Monday, 18 November 2013

An Ultimate Destiny?

The title of Poul Anderson's Is There Life On Other Worlds? (New York, 1963), means both, "Are there thinking beings with whom we might communicate?" and "Are there ecologies that we might colonize?"

These questions necessitate discussion of radio wavelengths, language, planetary formation, biology, means of propulsion and colonial societies. Anderson ends with an sf vision of extra-Solar colonies not "...plundering..." but "...mak[ing] sensible use of their resources..." (p. 187), founding further colonies and eventually meeting "The older and higher races..." (p. 189).

"...we will go on, century after outward-looking century, discovering who knows what, growing in knowledge and wisdom as we travel." (ibid.)

This stretches the meaning of the word "we" a bit. Probably, most people most of the time will be more aware of their familiar, taken for granted, environments than of any centuries-long growth in knowledge and wisdom. However, Anderson acknowledges this:

"Few people will ever go spaceward with more than the vaguest thought of an ultimate destiny. They will go because they are curious, prideful, desirous of freedom, eager to improve the lot of the next generation." (p. 189)

Maybe. But conditions will have to have got pretty bad at home if people come to hope for freedom and betterment light years away. And maybe something can be done to improve those conditions instead of leaving them behind?

Anderson concludes that, even for those who stay behind, "...our enterprise beyond the sky will keep alive that sense of bravery, wonder, and achievement without which man would hardly be himself." (ibid.)

Such an enterprise will help to do that but meanwhile and, I think, indefinitely there are also bravery, wonder and achievement on Earth and in the Solar System.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Paul!

    Here I side with Anderson. My view is that conditions CAN get worse and that an increasingly oppressive and heavyhanded state can make a resentful minority indeed choose to leave Earth to found new societies on other worlds. And I also agree with you about how wonder, bravery, and high achievement can still be found in the Solar System. In fact, it's my belief that before any serious effort can be made of sending manned expeditions to other stars be done, we need firsts to colonize and develop the Solar System.

    It's my belief that the founding of new nations and societies both in the Solar System and planets of other stars will encourage regimes on Earth to be less harsh and oppressive. After all, the rise of the US did help to influence most European nations to reform themselves.