Immortality has long preoccupied everyone from alchemists to sciencefiction writers. In this intriguing investigation, Stephen Clark contends that the genre of sciencefiction writing enables the investigation of philosophical questions about immortality without the constraints of academic philosophy. He shows how fantasy accounts of phenomena such as resurrection, outer body experience, reincarnation or life extending medicines can be related to philosophy in interesting ways. Reading Western myths such as that of vampire, he examines the ways (...) fear and hopes of immortality are an intrinsic part of Western culture and philosophy. As one of the first works to suggest the use of sciencefiction in the study of philosophy, Clark creates a ground for intellectual, philosophical and experimental inquiry. (shrink)
In 2009, the United States Air Force aired a series of sciencefiction-themed recruitment commercials on network television and their official YouTube channel. In these advertisements, the superimposition of sciencefiction imagery over depictions of Air Force operations frames these missions as near-future sci-fi adventure, ironically summarized by the tagline: “It’s not sciencefiction. It’s what we do every day.” Focusing on an early advertisement for the Air Force’s Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle, this essay (...) explores how themes essential to the sciencefiction genre play a role in influencing contemporary attitudes about autonomous and semi-autonomous robotic weapons, as well as the way in which the aesthetic and functional qualities of these advanced technologies are used to frame moral arguments about their use. As a reconfiguration of the near-future battleground in the guise of sciencefiction, the “Reaper” ad reveals the way in which sciencefiction has come to serve as a functional-aesthetic benchmark and cultural sounding board, against which “every day” technologies can be measured and claims about their value, ethos, and social appeal are made. This essay explores the ethical entanglements between sciencefiction film and video games, and military technology, and the complex role sciencefiction plays in influencing public attitudes towards military technologies. (shrink)
Philosophy Through ScienceFiction offers a fun, challenging, and accessible way in to the issues of philosophy through the genre of sciencefiction. Tackling problems such as the possibility of time travel, or what makes someone the same person over time, the authors take a four-pronged approach to each issue, providing a clear and concise introduction to each subject amd a sciencefiction story that exemplifies a feature of the philosophical discussion ú historical and (...) contemporary philosophical texts that investigate the issue with rigor, and ú glossary, plot profiles of pertinent sciencefiction stories and films, and questions for further reflection. Philosophy Through ScienceFiction includes stories from contemporary sciencefiction writers including Greg Egan and Mike Resnick, as well as from classic authors like Philip K. Dick and Robert Heinlein. Philosophy readings include historical pieces Rene Descartes and David Hume, and include contemporary pieces by John Searle and Mary Midgley. (shrink)
This collection was inspired by the observation that film remakes offer us the opportunity to revisit important issues, stories, themes, and topics in a manner that is especially relevant and meaningful to contemporary audiences. Like mythic stories that are told again and again in differing ways, film remakes present us with updated perspectives on timeless ideas. While some remakes succeed and others fail aesthetically, they always say something about the culture in which_and for which_they are produced. Contributors explore the ways (...) in which the fears of death, loss of self, and bodily violence have been expressed and then reinterpreted in such films and remakes as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Night of the Living Dead, and Dawn of the Dead. Films such as Rollerball, The Ring, The Grudge, The Great Yokai Wars, and Insomnia are discussed as well because of their ability to give voice to collective anxieties concerning cultural change, nihilism, and globalization. While opening on a note that emphasizes the compulsion of filmmakers to revisit issues concerning fear and anxiety, this collection ends by using films like Solaris, King Kong, Star Trek, Doom, and Van Helsing to suggest that repeated confrontation with these issues allows the opportunity for creative and positive transformation. (shrink)
The Philosopher at the End of the Universe demonstrates how anyone can grasp the basic concepts of philosophy while still holding a bucket of popcorn. Mark Rowlands makes philosophy utterly relevant to our everyday lives and reveals its most potent messages using nothing more than a little humor and the plotlines of some of the most spectacular, expensive, high-octane films on the planet. Learn about: The Nature of Reality from The Matrix , Good and Evil from Star Wars , Morality (...) from Aliens , Personal Identity from Total Recall , The Mind-Body dilemma from Terminator , Free Will from Minority Report , Death and the Meaning of Life from Blade Runner , and much more. A search for knowledge about ourselves and the world around us with a star-studded cast that includes: Tom Cruise, Plato, Harrison Ford, Immanuel Kant, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigourney Weaver, Rene? Descartes, and Keanu Reeves. Rowlands anchors his discussions in easily understood everyday terms and relates them in a manner easy to identify with. Interspersed with a ready joke or two, he wonderfully explains why those SciFi movies we love so much are much deeper than they appear to be on the surface. Mark Rowlands's entertaining and stimulating guide is perfect for anyone searching for knowledge of the world around us. If Keanu can understand Descartes surely everyone can. (shrink)
When is the future? Is it to come or is it already here? This question serves as the frame for three further questions: why is utopia a bad concept and in what way is fabulation its superior counterpart? If the object of fabulation is the creation of a people to come, how do we get from the present to the future? And what is a people to come? The answers are (1) that the future is both now and to come, (...) now as the becoming-revolutionary of our present and to come as the goal of our becoming; (2) utopia is a bad concept because it posits a pre-formed blueprint of the future, whereas a genuinely creative future has no predetermined shape and fabulation is the means whereby a creative future may be generated; (3) the movement from the revolutionary present toward a people to come proceeds via the protocol, which provides reference points for an experiment which exceeds our capacities to foresee; (4) a people to come is a collectivity that reconfigures group relations in a polity superior to the present, but it is not a utopian collectivity without differences, conflicts and political issues. Sciencefiction formulates protocols of the politics of a people to come, and Octavia Butler's sciencefiction is especially valuable in disclosing the relationship between fabulation and the invention of a people to come. (shrink)
The boundaries of the ethical have traditionally coincided with the boundaries of humanity. This, however, is no longer the case. Scientific developments, such as genetic engineering, stem-cell research, cloning, the Human Genome Project, new paleontological evidence, and the rise of neuropsychology call into question the very notion of human being and thus require a new conceptual map for ethical judgment. The contours of this map may be seen to emerge in works of sciencefiction (SF), which not only (...) vividly dramatize the implications and consequences of new technologies and discoveries, but also exert a powerful influence on culture, creating a feedback loop of images and ideas. This essay focuses on three SF topoi: the human/animal evolutionary boundary; non-biological subjectivity (AI); and the human/alien interaction. It explores each of these topoi in a selection of SF texts, including novels by H. G. Wells, Olaf Stapledon, Stephen Baxter, William Gibson, Stanislaw Lem and others, showing how the boundaries of humanity are expanded and then exploded through the radical subversion of the tenets of liberal humanism. (shrink)
Too much contemporary bioethical discourse is weak on science, lazily citing and adopting sciencefiction scenarios rather than science facts in the framing of analyses and policies. We challenge bioethicists to take more seriously the role of providing informed insight into and oversight over contemporary science and its implications and applications. Bioethicists must work harder to understand the fast-changing truths and limits of basic science, and they must incorporate only appropriate and authentic science (...) into their discourse, just as they did in the past when addressing the quandaries of clinical medicine. The field of bioethics is not so old and entrenched that its future is assured. Bioethicists must make themselves useful to society in order to deserve and retain the public's trust. They can best do this by ensuring that decision making and public policy are grounded in facts, not fictions and fantasies. (shrink)
Da ficção científica para a ficção religiosa: ideias para pensar o cinema de ficção científica como o culto da religião vivida (From ScienceFiction to Religious Fiction: ideas to think on ScienceFiction cinema as the cult of lived religion). DOI - 10.5752/P.2175-5841.2012v10n26p552 Este artigo tem como objetivo refletir sobre a chamada religião vivida como uma forma de repensar o papel da teologia e das ciências da religião na contemporaneidade. O estudo da religião vivida será (...) investigado na relação entre o cinema de ficção científica e a religião, propondo que, nesta relação, há uma forma de religião vivida intensa e viva. Sugere-se, assim, que o cinema seja hoje uma forma de culto e ritual, cumprindo parte do papel que os mitos e ritos sagrados desempenham na vida das pessoas, ao longo dos tempos. O artigo contém quatro partes: introdução sobre a religião vivida; religião vivida no caso específico do cinema; o cinema de ficção científica como uma forma de religião; aplicação da teoria no filme “Contato” (Robert Zemeckis, USA 1997); conclusões sobre a vivência religiosa em forma de mito e rito nos filmes de ficção científica e as consequências disso para a teologia e as ciências da religião. Palavras-chave : Cinema de ficção científica. Religião. Culto e rito. Religião vivida.: This article aims at reflecting about the so-called lived religion as a way of rethinking the role of theology and religion in contemporary society. The study of the lived religion will investigate the relationship between the cinema of sciencefiction and religion, suggesting that, in this relation, there is particular and intensive form of lived religion. The present article suggests that cinema today is a form of cult and ritual which performs part of the role that sacred rites play in the lives of people along the time. The article contains four parts: introduction about the lived religion; lived religion in the specific case of cinema; the cinema of sciencefiction as a form of religion; the application of theory in the movie “Contact” (Robert Zemeckis, USA 1997); conclusions on the religious experience in the form of myth and rite in sciencefiction movies as well as the consequences for theology and religious studies. Keywords : Sciencefiction cinema. Religion. Cult and rite. Lived religion. (shrink)
In this paper Marx’s concept of fetishism is used in order to analyze contemporary representations of technology in the science-fiction genre (concretely Terminator, The Jetsons and Dune will be used as examples) and discuss their correspondence to two major ideological perceptions of technology (the luddite and the productivist) and to one of the best attempts to grasp technology in a non-fetishized form (Marx’s analysis in Capital).
In considering how to best deploy robotic systems in public and private sectors, we must consider what individuals will expect from the robots with which they interact. Public awareness of robotics—as both military machines and domestic helpers—emerges out of a braided stream composed of sciencefiction and popular science. These two genres influence news media, government and corporate spending, and public expectations. In the Euro-American West, both sciencefiction and popular science are ambivalent about (...) the military applications for robotics, and thus we can expect their readers to fear the dangers posed by advanced robotics while still eagerly anticipating the benefits to be accrued through them. The chief pop science authors in robotics and artificial intelligence have a decidedly apocalyptic bent and have thus been described as leaders in a social movement called "Apocalyptic AI." In one form or another, such authors look forward to a transcendent future in which machine life succeeds human life, thanks to the march of evolutionary progress. The apocalyptic promises of popular robotics presume that presently exponential growth in computing will continue indefinitely, producing a "Singularity." During the Singularity, technological progress will be so rapid that undreamt of changes will take place on earth, the most important of which will be the evolutionary succession of human beings by massively intelligent robots and the "uploading" of human consciousness into computer bodies. This supposedly inevitable transition into post-biological life looms across the entire scope of pop robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), and it is from beneath that shadow that all popular books engage the military and the ethics of warfare. Creating a just future will require that we transcend the apocalyptic discourse of pop science and establish an ethical approach to researching and deploying robots, one that emphasizes human rather than robot welfare; doing so will require the collaboration of social scientists, humanists, and scientists. (shrink)
At first blush, the idea that fictions play a role in science seems to be off the mark. Realists and antirealists alike believe that science instructs us about how the world is (they part ways only over the question of what exactly science tells us about the world). Fiction not only seems to play no role in such an endeavour; it seems to detract from it. The aims of science (...) and fiction seem to be diametrically opposed and a view amalgamating the two rightly seems to be the cause of discomfort and concern. (shrink)
Thought experiments are employed for a number of reasons and in many different disciplines. This paper explores the work of Novalis in relation to the method of thought experiments in theology, with a special focus on the encounter between Christianity and the science of his day. In a first step I revisit the ongoing philosophical discussion on thought experiments in order to highlight the lack of interest in the literary features of thought experiments. Step two is dedicated to a (...) discussion of the work of Novalis as far as his metaphysics of phantasy and imagination is concerned as it plays out in his romantic poetry. Building on the results of this discussion, in a third step I discuss the relationship (a) between thought experiments in theology and other disciplines, (b) between current discussions of thought experiments and previous periods of philosophical investigation into the ‘laboratory of the mind’, (c) between Christianity and science, and (d) between literary fiction and cognition. (shrink)
The novel is set in Waxahachie, Texas after the Superconducting Super Collider comes into operation. It's about high energy physics, wormholes, alien contact, time travel, and the killing of the SSC project.
A post-modernist analysis of human-centred technology (HCT) suggests the ideology which informs the theoretical and practical development of HCT resonates with ideological representations of machine intelligence portrayed in sciencefiction (sf) films. It is argued that such an ideology reflects and reinforces ontological dualisms which constrain our ability to imagine and realise our future relations with technology. This paper invites proponents of HCT to meet their shadows, to transgress, the cultural and discursive borders constructed in the name of (...) modernism, and to reflect on what is taken-for-granted and peripheralised within their own work. (shrink)
These range from merely good reads to really outstanding books. A raw ranking of them would be of little use to others, unless I explained why I gave them the ranks I did, and anyway I'd probably give different rankings by the time your read this. (When I know of an on-line review about a book which I agree with --- e.g., because I wrote it --- I've included a link; also some exceedingly short remarks about interesting cases.).