Re: more on Brand and the Singularity idea

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Wed Jan 17 2001 - 03:53:01 MST

On Tue, Jan 16, 2001 at 09:58:08PM -0500, Jim Fehlinger wrote:
> Charlie Stross wrote:
> >
> > Bzzt: Ken's take on things is not that simplistic. (I hope you aren't
> > reading Cassini Division in isolation, rather than as book #3 in a four-
> > book set.)
> As for Macleod -- no, I haven't read anything besides _Cassini_,
> though I have heard rumors that the larger picture he paints is a more
> subtle one than might be supposed from that book alone (I should hope so!).
> I take it then, that MacLeod's portrayal of the "Outwarders" is
> not necessarily the author's own view of the matter.
It is. I think Tor did him a disservice by publishing volume #3 of a four-
part series as the first book in the 'States; their official reason for
doing so was that the weird politics in the first two books would be likely
to confuse American readers. (If you can, try reading them in order: The
Star Fraction, The Stone Canal, The Cassini Division, and finally The Sky
Road. The last of which puts an _entirely_ different perspective on what's
been going on in the first three books ...)

> I guess the point I was trying to make is that it may not
> ever be possible, or even desirable, to candy-coat this stuff
> for the masses. Most people still get the screaming meemies
> at the sort of universe that modern science rubs Man's face
> in -- particularly the Darwinian vision of life. Any film buffs
> remember Katherine Hepburn as Violet Venable in the movie
> of Tennessee Williams' _Suddenly Last Summer_ describing her
> poet son Sebastian's reaction to seeing the birds swoop down
> on the newly-hatched sea turtles during a visit to the
> Encantadas? That's what I mean.

Most people want security, most of the time. They don't want the
existential equivalent of a war, sweeping through their life, killing
people, destroying their homes and forcibly uprooting and changing them
-- and this level of change will have much the same social effect as a
major war. (It'll be profoundly debilitating to people who haven't been
trained to deal with change.)

I suspect this is a side-effect of our current or past life expectancy;
if you can only live seventy-odd years, have to spend thirty percent
of your working hours doing profoundly boring or irrelevent nonsense
in order to earn a living, and the process of raising children/buying
a house and becoming socially secure costs you twenty to thirty years
of work, then conservativism when confronted with change in unknown
directions is a rational response: the perceived risk of embracing change
unconditionally is far too high.

As the *nature* of the changes becomes clearer, and they're demystified,
expect resistance to diminish. Witness, for example, current attitudes
towards IVF (read: "test tube babies") with the silliness twenty to
thirty years ago when the technology was first emerging on the popular
horizon. For example, I expect the clone-phobia to vanish around the
time that vets begin putting up adverts saying "we can clone you an
identical twin of your beloved but elderly pet Fluffy".

-- Charlie

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