Sunday, 17 January 2016

Frankenstein And The Future II

Here, I indicated a literary sequence from Mary Shelley through Stapledon, Wells and Heinlein to Anderson and Stirling. Here, I illustrated this sequence with the theme of scientific changes to humanity. However, I also posted at 4.00 AM and thus forgot some links in the sequence:

Robots, humanoid AI's, are programmed against harming or disobeying human beings because of the "Frankenstein Complex," the fear that conscious artifacts will destroy their creators. Giant robotic "Brains," controlling the global economy, phase themselves out because they regard self-determination as the greatest human good. However, their successors, the Georges, plan eventual control of society by the best and most intelligent, namely themselves. (Programmed not merely to protect and obey any human being but also to assess which individuals are worthiest of protection and obedience, they come to discount the difference between flesh and metal: Robotics becomes Humanics.)

Foundation: Seldon's psychohistorical Plan will not only restore civilization but also change human nature by ensuring that a mentally powerful clique permanently rules society.

Robots and Foundation: Free robots are secretly behind Seldon and also behind a further transformation of humanity into a collective consciousness.

In Blish's shorter future history, as in Stapledon's future history, human beings are artificially adapted to inhabit other planets.

In Anderson's first future history, human beings gain direct control of basic cosmic forces by artificially mutating their brains.

(i) We have added Asimov and Blish to the list.
(ii) Although Asimov is the least accomplished of these authors in literary terms, his ideas are logical and dialectical and cannot be summarized in a single sentence.
(iii) Anderson, of course, appears twice, represented by his first and last future histories.
(iv) SM Stirling's The Stone Dogs is a rich text that will require considerable time to appreciate it fully.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Of the authors you listed, I found James Blish's story "Surface Tension," the most difficult and implausible. That is, I simply don't think human beings can be miniaturized as we see in that story without suffering a catastrophic loss of intelligence.

And, in one of his later Foundation books, FOUNDATION'S EDGE, the human character who had to decide whether humanity should become either parts of a Galactic hive mind or remain autonomous self conscious individuals, chose to leave the options "open." In effect, he made the latter choice.

Truth to say, I eventually came to find even the original three Foundation books unsatisfactory and unconvincing. Nor did I think Asimov was right or successful in his attempt at merging his Robot stories into his Foundation/Empire series.