Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Cutting Edge Speculative Fiction

I have realized that there is a level of speculative fiction about which I can make several tentative statements:

I provisionally call it "Cutting Edge";
Poul Anderson addressed "Cutting Edge" in some later works;
however, other authors have since developed it considerably further;
names associated with "Cutting Edge" include Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, Stephen Baxter, Iain M. Banks and John C. Wright;
but there are others with whom I am even less familiar;
"Cutting Edge" speculations might include -

high tech, including nantech;
abundant wealth;
indefinitely extended lifespans;
god-like (not God-like) control of mass and energy;
colonization at least of the Solar System;
slower than light interstellar travel;
Artificial Intelligence;
artificial enhancement of human perceptions and mentality;
human-AI mergers and syntheses;
the recording and duplication of conscious memories and personalities;
transcendence of current problems and creation of new ones;
narratives difficult for the reader to follow because so much that is described is outside our experience.

I have read very little as yet of John C. Wright's The Golden Age (New York, 2002). On p. 6, public outcry has driven away financial support for projects to reengineer Saturn. In familiar economics, money controls distribution and enriches investors. However, would money still circulate or need to circulate when there was no longer any need to limit distribution and when it had become possible for an immense population to be abundantly enriched? I do not think that anyone would need either to work for a wage or salary or to buy commodities so I question a continued role for money. But, in any case, this is the sort of discussion and speculation that we need about the future implications of current technology.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I still remember the difficulty I had with Poul Anderson's late phase "Cutting Edge" technology books, such as the HARVEST OF STARS series. So I was not surprised when I had similar trouble with Mr. Wright's GOLDEN AGE trilogy. But, I appreciate and admire the imagination and daring of such authors.

I don't think it's necessarily an archaism for even a post scarcity economy to still use monetary units and economic calculations. I can imagine that some projects would be so costly and consume so many resources that older means of calculating costs would be useful, even necessary, simply to analyze whether a proposed project is doable.