Pick up a femur, order a moon sandwich, and always remember to bring your space helmet with you! On its 50th anniversary, we’re discussing Stanley Kubrick’s classic “2001: A Space Odyssey.” What is the Monolith’s purpose? When and why does HAL become murderous? And why is there so much solarized stock footage of landscapes? Watch out for cheetahs!
Tagged with “science fiction” (329)
They might find beauty in the same things humans do, you never know.
Alien invasion is a constant theme of Hollywood science fiction, from War of the Worlds to Independence Day. But Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, author of the new book Enlightenment Now, argues that highly developed civilizations tend toward peace and tolerance, and that advanced aliens are much more likely to be friendly.
“I think it’s not inconceivable that wars between countries will go the way of slave auctions and dueling, just be seen as too ridiculous for any reasonable country to engage in,” Pinker says in Episode 296 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “And maybe that’s the natural arc of civilizations, including ones on other planets.”
But wouldn’t alien brains be so different from ours that it would make mutual understanding impossible? On the contrary, since aliens would have been subject to the same evolutionary pressures as us, they would probably possess an appreciation of science—and maybe even beauty—similar to ours.
“It’s conceivable that other intelligences have a sense of beauty that is not wildly different from ours,” Pinker says, “because they too might be expected to be attuned to counter-entropic forces and patterns in nature.”
An example of this is our appreciation of the bright colors and symmetrical configuration of many flowers. “Flowers are designed to attract bugs,” Pinker says, “but they also attract us, and our brains are pretty different from bugs’ brains.”
But there are limits. Vast differences in culture and biology would definitely lead to some significant differences when it comes to art appreciation.
“It may be pushing things to say that little green men from Alpha Centauri would groove to Thelonious Monk,” Pinker says. “I don’t think I’d push it that far.”
Listen to the complete interview with Steven Pinker in Episode 296 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Steven Pinker on progress:
“Nowadays in the most conservative part of the world, namely the Islamic Middle East and North Africa, in many ways they are as liberal, even a bit more liberal, than people of the same age in, say, Sweden or Norway in the early 1960s. At first when I saw that graph I just couldn’t believe it, what are you talking about? People in Libya today are more liberal than people in Sweden in the early sixties? But if you actually think about it, if you go back to people’s attitudes in the sixties, the idea of say gay marriage—you ask a Swede in 1960 what they thought of gay marriage, they’d think you were nuts. Or women’s equality. We tend to underestimate how much the world has changed, particularly when it comes to generation by generation turnover.”
Steven Pinker on AI:
“If Elon Musk was really serious about the AI threat he’d stop building those self-driving cars, which are the first kind of advanced AI that we’re going to see. Now I don’t think he stays up at night worrying that someone is going to program into a Tesla ‘take me to the airport the quickest way possible,’ and the car is just going to make a beeline across sidewalks and parks, mowing people down and uprooting trees, because that’s the way the Tesla interprets the command ‘take me by the quickest route possible.’ That’s just idiotic, you wouldn’t build a car that way, because that isn’t an example of artificial intelligence — plus he’d get sued and there’d be reputational harms. You’d test the living daylights out of it before you let it on the streets.”
Steven Pinker on science fiction:
“If you take Moral Philosophy 101, or even better you dive into the technical literature in moral philosophy in the philosophy journals, it’s kind of all science fiction. It’s ‘what would happen if …?’ I mean, it’s not very good science fiction, as literature, but it’s putting together an imaginary world and exploring the consequences, to see what you really deep down believe. A simple example is the trolley problem—you know, imagine there’s a hurtling trolley and if it continues on its way it’ll kill five workers on the track who don’t see it coming, but if you flip the switch it’ll be diverted and kill only one person. Should you flip the switch? And all kinds of variations that start to go into the realm of science fiction. But it’s these stretches of the imagination that clarify what you really believe. So science fiction and moral philosophy are often pretty similar.”
Steven Pinker on academia:
“Just yesterday I got a slew of letters after I published an article in the Wall Street Journal just mentioning climate change, and a lot of the readers wrote back and said, ‘Don’t tell me you believe in climate change. That just comes out of universities and everyone knows that there’s just a left-wing echo chamber in the universities.’ Now that’s total and utter nonsense, I know these people—the climate scientists and planetary scientists and geophysicists, and they are not left-wing fanatics—but when you’ve got the university culture developing a reputation for orthodoxy and suppression of controversy, which is true in some parts of the university, it taints the university system as a whole, to the detriment of the entire society.”
You may love "2001," but you probably don’t love it as much as he does.
Francine Stock explores the hidden wonders of 2001: A Space Odyssey in a special edition.
Fresh from the movie theaters, here’s our flash review of “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” In a world where there’s a new “Star Wars” movie every year, sometimes it’s a relief not to have the fate of the galaxy at stake. What are the rules of Sabacc? Are references the lowest form of fan service? Will casual fans be more enthusiastic than hard-core ones? Why watch droids fighting for entertainment when you have holograms? From train heists to floating space yachts to surprise cameos, we break it all down.
Fifty years ago, Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke set out to make a new kind of sci-fi. How does their future look now that it’s the past?
Companies take a deep dive into the stacks of a sci-fi library to find out how we might react to new tech.
Michael Sheen champions Philip K Dick who has had an influence on his production of Hamlet
Actor Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon; The Queen; Midnight in Paris) explores the life of Philip K. Dick with Matthew Parris, and explains why he had such a big influence on his recent production of Hamlet.
Michael first discovered Philip K. Dick through the film Bladerunner, and moved onto his short stories which got him thinking about science-fiction in a new way. Whilst reading about philosophy, quantum physics, and comparative mythology, it struck him how Dick was intuitively weaving narratives around all the most interesting elements that these fields were throwing up.
He talks about Philip K. Dick’s innate interest in multiples realities, and how they overlap with Sheen’s own family experiences of mental health issues. In fact the more he found out about him, the more he was drawn to this enigmatic writer.
Director Denis Villeneuve discusses his new film, Blade Runner 2049, with fellow Director Rian Johnson. Picking up thirty years after the events of Ridley Scott’s classic Blade Runner, the film follows K, an LAPD officer, who discovers a long-buried secret that could plunge what is left of society into chaos.
Original video: https://soundcloud.com/thedirectorscut/episode-96-blade-runner-2049-with-denis-villeneuve-and-rian-johnson
Downloaded by http://huffduff-video.snarfed.org/ on Sun, 04 Feb 2018 10:35:54 GMT Available for 30 days after download
Ursula Le Guin begins her lecture with Margaret Atwood by saying, “I emailed Margaret about six weeks or so ago and said, ‘What are we going to talk about?’ and she replied, ‘I expect we will talk about 1) What is fiction?; 2) What is science fiction?; 3) The ones who walk away from Omelas—where do they go?; 4) Is the human race doomed?; 5) Anything else that strikes our fancy.’” The two women proceed to examine these questions and talk through their answers. They delve into their writing processes and motives, creating many humorous analogies for the act of writing, whether they connect it to naked chickens, salted slugs, or dark boudoirs.
Margaret Atwood is a poet, novelist, short story writer, essayist, and environmental activist. She has written over 40 books and is best known for her fiction, including The Blind Assassin, which won the Man-Booker Prize in 2000. Atwood has used her public profile to advocate for human rights, the environment, and the welfare of writers. She has been president of PEN International and helped found the Writer’s Trust of Canada. As a public intellectual, Atwood is known as a brilliant thinker on a huge range of subjects who has a wry and ironic sense of humor and who is willing to call out platitudes and other forms of lazy thinking.
Ursula K. Le Guin sold her first story over 50 years ago and has been writing and publishing ever since. Tackling various modes, including realistic fiction, science fiction, high fantasy, children’s literature, screenplays, and essays, her work has challenged traditional understandings of gender roles, politics, race, and identity. She is best known for her fantasy series Earthsea and her science fiction novel The Left Hand of Darkness. She has influenced several generations of writers, including Junot Díaz, Kelly Link, David Mitchell, and Jonathan Lethem. Throughout her career, she has continuously met criticism with courage, causing one critic to note, “It’s been hard for reviewers to cope with Le Guin. She’s often seemed like a writer without a critical context. But that may just mean that the context is still to come.” Among her many honors, Le Guin has received a National Book Award and, most recently, The National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
If we knew everything ahead of time, we wouldn’t write the book. It would be paint by numbers and there wouldn’t be any discoveries.” – Margaret Atwood
“Rereading a book is much better than reading it. A good book reread is better than a good book read.” – Ursula Le Guin
“All doors are doors to the future, if you go into them.” – Margaret Atwood
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