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Space exploration, technology, and the possible futures of humanity: Part Two

By Mark Wegierski
web posted January 12, 2009

One of the most prominent settings linking a very "gritty future" and interstellar space travel, occurs in the extended science fiction/horror film series which began with Alien in 1979. It may be noticed that the setting is one dominated by the mostly nasty future corporations. The state and the military (the Colonial Marines) are shown as being mostly subordinated to the nefarious schemes of the corporations.

Language is an extremely vital aspect of human existence. Issues of what will happen to language in the future have been central to many speculations about the future. There have been large numbers of dystopias built around issues of language, most notably, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange.

One of J.R.R. Tolkien's main points in his creative endeavor was to contrast the profound beauty of the Elven or Elvish languages he created (out of his study of Latin, Classical Greek, Old Anglo-Saxon, Finnish, and various Celtic and Norse languages) – as opposed to the nasty speech of the Orcs and other underlings of Sauron.

Today, even as it has become the dominant language of world business and computers, English has to a large extent declined into various impenetrable jargons and crude varieties of slang. Linguistic scholars in many of the Continental European countries have noticed almost unbelievable levels of vulgarity, as well as an accelerating process of ever more anglicisms (especially linguistically pointless ones where perfectly fine native words are being rapidly replaced), in their native languages. In a few decades or centuries, it is possible that very many smaller languages on Earth may almost entirely disappear, and that many people will not have anything beyond various English-derived reductive jargons and varieties of crude slang, in which to express themselves. One may think today of some of the shallower people chattering endlessly about essentially nothing on their ubiquitous cellphones. It could be seen as our consumerist society's semi-comic version of Orwell's nightmare in Nineteen Eighty-Four, where the human voice would be emerging from the larynx without any engagement of the brain.

The future of religion in human societies is often seen as problematic. While there were a number of science fiction writers and extrapolative scholars who seriously explored the future of traditional human religions, there were others who have been quite happy to consign them (especially the Christian churches) to oblivion – or to portray them in grossly caricatured form. We are approaching the situation today – so uncannily prophesied in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World dystopian novel -- where any more robust expression of traditional Christianity in the public arena, is seen as virtually "obscene," whereas gross "porn" and horror, as well as vicious derision of Christianity (as in many stand-up comedy routines), is virtually de rigueur in pop-culture.

In America and Canada today, the major career prospects of any new, deeply tradition-minded Catholic or fundamentalist Protestant film director, screenwriter, playwright, popular musician, visual artist, screen or theatre actor, fiction writer (especially in so-called "high literature" and such subgenres as science fiction), or serious opinion journalist, are rather nugatory. The extent of France's decline today (a country which once, it may be remembered, virtually defined itself by its fervent Roman Catholic faith) is attested by its arid Enlightenment dogma of trying to ban all religious symbols from its public schools – presumably because it cannot bring itself to ban head-to-toe female Muslim attire without simultaneously immiserating Christians and Jews.

It is possible, however, that Christianity may find in itself an unusual resilience (as indeed it has many times before) and that it will be able to flourish in and make a contribution to major civilizational advance in the planet's "South," even as it largely disappears from many parts of Europe, Canada, and the United States. The large presence of Christianity in the "South" – such as a humane, saintly African Pope – may indeed be the only thing that will prevent the mass-euthanasia of geriatric Western populations, if there ever arrives the baneful point when the West reaches the nadir of its culture-exhaustion.

Another issue would be whether some form of Artificial Intelligence (AI) would ever arise, that might be inimical to humans. Two spectacular scenarios of malevolent AI were seen in the Matrix film trilogy, and in the Terminator film series. One thing to be considered is that the threat of the rise of the machines allows one to somewhat downplay the fact that humans have usually been the most ferocious enemies of other humans.

Another danger would be the arising of nanotechnology, which might create a nanotech "virus" or "plague" – which could theoretically extinguish the entire Earth – the so-called "gray goo" scenario. The idea is that the self-replicating "nanites" would spread over the Earth with immense rapidity, destroying everything in their path.

However, the question of out-of-control nanotechnology may be a little remote in regard to other possible serious problems facing humanity, such as biotechnological and genetic manipulation dangers, disastrous climactic change, or general environmental degradation.

To be continued. ESR

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.

 

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