Where is Science Taking Us?
by C.J. Cherryh
Page 1 of 2
Once upon a time and not so very long ago, science fiction found its
inspiration in the near solar system: landing on the moon was science fiction.
Landing on Mars was outright fantasy.
Now the equipment associated with the moon flight stands in museums, Mars is
on the drawing-boards, and science fiction of the intervening decades has gone
to the stars...a territory where the rules are a little less rigid, and where
the histories arenít yet written.
But thereís a problem with that scenario. Science fiction isnít founded on
escaping from science, or from humanity. Quite the contrary. Itís a literature
of human dealings with science -- at the very core of its significance; itís
what-if, and what if-this-goes-on with us? Itís us meeting nature on the
macroscopic and microscopic level. And above all, itís about what happens to us
when we run into places and situations that just arenít Kansas.
Science fiction has dealt with strange landscapes aplenty. Itís dealt with
strangers. The physics of how to get there is unfolding around us. The star
probes I wrote about a decade or so ago are increasingly probable in a real
future. Those frontiers are just ahead, and who knows? Theyíll be the next
But thereís more to the future than where weíre going. Science fiction also
lies in what weíre taking with us and in who weíll be when we go. And thatís
the result of changes weíre already making.
There are new frontiers.
The science of what we may become is one of the most exciting and potentóthe
power of genetic change. The power of the sub-visible. The power to work
invisibly to create visible changes. If this sounds like alchemyóit is. If it
sounds like magicówell, it answers that description well enough, too.
The expansion of understanding already required of human beings just to live
in the 21st century is staggering. In an era when the pace of living requires a
cellphone stuck to oneís ear while shopping, in an age when democratic process
goes electronic, in an age where what we see may have been computer-enhanced
beyond all resemblance to the truth...the news that the world is going to go on
changing at an accelerated rate sounds incredible.
It should. The fact is that human beings are still the 10000 BC model,
designed for agriculture, with a decision-making rate adequate for walking and
running, and a reproductive rate designed for occasional plagues. We overlay on
that a philosophical and political system a couple of thousand years old, the
origins and reasons for which we collectively donít remember very well. We
invent paper records to keep up with the changes and then we invent computers
to remember where we put it all. Which means we now prowl superhighways having
cell phone arguments with our spouses a thousand miles away, while trying to
cope with the traffic flow and simultaneously find out where we are via the GPS
display. Mental meltdown and fast traffic arenít mixing well, as is, and
somehow we hang on.
Meanwhile science has still more change in store. The 10000 BC model is
thinking about improving not just document storage -- but himself.
The 10000 BC model wonít change everything about himself, however. And itís
my guess we still hark back to some very old patterns, if you strip everything
of our civilization away. If you try to create a new world, depend on it, we
still come with genetic baggage. Given a problem, we still try to do things the
And how much of that capability is in our genes?Next Page
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