The Outer Game

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Earth (Full submission)
Posted by Connie McClellan on October 14, 1997 at 09:03:31:

DEFINITION: Science fiction novel
CREATOR: David Brin
MAIN CATEGORY: Consciousness
ALTERNATIVE CATEGORIES: belief, change, communications, community, environment
RELATIONSHIP TO THE COREWAVE: What is the cost of our division from ourselves and the earth we live on? What do we gain (or lose) in the attempt to attain true inclusiveness?
MAIN QUOTE: "Nelson recalled his last conversation with his teacher when the topic had swung to her latest project--her bold new model of consciousness. 'The problem with a top-down view of mind is this, Nelson,' she had said. 'If the self at the top must rule like a tyrant, commanding all the other little subselves like some queen termite, then the inevitable result will be something like a termite colony. Oh, it might be powerful, impressive. But it will also be stiff. Oversimplified. Insane.' Remembering her words made Nelson smile. He turned again to stare at Earth, the oasis everyone now spoke of as a single living thing. It hardly mattered whether that was a new fact, or one as old as life itslef. Let the NorA ChuGas preach that Gaia had alway been there, aware and patient. Let others point out that it had taken human technology and intervention to bring violent birth to an active planetary mind. Each extreme view was completely correct in its way, and each was just as completely wrong. That was as it should be."
HIGHLIGHT QUOTES: "We are in a time of changes. Species will pass away and others take their place, as has happened before. An ecosystem frozen in stone can only become a fossil. We must become smart enough to minimize the damage, and then foster a new diversity, one able to endure in a strange new world." "Knowledge isn't restrained by the limits of Malthus. Information doesn't need topsoil to grow in, only freedom. Given eager minds and experimentation, it feeds itself like a chain reaction." "What do you get when you mix utter ignorance and a mind able to ask, 'Why'? Early human societies grasped at so many superstitions, pagan hierarchies, and countles bizarre notions about the world. Some folkways were harmless, even pragmatic and wise. Others were passed on as fierce 'truth'...because not to believe fiercely opened the way to something far worse that error...uncertainty."
HIGHLIGHT RECOMMENDATION: Brin's novel reminds me that each of us recapitulates the arguments for and against Descartes' I/It dualism, a position that enabled the West to dominate the world. Now that I/It relationship is seen as destructive in ways that humans could not have foreseen. But every process contains the seeds of a new creation. In EARTH, the world of 2038 is different from ours in detail, but illustrates the same processes. Personal reactions to those processes range, as they do now, from wisdom to fanaticism, peace-making to violent overthrow, acceptance to withdrawal.
I've lived long enough to understand how difficult adaptation can be when change accelerates beyond our ability to comprehend it, when what gives value to our lives is swept away, and when personal relationships seem ever more fragile. The earth of 2038 is much closer to the brink than ours, and even more deeple enmeshed in rapid change. It's also more closely linked than ours, by the World Net, the globe-spanning great grandchild of our World Wide Web. Everyone has a voice, even if it is more difficult to be heard. New relationships, new ways of thinking and acting are constantly being spawned, a new world in the making.
I listen to the voices of doom and the prophets of hope and realize that neither side really knows what is happening or what the future will be like. I try, like some of Brin's characters, to remain open, willing to surf the changes rather than resist them. I want to experience both the fear and the exhiliration of the new and strange. Who said there are no frontiers left?
CONNECTIONS: The Corewave--Kate Hammer. Maybe there is no outside. The Symbol of the Cross in Christian Faith. A simultaneous image of unity and separation. Synthetic Pleasures. How do we define what is real in our lives? Pisces at the Beach. Primal unity/primal irony. We cannot live without water; we cannot live in it. Mantra. Self-hypnosis or touching reality? Glass Bead Game--Serpinski Seed/Brazil/Blade Runner/THX1138. Possibilities from the multitude of realities. Additional Connections: OUT OF CONTROL:the Rise of Neobiological Civilization, by Kevin Kelly. The unexpected realities--now. The drawings of M.C. Escher.
Questions of being and becoming, inside and outside, visualized. Koyaanisquatsi: Life Out of Balance. The intersection of Hopi prophecy and modern technology in film.
ACCESS AND DISTRIBUTION: EARTH by David Brin. Published by Bantam. Available in libraries, and probably still in print.

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