We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

A thought-provoking essay

Following on from Brian’s recent essay in which he wonders about the point of spacefaring, here is a sort of related essay by the science fiction author, John Scalzi. Strongly recommended. (H/T, Boing Boing).

I have read a number of Scalzi’s novels and I enjoyed them a lot. I recommend that people who are interested start with Old Man’s War.

6 comments to A thought-provoking essay

  • Alice

    Scalz makes a good point about the death of optimism in the 1970s — and not only with respect to space flight. Just another bitter residue from the victory of those cynical left-wingers.

    One might argue that the death of optimism was the outcome of success. When children weren’t working in the coal mines (~1900s) or dieing from polio (~1950s), maybe we all got just a little too comfortable. The downsides from future progress loomed larger in the imagination than the eventual benefits. This is obvious in the longing of self-described “progressives” for a regression to 19th Century railroads and 18th Century agriculture.

    Question is — now that those days of western comfort are slipping into history, will the inevitable harder times be met with a revival in general optimism about the future?

  • I enjoyed Old Mans War so much, I lent it to a friend. Then I forgot who I lent it to. Now I have to buy another copy, because I want to read it again. Damn and blast.

  • West

    “Old Man’s War” was great. It goes straight downhill from there. “Zoe’s Tale” is so puke-provoking and clueless that I had difficulty finishing it.

    Scalzi also happens to be a raging leftist.

    While he has a big following on the Web, I find him to be rather tedious in his observations.

    You want some good reading from a sci-fi author? check out anything by David Brin, especially his on line writings on politics and culture.

  • Paul Marks

    Things interconnect.

    For example, one of the big reasons that humans have not achieved the sort of space progress that was just assumed in SF (from at least the 1920’s ) and normal journalism (at least from the 1940s) is CAPITAL GAINS TAX.

    Such undertaking need massive investment – and the money has been taken from private investment by government.

    Read the “The man who sold the Moon” by Heinlien. The economics of the story actually work – but only if one has lots and lots of very rich individuals (not corporations run by managers only concerned with their end of year bonus) and a structure that does not claw back the”unearned” profits of investment.

    Also – simply the vast growth in government has undermined basic economic life.

    For example, even as late as 1950 (i.e. well AFTER rearmment was underway) total Federal, State and local government spending was less than 25% of G.D.P. in the United States.

    I agree with the late Colin Clark (a moderate and friend of Keynes – please remember) that 25% of GDP is about the limit of what government (at all levels) can take IF YOU WANT REAL LONG TERM PROGRESS not just bubble “progress” that will collapse.

    And now?

    Total American govenrment spending (Federal, State and local) is approaching about 40% of G.D.P. (espcially if one counts “off the books” spending, which hardly existed at all in 1950).

    Civil society can not be really healthy under this – government must either be cut in half (yes I mean “in half”) or civil society will not really progress (nor will it in Europe). Indeed civil society will go into decline – in fact I believe that has already started.

    Still, to return to space travel:

    Even people in a prosperious capitalist world might not be so pro space travel as was assumed by SF – because of a brutal fact.

    The other planets did not turn out as was hoped.

    They turned out to be deserts – with poison air, and either burning hot or freezing cold.

    If something of interest was found – then more people would be interested in space travel and would put their money where their mouth is.

    At least if they had money to put.

  • Nuke Minarcapo Gray

    Good point, Paul. Now if the moon had been littered with gold.. Or if Mars had diamonds in abundance- we’d already be there, making claims all over the place. they’d be a whole new fiction genre- The wild Wastes. Can’t someone rig the data from satellites so that we think Mars has lots and lots of diamonds? I’m sure ‘red’ diamonds would be THE jewel to have! By the time they found out that Mars is just iron oxide, we’d have colonised the place!

  • Nuke Minarcapo Gray

    I can name one good reason to go to a planet once- to get into the history books! Nobody will remember the SECOND human on Mars, but nobody will forget the first! Same on the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, etc.