Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘we live in this world of anticipation of strangeness

Bonus Kim Stanley Robinson Video: ‘We Are Living in a Science Fiction Novel That We All Collaborate On’

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As promised, here’s a bonus Kim Stanley Robinson video from the Polygraph/FHI event the night before the “Science, Religion, Ideology” talk. (I’m very sorry I couldn’t put up more, but I found this event was actually rather difficult to excerpt, and that much of what is excerptable is echoed in the later talk anyway. It was a great conversation—but a lengthy and somewhat twisting one.)

He talks here about a claim he’s made elsewhere, that science fiction is the realism of our time. A brief transcript of the first part of his reply follows the video.

KSR: I think it’s very true that we are living in a science fiction novel that we all collaborate on, and it’s because everything that science fiction was about through its historical named period, the twentieth century, has kind of come true. And also we live in a world that is so intensely structured by science and technology that we can’t get out of it. If we were to get out of it would still be a science fiction move, the retreat to the farm. So it’s hegemonic, you can’t escape it, we’re in that world created by science and technology.

And also there’s this intense sense of futurity, in that if you opened up your newspaper or laptop tomorrow and it said, “They’ve cloned six South Koreans successfully and they’re all named Kim,” you would believe it, there would be no surprise there. Anything could happen. You could say, well, we just got a signal from Alpha Centauri, there are intelligent aliens there, they sent us the code for pi and the Pythagorean theorem. There’s no reason to disbelieve that, either. So we live in this world of anticipation of strangeness, of change, rapidly accelerating change.

I came through the Atlanta airport today, and you know those speedwalkers that are underneath the various terminals? When I was young there was this famous bestseller, Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler. Future shock: we don’t talk about that anymore because none of you are shocked. And that’s because the shock comes at the moment you step on the walkway and you feel the drag between one acceleration and another. At the moment you’re being accelerated to a new speed there’s a little gravity drag on your body, and that’s the moment of “future shock”—1972 or ‘3—and when you’re walking with the walkway that’s moving at a different speed there’s no shock there. You simply are moving at that speed. So now we’re moving a new historical speed that’s faster than the historical speed was when I was a kid. That moment was marked by this book Future Shock, and it’s an archaic term, obsolete, because there’s nothing in our experience now… I don’t think there’s anything that could happen that would shock us, because we’re moving at such a fast speed now, and because we’re conditioned by science fiction.

GC: What about the other end of the runway?

KSR: When you slow down? Well, that’s another—you feel that too. This is like when your connection to the Internet goes out for three days, or your phone line, or when your cell phone dies—these moments when you’re suddenly not having the sixth sense of the cloud…