Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Visions of Venus

I've been thinking about  vision creation.  No I'm not contemplating calling on my alleged native american roots (1/16 according to my maternal grandmother) for a peyote experience.  I'm more thinking about where our successful visions come from.  The most engaging ones, I've concluded have come through the humanities.

In the 1950s and 1960s writers like Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clark and Isaac Asimov painted pictures of futures which were tied by a thoughtful projection of the present into the future.  Each of these writers were scientists, but it was their fictional portrayals that captured imaginations and catalyzed actions.  Their stories were fanciful and technically credible.  They lead to inventions such as our communications satellites which have shrunk the world.

The Babylon 5, Star Trek, Star Gate, and Star War sagas are great fun, but they project to futures that are difficult to link with our starting point.  Warp drive, light speed, multiple humanoid species, time travel are out of our reach.  True, display technology caught up with and overcame the Star Trek screens of the 60s.  And it doesn't seem as though a holographic room like the holodeck is too far away. 

How do we reconcile things like a holodeck with visions of the future being painted in the National Geographic series on population growth?  Holographs are not going to give us the space and the resources needed to address population growth.  Where will they come from when every technological gain comes at a tremendous price in natural habitat for animals, fish, fresh water, and farming.  I put the four of those into the list to emphasize that to protect these resources is to safeguard our own survival.

On Facebook, Corrine Bayraktaroglu has been posting links that describe birds and fish that are being found dead in great numbers.  The current National Geographic talks about the negative effects of US Navy's sonar tests on fish breeding grounds and on whale migratory patterns.  National security is a concern, food is a concern, specie diversity is a concern, hunger is a concern, ...  all inter-related.

The planet Venus has been associated with my contemplations of vision.  What I've discovered about terraforming Venus doesn't sound very promising...but then obtaining resources from or living on Mars doesn't sound very hopeful either.  Both sound exciting, but I wonder if either are relevant.  Maybe it's just the space-weenie in me talking, but it seems to me that we're going to need off-planet resources to meet future challenges.  Obtaining those resources plays into the same inter-relatedness as the other issues.  Where is the fuel to come from?  What are the environmental impacts?  Will the benefits ever outweigh the cost?

Trips to Venus and Mars could be elaborately crafted in cinematographic fashion by adding a few lurid scenes and beings that take over human bodies.  Entertainments like these pitch us into virtual adventures with fantastic creatures in terrifying circumstances.  We call this escapism.  
I can't help but wonder if we are doing ourselves a disservice by failing to embed education in the setting of adventures like these, undertakings that are fashioned from real world challenges.  Certainly the issues this planet and humankind will face in this millennium will generate adrenalin akin to what is experience with Assassin's CreedAnd I don't mean euphemism-gutted, sugar-coated versions.  I mean laying out the stories in epic form, anthropomorphizing  eminent catastrophes as opponents, and challenging students to build guilds in virtual and real worlds that attack the villains, and bring the big bosses down on every level.
Relevant storytelling on an epic scale seems to be missing from our literature.  Only in tales of the past or the unachievable future do we find these stories laid out.  The histories can inform our future actions, but they don't provide a vision to work toward.  Visions of hope and ingenuity need to be painted by writers, poets, artists, and filmmakers, -- Art bringing people to Life.  Visions help to get all of us moving in a common direction.  Stories will help us to address what will be truly valuable to our long-term survival, survival that extends beyond the national debt.
Boo Ehrsam added to Corrine's Facebook entry, "The Universe is Speaking, will we listen?"  Epic stories afford us the ability to listen and to respond.

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