Wednesday, 1 December 2010

They live among us (3) - The enabling force

Carrying on the occasional series. Part one here. Part two here. Or use the series label.

I was planning to keep the series relatively short and jump straight to the late 1970s and Alien, but then I realised what I'd be missing. Not least what I'd consider one of the mainstream alien lifeforms least considered in the mainstream. Which fiction?


It's 2001: A Space Odyssey of course. I'll say now it will be the film only. For discussing influence, it seems best. Despite close collaboration between author and director, more minds ultimately shaped movie than book, and this series is about the mood of the time, mass experience. I will include spoilers, if the idea can be said to apply to this film.

But what do I even call the lifeform? I've opted for as basic a description as I could give. I was going to go with 'the monoliths', but if "The Sentinel" by Arthur C. Clarke is the inspiration, this is to treat the hand as the mind. I then tried 'the monolith users', but I'm not so sure the monoliths are being 'used' in our understanding of the word, while 'the monolith placers' falls down for the same reason. Both are clumsy anyway. I considered 'the progressive force' too, but 'progressive' has connotations I think the film does not share. After all, it's not the fact of the apes being given tools we are made to see, but one group of apes being given a deadly power over another.

I had thought the progressive was the zeitgeist when I started, but when we think of the 1960s we actually think of flower power and free love. In this sense the mood was conservative, a return to a perceived purity and innocence of nature, a union transcending divisions and current distribution of power, not the nature red in tooth and claw. Flower power began in opposition to the war in Vietnam. It was likely inspired by the growing awareness of ecology described in part two and Spinoza would surely have understood. Spinoza with his "God or Nature". Spinoza was a bee after all.

What then is the force supposed to be? Something I would look to in interpretation lies in the work of Frank J. Tipler, specifically his concept of the Omega Point. The best lowdown I can find is here. Know before you click that you may not like what you read. It may go against the zeitgeist of your formative years too, for whatever that's worth. I'm certainly not persuaded yet. But it is what science fiction is all about. It is just The Matrix. Only with a bigger budget. It's also Spinoza. More pondering...

Have you given it some thought? I'll bet you have. It was a good work-out for me. How do you begin to express all of that potential to the human mind?

I don't know either, but hallucinatory visuals might help. Well, 2001 has those. (Another theme of the time, a figurative door of perception; to break on through to the other side.) How about plenty of time and space to think. Check, and possibly *yawn*... Reflections on terrestrial order to make sense of the wider cosmic order? Check. A sense of growing mastery and the scope for development? Check - just look at what our man Bowman becomes. (I can't call him Dave or I'll break the tension - I remember this.)

Is that the point? A hope for a power that would do the hard work for us and tell us the world is not as real as it seems? Again, I'm not saying this was the intention, only a factor which may have shaped the final form. Something woven into the background of the world in which it was produced, the creased fabric of human experience.

If it helps bring you back down to earth again, the force needn't be universal in scale, maybe only galactic, more local even. Orion's Arm offers a step-by-step to start us off.

Not enough pondering? Okey-dokey. Homework questions to keep you occupied. Why do we like our speculation, our fantasy and SF? Who reads, watches and acts it out? Who creates, and why?


Mike Litoris said...


Porky said...

Keep tweaking and you'll get it.

Satiran said...

Greetings, Sieur Porky. I just wanted to say, after the challenges posed by this installment in the series (which I am still wrestling with in micro-stages), that this exchange made me laugh out loud – my thanks to the both of you.

Satiran said...

*Finishes reading post for third time. Doffs Mordian cap, wipes sweat from brow*

Very well then. I’ve been stuck on this post for days now, and it’s high time I made a few random comments so I can stop banging my head against it. I’ll take it in micro-stages in hopes of dodging the All Seeing, All Knowing spam filter. But if at some point my words run away with me, I’ll rely (once more) on the host’s good graces to fish them out of the trash bin…if he so chooses.

Satiran said...

*Clicks on first embedded link: “the deadly power.”*

The relativity of time, or at least the perception of the passage of time, never ceases to fill me with wonder. For example, how is it that a period of only 7 minutes 13 seconds can be made to feel as though time had slowed to the glacial slowness of an evolutionary epoch? Sieur Kubrick pulled it off.

Satiran said...

Spinoza. Who? Thank the Omniscient Omega Point for Wikipedia… *keys in search*. Let’s see here… Yes, I like this Spinoza chap. Through the mysteries of the Butterfly Effect, as applied to human thought and consciousness, my own beliefs coincide remarkably with this fellow’s.

“Thus, according to this understanding of Spinoza's system, God would be the natural world and have no personality.”

I have always believed this, from some inscrutable place deep inside.

“For him, even human behaviour is fully determined, with freedom being our capacity to know we are determined and to understand why we act as we do. So freedom is not the possibility to say "no" to what happens to us but the possibility to say "yes" and fully understand why things should necessarily happen that way.”

So Spinoza was an optimist! I’m liking him better and better…every day in every way.

But was he, in fact, a bee?

Satiran said...

*Clicks on link: “Spinoza was a bee.”*

Ah, alien cryptographs. Just how many languages is Sieur Porky fluent in? Scrolling down…Okay, a (poem?) written in familiar old Imperial Gothic, and yes, it does seem to indicate that Spinoza was a bee. Okay. So this is Porky_Poster’s inside joke, but aimed at who? I’ll hazard my guess – classmates from one of those universities where the fraternity meets in a colonnaded basement, sipping cognac and wearing rings with skulls on them.

Satiran said...

Frank J. Tipler, and the “lowdown” on his Omega Point theory, as explained on Wikipedia and in the article by A. Sandberg.

*Clicks on links. Reads with Strauss playing in the background. Strauss runs out. Still reading. Brain slowing down…slower…going deeper, deeper down…zzzzzzzzzz*.


Okay, so that is some meaty, gristly stuff to try and chew through. In all truth, I couldn’t make it through to the end. The article by Sandberg is written bilingually in two languages, English and Math, and is therefore largely beyond the capacity of my fifth-grade understanding. I gleaned dim fragments…not enough for cause to pat myself on the back, though. I guess here is where I need to retreat to the safety of more familiar ground, and start quoting Dominar Rygel from Farscape: “I know enough to know how ignorant I truly am.” That’s probably a misquote, but you get the idea.

Satiran said...

The fact that Sieur Porky can effortlessly weave all of this together into a brief blog post is proof of his (vastly greater?) fluency. It has taken me many hours, relying largely on the links so conveniently provided, to even partially digest this post, and I’m not even down to the homework questions yet! To help console myself, I’m going to call them “hobby hours.” If I tread lightly around here or speak in a deferential or complimentary way, it is out of genuine respect, which I believe is well deserved!

So, The Enabling Force, then? Can’t really top that. My own (unoriginal) conjurations include “Guiding Non-Local Intelligence,” but that equates more-or-less directly to an alternative concept of God…whom I doubt would require the use of devices such as the Monolith.

For giggles, I want to try and answer at least one of the homework questions, but may not have the stamina for it just now. Perhaps later this afternoon?

Regards and all in good fun,

Satiran, a buzzing cipher.

Porky said...

Well done for dodging that filter!

And thanks - for making me laugh out loud this time! More than once.

It's heavy stuff I'll agree, but it's no real fluency. I'm only really drawing together ideas I've been turning over on and off across the years. Anyone can do it these days with access to the net. The worst - or best - thing for most of us is that it's really only low-lying fruit. The bigger stuff is out of reach. But only for now. I'm shinning up. We both are, and many others too.

Under hobby hours is also how I classify the time!