Monday, April 19, 2010

Some lessons are learned the hard way ...

I rede you, Loddfafnir! and hear my rede,—
Profit you have if you hear,
Great your gain if you learn:
Exchange of words
with a witless ape
You must not ever make.

- Havamal 122

... nuff said.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pandora exists!?

Avatarmania has not subsided.

When the movie Avatar first came out, there were news of people who entered a state of depression after watching the movie because they felt unable to live in a world like Pandora. Now, astronomy and exoplanet enthusiasts are announcing the existence of a Blue Moon light years away similar in size to Pandora.

I don't know if it's a hoax, but from my understanding the mathematical laws of probability dictate that in the vast expanse comprising trillions of galaxies with trillions of stars each, there should be at the very least several thousand Pandoras and several thousand Earths, most of them so far away that our race will never hear from them.

This brings up a current phenomenon that science fiction has made popular: it's a phenomenon where life imitates art. In fact, most of the things that were imagined decades ago by science fiction pioneers like Isaac Asimov sound pretty much like a description of the modern world in which we live: airplanes flying over people every five minutes, boxes where food can be cooked in less than four minutes, cellphones, the beginning of space exploration ... we are today already living in the world that Asimov envisioned! And the world that our contemporary science fiction envisions will be in existance in some form or another within several centuries.

The people that colonize other planets will no doubt derive much of their new folklore from modern science fiction, and much of their mythology from Star Wars, Dune and other classics. Sci-fi will provide terms, ideological and social models, even the cultural and technological ideas that will fuel future life in other planets.

I love the science fiction genre because it contains the seed of prophecy, strange as it sounds. It is the only fictional genre where humans can begin to explore the questions that are mostly unasked because we haven't progressed to that point yet, and where many of the premises it's based on are required to be pre-scientific and ergo they may potentially materialize one day in the far future (otherwise the work is considered fantasy instead of sci-fi).

By prophecy I do not mean any type of supernatural agent or revelation: prophecy is to me another name for a pop conspiracy that is cloaked in mystery and appeals to religion for legitimacy and authority in order to become a living cultural tradition.

I remember reading the Nebula-award winning novel Red Mars, and realizing that the work being done today by the Mars Society, which is attempting to organize the pioneering work of terraforming and colonizing our second home in space, is inspired in many ways by this novel, and the novel also asks the philosophical questions relevant to the expedition and the project of terraforming Mars.

Through this genre, we're beginning to mentally prepare for the next leg in our evolutionary journey: this is a huge and absolutely necessary mental exercise for our generation. Most humans haven't even begun to ponder this. Within the next century, we are about to embark on the first seeding of humans in another world, the first experiment in speciation, the birthing of what will with certaintly become the first post-human race after many generations of isolation and adaptation: the Martian Man, the Homo Martianis.

So maybe Pandora exists after all. And if it doesn't, it won't matter because some day in the far future we'll create it ...