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Science Fiction

I chose to listen to “The Roads Must Roll” and “The World the Children Made” and read “The Nine Billion Names of God.” In regard to how science fiction can serve as a catalyst for the critique of society I believe that science fiction gets a lot of its material from the commonly held beliefs and behaviors of society. In “The Roads Must Roll,” there seemed to be a theme of capitalism and how the desire to make money causes the importance of human life to be cast aside. Even though people were dying, the main objective was to keep the roads rolling. Furthermore it demonstrated how reliant people can become on things that are not necessities until we deem them so. The broadcast illustrates how becoming overly attached to things that merely make out lives easier can have detrimental effects on our freedoms and happiness. In “The world the Children Made,” we see a debate on whether or not to discipline children with physical punishment and an eagerness to abandon manual work for a reliance on technology. In “The Nine Billion Names of God,” we see how not believing in foreign beliefs does not save you from the possibility of them being factual. Science fiction seems to be akin to satire in respect to it being able to critique society without being dull or blunt. In regard to science fiction’s critique of the nature of science and technology, it seems to have a pretty negative view of it. Although I don’t regularly read or watch science fiction, what I have seen always seems to involve a theme of how technology and science will be the downfall of the human race. It seems to suggest that human kind is incapable of maintaining the acts that make us human and instead are only capable of falling into the lure of technology’s promises of an easy life. It seems to constantly be warning us of the inevitable dangers ahead as we continue to progress technologically. 

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Disney’s Man in Space

My favorite scene was the man riding the rocket powered bicycle with wings which quickly ended in him being caught on fire, luckily there was a man close by with a bucket of water. There were many scenes like this where people were experimenting with science, in this case rocket power, with little regard to their own safety. I believe today, children are raised to be overly cautious and this leads to overly cautious adults. Those adults that do not follow this standard are thought to be worthy of a Darwin Award. Furthermore, with the use of technology and computers we can now input data for any scenario and know the outcome without putting people in harms way. However, I believe that this disconnects people with the science being done and leads to a loss of interest. The most exciting part of developing new technologies is the trial and error stage, and we have lost this stage in its original form. I believe this extends further. In educational settings, students are often given the answer and asked to argue for its truth rather than forming the original question. Children are so busy learning facts, teachers don’t have time to help the children further develop their natural abilities to question and experiment. I believe this is possibly an answer for why we are seeing fewer truly novel ideas. I feel as though all I see are improvements on past technologies and extensions on old ideas. This brings to mind a recent television commercial for a watch that works as a phone. It shows an array of old cartoons, T.V. Shows, and movies where people are talking into a watch and then shows the new and improved device with a text that says “After all theses years… it’s finally real.” This leads me to question why technology seems to be having a negative effect on our natural abilities to act as scientists. Children experiment with out caution on a regular basis. It seems like the more concrete knowledge we possess, the more impossible new things start to seem. Disney’s Man in Space was filled with an array of questions and problems that were evoked by the desire to get into space. How would a person’s body react to zero gravity, how would their minds react, would the rocket really be able to safely break through out atmosphere and return? “Man would bet his life against the unknown dangers of space travel” and all in the name of science. I believe that the disconnect people are beginning to experience with science is a result of a loss of importance placed on curiosity and a loss of an understood necessity of taking chances in the spirit of progression. I was looking at Reddit the other day and saw a post where a parent had submitted their child’s math homework. The kid did the work but wrote on the place where it asked him to show his work that he did the work in his head because he didn’t want to be judged. I think we place to much importance on not making mistakes and not enough importance on taking chances.

 

Future Inventions as Seen by the 1950s

 

The supposed future invention of the “push-button school” was proposed for a solution to the soon to be overcrowded schools due to the baby-boomer generation.  There would be classrooms taught by a teacher who is projected on the screen and students, being watched by a camera in their computer, would answer questions on their computer. Although young children have yet to be placed in classrooms on their own with no supervision but a camera, there has been an increase in college courses that can be taken online, technological aids used by teachers for all age groups, and professors who teach classes at universities via telecommunication. I believe that people of that time period could not imagine how easily accessible computers would become and perhaps over estimated how well-behaved children of the future would be. Although it seems impossible to ever put children in a classroom by themselves, the general idea of education based on computer use is quickly becoming fact as more and more classes are requiring students to have internet access.

 

The “driverless car” was another assumption made about the future by the people of the 1950s. Although there has yet to be a driverless car made, there are driverless airplanes, driverless boats, and driverless trains. However, the invention of a driverless car would rely on the entire nation adopting the new mode of transportation, if not then how would someone be able to drive defensively against those who do not have self-driven cars. I do not believe people of this time period understood the extent to which the automotive industry, or for that matter maybe any industry, would be able to control the advancement of our nation. I believe people of the 1950s believed that technology, and the advancement of it, would control our society to such an extent that nothing else would matter.  

The Future in The Eyes of the 1930s

 

“Dr. Wile imagined a bureau of records under government control that would begin monitoring people the day they were born. He predicted that everything about a person would be recorded; from someone’s physical and mental defects at birth to the subjective progress and imperfections of that person throughout their life. Then, when someone wished to be married, they would be assessed by bureaucrats and found a suitable mate based upon case cards that have been cross-indexed against members of the opposite sex. These assessments would be made based on class and desirable physical and mental traits.”

 

I remember listening to my mom talk about how my grandpa use to say that “in the future the government would be able to take us all and keep records on everything we do.” I think that generation was really concerned with the degree to which the government would be capable of keeping track of its citizens in the future. It was viewed as a great infringement on our right to privacy and the beginning of our loss of freedoms. Once the government stripped us of our privacy, who knows what they would take next. Now, in the 21st century we are seeing a lot of these ideas coming to fruition. From the chips inserted into our passports, to the full body scanners at the airport, to the debates over internet privacy, it seems like every few years we lose a little more privacy. Who knows, maybe Dr. Wile was just a little off in terms of the timing of this new world. Maybe in another 100 years we will have to be assessed by bureaucrats before we can marry. This in relation to the large number of thoughts concerning robots in the future as well as beliefs about future “meal pills”, it seems like people of the 30’s worried that we would advance to a point in the future where we no longer enjoyed the simple things in life. We will lay in bed all day while robots do all of our tasks, with the government tracking our every move, as we swallow our meals whole in pill form. Although there would be a lot of opportunities in the future, we would lose our ability to enjoy all that comes with being alive.

QUESTIONS

1. Do hypertexts and hypergrams helps people for mental maps of information, increasing their ability to organize large amounts of information mentally, or do they decrease people’s ability to do so by doing the work for them in information sites?

2. Is the new direction that the computer interface is taking (where there are just boxes you click on the home screen that take you where you want to go) moving the idea of a computer away from the “cold, immaculate, sterile, ‘scientific’, & oppressive” appearance?

3. Should children be encouraged to play non-academic computer games and if so to what extent?

NIM

I think the fact that Nim initiated conversation is a sign that the animal had learned to communicate. However, I don’t think that is the primary lesson behind the readings. I think it is appalling that someone would be able to take a chimp away from its mother, raise it as a human, and then place it back into a system designed for animals. I personally don’t believe there is anything we need to learn that we would have to abuse animals in order to do so. I understand there  was a time when people didn’t know what  they were doing and the Nim story may fall into that category but I hope we can all learn from stories like these. Furthermore, I think learning to understand animal language would be just as useful and would be way less harmful than forcing animals to learn our language. I think people should pay more attention to understanding nature than trying to force nature to fit into our ideas of what is right, wrong, and proper. 

I am really excited about reading the lost world. Jurassic Park is one of my favorite movies! As for things in the book that are “a lost world” to us today, the primary thing I noticed is how women are treated. However, I believe that the interest in dinosaurs, science, and hate for journalists is pretty much the same. 

Unit 2

 

  1. I believe that it is human nature to always wonder what else could be out there. It seems to come naturally to us to look at a forest or the sky or even the future and have out imaginations run wild with possibilities. This human characteristic is also where many common ideas, beliefs and technologies have arisen from. I think a strong argument can be made for the understanding that without our imaginations, human progression would at the very least be hindered if not terminated completely.

  2. I do not believe that the public “is not very smart.” When we look at the history of mankind, we have come a long way. There is always going to be a spectrum of intelligence in human kind, however, the spectrum has definitely shifted up over the years as education becomes more common place and our collective pool of knowledge grows. We as a species can only advance so quickly and we are already surpassing the natural norm for advancement and growth. Furthermore, having a healthy imagination is not a sign of a lack of intelligence. Both intelligent and unintelligent people can and do poses this characteristic. In addition, it is my belief that having a strong since of imagination and wonder as well as having the ability to recognize that there are still unknowns in this world demonstrates intelligence even if the person is later proven wrong.

  3. I believe that NOT spending time thinking about space aliens is unscientific. The universe is unimaginably large, I believe that it is statistically more likely for there to be planets that can, and do, support life than for there to not be. In my opinion, it is arrogant and closed minded of us to not entertain the possibility of “space aliens.” Although their existence may not have any practical value to us at this time, understanding how we relate to space and nature is a step closer to understanding who we are and in my opinion, that has extreme value. Furthermore, the humbling notion that we are not alone and may not even be superior to all other life forms in the universe helps people to reevaluate their current life paths, strive harder for progression, and reconsider how they treat themselves, others, and the world they live on.

  4. I think it is easy for people to assume and accept that we fully know our Earth, that we are superior to all other living things, that we know what is best at all times, and that there is nothing left to discover on this planet. Playing pretend in movies, tv shows, and books is one thing, but to believe it is taboo. People can quickly forget the past, loosing touch with how recently and often new discoveries are made. I also think that maybe the internet plays a role in this. We have so much information at out fingertips, I believe it makes it easier to think we have all the answers. However, the internet has only been around for such a short time, it will take time for our relationship with the it to mature. I believe that soon it will have the opposite effect as more people start posting odd things they find. For example, I recently saw this video http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=193_1379475235 and although the suspected answer was soon posted in the comments http://deepseanews.com/2012/05/solving-the-mystery-of-the-placental-jellyfish/ it demonstrates both how there are still mysteries in this world as well as how the internet is bringing those mysteries to light.

  5. Yes, I believe that fantasy is an important part of human nature and will only grow in intensity as life’s necessities are easier met and people have more time to think about “trivial” things. I also believe that as our passion for fantasy grows, it will have a positive effect on how regularly we use our imagination and will thus aid in our progression and growth.