Monday, October 26, 2009

Link of Interest: Bill Willingham on Our Aborted Future

Ever wonder why our space program has fizzled out? Or why we don't have those flying cars and jet packs our parents used to dream about in the 1960's? Bill Willingham seems to have hit upon a likely reason for the stagnation:

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!

1 comment:

  1. You the end, having a siege mentality about life (not just in our own lives and in our public policy) is always self-defeating. I don't care about the romance of space travel. I'm attracted to it for obvious reasons. I think this is a beautiful universe in which God has planted us...I think it would be the greatest adventure if we would step out into space and take a look around. But that's not the biggest reason I'm disappointed in the lack of progress on space travel. The biggest reason is simple. We have a MANIFEST DESTINY (egads!! I must be EVIL for using such horribly propagandized and imperialist words!!) to get the heck off of this rock before it's too late. Earth is not permanent...our home...the one place we know about that can support us as a one unlucky (but highly likely) asteroid impact from total devastation. One virulent disease, one mistake of human creation (genetic manipulation or nuclear war or scientific experiment gone wrong) from being unfit for us to use. We are one bad event away from TOTAL EXTINCTION. It is our responsibility as a race to get out of here and find other places to live. Playing it safe...refusing to waste our money on going to destroy us all.