Monday, January 7, 2013

Silence Descends

I was inspired... and wanted to share...

I just finished reading (as my little bit of leisure right now) a short (95 page) sci-fi Novel published in 1997 by Canadian author George Case*: Silence Descends - the end of the information age - 2000-2500.  It is available from the Toronto Public Library (it was just "on the shelf" in my local branch when I stumbled across it).

This book is the first serious attempt I've read that considers what an evolved human species might look like which is not based on ecological modernization theory (i.e. that technology will save us from our messing up the planet and that Ray Kurtweil's singularity is inevitable).
Rather George Case suggests a spiritually oriented alternative "Community of Soul" (significantly) extending some thinking from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

For the story tellers amongst you you might like the focus on how IT intervenes and dumbs down the story telling process!

Below a quote from the last couple of pages... since it contains the lead up to the wonderfully inspiring reflection on our life today in the early 21st century indicating just how much further we can and could go.   This aspirational book suggests that in addition to the well understood spatial exploration (into the wider universe as suggested by the majority of Sci Fi) a perhaps larger (and more realistic) exploration is that of ourselves and our potential individually and more important collectively.  Wow!
At last the wind dies
Now a stillness calms the trees
Now silence descends (Japanese poet and engineer - 1990-2043)
Was Information's regime a dark age? (referring to the early 21st Century)  Not altogether. Over its course the women and men of the planet became far more known to one another than ever before-the phrase "global village" originated then-and far more learned in the symbiotic nature of their relationships. They reached levels of education and mental acuity that were virtually unthinkable to their predecessors. They had all the ingenuity and inspiration that had built up in the thousands of years before them to draw on. And, for good or ill, let them claim one superlative for themselves: never before or since has the human race been as informed as it was throughout their span. The Age of Information is aptly named.

But how slight an honour that now stands! What small triumph merely to be informed, to  tell and be told flimsy little scraps of truth in steady, stuporous gibberish! Dazzled by and dependent upon their inventions, the citizens of Information were blind and deaf to the invisible, wordless realities in their midst. It was not just their amusements that were illusory and escapist-this they admitted to themselves-but so were their solemnities; they were equally trifling, equally marginal to permanent questions of spirit and cosmos. Not a dark age, then, yet dim and lusterless, noisy with echoes of echoes, flickered with shadows of shadows of shadows.

Was it a failure? Time does not judge this way, does not see itself as glibly right or wrong. The Information Age is better described as the gloom before the morning, as a requisite bridge, into a firmer future. Its final centuries give it a taint of doom and error, but we might more charitably regard it as a natural cycle of growth and decay. The worst we could do would be to repeat its mistakes and boast of some lasting perfection, to presume our¬selves and our ways to be the apex of civilization forever-as the people of the Information Age did. They thought they had achieved the crowning destiny of the world, that they had harnessed eternity. They had not. They had only begun to prepare for the coming stillness, and to withdraw themselves into the roaring, receding distance.

Finally this brings to mind the works of (radical?) feminist / LGBT sci fi authors:
  • Nicola Griffith - most specifically Ammonite which is amazing - mixing both typical science fiction space exploration (by women) AND the inner exploration which George Case focuses on (Slow River is good too) and
  • Melissa Scott - most specially Dreaming Metal - also amazing;  the best exploration of the art and culture of a future society (the technology just "happens to be there") that I've read;  Then on top the story explores how that culture deals with the emergence of an AI (badly), created in part by the re-purposing of some technology in the cause of art and performance!
* Check out George Case's Blog here.

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