Tuesday, 12 June 2012
Starfarers and Tahirians
The Tahirians have ended interstellar travel and stabilized both their population and their culture. Although they differ individually, their majority fears the arrival of unpredictable human beings bringing new knowledge of the universe. This is the major conflict in much of Anderson's fiction.
In an earlier future history series, Nicholas van Rijn championed free enterprise against bureaucracy. In some later works, technological advance means that free enterprise is no longer the prime mover of the economy but then the conflict takes other forms: freedom versus control; unpredictability versus continuity; starfarers versus Tahirians - although this last conflict cannot become violent. A capacity for violence is one of the many aspects of humanity that horrifies Tahirians. They can only ask human visitors to leave and not return. When a human spaceship captain replies that he and his crew cannot speak for the whole of mankind, this also is horrifying.
A book-length essay might be necessary to analyze all the forms that this conflict takes in novels like Planet Of No Return, The Avatar etc. In the Harvest Of Stars future history, orderly AI cannot tolerate the continued existence anywhere in the universe of wild human beings. Why not? Surely a whole universe is vast enough for two approaches to existence?
Most basically, matter and life are interactions between energy (change) and inertia (resistance to change). Without change, nothing would happen. Without resistance, nothing would remain in existence from one moment to the next. But there is always scope for argument about how much change and how much continuity is desirable.