[ExI] Science Fiction (was Re: Motivated Reasoning)

Ben Zaiboc ben at zaiboc.net
Sun Mar 15 11:21:04 UTC 2020

On 14/03/2020 17:07, Gabe Waggoner wrote:
> I always figured some Trek folks were part of this list, but I'm happy 
> to see it explicitly mentioned. 

I'd be surprised if there were more than a handful of people on this 
list with a negative attitude towards science-fiction in general. I 
count myself as an SF nerd, having read the stuff for almost as long as 
I've been able to read.

I've always found Star Trek to have an anti-transhumanist vibe, though. 
In fact, thinking about it, very very few SF TV shows or films have had 
even a neutral attitude to it, most of them being very anti. It's only 
in books that you tend to see pro-transhumanist attitudes. And there are 
some great ones (and that's not an American 'great', either, I really 
mean outstanding, not just 'good').
Iain M Banks, Neal Asher, Peter Hamilton, Linda Nagata, Charlie Stross 
(when he writes SF), and to a lesser degree, Alastair Reynolds are 
probably my favourite modern authors, but of course there's a long list 
of precursors to them, stretching right back to Jules Verne.

Can anyone think of a pro-transhumanist film or TV show? I mean one that 
doesn't derive a negative message from transhumanist themes and 
aspirations? Longevity, enhancement, AI, uploading, etc.? The best I can 
think of are 'Transcendence' (ambivalent, if even that), 'Chappie', 
which might count as an exception to the rule, and 'Ghost in the Shell' 
(at the risk of starting an argument!), which has some nice technology, 
but is basically a dystopian vision.

I'm not counting 'superhero'-type things, because these are about 
mutants, magic, special people or species, and the ordinary people 
aren't any different to usual. Batman's technology is reserved for 
Batman, Ditto Ironman (with a slightly more realistic element of the 
military muscling in on it). No-one ever thinks of giving other people 
spiderman-like abilities, or how to raise humans up to the level of 
Asgardians, and so-on. 'Limitless' and 'Lucy' are about single 
individuals gaining special abilities ('superpowers', essentially), just 
like Spiderman or Green Lantern.

I would /love/ to see someone do a film or TV show from the 'Culture' 
stories of Iain M Banks, or something where ordinary people are shown as 
having capabilities significantly beyond baseline human, without making 
a fuss of it. People who live indefinitely, cybernetic implants and full 
cyborgs being commonplace, uploads and multiple branching identities 
being background elements, that sort of thing.

Despite all that, I still watch Star Trek, even the latest stupid one, 
which seems even more ridiculous and inconsistent than usual (and has a 
truly awful title sequence). It's entertaining, which makes up for any 
amount of awfulness (it's still not as bad as 'Deep Space Nine' though!).

Ben Zaiboc

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