Friday, 5 December 2008

A Science Fiction challenge

I was a great fan of hard SF: the stories of dauntless exploration of the Cosmos, of spaceships, new planets, new galaxies... But my realist psyche has decreasingly reduced the fun I was getting from these lectures. I simply stopped believing that it is possible for the human race to make the effort necessary to go anywhere in the Universe. Even to Mars, not mentioning successful colonization of other star systems or galaxies. The more I look at the way we act, at out limitations (which are to a large part built in our evolutionary heritage) the more I doubt of any concerted action that would put us on a way to stars. I am not alone. Norman Augustine, Chairman of Lockheed AMrtin corporation has written a short essay What We Don't Know Does Hurt Us. How Scientific Illiteracy Hobbles Society Science, 1998, 279, p. 1640.
He states:
Could we send men and women to Mars? Technologically speaking, I believe we could. But politically there is no will to do so.
Augustine should know - after all LM holds quite a lot of the technology necessary to make the trip. But I agree - there is no will and no chance of making it, unless...

And this is the first topic of the challenge:
Try to describe what should have happen in the future (I fear my knowledge of English tenses runs short here) that would change the attitude and ways of significant part of our societies to launch us on the way to Cosmos? What social, psychological, technical, maybe biological changes, what wars/new religions/single events might do the job?

The second challenge is less ambitious and more scientific: what kind of alien evolution would produce beings that would be capable of intermixing the cooperative spirit and curiosity that would lead them and allow the effort necessary for space exploration?

Answers more than welcome!
One avenue is, however, excluded, as I already have thought of it (of course, with due humility, not being the first to do so). The beings that might have the necessary capacities would be the ones that do not have the evolutionary heritage, being programmed to explore the Universe. Machines. Possibly self replicating, possibly intelligent. As they would be conceived with the very idea in mind and without the evolutionary baggage, they might just be the thing. So, the challenge is a biological one: think of a sequence of events and constraints that would produce species cooperative like bees, intelligent and technical as humans and peaceful as orcas. Or, to be working, something much, much stranger.

Anyone out there?

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