I've Seen the Future and It Is... Safe?
Bill Willingham, for Big Hollywood
In his Known Space series of novels and stories, the vastly talented and industrious science fiction author Larry Niven created a race of aliens called the Pierson’s Puppeteers. They’re an odd race that looks something like a set of two hand puppets (from which their name is derived) mounted on a distorted three-legged deer’s body. But their given name also does a sinister sort of double duty, since the Puppeteers are a race of manipulators. They manipulate and fiddle with the other races of Known Space, including humans, working behind the scenes, to direct our destinies. Why do they do this? Because they are a species of genetic and cultural cowards. More than anything else they are motivated by the desire, by the all-encompassing need, to be safe.
There are no sharp corners on the Puppeteer homeworld. There’s no possibility of a stray splinter or of tripping over a badly placed paving stone. All is designed to keep everyone safe from even the smallest possibility of harm. They build indestructible space ships and then refuse to make use of them, because space travel is far too dangerous. And they manipulate mankind and other races, causing us to fight devastating wars with each other, in order to weed out our more aggressive individuals — to keep themselves safer by gelding us barbaric types.
I’m afraid that’s who we’ve chosen to become, Chris, old buddy. We had our chance at a jetpack future but turned them down. We chose instead to be safe. We chose to become the Pierson’s Puppeteers...
...Space travel? Some still yearn for the adventure and romance of it, but we are a minority. Most think it’s a waste of resources that could be better used to make us more safe here at home. That’s why we got to the moon and stopped. That’s why Luna City doesn’t exist today. We could have had it if we wanted it bad enough. We have the technology. We just didn’t have the will.
Count me in as one of the disappointed. I'm disappointed that my father hasn't yet had the opportunity to use that ticket to the moon he once showed us when we were kids!