Friday, 22 May 2015

The Unknown

Poul Anderson, Starfarers (New York, 1999).

Pp. 274-277 present a frequent Poul Anderson scenario:

two characters explore an exposed planetary core left by a supernova;

such an environment is entirely unknown, hence the need to explore it;

however, the explorers are confident that there is no immediate danger;

despite their confidence, a sudden land quake opens a crevice that one of the explorers falls into;

however, her companion improvises a rope to pull her out.

I have de-emphasized the particularities of this incident in order to highlight its parallels with many similar occurrences in Anderson's works. The message is always clear: the mere fact that a new environment is mostly unknown means that many of its dangers to human beings are among the unknown features but there is only one way to learn what they are. Explorers, like entrepreneurs, take calculated risks.

I agree with this and suggest further that curiosity will outlast gain as a motive for exploration. Observing the Tahirians' planet-transforming technology at work, Clelland comments:

"'...any, uh, profit motive is irrelevant, when self-maintaining, self-reproducing robots do the work.'" (p. 233)

We understand that the Tahirians use their awesome machines merely to maintain their static civilization for millions of years but (at least some) human beings will always look outward, to "see another mountain."

1 comment:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I would suggest that a desire for gain will continue to play SOME role in human explorations. After all, explorers and adventurers will need to somehow pay for the ships and other instrumentalities they will need. That implies investors and patrons will to put money into such things. And, however much they might share in the desire to go exploring themselves, they could not afford to do such things wholly as a free gift (at least not always). So, I would argue that these explorers will also become merchant adventurers, looking for goods, ideas, and services they can buy and sell, to repay the investment entrusted to them. Hence, we might actually see the rise of things like the Kith or the Polesotechnic League (depending on whether STL or FTL is used) among space explorers.

    And THIS really is my last note here till at least next Tuesday!