Re: Social Science Fiction?

Anders Sandberg (
15 Mar 1999 19:29:23 +0100

> The Baileys wrote:
> >
> > While I've been impressed by the host of authors that have attempted to
> > extrapolate current trends in science in technology to write books couched
> > in science fiction, I've noticed a paucity of books that attempt to
> > extrapolate on social systems.

There are surprisingly few, but that doesn't mean they are rare. Most extrapolations are simply badly done ("Hey! Let's make a feudal setting... oh, it is the future, so I'll add AI and robots, they won't change anything anyway..." or "Since everybody is so enlightened, they just go around being pleasant. No need for an economy.").

"Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" <> writes:

> Vernor Vinge: A Deepness in the Sky.
> Walter John Williams: Aristoi.
> Eric Drexler: Engines of Creation.
> Linda Nagata: Tech Heaven.
> Greg Egan: Distress.
> Jack Vance: Anything.

Greg Bear, Moving Mars
David Zindell

> > Many great "hard" science fiction novels
> > appear to be set in a far future with social systems that are essentially
> > the same as the ones we see today or have seen in the past. I suspect this
> > is a product of most good "hard" science fiction writers not being extremely
> > versed in sociology, economics, and political science.
> Wouldn't help if they were. All three disciplines, like psychology, are
> "soft" sciences, and you can't build a book around them. You'd need a
> grounding in game theory, evolutionary psychology, neurology (especially
> brain-damage cases) and cognitive science.

Why can't you build a book about a soft science? I would think it is actually easier for many authors to write about society, emotions and people than technology and science - but the authors who do so tend to write mainstream fiction, where alternative social systems are extremely rare.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y