Monthly Archives: April 2015

Science Fiction Today – Zoos

ZZoos are a place where there are good things and bad things happening; some of it depends on the zoo that you visit. Progress keeps being made with zoos and the knowledge that we gain for how it is best to care for and treat these animals is constant.

There is some question of what will become of zoos in the future. There are already problems of animals only being available to even be seen in a zoo, but at the same time how much knowledge do we gain from zoos about animals and allowing people to be able to really see these animals up close in a safe environment? Some might say that zoos should disappear altogether because it is just encaging animals for our own amusement. Then there is some thought that with the advancement in technology, is there a point where we can interact with these animals in a virtual world that is just as good as real life? Meaning would the zoos as we know them really need to exist anymore?

Less Animals in the World

One of the big directions with zoos is the thought that the number of animals in the world will drop as humans keep trying to expand. In so many of the futures the landscape is bleak for the thought of the environment, which includes the animals.

It is not as though many of the stories that we read specifically look at what a zoo would be in these futures, but a lot of times if there are not animals anymore it can go a couple directions. At what point does the physical space that zoos take up be too much potentially? One direction is that we have less zoos in the world and that seeing a live animal either becomes a myth or something only for the rich. Who knows if zoos will even exist or if we will transform to small patches of land where we allow the animals to roam?

Virtual Zoos

The other thought is that we have somehow found a balance with the environment and with nature. There are people who question the effectiveness and the necessity of holding animals in cages, even in zoos. Also, the rate at which technology is growing there could be a day where we no longer need zoos to be able to see how an animal lives in the wild.

Part of the desire to keep zoos is to be able to educate people on the needs for these animals. At the same time there is only so much we can show with an animal in a cage. Some of the best things to experience is an animal in their natural habitat. With advances in virtual reality people could experience the animals without seeing them in real life. The technology is far off, but at the same time imagine an entirely virtual zoo where you feel like you are walking around a zoo on a sunny day seeing the animals!

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!

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Science Fiction Today – Yetis

YOkay, so maybe it looks like we’re stretching here. Just going for a word that starts with Y. And yes, that’s partially true. Still, I mean it. I want to talk about Yetis, and Big Foot, and the Loch Ness Monster. I want to talk about Dragons and Unicorns. And the future.

As the world grows smaller, as our ability to travel over it, and map and document it grows, as we dig into it and find the fossils and the past and the history of it… is there still room for these mythical creatures? These possibilities, these mysteries. Creatures of wonder. Is it okay for us to lose wonder in the name of exploration?

We Lose Wonder

On the one hand, we might lose wonder. As we explore the depths of the sea, all the lands, as we explore the far reaches of space with telescopes and probes. As we find the answers. And if we find the answers to the questions, to the mysteries, will we find new and more mysteries, new and more questions? Maybe not. We may instead start to think that we know everything, that we have all the answers. The End of Science.

Like in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, where scientists were little more than historians, reading the works of the great thinkers. Deciding validity between your sources. Nothing against history, I love history. But by not doing the science themselves, by just accepting all is known and nothing else needs to be done, we can miss things – and thus the plot to Foundation as a galactic human civilization collapses. Because no one was looking for signs of change – they already knew everything.

Endless Wonder

It’s the tagline from Warehouse 13, and maybe that makes sense, as that was a show devoted to the thought that there was more to this world than we see or know. But I think the better example is really Star Trek. A series all about exploration. About having new mysteries to find, new expanses to explore. The Final Frontier.

We need to think like that, though. That there are always new frontiers, that there are things we don’t know yet. That maybe there are still things out there, things worth finding. Maybe there are monsters, maybe there are friends. They tend to find both in most exploration science fiction. Mythical creatures are much the same way – at times helpful, at times awful. Some don’t seem to want to be found. Those are the things to keep us looking, the idea of them. The idea of the as-yet unfound, unproven or disproven Yeti. The thing to keep us searching.

Want more on Monsters? Check out the A to Z Theme “Lady Monsters” over on Part-Time Monster!

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!

Science Fiction Today – Xenophobia

Whoa, dropping a big word to get in an X. Let’s go for a definition:

“fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners”

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/xenophobia

As someone in the US, the obvious place where I am coming from is immigration debates in a country largely made up of immigrants. However, I am also fully aware that things like loosening borders in Europe due to the European Union, for instance, are leading to similar debates, concerns, or prejudices elsewhere in the world.

A lot of things feed into xenophobia, so it definitely counts as a problem with no easy or obvious answer. Saying “everybody like everybody else!” doesn’t quite cut it, as words alone might work in abstract, but how do they work in the specific? Luckily, this is a topic addressed a lot in science fiction: so what answers or future problems do we see?

The Solution – Us versus Them

It’s Watchmen. The conclusion that we always need to identify an Us, those like us, and the Them, the outsider. And we don’t like the outsider. So in much of science fiction (or fantasy, for that matter) the outsider is not another human being at all: it’s an alien race, from somewhere else. If aliens attack the earth, humanity will hopefully be at peace with each other. I’ve just read this idea in The Lathe of Heaven as well.

Of course, there is a more hopeful solution in mind. If we solve the sorts of scarcity problems that create differences and a feeling that we need to protect what is ours, then maybe we won’t fear the outsider. Think Star Trek. The crew of the Enterprise is always on a mission of peace, with a diverse(ish) crew of humans and aliens, and off to meet aliens, to meet outsiders. Peace can be imagined, but it does seem like a far-flung future to get there!

Compounded Problems

However, if we don’t reach an idyllic Star Trek sort of future, then often authors envision a dystopia – and xenophobia is often a problem in dystopias. When things go poorly, when there is war or famine or plague, the outsider is one of the great fears or hated groups. I’m thinking of dystopias like V for Vendetta, or Children of Men, or The Windup Girl. All of these show worsening relations between nations, and worsening racial situations. General distrust and unhappiness.

Which unfortunately means that even if we reach an idyllic future, we may have to go through worse xenophobia to get there. Even in Star Trek, the idea is that they went through World War 3 to get there – and things were likely not very friendly at that point in future history. It was the introduction of aliens and space travel that united humanity and led to peace.

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!

Science Fiction Today – Work

WThe way that we work in today’s world is different than the way it functioned even just twenty years ago. With advancements in technology and the way that physical distances do not mean as much anymore, it is bound to happen that how work functions becomes different.

Some of the problem that actually happens is that the people running the show are used to how things used to work and that is what they know. It can be difficult to think that things could function differently. Now there are a few different directions that these changes could go, but each have good sides and bad sides.

Worker Factories

One way to go and is often seen in stories is the worker factories. With the advancement in technology and the possibility of being able to go completely digital, that means that the space people need to be able to do their work is less. If you can have all the paperwork at your fingertips and do not need to keep the miles and miles of paperwork in ever expanding filing cabinets.

By needing less space you can cram more people into an office to try and get more accomplished in a day. There is also the thought that you can reach people at anytime so suddenly, where do we draw the boundaries of people being at work or off of work? Suddenly, it is about churning out work at all times and using less space to do more.

Virtual Work

Now being able to be connected at any time to work could be a good thing. The ability for people to work on projects across continents makes it so that the physical office does not matter. We can connect over phones, video chat, and even work on files across countries. The ability to work becomes unbound to a physical presence.

Now obviously this cannot be every job, but in some ways it can benefit almost every job. The ability to control so much from a touch of a button already exists, and that ability is just going to grow as the technology advances. As the connections between nations grows larger the space between will grow smaller. Already there are corporations who work in multiple countries and currently we still travel between, but there is so much that can be done without being in the physical location.

The big thing is that more and more of our work is going to be able to be done online or with a computer. We can talk to each other and connect, we can control machines, we can have meetings, we can share documents, and so much more. Who knows where the boundary actually lies? At the same time this can be used to either make everyone have to work harder or to help all of us work smarter.

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!

Science Fiction Today – Virtual Reality

VThe progress of virtual reality is the key to so many advancements that have already been discussed. So many Science Fiction stories end up with some sort of virtual reality element.

Sometimes virtual reality is simply the next method of escape to be able to be transported to another world. Another option is that it is used as a tool, but does not become the world in which we live. Other times it becomes everything because it becomes the way we exist in the world. It is everyday life and only possibly having to leave to eat and sleep, but at the same time work, school, everything else can exist within the virtual reality.

A Tool

The idea of virtual reality as a tool that can be used seems like it could be just around the corner. Being able to train virtually to do surgery or even do surgery from a distance because you are in a virtual reality and a machine is following along with your movements somehow.

Of course this would never be used solely for work – it would also be used for entertainment purposes. A great example of how far the technology could go can be seen with the holodeck in Star Trek. Not only is it used to help train officers through specific scenarios it also allows them to live their dreams. They can act out their favorite story or just explore someplace they have never been before. Part of what is great about virtual reality is that the possibilities are endless.

A New World

The next level of virtual reality is that it becomes the way we exist in the world. This becomes most prominent when you look at how it is used in Ready Player One. It is where people go to school and probably where people work as well, depending on their job at least. People can create their own spaces and everything can exist in those spaces.

Already we see games, music, books, videos, photos, etc. existing solely in a digital or online space. It doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch to have those same things exist in virtual reality. In the story Ready Player One they still have to come out of virtual reality to do things such as drink or eat, but the main character gets a machine that allows him to walk and thus keep his muscles from dying by being able to move while in the virtual world.

The big thing that virtual reality does is make the whole concept of space not matter because you really are one step away from being able to be in the same space – even if it is virtual.

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!