goals, Conservative Or Transformative

(i) The Time Patrol conserves the Danellian timeline.
(ii) Gratillonius conserves the Roman Empire, then the remnants of civilization.
(iii) Nicholas van Rijn strives to hold together the Polesotechnic League for as long as possible.
(iv) Dominic Flandry strives to hold together the Terran Empire for as long as possible.
(v) Roan Tom strives to survive.
(vi) Anson Guthrie preserves human freedom against control by AI's. Wealth generated within the Solar System is solely invested in interstellar transportation and extrasolar colonization.

(i) In Brain Wave, intelligence increases and reason wins its long struggle against instinct.
(ii) The Psychotechnic Institute tries to guide or manipulate humanity towards individual and collective sanity. A laudable goal but questionable means.
(iii) Daven Laure explores the Cloud Universe, increases scientific knowledge and tries to show an economic return. In fact, the wealth generated will be vast enough to qualitatively transform civilization.
(v) In Genesis, inorganic intelligences explore the universe and increase knowledge.

What a collection! As ever in Poul Anderson's works, a simple comparison between two or three characters generates a longer and more substantial list. This list has got to be so long that we are no longer comparing like with like. There are four examples from the Technic History alone. I prefer those who improve a situation as against those who merely conserve it. I would like to be an immortal intelligence appreciating virtual realities while exploring the universe.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Speaking first in general I would argue that most times leaders living in perilous times have to focus PRIMARILY on conservation rather than transformation. Also, from a literary point of view, to show characters struggling against high or even overwhelming odds might well be more interesting than transformative characters.

I would have said of Gratillonius that he strove to help conserve the Roman Empire as long as possible and then to do the same for civilization in a small part of the Empire.

I agree with what you said about Dominic Flandry. In fact, I would say he was more successful than Nicholas van Rijn. After all, the Polesotechnic League was never meant to be a government or state. At the very end of THE GAME OF EMPIRE we see Flandry expressing the hope the Empire would survive another couple of centuries.

I suspect Roan Tom would far rather the Terran Empire had not fallen. However successful he was in struggling to survive in the chaos of the Long Night, it was frequently uncomfortable and dangerous, to put it mildly!

I would consider Anson Guthrie to combine aspects of both conservation and transformation. He strove to conserve values favorable for human freedom while also striving to open up transformative possibilities thru interstellar expansion into the galaxy.

About BRAIN WAVE, I agree. Altho I thought the premise about some kind of "intelligence dampening" field implausible.

Re the stories set in the era of the Pyschhotechnic Institute, I agree. A MOSTLY laudable goal but questionable means were used.

I'm not so sure even the vast wealth generated by the resources of the "Cloud Universe" could QUALITATIVELY transform a civilization over the vast interstellar distances of the Galaxy. But it would certainly help.

And one of the points I think Poul Anderson was trying to make in GENESIS (and the HARVEST OF STARS books) was the NEED for human beings to be free of control by even the most benign and benevolent of Artificial Intelligences. Human beings NEEDED to be free to make even the most appalling mistakes if they were to be truly free. That for AIs to deny to mankind the ability to choose and make decisions, good or bad, would be to deprive the human race of any REASON to even exist.

I am not sure I would even want to have my "personality" uploaded into either an individual or collective computer program. After all, the *** I *** am right now, in my body would not BE in that program. To say nothing, of course, of how skeptical I am that kind of thing would ever be possible.

Quiz question: why and on which planet would a single gold coin approximately one ounce in weight be so valuable it could buy a whole farm?


Paul Shackley said...

I have no clue about the quiz question.

Anonymous said...

Kaor, Sean!

I forget the name of the planet, but I think I remember the incident: Roan Tom's wives Dagny and Yasmin are on a metal-poor planet (it and its star are old), where they buy some supplies and riding animals at a farm. The gold coin they pay would probably have been enough to buy the whole farm.

Best Regards,
Nicholas D. Rosen

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Nicholas and Paul!

Nicholas: Exactly! You got it right! Roan Tom and his wives were stranded on the planet Nike, a metal poor globe orbiting a star so old it was nearing the end of its time on the main sequence. Nike was so old that it had had time to outgas an atmosphere like our Terra and be otherwise terrestroid despite being so poor in metals that a single ounce of gold had enormous value on Nike. All this can be found in A TRAGEDY OF ERRORS.

Paul: no problem! I'm just trying to amuse people!