Tag Archives: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Science Fiction Today – Scientific Knowledge

On Sunday, I got two chances to be thinking about scientific knowledge. About the things we’ve learned, the things that are true, the things that might be. My thoughts on this subject tend to go back to Foundation by Isaac Asimov. The era of change in those novels is all based on a period in the future when we stop advancing, stop exploring, stop innovating. Stop learning for ourselves, and instead rely on the collective knowledge of the past, the great experts of the past. Because everything worth knowing had already been discovered.

The end of science.

And every once in a while I run into situations where I feel like our collective knowledge is already flagging. Like with food. We have been cooking even more dishes that are combinations of the food groups, combining them all, feeding them to the Geek Baby and to ourselves. But often I think people just make or buy foods because we like them and not for other reasons. I’ve heard just about every kind of food defined as “comfort food” by someone…

But on Sunday, it was lawn care that got me thinking. Why do we even have lawns? Sure would be easier without all this grass, and the related mowing. And if the grass was already going to be there, why do I need to mow it? And if the grass is transplanted, why keep it? Why not kill it and replace it with more indigenous growth? And why deal with the weeds instead of just letting them go?

I can imagine reasons. Something with soil erosion. Wanting to have a yard for the Geek Baby one day (although we literally live next to a park). Having it all just in case we want it later… Because we’re not doing anything with it now. And that’s here, in a rainforest. What about somewhere in a drought? California???

Through the vagaries of my past, I didn’t grow up with a lawn or doing lawn care. It’s not like it’s particularly a school topic. It’s just kind of known… or not. Or else, it’s just kind of done… or not. And I was thinking of how it’s a small look at the sorts of knowledge that we can lose to time, to assuming it’s true or everyone knows it.

Then we watched this.

And that’s almost the exact opposite problem. New studies and new findings, constantly, always. Always innovating, always trying to carve out some new, interesting, click-bait worthy results. And not doing the secondary testing – the third and fourth. The repeatability that makes science what it is.

What’s scary with having too much scientific innovation without enough grounding like he’s talking about, is exactly the Al Roker quote. The post-modern moment of just taking a look at a bunch of studies, and finding the one that feels right to you. Holly and I didn’t even know what to say at that point. That’s just so not at all even a little bit what science is.

So what does the future look like? Do we have the old findings that we’re leaning on, and we don’t question them? Lawns, lawns as far as the eye can see… Or will we have a glut of information, contradictory, and providing no helpful guidance in life? Discredited and useless?

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Why Science Fiction Today is Important

I know it has been a while since I actually wrote a Science Fiction Today post, but in the current political climate I am reminded why we started writing them in the first place. I am honestly sick of most politics today. We keep congratulating ourselves for throwing more and more money at situations without bothering to take the time to examine why things are happening. One thing I love about doing Science Fiction Today is that we can take a step back and imagine the entire world differently.

Part of what is great about trying to look at things from a science fiction perspective is you are no longer constrained by what the world looks like now. Some of the ideas we present really would not work in today’s world, but who knows where we will be in another 50 or 100 years and what could that mean for the problems that we are currently facing?

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Science Fiction Today – Solutions

This last weekend, we got to listen to a talk by a professor… Well, close enough, without going into details. He made a really good point, about our current American presidential election, which I think applies to American politics as a whole right now – and perhaps to world politics as a whole right now as well.

It’s that the politicians are focusing on the problems of the world now, without offering solutions. And he likened it to 1930’s Germany: they had problems too, like the Treaty of Versailles, the Stock Market Crash and ensuing economic collapse, and the state of the world… social and international. And they, like many other countries at the time, had ideologues and demagogues telling them all about their problems, sympathizing with them and empathizing with them and enhancing their anger. But then, not offering the solutions… and once we saw what the solutions were, well, it was too late and time for war.

Which all pretty well sounds like peoples’ opinions on what’s happening in the presidential race today. Anger. Lots of the problems being brought up – and not a lot of solutions being offered. And some of the ones we are hearing almost sound worse than nothing at all…

I was about to write all of this Monday, and we watched Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and that totally replaced my plans… but still, it needs said. We have a world full of problems – wars and civil wars, expansionism and posturing. We have places like the UK – with Scotland considering leaving the country, and then the UK considering leaving the EU. It’s like a nesting doll of a problem… The economy. Immigration and refugees. Water and climate and just everything else.

We’ve talked before about the idea of Wicked Problems – where we don’t have the answer of what the solution is, and you basically just have to try it. These sort of problems end up in the ideological, religious, and especially political realm. Where we collectively work on deciding – work on a solution.

But for that, we need options, and if no one is offering them in the political realm, then it’s time to look somewhere else. And for so many of today’s problems, I still say, Science Fiction is a good place to look. Taking an issue, and thinking of it in terms of the future. And then it’s a question of coming up with the vision of what the time between that future and the present looks like.

If there are political problems you’re wrestling with, drop them in the comments below. We’ll brainstorm solutions in the comments, or if big enough, they’ll get their own blog posts. Let’s work on solutions. Not on problems.

#MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain

I had plans for another blog post tonight. Then we watch Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. And we had to share.

We try to avoid current politics and many current issues in their current context here on the blog – that’s what our Science Fiction Today posts are for. But this year’s US Presidential election might be something out of a science fiction novel – or perhaps the history books. We have an election going where we might see a Nationalist and a Socialist facing off, which feels frighteningly 1930’s to me.

So take a second look. Maybe a third look. And to help, make Donald Drumpf again. Oh, and this might help:

Julia’s Best of 2015

This is a Comp Geek tradition, but it’s my first year partaking! David and Holly have already done theirs, so now it’s my turn. 2015 went by so fast that I had to Google which movies and video games came out this year because most of the ones I was thinking of came out last year (Interstellar, Dragon Age: Inquisition) and I was incredibly confused…It was a busy, hectic kind of year, but it definitely had some awesome geekness hiding in its folds Continue reading