Re: Re[2]: LIT: Culture

The Low Golden Willow (
Thu, 3 Apr 1997 19:13:12 -0800 (PST)

[Note to Damien B. -- I do have a copy of my other post.]

On Apr 3, 11:07am, Guru George wrote:
} (The Low Golden Willow) wrote:
} >On Apr 2, 9:43pm, Guru George wrote:

} >} hope for. But Banks is always wrestling with the inherent boringness of
} >} such a situation.
} >Boring to write about, yes. That's why all his books deal with abnormal

} It's not so much that there's a lack of things to do in the Culture,
} it's that there's a lack of any *reason* to do *anything*. Everything's
} too easy, or has already been done; while part of the fun of life is

I haven't read _State of the Art_ yet, but Banks has talked about this
somewhat elsewhere. About how Contact's secular missionary work, it's
"good works", provides the justfication for the Culture's easy
existence. Some people may feel this way; I think many would find
purpose on their own. If it's really a problem, cultural or even
genetic evolution will happen: those who find reasons to live will live.

There's a cliche that if we make contact with an advanced civilization
our research will drop, because "everything's been done, why bother?" I
find little support for this in general. In real life many aborigines
have adapted well to Wester culture, I hear. I don't know how well
their culture survives, but the people adapt and go on. In SF... Julian
May had the most likely scenario, I think, where in a generation or two
humans have learned Galactic physics and are holding their own. Brin
has some die-off of research, but not completely, and there he has the
justification that not only has it all been done, but so much has been
done that even the Galactics don't know what's there. Clarke had
die-off in Childhood's End, but the Overlords refused to tell us

End digression; the Culture, I think, has the single best reason
anywhere for the humans to give up research: the Minds. Even if you
learn what's happened up till now, theł can vastly outthink you.

Except that they run out of physics to do, and biology and history allow
contributions by humans. Small ones, but useful ones. Mathematics
would be the area where nothing ever slows the Minds down, and humans
have no advantage. Oddly enough, in _Excession_ we learn that esoteric
mathematics is the grand addiction of the Minds.

But in an earlier book, there was a human mathematician anyway. People
do things.

} of a psychologist called Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi?)

Flow? People have talked about it here.

} At any rate, I stand by saying that the Culture, while a possible peak
} in cultural design space, isn't a peak we could get to by a socialist
} (planned/skyhooks) path, but only by a capitalist (Darwinian/cranes)

One point I forgot last time: the Culture isn't a monolithic socialism.
It's an anarchy of socialisms: each ship or habitat is socialistic (or
dictatorial) but relations between them is anarchic. He argues that
this is inherent to the nature of the medium. It's hard to levy
property taxes on property which can run away, and conversely the amount
of uncontrollable interactions on a ship (breathing) may screw over a
local market mechanism. Okay, his anticapitalism is stronger than that,
but he himself recognizes that the Culture may not be creatable by its
own lifestyle; he worries more about a need for agression to evolve
intelligence and technology.

But hey, we aren't living the way we once did either. The key is
whether a society is sustainable. I don't like May's Milieu because it
seems too pacifistic to survive against more "primitive" societies
without locking them up. But the Culture is wealthy enough to do what
it wants and healthy enough to _want_ to research and explore and
computer model generations of warship-designs without the competition of
survival pressure. "People hate to feel useless." And there's probably
status to be gained. "I found a trillion year old star!" "I proved the
433rd _Serious Callers Only_ Conjecture!" And whatever Banks thinks, I
doubt that some monetary mechanism to determine who gets the steaks or
the shrimp will damage his Utopia.

If we were to seriously consider the economics of such an advanced
society (it's a game, Perry) I'd worry more about allocation of raw
resources and control of spreading.

Merry part,
-xx- Damien R. Sullivan X-) <*>

"No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings."
-- William Blake, _The Marriage of Heaven and Hell_