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Honourable Mentions For Science In Action: In Science Fiction

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Bucket List of Science in SciFi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chemistry and Pharmacology
inc. Biotech, Biofilms

 


Frank Herbert: Dune.

Most relevant character: Liet Kynes: Imperial planetologist
This book is about the Spice. The Spice gives health, the Spice gives life. The Spice expands awareness and knowledge. It represents a Holy Grail of the human race – health, longevity and more.

It creates new senses – Psi awareness.  Spice melange is a by-product of the metabolism of the worms of Arrakis. It cannot be synthesised, due to its inherent organic complexity, created by complex biomechanical DNA controlled cellular machinery – lodged within the cells and within the anatomical structure of a worm.

 

 

This Christopher Rowley: The Black Ship.
In this novel, longevity can be attained through the consumption of deliberately crafted organics, sourced from the ant – like inhabitants: the Chitin Insects of the planet Fenrille. Again these molecules cannot be adequately synthesised, due to their inherent organic complexity.

The insects however have the capacity to control the production and yield of the biochemical processes that synthesise the life prolonging extracts such as Pharamol. A class of humans is responsible for talking to the Chitin hives to encourage them to produce the required substances and to allow them to be harvested.

In reality, in both the above books, humanity may well be able to synthesise Spice or Pharamol using gene technology in combination with cell cloning techniques – one day. The issue as usual will be cost and yield- why undertake complexes processes when they can be done “naturally” much more cheaply and with greater yield.

Currently, humanity synthesises relatively simple molecules. Gene technology based, Recombinant human insulin has been produced predominantly using Ecoli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae for therapeutic use.

Transgenic plants also potentially have very accessible gene expression systems, which can be exploited to produce insulin in large quantities for therapeutic use in humans, perhaps with a greater safety margin than using E. coli bacteria or Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeasts. Imagine the devastation that could result in an escaped E. coli variant synthesising insulin at random.

An example of such a bio-disaster can be seen in the book series by Brian Stableford: the Daedalus Missions. In the book “the Florians”, a naturally occurring insulin/growth hormone like substance in the planetary biosphere causes potential disaster if not mitigated by constant heavy physical work – which is fortunately an inherent fact of life in a human colony on an alien world. Humanity has abandoned its colonies, but has finally ventured forth to give them what little support it can – in the form of expertise in organic biology and biochemistry. Potentially life-saving and colony saving.

COMMENT

Sci-fi is not a closed ended discipline. Things change and new ideas flow. There are fashions in science which are reflected in the stories we read. Sometimes there are radical new ideas, which give us some insight into how our world works. The “sci-fi galactic” and “sci-fi true pages” give us a chance to mention those sci-fi novels or other sci-fi media that deserve an honourable mention. Perhaps new ways of looking at old treasured books. But hopefully some new books as well. Hopefully more to come in Annex to site upgrade. . Remember we need your support and contributions because – corny as this may sound – we can’t survive without our audience and your financial support.

 

Alan Dean Foster: Bloodhype.
Most relevant character: Philip Lynx = Flinx.
Drugs are chemicals and drugs can be weapons. The drug Bloodhype causes irreversible addiction and eventually death in its addicts. But it can also be used to destroy an alien life form.

In reality, drugs interact with the body through receptors on the surface of cells. They are of course highly specific to the receptor systems they are designed to activate or inactivate. It is unlikely they would be able to act on alien life forms, with completely different protein and receptor systems

What we have not seen to date, are long-term organic biochemical molecules capable of very long-term bonding to cell systems. Imagine an addiction drug which resides permanently bonded to brain receptors, creating a withdrawal affect if the chemical supply is not maintained.

 

 

I remember reading a novel in my childhood about aliens coming to earth and synthesising a chemical which they freely distributed to humanity causing instant arousal and a desire for sex.

Men were prone to ambush women, and spray them with the chemical to bring about sexual activity. Unfortunately for humanity, the aliens had not made us aware that the same chemical bonded to calcium/bone within the human body, with the release profile over decades – causing irreversible human sterility.

 

 

EE Doc Smith: Skylark series.
Most relevant character: Richard Seaton.
A series of novels most interesting for its basic premise – that chemistry will allow humanity to conquer the depths of space and the endless need for energy.

An interaction between copper and an anti-copper like atom causes annihilation of the copper atoms with the release of atomic energy. The supposition is akin to the interaction of matter and antimatter to produce energy – but without the noxious subatomic waste products.

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James Blish: Cities In Flight series.
Most relevant character: John Amalfi: (Lord Mayor of New York) and Mark Hazelton (city manager).
In this book, very mundane chemistry underpins the ability of humanity to spread through and conquer the galaxy.

Food and bioorganic feedstocks need to be produced for the inhabitants of the city sized spaceships, bypassing the need for farmland to grow crops. Chlorella was regarded as the answer for the need for food as energy for the Space Farers.

If humans are to colonise the galaxy, they must have a way to synthesise food without the need for farmland to grow crops. Glasshouses in vertical farms may well be one solution to this problem.

Taste and enjoyment are as important in the provision of human food, as simple nutrition or energy values inherent in the food. The industrial production of food stuffs is and will be essential on this planet and in space to avoid starvation in the event of crop failures. Farming is inherently a slow process with a long lag time till a yield is obtained. Crises are often much faster processes requiring instant response.

Algae such as Chlorella can grow exponentially, with a yield of glucose polymers: albeit cellulose based molecules. An obvious answer to the problems of limited space and need for rapid yield in a limited environment- such as a space ship.

 

 

 

 

Anne McCaffrey: Pern series
Most relevant character: Ruth, (the White Dragon).
The interesting chemistry here is the bio-engineered ability of dragons and fire lizards to chew a Phosphene containing rock and to thereby spew out fire.

This enabled the colonists to destroy an aggressively proliferating fungoid species falling on the planet Pern when this planet was in conjunction with a nearby physically hostile and biologically hostile world.

 

 

 

Gene Crafting. Inc. Cloning and Cell Growth, Gene Control


David Brin: Star Tide series.
Most relevant character: Tom Orley (ship officer – Streaker).
This book is awesome. The basic premise of the book is that intelligence does not develop naturally. It develops as a result of the actions of intelligent beings on natural life forms.

Species need to be uplifted to intelligence. And this has been the pattern of life throughout the galaxy for millennia upon millennia. Humanity is unique in that it appears not to have a Patron responsible for its Uplift.

However, humanity has taken upon itself the responsibility to uplift its friends – the dolphins, chimpanzees and gorilla – to sapience, thereby assuring it of status as a senior race within the galaxy, albeit a very junior “senior” race.

I think that today we are slowly beginning to discover the complexities of DNA controlled cell biology. A cell and therefore its activities or even species is not defined by the gene products that its DNA delivers.

It is much more defined by the control systems defined within DNA that control the expression and production of the gene products. The new frontiers lie in the realms of how the distribution of DNA within the nucleosome affects its expression, how the folding of the DNA affects its expression, and how the proximity of the DNA to the nuclear membrane affects its expression.

There are other complexities as well. Epitoping defines cellular differentiation. This appears to be defined by the environment of the cell and prompts the cell to undergo the “specialisation” necessary to create capabilities within the macro organism, not just within the cell itself.

 

 

Alan Dean Foster: Flinx/Commonwealth series.
Most relevant character: Philip Lynx = Flinx.
Genetic alterations may well increase the capacity of Macros such as individual human beings to increase their ability to undertake or be involved in Psionic activity.

But no matter what the genetics, there is still role for environment and training to develop capabilities. Flinx is a construct, albeit a human one grappling with the capriciousness of Psi Powers, engineered into his DNA. An activity now very illegal.

 

 

Donald Kingsbury:  Geta
Most relevant character: the brothers- Hoemai, Joesai, Gaet.
Humanity can only” survive” on the hostile world of Geta, which in some distant forgotten past was colonised by human beings- the Arant.

The biosphere is unfavourable to humans. Very few of the animals or plants on the planet can be used for nourishment. “Poisons” are inherent in many organisms prohibiting human exploitation. To survive, humanity must use every food source in its jurisdiction.

But this hostility is a two edged sword. Many of the organisms on the planet are also unable to interface with human biological systems. To gene craft any organism capable of damaging or exploiting any of the sacred crops such as “wheat”, is a crime beyond imagining. The hold of humanity on life is so precarious that no organism can be allowed to cross the threshold from the natural biosphere into the human biosphere.

 

 

Anne McCaffrey: Pern series
Most relevant character: Ruth, (the White Dragon) and Jaxom.
Genetics is at the heart of human survival on this planet. Humanity has used its knowledge to develop dragons from a native life form – fire lizards.

Not only can these creatures fly but they are also capable of transporting themselves from place to place through another dimension. They are capable of chewing rock to produce fire. They are capable of telepathic and empathic communication with human beings. All these skills are defined by genetics.

 

 

 

Paolo Bacigalupi: Windup Girl.
This is an “evil” book. The large food producing corporations own the earth. To maintain their patents on food crops, they engineer obsolescence within the seeds they sell. Humanity itself is responsible for bio- engineering disasters such as the Cheshire cats.

Human diseases appear to have been bioengineered as well. And there are only a few bio-wizards capable of moulding the plasma of life itself- effectively. The Windup Girl is a bioengineered human life form, made to work like a windup toy – for display purposes.

All perhaps possible – though flagrantly undesirable. It is interesting to see that so often nature provides us with the basic study material which we seek to improve through our knowledge and understanding. Yes science is King, but nature (or God if you wish), has an inarguable role as well. Creating stable novel organisms/cells is a task for both man and God, not something likely to be undertaken by an itinerant clever few.

We are a long way from Gene Crafting “non-existing molecules”- cf modifying existing molecules.

Consider a proposal for long-term information storage. DNA has been suggested as a molecule capable of storing information. This has been crafted by nature. Only an idiot would use industrially/ commercially molecules which could interface with existing biological systems. WE consider this only because we cannot even dream of doing better.

How could we do better and why should we even try? A DNA like molecule capable of storing information – would have a number of very specific requirements, not well met by DNA.

The presence of three intercalated strands, would substantially allow for improved error correction- better information stability / redundancy. To store information, the information chemical/ organic construct must be stored perfectly to have value. Straight strands are more likely to be easily readable by electrochemical reading systems.

Electrical access for crc checks of sub- strands would be a desirable feature. A more robust molecule with less interaction with oxygen, perhaps such as silicon based molecules may well be more desirable than the carbon-based DNA system.

 

 

 

Aliens’ series (TV series and book series)
Most relevant character: the aliens themselves.
Of interest here, in the Prometheus movie, it becomes obvious that the aliens have been designed as a bio weapon by human forerunners.

I think that some of the capabilities bio – engineered into the aliens are not compatible with carbon-based DNA systems. An acid for blood capable of dissolving metal would probably play havoc with DNA strands.

DNA incorporation to form a viable organism is a complex process with room for both science and God in the achievement of a miracle – a living organism. The complexity of biological DNA based systems guarantees that there will be millions of failures for every success. Success being defined as a viable organism – not necessarily a better one.

To me the ultimate bio weapon would be one with some of the capabilities of the aliens – namely to interface with human DNA. If the alien “DNA program” were incorporated into human DNA – death, stability, degeneration and are failing of capabilities are far more likely results for the organism.

The ultimate bio weapon is not one that creates a super organism capable of competing with humanity, but more a program capable of degrading humanity. Working down, not up – has more upside for death. CENSORED "ref ...................." by order of “Frobisher” authorised by “The Commandant”.

 

 

 

Kay Kenyon: Braided World.
An interesting book, the concept being that an alien organism – a miasma of space reduces the genetic variability of mankind before finally being defeated by humanity. Unfortunately this leaves the survivors less able to cope with disease and illness as it naturally exists.

The general concept mirrors the actions of the HIV virus in destroying immune memory, rendering its victims less able to cope with disease and illness, eventually resulting in their death. In a last-ditch effort, some humans have launched into space exploration to attempt to find reservoirs of genetic variability and reservoirs of new solutions to the genetic frailty plaguing humanity.

I would make the same comment as for the gene crafting of “Aliens”. Damage and degradation are far easier results to achieve when undertaking genetic engineering than an upward path.

 

 

Michael Swanwick: Vacuum Flowers.
The first time I read this book, I understood very little and was swamped by its pace and vision of a human future. One of the few books I really could not fathom in my earlier life. On rereading, after seeing it mentioned so often, I developed a very different perspective.

Gene crafting is a technology which allows humanity to conquer space through adaptation. Gene crafting allows the creation of organic life rafts (comets or treeships) capable of moving through space. And gene crafting allows the existence of nuisance lifeforms such as flowers capable of growing and living in vacuum – the Vacuum Flowers of the title.

 

Robert Heinlein: Time Enough for Love (Minerva).
Minerva, a computer artificial intelligence, falls in love with a human being – namely Lazarus Long. Minerva creates a biological vessel for herself by combining the best chromosomes from many different donors into a single cell which is then cloned.

A very interesting proposition. We are probably on the cusp of being able to combine chromosomes in just such a fashion. The problem is that in identifying and extracting the chromosomes we may well damage them.

If we are able to isolate these chromosomes without damage, then we must recombine them within a nuclear membrane – and this within a cell in such a fashion that the spatial arrangement and folding of the DNA allows viable replication.

One proposal in achieving immortality is the recreation of the human being within computer software. The supposition is that a human defined as software is the same as one defined by its biological cells.

The complexity of the average neurone with its synapses and interconnections suggests a complexity beyond the capacity of mere software to reproduce. And even if it were possible to reproduce the brain in software, would it actually function differently than a biological brain.

Would the same inputs into each system give the same result? I expect not. I believe the biological brain may well give different answers on different days with the same chemically coded data inputs.

However in this book we see the reverse. A software artificial intelligence is rebuilding itself within a biological shell. Strangely I think this is a much more possible outcome than the obverse – coding a human brain into computer software.

The final question? If we could code a human brain into software, would it really still be you? Are you just a program, or is there some other essence: perhaps a psi based subconsciousness underpinning an existence?

On one level, you are your program, but the human in me inherently answers that there is another level and that mere software or hardware: organic or inorganic, may still not recreate the entity.

 

 

Immortality and Long Life
A.E.Van Vogt: The Weapon Shops of Isher: series.
Most relevant character: Robert Hedrock.
This book explores the implications of long life on knowledge and on human capabilities. I think too often we achieve power and understanding and maximised potential closer to our deaths. In the Bible, once humans married and began to think of raising a family at fifty years of age.

But with the human lifespan shortened to threescore and ten on average, with the onset of ill health and degradation of neuronal systems as predicted by Paill Plus – humans are forced to live in the moment and to clutch at every opportunity. Would the partners we choose in life, be the same if we lived much much longer?

Would we choose the same careers? How would the way we grow our lives and knowledge be different?

Human longevity continues to grow with the progress of human science. And there is promise of much much more through Paill. Burgeoning population is a problem quite solvable with technology – almost as it exists today, with less of an impact on the planet than exists today.

 

 

Neal Asher: The Spinner: Spatterjay.
Longevity in all its forms is explored in this book. There are many paths to preserving intelligence, bypassing the limitations of human biology. Science and scientific knowledge derived from nature is the key. However, the different forms of longevity all have their limitations and problems.

In this book, there is even a collective insect intelligence showcased. An individual insect may die. But the intelligence resides in the community of insects and continues – in effect achieving longevity but retaining the capacity to evolve over time.

 

 

Robert Adams: Horse Clans series: Milo Morai.
Probably not a series of books likely to be popular with the girls. A series of books with mediaeval technology and abounding with mediaeval horrors. The story of the Horse Clans begins with Milo discovering a classroom of children surviving the nuclear apocalypse.

He teaches the children to survive and to exploit their capabilities. The effect of longevity in Milo allows the new humans to bypass much of the conflict inherent in the death of leaders and the struggle of humans for pre-eminence in becoming kings and queens.

How would such a civilisation underpinned by longevity, cope with change? In particular with the advent of the modern era, many of the social structures existing have been replaced. Nobles and peasants have been replaced by the middle class. Social structures and power structures need to evolve as well.

 

 

 

Poul Anderson: Boat of a Million Years.
Immortals are presumed to occur naturally though occasionally within the human population. This book tracks the progress of such individuals over millennia as they cope with change. Survival is a talent that an immortal must cultivate. IN the ancient world, there are all too many ways to die.

 

 

David Brin:  Uplift Novel Series (late), Hockneys.
Not all species within the galaxy are gifted with long lives. The Hockneys are a horse like people with a very limited lifespan of 3 to 4 decades. They are mentioned only as a sideshow to the main storyline.

I particularly remember a series of portraits showcasing the achievements of some of these alien peoples. Fighters and warriors – and builders of civilisation – but all with very short lives. Even the science of the library was unable to create long life for the species. But yet they persisted and struggled and succeeded in their quest for survival.

 

 

Zombies and Vampires.
These dreams reside within the human experience and show two very different parts to immortality. The mindless and the mindful. Each with its problems.


Species: the movie series.

Aliens transmit their genetic code to humanity, a method of prolonging the life and survival of the species.

Of interest is a relevant parable arising within World War II. The German Army was one of the most capable forces on the planet. Yet the greatest victories of the German people arose from their occupation of Austria and Czechoslovakia – both events occurring without war or conflict. One can but wonder whether cooperation is a better strategy for survival and longevity than conflict. A fact relevant to both Humans and Aliens.

 

 

Steve Moffit: Genesis Quest.
Humanity transmits its genetic code to other galaxies using the total output power of a sun to create radio waves. The Nar intercept this signal and re-create humanity. They prove benevolent partners for humanity – which seems unusual for a lifeform so alien. Were only reality, so fortuitous?

 

 

EE Doc Smith: Masters of Space.
Humanity achieving longevity through a chemical process replacing carbon atoms within the body with silicon atoms. This creates almost indestructible biological organisms with enhanced capabilities.

If only reality could be so simple. Bio-chemical molecules within the body are finely tuned. The different sizes of silicon and carbon atoms are likely to substantially impact on any structure incorporating these atoms.

In short structures built with silicon instead of carbon are likely to work very differently to the original, if at all. Many chemical reactions are also based on reversibility. Reactions that guarantee stronger bonding, will naturally degrade the yield of a chemical process. An unlikely but interesting proposition though- long life with silicon not carbon.

 

 

Dr Who TV and Book Series: Reincarnation.
The doctor belongs to a race of people who in dying are able to reinstate a new physical body from the energies of the old one. However, if you are reborn in the same place you died last time, the chances are high you will be killed again when you are reborn. Perhaps not ideal.

 

 

 

Telepathy and PsiSense

Frank Herbert: The God Makers.
A wise man prays once a week and studies Psi every day. An interesting proposition in that there may be a world at the edge of our awareness where many things function very differently to the world we see as real.

As human beings, we appear to be tuned to some extent to this Psi world but Psi is a very erratic and unpredictable capability. The book does make the point though that Psi can be learnt and that experience can enhance capacities.

Since the very existence of Psi is an anathema to many people today, it will be some time before we can accept that we can grow our capacity for Psi awareness or activity.

 

 

 

Frank Herbert: Dune series.
Most relevant character: Paul Maud’Dib.
The Spice creates very predictable and reliable psionic awareness, which humans routinely use to explore their world and the future.

I suppose you need to accept that if Psi can be learned and if Psi is a genetically based capability, that chemicals may routinely modify the efficiency or yield of the process. Hallucinatory drugs such as LSD or Marijuana do create altered awareness and hallucinations – giving the impression of expanded perception.

However there appears to be no basis for believing that such drugs actually do expand consciousness or Psionic abilities. They just give you weird or different feelings and sensory overload from neuronal overactivity.

 

 

 

Robert Adams: Horse Clans series.
Most relevant character: Milo Morai: Undying Lord of The Horse Clans.
Telepathy and longevity are miracles bestowed by nature on the lucky few. It is interesting to note the effect that Psionic abilities may have in changing many aspects of our daily lives and in changing methods of human conflict.

Phillip Mann: The Disestablishment of Paradise (Michelangelo Reaper).
Remarkable, as one of the few books where collective humanity is sent scuttling off with its tail between its legs. The Michelangelo Reaper is a being with psionic powers. It acts much as the legendary Gaea is the mother to planet Earth.

The Reaper directs the animal and plant life of the planet to respond to the human invasion and to act to expel the human invaders. The process takes time and progressively the humans encounter failure after failure in the colonisation of this world, culminating in the disestablishment of the planet Paradise.

The proposition that humanity would have difficulty in a conflict with a creature with Psionic powers is fairly obvious. We hardly accept that these capabilities even exist much less have any idea of how to exploit them. If we were to come into conflict with beings with these powers, we would likely be the vanquished not the victors.

 

 

 

Poul Anderson: New America.
Again in a situation to akin to that of the Michelangelo reaper above, humanity encounters a creature with Psionic powers. However much of the effect is promulgated by the hallucinations experienced by the human victims, who eventually discover the reality of the world in which they live is very different to that which they are told exists.

 

 

AE Van Vogt: The War Against The Rull: Ezwals.
Ezwals are telepaths and are able to communicate with many different species. The book showcases how humans cooperating with other species can utilise their capabilities for the common good. I think one of the key conclusions of the book is that there is no wonder ultimate organism or being.

We all have our capacities and failures. And all too often a success in one area means limited capacities in others. Much like the Rull with their ultimate nervous system. Unfortunately a capability that comes with a requirement for high energy input, likely to adversely impact on survival when food is limited.

The body is a marvel of biomechanical efficiency, engineered to survive with low energy input but yet able to deliver incredible achievements. A computer and the screen may well require up to 600 Watts of power to function. The human body typically requires between 60 to 100 Watts of power to function. Incredible!

 

 

 

 

Tech on Non-Earth like Planets

Jack Vance: Big Planet’s
Jack Vance: Brave Free Men

Most science fiction books focus on worlds very much like our own- iron or metal rich worlds. But imagine a world where humanity needs to make the leap bypassing the use of metals. Progressing from wood to ceramics and plastics.

Our knowledge of plastics would indeed allow us to bypass many limitations on the use of metals, but many processes and much machinery would need to be substantially modified. In these books humanity replaces the use of metals with other materials. Strangely enough in our modern world we are also more commonly bypassing the limitations of metals.

Optic fibres and silicon chips are two of the basic inventions which are driving the development of the modern world. There may in fact be many advantages to not using metals, which we do not consider. Metals form an electrical short circuit hazard whereas plastics, ceramics and wood have much greater insulation capacity in general.

The other technological path to coping with the scarcity of metals is that showcased by Isaac Asimov: Foundation series. The Encyclopaedia Foundation must cope with the world scarce in metals. They do this through a process of miniaturisation and efficiency – in effect using technology to overcome problems.

 

 

 

 

Brain Upgrades/Singularity
Inc. Book readers, Medical Records, Med GUI Interface

Elizabeth Moon: the Vatta series:
Ansible Technology.
Although the ansible is used predominantly as a long-distance communication device, other capacities beckon. The ability to link to libraries and information sources. The ability to link to surveillance feeds and other data feeds. This technology could well make a very different world.

The unfortunate limitation of using these types of technologies implanted within one’s head, lie within the problems of heat generation and device failure. We are quite capable of implanting radio waves capable devices in the brain. However, it is the interface and linkages which would prove to be the most difficult. In addition, radio waves are very heating to biological tissues.

We would probably be using radio waves to heat food if not for the fact that radio waves are likely to cook everything in their proximity. Microwaves are much more direct able and controllable.

Donald Kingsbury: Psychohistorical Crisis.
The brain “Fam” is showcased in this book, suggesting how much technology may well change the people of the future. The ability to interface a device with the human brain is a frontier probably breathtaking in its inherent complexities. It may well be a frontier that we are never able to breach.

If it were possible, it would create a path to beings such as the Star Trek: Borg and possibly even a path for future human evolution – to transcend biological limitations. Who are we, and what would we become if we begin to increasingly incorporate devices within our biological bodies.

On the negative note, one of the main problems with incorporating foreign devices within the body is the need to control infection within the body. Devices are often colonised by bacteria, even within a supposedly sterile system such as the body.

Patients with brain shunts to control hydrocephalus often face problems with infection of the shunt precipitating septic crises, any one of which could be lethal without medical intervention. You cannot just stick a metal gadget in a body and think that nothing will go wrong. Whether we can engineer biocompatible materials which limit infection risk to similar risk levels as those in normal body tissues, remains to be seen.

 

 

 

Charles Stross: Saturn’s Children (and series), Singularly Sky – cornucopia machine.
An interesting series of books. In Saturn’s Children, humanity has become extinct – in effect, parboiled by a runaway greenhouse effect arising from its own stupidity. The human race is succeeded by its robots.

The book makes the point that human beings are biologically incompatible with the requirements of space travel and the colonisation of space. Biological organisms are fragile. In a hostile environment, every failure means death. The price of survival is eternal vigilance.

Technology can be fragile. Multiple failsafes such as exist in submarines are very expensive and while possible are not a viable proposition for survival of the cost of implementing the technology is considered.

In Singularity Sky, a new invention is highlighted – the cornucopia machine. This machine is capable of synthesising anything for which it has plans from existing materials adjacent. It essentially makes a mockery of the Industrial Revolution. Who needs factories and machines, when one machine can create anything you can possibly imagine or need?

 

 

 

Isaac Asimov: Robot series: the Positronic Brain.
Humans can produce robot brains of incredible complexity, rivalling even those of human beings. A robot brain like a human brain is required to give the same solution if the same sets of data are input. Robot brains are much more capable of fast data input and storage. It is appreciating these differences that could well be advantages in our quest for space colonisation.

David Brin: Star Tide series: The Library.
Humanity is looked down on by other galactic species for the gauche crime of innovation. To seek one’s own answers to a problem rather than to simply look in the library for a solution, is a pathway that few galactic species accept. Everything that can be done, already has been done.

The library is the sum total of millennia upon millennia of knowledge from millions of species across an entire galaxy. Why spend time developing a solution, when solutions can be had just by looking in the library? It is far easier and cheaper to simply adopt somebody else’s solution, than to develop your own. The book suggests that maybe this attitude has a price. The library is almost a substitute for intelligence.

 

 

 

Iain Banks: The Culture series (Brains).
The Computerised Brains operating the spaceships of the Culture, are constructs weighing in at up to 10,000 kg. They are capable of looking after the individual needs of millions of their occupants as well as planning and operating a civilisation based on a single spacecraft.

A human being is outperformed in every fashion by a Brain. However some of the books refer to the occasional human who has the capacity to synthesise correct answers from inadequate or deficient data, something which it appears only some organic brains can do whereas machine brains cannot.

The author mentions how a war which the Culture fought should never have been started by the aggressors as computer projections would show that it would not be possible for the aggressors to win.

Imagine if Hitler in World War II were confronted by a united front from all his confederates and associates to say that what he envisaged would not work and would in fact result in the death and destruction of their entire country.

We have the capacity to undertake computer projections today. However the outcome of wars and battles still include an element of art, not science. Logistics can be planned and projected by computers. However often the outcome of human conflict and of human imagination cannot.

 

 

 

 

Alan Dean Foster: the Mocking Program.
I want one. This is my opinion of the Mocking Program. This program replicates the repetitive actions of a human being in simply living. By removing the tedium and humdrum of existence, the human can undertake those activities which are naturally more enjoyable and more interesting. Why spend time paying bills, when this task should so obviously be automated.

It becomes obvious that we are achieving something like this result already. Once upon a time it took me approximately fifteen minutes to process a single cheque payment from Bill to Cheque to Postage. Now the process essentially takes no time at all through the facility of automatic debits to credit cards.

You can just spend time with bills that are out of the ordinary and can almost ignore routine or ordinary bills which are paid routinely and automatically. I can imagine as computer capabilities grow, automation of many facets of our lives will grow as well.

 

 

 

Neil Asher: Grid Linked.
Here we see the showcasing of alternate paths to artificial intelligence. One path is the development of standalone intelligences – such as computers which operate cities or the ansible gates allowing communication and travel throughout the galaxy.

The other part is the enhancement of the intelligence of the individual through the creation of interfaces with databases allowing “on-the-fly” interaction with information. The book makes the point that this type of interaction is quite addictive – and that humans begin to withdraw from interactions from those around them, choosing increasingly to interact with the artificial world, more so than the real one.

 

 


Joan Slonczewski : Brain Plague (The Eleutherians).
Microscopic creatures colonise the ventricles of the brain and build cities within the brain itself. They police their world and interact with their world, allowing a human being to access what amounts to millions of mini-computers within their own head.

The greatest crime of such intelligence is to create a feedback loop whereby through the medium of pleasure and pain they forced the macro “host” organism to do what they dictate. The Eleutherians have an incredible capacity for good but also an incredible capacity for destruction and degradation as well.

I think there is a natural limit to how small things can be built and how small circuits can be. Microscopic creatures by definition have a substantial limitation on their neural circuitry.

I suppose if we were able to interface with other dimensions of time and space, such limitations could well be bypassed. I think by the time humanity is capable of undertaking this path, we are likely to evolve out of the physical world and to be considering bypassing limitations of our physical bodies.

 

 

 

 

James Blish: Cities in Flight Series: City Fathers.
This book series gives a much more “typical” picture of computer intelligence. The city Fathers function as a single-minded police authority – running things but also insisting they be run according to the law.

All too often in our existence, we realise that corners need to be cut and that every rule cannot be followed. In fact, while following one law we may be in a situation that makes us break another. Life can be a very complex place. We’re still a long way from allowing our machines to make value judgements that are not dictated by external rules. Unfortunately – there is such a thing as a bad choice.

Download Immortality: this is a concept which is becoming more often spruiked by the media. I have mentioned this concept in my critique of the book Robert Heinlein: Time enough for Love.

One proposal in achieving immortality is the recreation of the human being within computer software. The supposition is that a human defined as software is the same as one defined by its biological cells.

The complexity of the average neurone with its synapses and interconnections suggests a complexity beyond the capacity of mere software to reproduce. And even if it were possible to reproduce the brain in software, would it actually function differently than a biological brain.

Would the same inputs into each system give the same result? I expect not. I believe the biological brain may well give different answers on different days with the same chemically coded data inputs.

 

 

 

 

 

Social Engineering inc. World Trade

An E Van Vogt: Planets For Sale: Artur Blord.
Blord is a genius with a talent for exploiting the exploiters. In an operator universe, powerful human beings exploit situations and people. But Blord can see and understand the rules by which others live, especially other Operators in the human universe.

And it is by manipulating these rules that he was able to amass his incredible fortune. The Ridge Stars government created a competition to build a new galactic drive this to bypass the patents held by the Earth government. Blord predicted how events would unfold after the competition.

He trumpeted that although he entered the competition only a short time before its completion, his company would market the winning drive. Starting with nothing, he effectively outfoxed a dozen powerful competitors.

Social Engineering begins by understanding the effects of the rules of society of the choices offered to an individual. Many of the social problems of the Western world, default to government greed. House prices may be too high because working hours have not been reduced in decades.

Households do not “Save” because of the government’s demand for a share of interest on cash investments – an investment that really should never be called an investment. Governmental social policy such as in Australia, guarantees that many people find that work is not a viable or desirable option. In many Australian meat works, full of Asian workers, it is a standing joke amongst these workers when an Australian arrives for work – as to how long he will last.

Governments routinely fail to walk the walk, creating rules that place a cost burden on business and more importantly a time burden as well. They routinely chase complex solutions, when much simpler ones would function well. In a democracy such as Australia, they also have problems saying “No”.

Many aspects of our society are socially engineered by the action of government- with good and bad effects.

 

 

 

 

Neil Asher: Zero Point
The society of the book “Zero Point” would be a living hell for its inhabitants. Burgeoning population has allowed the government to strip most of its citizens of all their assets for the “common” good. The good life is available only to a few bureaucrats, servants of the government.

Everyone else becomes a slave of the government. The book presents a socially engineered scenario whereby the government progressively removes the power and the possessions of its people.
I think in reality, such a world is improbable. People become very upset and martial when their positions and freedoms are removed. The “ removal” of something that people have is usually a trigger for revolution.

However, if the temperature of the water in which our citizens exist were raised very very gradually, it is possible that they would not notice the gradual erosion of their social and physical assets.

What a government could not achieve within a year, perhaps it could very well achieve over several decades. The removal of the freedoms given to the Russian people during Glasnost, triggered a revolution and the removal from power of the oppressors. Unfortunately perhaps, other more insidious oppressors were given an opportunity to do their social engineering in a different way.

 

 

 

 

Gordon R Dixon: the Dorsai series: military technology is a language.
War and the result of war has shaped more social change than anything else in human history. For much of human history it has been the process whereby the “have-nots” become “haves”. Financial power and trading underpinned the British Empire, but in conflict it was the ability of the British soldier which maintained the status quo of the power hierarchy.

The Dorsai are a military people, living on a small poor world with nothing to export except the skills of its people. The book highlights how the development of a “ military language” enhances the effectiveness of the soldier as much as the development of better arms or logistics.

 

 

 

 

Jack Vance: The Languages of Pao.
This book highlights the concept that a language directs the thoughts of its people. On Pao, the language is very neutral and peaceful and not directed to action. It results in a very passive population with little thought of revolution or resistance.

Personally, I think genetics is a much more potent force. Using enneagram dynamics I would predict that a “nine” population would indeed be a very passive population with the thought of revolution or resistance.

What is the role of language in limiting people’s thought patterns? This remains to be seen. I think more likely a passive  people create a passive language.

Isaac Asimov: Foundation Series (Psychohistory).
Psychohistory is the ultimate social engineering technology. It enables human psycho – historians to predict and to alter the flow of events and of history. By understanding the consequences of our actions today for the future, we can plan to build a better world in the future – using forethought and planning not happenstance.

 

 

 

 

Vernor Vinge: A Lightness Upon the Deep: (MRI Programming of neurones).
I found this book somewhat difficult to read. However, the proposition in the book that nanotechnology could be used by MRI to reprogram neurones and to control human behaviour was very very disturbing.

 

It forms a nugget of horror in an otherwise reasonable book. It is precisely these glimpses of possible futures that are so valuable to those of us who enjoy science fiction. In the books, humans are transformed into workaholic robots, almost unable to meet their own needs – being so driven by the need to work, through MRI mediated neuronal reprogramming.

A future we never hope to see. However perhaps a future with some value for people who actually transgress social expectations. Used appropriately such technology could be an incredible asset. Used inappropriately this technology could make slaves of an entire population.

But what constitutes good choice and the applications of these technologies? And who decides? I feel that it is all too likely that too many humans and governments would be driven by the potential for exploitation and control. Imagine if we MRI reprogrammed the progenitors of the germ theory of disease to see things the “right way”.

How could anybody object that such an individual should be reprogrammed, when everyone can see how wrong the poor fools were. Marcus von Plenciz in 1762. Louis Pasteur in the 1850s and Robert Koch in the 1880s proposed that specific germs cause specific diseases.

Where would we be if the Catholic Church were allowed to MRI reprogram Tycho Brahe, so that we would all know the rightness of the fact that the earth is the centre of the universe?

 

 

Unique Aliens: Good And Bad

Doctor Who: TV series: the Daleks.
The Daleks are the most classically evil and persistently insidious antagonistic life form in the known universe. The desire to conquer and to dominate is paramount.

But where does this all lead? A good example from history is the British Empire – generally regarded as a much more benevolent empire than that of the Dalek hegemony.

The saying was that the sun never set on the British Empire. However some people said that the sun never set on insurrection within the British Empire. Insurrection is a challenge to the Daleks. I can only see them reacting with extermination. The logical conclusion is that eventually the universe is full of only Daleks as all other life forms are eventually exterminated.

Dalek genetic material can be manipulated to allow them to adapt to new circumstances and to develop new capabilities, bypassing some of the species based restrictions of other life forms. So Daleks could occupy many environmental or planetary niches within the galaxy.

However, once the universe is full of Daleks, I can only see the Daleks falling upon themselves. The desire to conquer and dominate would direct itself to other Daleks who may not accept the will of one specific Dalek.

 

Imagine what would happen if there were two supreme Daleks – a war that would span everywhere and forever. Such an organism could indeed dominate but inevitably they would have to destroy themselves.

 

 

 

 

Bob Mayer: World War Z.
Zombies are perhaps the ultimate soldier although a mindless one. Zombies or parts thereof can just keep on going even in the absence of oxygen. They can progress to islands by walking underwater to eventually surface and attack the  inhabitants.

The just a bit slow and stupid is probably the main criticism. Once the mechanisms of war have been set in motion, getting rid of zombies becomes akin to an activity like cleaning rather than true war.

The outcome of the conflict is essentially preordained with all or almost all the casualties on the zombie side. A zombie probably deserves another life as a battery. They are perhaps the most unstoppable power source for batteries the world has ever seen. As soldiers though, probably a dead loss, so to speak.

 

 

 

Alan Dean Foster: the Commonwealth series of novels: the Thranx.
Not all aliens are bad. The Thranx are one species that I would be very grateful to call friend. Only a fool would choose a marital partner solely based on looks. And only a fool would choose a friend solely based on looks either. Compatibility of goals, compatibility of social arrangements and a compatible outlook on life are far more important.

My criteria for a good partner in marriage is that they need to like you, they need to be an asset to you – with loyalty being one of the most important assets and you need to like the life they give you. These criteria are probably a good basis for developing partnerships throughout the galaxy, as much as for selecting partners in marriage.

 

 

Chronic Fatigue And Illness

Alan Dean Foster: Interlopers.
Very few science fiction authors have taken up the challenge of creating an explanation for chronic fatigue. This is an interesting book with its supposition that there are creatures in our environment that prey upon us, essentially parasitising human beings. Unfortunately the truth is both more mundane and strange I believe.

 

 

 

Kay Kenyon: Braided World.
This book shows urgency on the part of humanity to regain its “immunity” to disease and illness. I could imagine that if humanity existed as a “clone” population, that there would be substantial problems in humanities resistance to disease. Once an illness developed a method of bypassing human immunity, the results would invariably be devastating, the illness effectively having learned to bypass everyone’s immunity.

I think we’re fortunate indeed that humanity contains reasonable diversity within its gene pool. This limits the ability of disease to spread since segments of the population are naturally much more resistant to disease than other parts of the population.

However taking this trend to the extreme, humanity is still one species. Compare humanity’s genetics to that of the red fox. While red foxes throughout the world can interbreed, they can generally only do so successfully with their neighbours. Across continents, populations of red foxes do not even have the same chromosomal count. Imagine a humanity split into dozens of tribes instead of being single species.

Paill Plus CENSORED "ref ...................." by order of “Frobisher” authorised by “The Commandant”.

Brian Stableford: The Paradise Game.
CENSORED "ref ...................." by order of “Frobisher” authorised by “The Commandant”.

 

 

 

 

 

Unique Disasters

Stephen Baxter: The Flood.
The ocean is one of the most hostile and inimical environments on the planet. There are no large lifeforms floating above the surface of the ocean. The power of waves and storms guarantees that large objects are destroyed. The life of the ocean exists under the surface where conditions allowing life are much more stable. This reflects on one of our webpages on “colonising the oceans”.

To colonise the oceans we need to be able to escape from the hostility of the ocean. The solution we proposed is the bio engineering of mangroves to enable them to be grown into seagoing ships and enabling them to breathe while submerged, perhaps with the interfacing of human oxygenation technology accessing the internal xylem of the plants.

In the book the ocean level continues to rise, supposedly supported by the escape of water from under the mantle of the planet to above the planetary mantle. At this stage of our technology, this  is one disaster we would be hard pressed to cope with, no matter how much time we were given.

All ships and vessels are prone to fatigue and eventually all of our constructs would fail. To succeed we need a capacity to mine for metals, to process metals and to rebuild new ships. To mine within the depths of the ocean I can only see gravity technology as allowing us to defeat the pressures inherent in the ocean depths.

Such a process as The Flood would result in extinction of all land-based life upon planet. Even birds such as the albatross which spent almost the entire lives in flight do need to land to rear their young. This requires a land area for them to colonise.

Still with time I believe humanity could put up a creditable defence even with the arrival of such a disaster.

 

 

 

John Wyndham: The Day of the Triffids.
This is one of the few disaster novels that really had me worried. It is the combination of two disasters which create a situation that is almost impossible for humanity to escape.

Firstly humanity loses its main advantage over the environment – the ability to see. Most people are rendered blind.

Secondly, a new life form – the Triffids are able to step into this niche created by humanity’s loss of power over its environment. A Triffid can probably be decapitated much like a zombie and still keep on going.

If injured, it just puts down its roots and grows back to health. It replicates by sporulation, guaranteeing widespread distribution of the species across the planet. It possesses a low-level intelligence sufficient to hunt prey such as humans. It possesses a poison gland that can kill all blind humans.

It is suspected that its intelligence allows it to direct its poison against human eyes to blind a human and to enable the Triffid and to gain the upper hand.

A simple horror, based on simple biological advantages and disadvantages – perhaps all too realisable and possible.

 

 

 

 

Power And Energy Technology
inc. Catalytic Conversion, Fuel Cells, Fusion Power

H Beam Piper: Space Vikings.
Very gung ho. Burn your nuclear fires in containers made of collapsed matter – Collapsium. The ability to make shielding based on collapsed matter is paramount for the civilisation’s technical advances.

I suppose in string theory, we could well be able to change the nature of matter, but I feel this (Collapsium) is well beyond our current capabilities.

 

 

Physics
inc. Energy Shields, Gravity, Quantum Radio, Memristors, Nanotech

James Blish: Surface Tension (The Testament of Andros).
In this book the frontier is the inner world, not the macro world. A world in which surface tension is a very powerful force. The book looks at how dwellers in one lake develop technologies which enable them to travel across “space” to another lake. Little do they realise how large the universe really is, and how small their place within it.

 

Thomas Harlan: A wasteland of Flint, House of Reeds (First Sun artefacts: nanotech).
Artefacts remain scattered throughout the galaxy from earlier waves of alien colonisers. Some of these artefacts include nanotechnology. Directed by intelligence, a planetary nanotechnology factory could produce literally and everything a civilisation could need. However once it escapes from control, it becomes a dangerous entity in its own right.

 

Stanley Robinson: Red Mars (machines building machines).
Humanity colonises Mars. And what makes this possible is a simple fact that machines can build more machines which can build or machines in turn. This bypasses the need for people and labour in initiating technological constructs. All that is needed is power, resources and intelligence to allow humanity to dominate a planet.

 

Orson Scott Card: Enders Game (Remote control of battle fleets in real time).
Quantum communications forms the basis for this book. Humanity, through the intervention of a Maori commander (New Zealand), defeats an alien invader as if by luck, and then sets out to take the war to the aliens themselves.

Automatic battle fleets are launched and upgraded while in transit through the medium of quantum communications. But war must be conducted in real time, so commanders require instantaneous unblockable secure communication with their battle fleets. But with an attack on any planet far away, all the advantages are with the defenders.

 

 

Travel Technology

Phillip Mann: The Disestablishment Of Paradise (Fractal Platforms) .
Of All the technologies to travel throughout the universe, I find this one the most interesting. I’m not sure how I would feel travelling through a Stargate on Earth or in space. However travelling throughout the galaxy via a fractal platform seems quite acceptable and strangely enough not too dangerous.

Rapid transportation and movement unfortunately guarantees fast war – a not very desirable state of affairs. Fractal platforms could perhaps be a step below such dangerous fast travel technologies.

If people cannot  travel quickly ,neither can their  enemies. Wars throughout the galaxy don’t start because enemies have time to prepare for each other’s arrival at home planets or colonies.

 

 

Unique War inc. Aerial Infantry, Mech Infantry

John Wyndham: the Kraken Wakes.
How do you fight a war when your enemy has different rules for making war? Humanity faces an enemy which lives within the ocean deeps, inaccessible to us. They are capable of using technology to deepen trenches within the ocean and to change the flow of water through the oceans, further melting the ice caps of the planet and raising the world ocean level.

I once calculated that if all the ice in Antarctica melted, the world ocean level will rise approximately 20 m. The main contributor to this rise is the ice which has built up over thousands of years on the Antarctic continent.

The aliens from the deep attempt an attack on human surface villages, meeting with dire defeat. Their craft appear hopelessly inept compared to our vehicles. Their methods of attack using cilia to capture specimens seems ludicrous. But by comparison, how ludicrous must our attempts to explore into their domain – the oceans, appear to them.

The conclusion I would reach is that  two species with so little overlap in their distribution and activities would be far better off cooperating and competing. Commercial interactions would yield vast advantages for both.

 

 

Robert Aspirin: The Bug Wars.
The War of the Future. The  Tzen reptiles are warriors. Their home – the black swamps are overrun by insects and they are forced to retreat into vast colony ships hiding in space. From these redoubts, they attack their insect enemies, destroying them. The main advantage of the insects lies in effortless reproduction and a lack of concept of self-removing fear of death.

The Tzen rely on their intelligence and their scientific abilities to outthink and outmanoeuvre their insect foes.

The vulnerability of planets to attack and bombardment suggests that space based colony ships may be the only road to survival for a species when their world is in conflict.

 

 

Robert Heinlein: Starship Troopers, esp. inc. Starship Troopers movie and cartoon series.
This is a strange combination of presentations. The first movie is almost cartoonish in its nightmare quality, providing an awesome visual spectacle, but little respect for the insects as enemies.

The cartoons however convey the impression of an enemy with substantial capabilities, although very different from our own. The cartoons give an impression of a very credible foe that fights Wars very differently to us to take advantage of their natural strengths. Their strengths in biology challenge our strengths in physics and it is not obvious which scientific discipline will dominate.

 

 

Gordon R Dickson: Dorsai Series.
War is a conflict conducted for commercial reasons and for commercial advantage. In such wars there is little reason to damage the infrastructure the personnel operating the infrastructure facilities. Both are valuable. This type of war demands a highly professional soldier’s, with substantial discipline. Not just any fool with a rifle will do.

 

 

Phillip Mann: The Disestablishment Of Paradise (Michelangelo Reaper).
Copy from Previous content under “Psi”.
Remarkable, as one of the few books where collective humanity is sent scuttling off with its tail between its legs. The Michelangelo Reaper is a being with psionic powers. It acts much as the legendary Gaea is the mother to planet Earth.

The Reaper directs the animal and plant life of the planet to respond to the human invasion and to act to expel the human invaders. The process takes time and progressively the humans encounter failure after failure in the colonisation of this world, culminating in the disestablishment of the planet Paradise.

The proposition that humanity would have difficulty in a conflict with a creature with Psionic powers is fairly obvious. We hardly accept that these capabilities even exist much less have any idea of how to exploit them. If we were to come into conflict with beings with these powers, we would likely be the vanquished not the victors.

 

 

 

Poul Anderson: New America.
Copy from Previous content under “Psi”.
Again in a situation to akin to that of the Michelangelo reaper above, humanity encounters a creature with Psionic powers. However much of the effect is promulgated by the hallucinations experienced by the human victims, who eventually discover the reality of the world in which they live is very different to that which they are told exists.

 

Ian Douglas:  Luna Marine.
The crux of these books is the Fermi paradox. If life is so probable, why are there so few alien civilisations in evidence. The answer seems to lie in the inference that predatory species arise and destroy other competing species and then become in turn  themselves destroyed.

In conducting war at a distance,CENSORED "ref ...................." by order of “Frobisher” authorised by “The Commandant”..

 

Brian Stableford: The Paradise Game (Hooded Swan Series).
This book again looks at the Fermi paradox from a different perspective. Alien races can produce traps on worlds capable of destroying other species. A Colonising species becomes vulnerable when it travels to the New World.

The most successful agent for warfare are biological agents with minimal effects for long periods of time before showing symptoms. The history of the galaxy is not written upon any book or encyclopaedia. It is experienced one minor planet at a time across the Galactic panorama.

 

 

Ron L Hubbard: Battlefield Earth: Psychlos.
These aliens are just bad guys out to make a buck. Colonising the galaxy is secondary to commercially exploiting it. Even the survival of a species is decided upon whether it is cheaper to import newer more docile workers than to exterminate the existing workers. These aliens carry the arrogance of dominance like a disease. They feel they are so far above all others, that they have little to fear from anything else.

 

Alan Dean Foster”: A Call to Arms.
Humans have fought each other and died for millennia, unlike most other species throughout the galaxy that coexistent in a  state of peaceful cooperation. Few species are suited to war but humans are one of them. Humans Are capable not only of engaging in war but of motivating others to do so as well. They become highly sought after ,by the member species of the “Weave” as soldiers in a war with another alien species: the Amplitur.

 

Strangely the Amplitur remind me most of the armies of Communist Vietnam. A culture which gives its soldiers few choices is able to more effectively engage in war and is able to tolerate the consequences of war (casualties) much better than a society which allows its citizens to express themselves (democracies).

To have fewer choices is to have less uncertainty. The Amplitur much like the Vietcong are able to take community leaders or Headman aside and to adjust their beliefs and to motivate them to change.

It took the armies of the world five years to control Hitler’s Reich. Imagine a conflict spanning dozens of worlds across the galaxy – how long could such a conflict go on for, with each battleground an entire planet.

 

 

 

Jerry Pournelle: Janissaries Series (University of Tran).
Education and knowledge is as important a weapon of war as our soldiers, swords, and guns. In the long-term conflict it  is not the tactical situation which is paramount, but the strategic. Knowing the goals of your enemy and knowing how to block or subvert the enemy’s activities may be more important than simply inflicting death.

 

 

Food Technology inc. Climate Control, Farming Australia, Cloning and cell Growth

Ben Bova: Star Watchman.
A burgeoning planetary population following the defeat of its traditional rulers, creates demands for foodstuff production that are not popular with farmers, triggering conflict.

The production of food is critical to survival. Farming is the familiar method of producing food, but in the future food may become industrially produced commodity. But it is the rapid pace of change that causes unrest amongst the people, a change that is removing traditional life plans and replacing them with a more modern civilisation.

I think that so long as the path of modernisation returns more to people than traditional activities, modernisation the part that civilisation will follow. And conflict is unlikely to develop.

 

 

James Blish: Earthman Come Home (Chlorella Tanks in Cities in Flight Series, supply on Vegan Orbital Fort).
Food production is one of the most basic rate limiting steps for civilisation. Food production has a long lag time before yield, is susceptible to many factors interrupting production, and requires the use of large areas of planetary surface for production. A city travelling through space simply does not have spare farmland.

Food needs to produced industrially and in quantity to feed a city sized population. Additional technology includes greenhouses and vertical farms because with food, taste is everything.

 It may be scientifically planned and nutritious, but if it is not nice to eat it will not be desirable.

 

 

Jack Vance: Wyst Alastor 1716.
This book showed a social experiment on a vast scale. I suppose the closest comparable situation other Communist states, where everyone shares the same basic resources. Everything is recycled.

Everyone works the same basic hours. Specialisation and specialist knowledge is elitist. But unfortunately, the demise of machinery and the collapse of industrial production with loss of ability to repair machines almost guarantees that the social experiment will fail.

And as I stated before, with food taste is everything. It may be scientifically planned and nutritious, but if it is not nice to eat it will not be desirable.

Soylent Green (Movie).
If you are running out of food, perhaps just eat the people. The final stopgap food supply. Unfortunately, eating one person  generates  about a kilogram of foodstuff for forty people for one day. So essentially in forty days, you will have pretty well eaten everybody in the forty (while not quite – but sort of).

The movie forms an interesting proposition that people are a foodstuff as well, but the rules of the feedback loop dictate that it is not possible to sustain many people for long using this method. Of course it has allowed the occasional survivor in a remote place to subsist until help arrives by eating of survivors.

In the book the Martian – one  astronaut was told that she would survive because if everything went wrong, she would be expected to eat the others – so that at least one person would live.

 

 

Dark Technologies inc. Recycling

 

 

 

Old Tech > New Tech:
Base Technology

Industrial Synthesis of Biological Molecules: Feedstock, Fuel and Food
Gravity Generation
Paill Plus

Michael Swanwick: Vacuum Flowers
The first time I read this book, I understood very little and was swamped by its pace and vision of a human future. One of the few books I really could not fathom in my earlier life. On rereading ,after seeing it mentioned so often, I developed a very different perspective.

Gene crafting is a technology which allows humanity to conquer space through adaptation. Gene crafting allows the creation of organic life rafts (comets or treeships) capable of moving through space. And gene crafting allows the existence of nuisance lifeforms such as flowers capable of growing and living in vacuum – the Vacuum Flowers of the title.