140: Mass Effect Saves Humanity - for What?

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The problems that arise from space exploration are similar to problems that science have created all through its history. These problems are existential in nature. How do we define humanity, soul, love and the meaning of life when science continues to scrap our romantic and spiritual notions of these subjects?

Because of millions of years of evolution we have developed a so strong connection to Earth, nature and mankind that it seems spiritual to us. All lifeforms are products of their environment. If that environment goes through drastic changes the lifeforms must adapt to those changes or become exinct.

In the book 'Slapstick (or Lonesome no More!)' by Kurt Vonnegut, the Chinese discovered a way to create ultra-intelligence by uniting human minds to form sort of collective minds. Soon the Chinese broke off all contact to other humans and began to modify themselves to become ever smaller until they were about the size of bacteria. However ridicilous this might seem, I think it is much more likely than the future mainstream scifi offers us.

Anton P. Nym:

Still, "keep looking and you'll find the good stuff" applies here as it does elsewhere. To do differently is to condemn all North American cooking after one trip to a McDonalds.

I am an ardent fan of Phillip K. Dick, but the most morally and ethically challenging sci-fi writer I've ever read is still Olaf Stapledon. 'Last and First Men' pretty much changed my whole outlook on life. You're the fourth person to tell me to read the Seedling series, but the list of books I need to read never ends.

I certainly don't write games off for being purely escapist (judging by the mountain of Stackpole books in my attic), but it's still fair to say that plenty are fun but still get the brain wheel turning.

'System Shock 2's discourse on the problems between individual authority and the communist 'Many' alien species, with both screwing you over in their own unique way. KOTOR's grand (albeit done better in Planescape) take on identity and the tabula rasa. 'Ur-Quan Masters' had several great anecdotes about different species and their relationship with their home planet, not to mention comments on pacifism and species genocide. The list goes on & on...


I thought I'd capped this discussion off! A little farewell before tomorrow's new issue (in which I may have another piece...).

But Jeffers has raised some interesting points. I'll try to address them briefly, and then I'm out.

First, "none of you is human" is both tongue-in-cheek and good English. 'None' uses notional agreement to conjugate its verb, because it's a contraction of "not one", but can also mean "not any". I'm old-fashioned and so intended the former.

Space Dwarves: the problem isn't that we might find them repellant. The problem is that they would be manufactured to do a job. That's an extraordinarily dangerous idea. Bladerunner pretty much consists of a meditation on it. Genetic engineering would not necessarily make the subject of the engineering post-human, but it would completely alter the society that carried out the engineering.

Electricity: Heidegger actually maintained that electricity was the technological development that put all of humanity in danger.

Post-human societies: Chris Moriarty, whom I mentioned above, wrote about a society of genetically engineered humans that models itself on ants. This sort of change goes further than architecture. In fact, these are the changes occurring today that I think Mass Effect alludes to, but takes no position on. For example, no society in human history ever had a majority of its population over fifty years old. That will soon happen. There's no telling what that may mean for us.

Both extreme longevity and cloning threaten humanity as we know it. Cloning is the opposite of sexual reproduction; it reduces genetic diversity. Longevity does, too. Human society developed to deal with very narrow parameters: the life-cycle that humans evolved over millions of years. That life-cycle is now at stake.

Sci-fi may want to pay attention to that. That's all I'm sayin'!

Well, I should start off by apologising. Reading back my last post, I realise I probably came across as far more of an arse-hole than I meant. I didn't set out to try and shoot down your article, and I'm sorry if I caused offence or anything like.

...though I still don't agree with everything you're saying, but I think I'll leave it at that. :P

And hey, at least the article has generated discussion, right? Right?

Right, man, right!

That was a bunch of nonsense. It's just a shallow RPG I beat in less than 10 hours and really nothing anyone who plays these types of games hasn't seen before. And the Soviet Union did beat your country in the space race, you have no respect.

That was a bunch of nonsense. It's just a shallow RPG I beat in less than 10 hours and really nothing anyone who plays these types of games hasn't seen before. And the Soviet Union did beat your country in the space race, you have no respect.

They got to space first, you're right. We got to the moon (and back) first after starting the space race way behind. We did the harder task starting at a disadvantage. Russia did however remain number one in gulags. Good job Russia.

I have to agree on the article's idea that nothing about the character or actions of the alien races really feels alien at all. I also stopped to look at Earth because who hasn't wanted that view? My issue with the world portrayed in Mass Effect is that more or less everyone is getting along, which is utter bullshit.

I wonder if to some extent our imagined forms of intelligent life are doomed to be like us.

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