Friday, 18 October 2013

Mature Civilization

This post was first published on the Poul Anderson Appreciation Blog because it followed from other posts there although it is also of more general science fictional significance. Some blog readers might notice that I am not familiar with more recent sf writers. Comments to that effect are welcomed.

Wells' and Stapledon's future histories culminate in mature civilizations. Heinlein's Future History Time Chart culminates in "...the end of human adolescence, and beginning of first mature culture..." (The Man Who Sold The Moon, London, 1964, p. 7), although I dislike Heinlein's idea of that culture in Time Enough For Love.

Asimov's Second Foundation works towards a Second Empire to be based on mental science, not on physical force, but this Plan is superseded by the telepathic robots and their planetary organism working to make the Galaxy a single collective consciousness.

In Blish's Cities In Flight Tetralogy, history is interrupted by the end of the universe. In Anderson's Psychotechnic History, the Third Dark Ages and the interstellar Empires are followed by a multi-species galactic civilization based on mental science and on individual control of cosmic energy. In Anderson's Technic History, the Terran Empire and the Long Night are followed by the Allied Planets, then by the Commonalty.

Six of these seven future histories express the aspiration towards a saner, better organized society. This aspiration is practicable, not utopian, although we cannot know in advance what such a society will be like. As Arthur C Clarke said, any civilization that has had a high technology for a long time must have solved its problems and resolved its internal conflicts because otherwise it would have destroyed itself long ago.

When there is abundant energy and technology, there will no longer be any need to compete in order to survive, to accumulate wealth, to exercise power or to win prestige although creative competition might continue in other forms.

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