“Science fiction often presents humanity as a single entity: the crises and challenges they present must be faced collectively. This is why science fiction frequently conveys humanistic ideals and shared aspirations, such as “harmony in difference” and “unity in diversity”. Liu Cixin, SF author
Technological and literary take-off
My generation of boomers is the generation of technological boom. “Boom” does not only mean “rapid technological progress” but above all: invasion of technology into everyday life. What we found fascinating was not the technological miracles themselves, but the prospects for radical changes in future life.
Visualizing these changes is not easy. Most of us are content with the short term. Going beyond that is the passion of science fiction authors. Their popularity was incredible in the 2nd half of the 20th. All young Westerners read science fiction. The genre covers all the others. Hard science, uchronies, space opera, futuristic police, extraterrestrial sociology, every human and non-human discipline was visited. Science was the real magic. It was about to shake up the entire universe, propel us through galaxies.
Techno trivializes science
Paradoxically, it is the success of science to invade everyday life that has made it lose its enchantment. Indeed magic is the occurrence of the impossible. So using a spell without even thinking about it quickly exhausts its charm. The smartphone is an organ as banal as the hand. Better known, even. Technology is a second body envelope. We slip into it, we become familiar with the interface, it works even without the slightest knowledge of its intimate mechanisms.
Since science and technology have become ordinary reflexes, their failures are annoying, reprehensible. We do not criticize the small imperfections of a miracle! But the flaws of everyday tools are vilified. Today, the fame of science has more to do with its shortcomings and failures than with its successes. For generations X, Y and Z, Nature is considered more gifted than science. After all, hasn’t it managed to advance life for millions of years, while science threatens to destroy it in a few decades?
Revenge of Natural Magic
Science has given birth to industry, this enormous polluting and soulless machinery occupied with devouring Nature. Magic, for recent generations, has deserted science to take refuge in this wounded Nature, in its strangled vital impetus. Magic has become mental, mystical, inaccessible again. The phenomenal success of Avatar speaks for itself. We hope for the victory of Nature over the abject Techno-civilization. With all our soul, freshly taken out of the old boxes.
Yet science has never been so transparent, so careful, so fine in its adjustments and corrections of adverse effects. But there are scale effects that are difficult to control. The coming climate disaster is talking in every nook and cranny of the networks, but the essential cause, the one that reduces all the others, is rarely mentioned: the excessive multiplication of humans.
Would Nature have been more tender?
This is obvious and taboo. The planet is dying from carrying 8 billion humans, not technology. If Nature, this new deity, had had a free hand, it would have drastically reduced our number with famines and epidemics. It is science that has allowed this astonishing amplification of the human anthill. Unfortunately it has no power over our primitive instincts. The species copulates without brakes. The animal takes its pleasure without thinking about tomorrow.
Our morality is hysterical about euthanasia, going so far as to prohibit the voluntary departure of the most degraded old people. In many places it still considers fetuses sacred, untouchable. And is silent when it comes to the depredations committed by our bloated numbers. That our instincts are several millennia behind science is excusable. We do not yet know how to tinker with the innate. The fault lies with morality, which is acquired. Taught. It is supposed to accompany the transformations of society. Avoid slippage, fatal accident. What does it do in the face of disturbing contemporary prospects? On the one hand, it discusses a cautious patching up of the euthanasia law. On the other, it questions the right to abortion. It quibbles over issues that, when I was young, already seemed from another age.
Morality has become encysted in the past and is moving backwards, while science continues to leap forward, creating increasing tension in our minds. The libertarian technological world diverges from the conservative “natural” world, in which we must abandon our pretensions. The fracture lurks. How did we arrive at such a situation, when fifty years ago scientific progress opened up the most exciting prospects?
The reason is largely that we have stopped getting excited. Did the boomers get so excited that they dampened the enthusiasm of subsequent generations? It’s possible. But it’s a question of education. We put a lid on the educational pot. We have taught our young people that we should no longer be surprised by anything, that anything is possible. Fascination with technology, which imposes its frantic pace on a society of minds much slower to evolve. The new consciousnesses frolic in higher abstractions but remain powerless to maneuver old habits. The psychic divide is severe between contemporary virtual worlds and unconscious desires always arising from the depths of the ages.
Sluggishness kills the humanities
The technological boom contrasts with the stagnation of the humanities, moth by a multitude of incompatible opinions. Their cautious advances evoke the pace of a paralytic, while the physical sciences jump briskly from one consensus to another. Hare and tortoise of the fable. But the turtle is too busy reading the story and rejoicing in the fictional outcome. She did not notice that the hare has crossed the finish line and has already started another race. The gap is widening between the new technological tools offered to consciousness and its self-observation. How to keep control of an inner world transformed by their irruption?
Worse, the tendency is to believe that our minds naturally have the ability to resist the big gap. The human brain is all-powerful! Let it be free to adapt. Is the current liberalism a thoughtful, voluntary policy, or a resignation, an admission of impotence in the face of the disintegration of social structures? Dogmas such as individual egalitarianism paralyze the humanities. How to build, from such a naive premise, the educational chain? How can we link the infantile spirit, equipped with its archaic instincts, to the expectations of an increasingly complex and selective adult society? To return to Nature is to refuse to face the big gap. But it is also renouncing control of the world, hoping that it will heal on its own despite our invasive presence.
Social inequalities have always existed. Today they are not reduced but concealed with increasing attention. Never has censorship been so strong on inequality. Their media coverage is not a way to reveal them but to brocade them and then bury them. This is the drift of wokism, passed from “Report!” to “Report to prohibit!».
We have gone from science-fiction to science-prohibition in two generations. With the lid placed on the sky of young people, we prevent them from escaping into the future, to other worlds. The anticipated reality is so terrifying that it kills the imagination. Fear engulfs us in the present. Our dreams were blown to the ground. They are dying, leaving the field open to insignificant news, gossip, sterile conspiracy, militant ostracism. Crabs that feed on the dead dreams of our children.
Less democracy, more freedom…
My generation had much weaker individual democratic power than it does today. But made a mockery of this situation much more. And from there came a stronger sense of freedom. Today, by wanting to reform democracy, we are only disintegrating it. Rid of its hierarchies it becomes a ridiculous puppet theater. Participatory democracy is a joke. A collection of citizens has never made an effective collective. In any organized system the weight of the elements differs. The collective is a management of differences and not the application of a forced egalitarian principle. We are losing the ability to live in democracy, because we see in it only our right to free will, and no duty to the collective.
… through more fiction
Science fiction has the immense advantage of showing the world where science can lead without us being there yet. It removes the lid. Much work remains to be done. Listening to science fiction makes us humble, while owning the objects of science makes us pretentious. False supermen that are contemporary humans. Always equipped with their primal instincts. Convinced that they can control them because they are warned. Even more blind than before.
When we dreamed of future civilizations, fantastic as well as incomprehensible, we knew we were still primates. But our claims were no less. They were higher actually. Because we had a better view of the long road still to be travelled. An open path. No mass pessimism had yet come to close the door.