2019-07-23

WWSotM: Golden age reasoning

A lot of contemporary politics insists on harking back to one or other golden age.

Q. Was there ever a golden age?

A. Of course there was not.

Except in Science Fiction.  The Golden Age of Science Fiction is well documented as running from from 1938 to 1946 and is superior to all other golden ages in three important respects:
  1. it actually happened
  2. it was limited, mostly, to the production of pulp novels and magazines; so we didn't overreach
  3. when it was over, we didn't go into decline, we started right in on the Silver Age
Another plausible candidate for a Golden Age might be the space race, an age of great promise and progress... however with my hardest engineer head on, I am going to call that a fools-golden age, because.
  1. it was politically motivated, there's not actually so much reason to go to the moon
  2. although a lot of useful technology spun off from the space race, it wasn't enough to completely enable a further phase: the technology that got us to the Moon does not scale to getting us to Mars
  3. we never went back
So, although eventually the Moon might be useful as a staging point on the way to other places (although Earth orbit is handier) I wouldn't say that getting there in 1969 was fundamental...

Unlike I, Robot which is fundamental, because, if I recall correctly, it contains the short story which finally addresses the question What is a human? (which matters because Asimov's laws forbid: harming a human, or through inaction allowing a human to come to harm...) and reaches the conclusion, that, to paraphrase another famous Sci-Fi author:

Any sufficiently advanced robot is indistinguishable from a human being.

Which gives us a different possible future for future space exploration.  We happily drop increasingly advanced robots on various heavenly bodies.  If the robots get more and more sophisticated, and if, at the same time, the people become more and more robotic (c.f. 'cyborg'), then we could arrive at people on Mars by a strange and unexpected back door:

Q. Is there life on Mars?

A. First let's define 'life'.

There was a point to this discussion but it is a bloody hot day and I have derailed my train of thought...  have a poem instead.









Golden age reasoning


Golden Age reasoning knows aliens
in the fabric of the air.  The tiny hints
of Chlorine breath are there for those who sniff
and have not bleached their washing recently.

Golden Age reasoning has to believe
that there's a real behind this real and you
can get there if you have that kind of mind
of course the trip back can be more complex...

although Golden Age reasoning does not
sweat the details: how does your aircar stay up?
Why do the robots rebel?  And hell, if I
know why the Fleed have got it in for us.

The Golden Age, a precious, dangerous
and brightly coloured place, but turn to face
it now and check the charge in your ray-gun
the seals on your power suit, the gleam in your eye.




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