Monday, April 26, 2010

Stephen Hawking and the Evil Space Aliens, Part 2: The Menace from Earth

The Articles:
Do Aliens Exist? Will They Kill Us? (Discovery News)
The Alien Menace! (Justin Raimondo, Antiwar.com)

This is the follow-up to this entry. In the Discovery News article, Ian O'Neill says in answer to Stephen Hawking's warning that we may have already doomed ourselves with our ancient transmissions. Conversely, an alien civilization may try to destroy us because of our attempts to conquer the universe. But Antiwar.com's Justin Raimondo says Hawking may really have been speaking in science fiction about the alien invaders that already exist on Earth. Namely, the American Empire and the corporations that own it. Raimondo says of Hawking's description of the space-pirate menace: "That sounds like our ruling class, all right, and it's certainly no surprise they're extending their hubris into outer space."

For all the criticisms of his derivative script and new-agey "noble savage" sentimentalism, James Cameron struck a sore point when he made the villains of his ultra-popular movie Avatar (DVD, Blu-Ray) a resource extraction corporation and it hired mercenary marine army. THIS is what Hawking's talking about! O'Neill has precisely this in mind when he says alien civilizations we contact are more likely to destroy us because we're the aggressive colonizers. The American establishment hates Cameron because he depicts the alien menace (on Pandora, that would be the savage earthlings) as an American-style corporate empire hellbent on consuming the entire universe. Raimondo writes:
As the US rampages across the globe, imposing its will, one can easily imagine how we’ll act once we get to outer space – without going to see “Avatar.” Just as the logic of a foreign policy based on US military, political, and cultural supremacy has led us to invade and occupy large portions of the earth, so the same mentality will inevitably lead to interplanetary imperialism – which, first of all, will be about completing the conquest of our own planet.
As a science fiction author, I can't help but speculate. I already know what the alien menace is that Hawking's talking about. It's us in the future — or rather, the American Empire, long since become the Terran Empire, invading the past in order to conquer it — us, their ancestors — in their lust for universal conquest. Pandora is just one battle in the Empire's eternal crusade. For sooner or later the Empire's top weapons scientists will create a time machine. You've probably seen such a scenario in Star Trek: Generations, in which the Borg gets hold of a time machine and attempts to assimilate all the societies of the past, starting with contemporary Earth. In fact, it's one of the classic space epic plots.

Philip K. Dick, that most Gnostic of science fiction writers, notoriously claimed that "the Empire never ended": the Roman Empire never died; rather, its tyranny keeps taking new form — medieval Catholic Christendom, followed by the Spanish, British, and American Empires, to be succeeded by the New Chinese Empire, up to and including the Terran Empire, well into the 40,000th century of Warhammer. The brutal Bush-Obama invasion and colonization of the Middle East, he would say, vindicates him. And if a massive pirate armada comes from the future to treat its Terran ancestors the same way the Terrans treat Pandora and its natives in Avatar — that is, exactly the same way the Americans treated the Native Americans in the 19th and 20th centuries, and treat Middle Easterners today, and for the same reason: total domination and corporate profit at all costs — Dick wouldn't be the least bit surprised.

Back to The Space Helmet Show...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stephen Hawking, Evil Space Aliens, and Science Fiction

The article: Don’t talk to aliens, warns Stephen Hawking

According to the world's most famous astrophysicist, it may be a big mistake to actually try to communicate with extraterrestrial intelligences. Entire societies may be all but indistinguishable from our resource-extraction corporations, living in interstellar pirate ships and raiding every planet they can until they extract everything they can out of it and either leave it a hollowed-out shell or destroy it altogether.

Here's what how he himself describes it:
We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.
You know science fiction authors are going to latch onto this scenario. In fact, it's been a staple of space opera for almost a century already.

Putting on my science-fiction author cap, here's some scenarios I could spin out o this:
  • It could be used as an allegory to warn against those similar societies right here on Earth, the resource extraction corporations.
  • The alien pirates could be Borg-like collectivist entities (in fact, the Borg itself is precisely such a scenario). Or the interstellar pirate ships themselves could be the hostile alien lifeforms.
  • Expanding a classic space opera scenario to epic scale, how about what a Hollywood producer would call "the Spanish Armada in space"? The largest navy in the world at that time, Spanish King Philip II's massive Spanish Armada, tried to conquer England and was defeated by the English flotilla of smuggling ships, or "privateers."
The list could go on. But Professor Hawking's point is cautionary, and applies equally well to societies here on earth, including of course the corporations and the governments they've owned for the past century or so. And my own upcoming novel Bad Company: A Corporate Terror Story is in part a Hawking scenario about one particular corporation (combining a Blackwater, a Halliburton, and a Corrections Corporation of America) which, outraged by the American people's "treason" in electing "some black guy" with vaguely reformist rhetoric as their "Great White Father," decides to overthrow the US government and replace it with itself. The scenario works as well for political thrillers (corporations) as it does for space epics (extraterrestrial pirates).

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Preoccupations (Script Frenzy Panic Time, etc.)

I don't seem to be able to do two WriMos at the same time. Case in point: last month (March). I tried to finish recording some songs for FAWM and edit my 2007 NaNoWriMo novel for NaNoEdMo, and the result was that I was completely unable to do either. This month, I found I was only able to start adapting that novel into a movie script for Script Frenzy when I abandoned all FAWM follow-up. There must be some kind of short circuit in my brain...

That short circuit may be hard-wired in. I have problems teaching myself two different subjects on the same day.

There's another problem I've got that keeps me from doing the things I want. I wrote an entry about that, in fact. It's called Social Media Is My Crack. With the sequel What Keeps Me on the Internet Way Too Late at Night. Either I spend way too much time on Twitter and FriendFeed, or I spend way too much time reading articles on the Web. Or, to word it differently, I procrastinate on Twitter and the Web.

Anyway, I've procrastinated enough. It's Panic Time now. I need to write 58 pages of movie script (adapting guess which '07 NaNoWriMo novel) if I want to win this year's Script Frenzy. And that means back to writing...

I'll add a blog-related postscript here. A couple days ago as of this writing, Facebook announced that you can put one of their "Like" buttons on any site of yours that you want. Posterous added it automatically; earlier, they added a "retweet" button to all their blogs so that you can "retweet" an entry onto Twitter. So I decided to add a "Like" button onto a couple of my Blogger blogs, including this one. Turns out I couldn't load my blogs after that. So I removed the "Like" buttons. You can still "retweet" my Blogger blogs, of course, at least when Tweetmeme isn't down. My suggestion to Google: Add the option to "Share" single blog posts, not just the entire blog. If the competition can swipe from Google, why can't Google swipe from the competition?

The Single Point of Vulnerability

The article: BBC News - Facebook's bid to rule the web as it goes social

There's something going wrong with Web 2.0. It's becoming so consolidated into a few players, especially Google and Facebook, that eventually one hack attack will take down the entire Web just by taking out one company. This is known to hackers and security professionals as a single point of vulnerability.

I posted these earlier entries on Facebook's F8 conference and what's been coming out of it: "Hope You Like This" (on Posterous' new Facebook Like button) and "All Your Interwebz Are Belong To Us" (on, well, Facebook's ambition). My next one after this will be on the "giant monster battle" now going on between Google and Facebook, with Microsoft and Apple waiting in the wings.

Web 2.0 has had the effect of rapidly consolidating the Web into a few companies, perhaps soon to be one — whether Google or Facebook or some other player, we don't know yet. But this return to the bad old days of AOL is structural. Web 1.0 had the opposite effect: it was a decentralizing technology that, in its most developed form (Napster), began destroying an entire sector of the old media. Economically, consolidation into a monopoly is not a good thing. It ultimately leads to stifling stagnation, which is one big reason why I don't like corporatism (the other, of course, being that under corporatism, corporations gain police power and start oppressing the masses). In terms of security, one company in control of the entire Internet becomes the irresistible target, the single point of vulnerability, like the Death Star with its vulnerable exhaust port that every Rebel fighter just has to sink its torpedo into.

I hope Web 3.0, when it's finally implemented, reverses the current centralizing trend like Web 1.0, and thus reduces once again the temptation of one dominant player to seize power. Some are saying that Facebook is about to "jump the shark" like MySpace did. But MySpace did so by selling out to the clueless old media company News Corporation. Facebook looks like it's trying to replace the Web entirely, making itself the irresistible target for Chinese and Russian cyberwarriors and Facebook-hating anarcho-hackers.

It's like the old Chinese curse: we live in interesting times...