Sunday, January 20, 2008

Trapped in the Slowness

When I was about 12, 13 years old I read a novel by Poul Anderson titled "Brain Wave." It was about how the Earth had been trapped for mumble-mumble millions of years in a cosmic field that had damped down the intelligence of every living thing. Then, one day, the Earth popped out of it, and everyone's intelligence returned to normal, with an IQ, say, of about 400.

About 40 years later Vernor Vinge took that idea and wrote "A Fire Upon the Deep," in which the galaxy is divided into different zones. In some, there is no intelligence. In others, the races are more like gods. There are other zones between the two, and the better the zone, the better everything works. The higher up you go, the smarter you are, the smarter machines are, and there is even faster-than-light travel (after all, Einstein did say E=MC2 might be a "local phenomenon").

I know what's going on inside the heads of Anderson and Vinge. We are such limited creatures, our minds so slow, our nature so imperfect.

When I was 12 years old I sneaked in my file at school and found there was a special notation that my IQ was 126. I didn't feel smart, and I still don't. I am smart enough, however, to know how dumb I really am. I can imagine a world like that of Anderson's and Vinge.

An IQ of 126. Why not 400? Then I would feel smart. As it is, I know just how slow I think, how hard it is to learn and figure things out. I, like everyone else, am Trapped in the Slowness -- and Slowness is what one of Vinge's Zones is called. It's the one the Earth was originally in.

Ha ha ha, right?

I should be horrified at the stupidity -- I mean Slowness -- of the human race, but I've been dealing with it as long as I can remember. The blindness, the ignorance, the stupidity, the narcissism, the dysfunction, the hypnotized herd mentality and the the following of clearly-idiotic leaders, the wars, the destruction, the flimsy rationalizations for all of it -- it's been going on for as long as humanity has been around. It's simply astonishing.

Some, looking at all these flaws, have suggested than someday -- and soon, they hope -- we can take charge of our own evolution and breed ourselves into something that has intelligence and character. Perhaps, who knows? I understand the sentiment, that I guarantee you.

Others have claimed we're still evolving. "Look at the Swedes! They've gone from Vikings to being some of the most peaceful people in the world!" Perhaps this is true, I don't know.

Others want Jesus to come back and put an end to the problem. I even understand their viewpoint, even though such people are part of the problem. Although they'll never understand that.

I consider myself a conservative libertarian. I understand the corruption of human nature, and understand the best way to control it is through sociey, not massive government, which only exacerbates things.

Yet for all that belief in human Slowness, and the part of me that can easily envision a Blade Runner/ Frankenstein future, at the same time that optimistic, 12-year-old science-fiction aspect of me, can see a world in which our flaws are eradicated, or mostly so. I don't think we'd be really that much human, anymore.

But then, another part of me says, so what? Humanity ain't so great, anyway.

Leftists believe we can be gods, but still be human. If we can ever give up our flaws, we ain't gonna be human anymore, and that's not leftism.

The near future is going to be interesting. But then, it always is. I don't give us much longer until something really serious happens. Maybe 2012, at the latest. There's too many economic and political problems, too much Chaos.

Let's put it this way: science fiction writers used to predict millions of years into the future. Like H.G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon. Now they won't even predict twenty. They suspect something is up, and so do I.

I'd sure like to see the human race turn into something decent. Maybe move out of the Slowness into the Transcend. Now that would be one of the most fun things I can imagine, even better than being in an Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Barsoom" novel, probably even better than being a Wizard of Speed and Time!

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