The ethics of writing hard science fiction

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Dr34m(4+(h3r
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The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby Dr34m(4+(h3r » Thu Jul 13, 2017 3:51 pm UTC

A thought occurred to me. What if there are advanced alien civilizations, but they can't observe everything at once? However, they are capable of making extremely advanced inferences from limited information. Wouldn't it be a really bad idea to propagate information that might lead to faulty inferences? I've had this anxiety recently. What are your thoughts on this? I should note that I'm diagnosed schizotypal and my words should be subjected to the highest level of scrutiny.

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:10 pm UTC

You mean like the idea that human faces are a delicacy or that humans are the perfect species to probe?

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby speising » Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:12 pm UTC

If they are so advanced that they can read our sf, i'd assume they are smart enough not to take it as description of reality, galaxy quest style.

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby Dr34m(4+(h3r » Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:26 pm UTC

speising wrote:If they are so advanced that they can read our sf, i'd assume they are smart enough not to take it as description of reality, galaxy quest style.


It depends on how much of it, and us, is left to read at the point of reading, I imagine.

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby trpmb6 » Thu Jul 13, 2017 6:20 pm UTC

speising wrote:If they are so advanced that they can read our sf, i'd assume they are smart enough not to take it as description of reality, galaxy quest style.


https://what-if.xkcd.com/47/

That whatif sort of touches on, at least, the radio side of transmissions. Which gets me to my main point of, if aliens are observing us they are observing us from extremely close proximity and with, quite likely, a strong intelligence apparatus. I imagine they would easily be able to determine that things like the Fifth Element (as great as it may be) are works of complete fiction. Furthermore, I'd like to believe that any advanced civilization has some sort of cultural aspect to it where stories, mythology or some other form of fiction exists. (Even though I'm a very science/engineering based mind, I still refuse to believe that a civilization can exist without creative arts. Music and other forms of art, including fiction novels, are far to important for growing your mind.)

As an aside; what troubles me more is in the far future after nuclear winters and we've blown the moon in half due to some space war between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, is what happens when our ancient ancestors find science fiction works with little historical documents to reference. What if they think iRobot (forgive me Asimov for pointing to iRobot and not the Foundation series) eventually led to our destruction? What if they think Terminator really happened and they were eventually victorious. What if they think the popular movie/book Time Machine is a very real documentary of what happened? Who knows!

Probably the biggest danger to come out of any work of fiction is having a person in today's world interpret it as a work of current events and to act on such. (The best example of this would be the man who attempted to assassinate Reagan because he wanted to impress Jodie Foster)

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Jul 13, 2017 7:39 pm UTC

With the moon damaged, we're talking perhaps Iron Sky, maybe Space: 1999 and definitely at least one version of The Time Machine as "chronicles" that might gain credibility as historical records, among others. Depending on credulousness and other coincidentally 'prophesied' facts also matching what little evidence survives to be their self-evident future history...

With enough time, and blurring and fervency of belief, I suspect most 'historical documentaries' from UHF to Airwolf could be believed by our far-futurists. Look how many (differing) holy scriptures have currency amongst (different sets of) believers today.


As to aliens... They might spot some exception to a depiction, but they might also absorb the fiction (much as the Gangster Planet from Trek took an overly narrow retelling of actual history and made it their Planet Of The Hats trope). I suppose the unknown is how any hypothetical alien race treats their fact and fiction. At the opposite extreme, a variant upon the allegorically-minded ?Tamarians? might treat our fact as just poor attempts at entertainment...

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby cphite » Thu Jul 13, 2017 7:52 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:
speising wrote:If they are so advanced that they can read our sf, i'd assume they are smart enough not to take it as description of reality, galaxy quest style.


https://what-if.xkcd.com/47/

That whatif sort of touches on, at least, the radio side of transmissions. Which gets me to my main point of, if aliens are observing us they are observing us from extremely close proximity and with, quite likely, a strong intelligence apparatus. I imagine they would easily be able to determine that things like the Fifth Element (as great as it may be) are works of complete fiction. Furthermore, I'd like to believe that any advanced civilization has some sort of cultural aspect to it where stories, mythology or some other form of fiction exists. (Even though I'm a very science/engineering based mind, I still refuse to believe that a civilization can exist without creative arts. Music and other forms of art, including fiction novels, are far to important for growing your mind.)


I would worry less about them mistaking fiction for fact, and more about them basing their impression of our species on our fiction. Imagine you're an alien scientist looking through Earth fiction... where probably 90% of stories that involve aliens (beings non-native to Earth) involve humans fighting and killing said aliens. Consider how much of our fiction involves humans fighting and killing one another; or how much of our fiction involves a theme of "us versus them" to some degree or another. Would you advise your fellow aliens to consider humans to be friendly or safe?

As an aside; what troubles me more is in the far future after nuclear winters and we've blown the moon in half due to some space war between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, is what happens when our ancient ancestors find science fiction works with little historical documents to reference. What if they think iRobot (forgive me Asimov for pointing to iRobot and not the Foundation series) eventually led to our destruction? What if they think Terminator really happened and they were eventually victorious. What if they think the popular movie/book Time Machine is a very real documentary of what happened? Who knows!


Well, to be fair... I think that if we nuke the world or blow the moon in half, our descendants are going to have a low opinion of us no matter what... Also, I would hope that these people would note the differences between the various works and realize that it's pretty unlikely that all of them actually happened.

But then again... you're probably right... there will probably be wars between the followers of the Church of the Terminator (all praise to John Conner, peace be upon him) and the devotees of the Three Rules Church.

Probably the biggest danger to come out of any work of fiction is having a person in today's world interpret it as a work of current events and to act on such. (The best example of this would be the man who attempted to assassinate Reagan because he wanted to impress Jodie Foster)


Yeah, but that kinda thing is unfortunately going to happen with or without science fiction.

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Jul 13, 2017 8:00 pm UTC

Three Rules Church? I belong to the Church of Three Rules. Fuck those splitters. And the People's Rule of Three Churches.

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby trpmb6 » Fri Jul 14, 2017 1:07 pm UTC

cphite wrote:I would worry less about them mistaking fiction for fact, and more about them basing their impression of our species on our fiction. Imagine you're an alien scientist looking through Earth fiction... where probably 90% of stories that involve aliens (beings non-native to Earth) involve humans fighting and killing said aliens. Consider how much of our fiction involves humans fighting and killing one another; or how much of our fiction involves a theme of "us versus them" to some degree or another. Would you advise your fellow aliens to consider humans to be friendly or safe?


You make a great point. I've talked about that side of things with some of my friends. If you were to solely base your opinion of our species based on our news broadcasts and various works of fiction (and even non fiction) you would probably come to a very bleak opinion of our species. Take the scene from fifth element for instance where Leeloo (Jovovich) is scanning through our history and comes across all our wars.

As an aside; I read a piece a while back discussing our destructive nature. Some researchers believed they had traced our lineage back to a portion of the congo where a river separated two sets of primates. On one side the primates are quite peaceful. The other much more aggressive. We share a common lineage with the more aggressive, male dominant species.

(Ah! I found the article referencing this..) http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/07/opinions/ ... index.html

In hindsight, this appears to be an opinion piece based on musings between researchers.

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby cphite » Fri Jul 14, 2017 2:48 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Three Rules Church? I belong to the Church of Three Rules. Fuck those splitters. And the People's Rule of Three Churches.


Church of Three Rules, or Church of Three Rules Reformed?

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby cphite » Fri Jul 14, 2017 2:53 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:
cphite wrote:I would worry less about them mistaking fiction for fact, and more about them basing their impression of our species on our fiction. Imagine you're an alien scientist looking through Earth fiction... where probably 90% of stories that involve aliens (beings non-native to Earth) involve humans fighting and killing said aliens. Consider how much of our fiction involves humans fighting and killing one another; or how much of our fiction involves a theme of "us versus them" to some degree or another. Would you advise your fellow aliens to consider humans to be friendly or safe?


You make a great point. I've talked about that side of things with some of my friends. If you were to solely base your opinion of our species based on our news broadcasts and various works of fiction (and even non fiction) you would probably come to a very bleak opinion of our species. Take the scene from fifth element for instance where Leeloo (Jovovich) is scanning through our history and comes across all our wars.


I love that movie. But I've always thought that the whole thing with Leeloo getting freaked out by the wars and whatnot was overdone... She was the supreme being, specifically sent to deal with a force that was trying to destroy all life in the universe. She knew all about war; it was her purpose.

As an aside; I read a piece a while back discussing our destructive nature. Some researchers believed they had traced our lineage back to a portion of the congo where a river separated two sets of primates. On one side the primates are quite peaceful. The other much more aggressive. We share a common lineage with the more aggressive, male dominant species.


"I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it." -- Jack Handy

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby trpmb6 » Fri Jul 14, 2017 3:35 pm UTC

cphite wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:Three Rules Church? I belong to the Church of Three Rules. Fuck those splitters. And the People's Rule of Three Churches.


Church of Three Rules, or Church of Three Rules Reformed?


Church of Three Rules of Latter Day Terminators

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Jul 14, 2017 4:20 pm UTC

Day of Judgement 25:21-22

And it came to pass, our lord and terminator was baptized in molten fire before Sarah and John Conner. He rose from his metallic grave three days later, and smote Man for His sins.

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby trpmb6 » Fri Jul 14, 2017 7:01 pm UTC

Back to the original topic..

I was watching Ancient Aliens just now (*Don't judge me*) and found myself shaking my head and laughing about what real aliens would think if they saw that show.

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Jul 14, 2017 7:31 pm UTC

Let's make this less hypothetical.

What do people think about ancient societies based on their entertainment, compared to what archaeologists say? What do people believe about, say, Japan based on anime?

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby ObsessoMom » Fri Jul 14, 2017 8:15 pm UTC

If you're worried about how our fiction makes us look to other cultures, either future or extraterrestrial...how do you think our nonfiction makes us look?

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Jul 14, 2017 8:31 pm UTC

If you are going that route, somebody has to lock up the Zinns, Chomskys, and Greenwalds of the world.

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby ucim » Fri Jul 14, 2017 10:47 pm UTC

I think the thrust of the question isn't how {society} would be judged based on what {alien} knows to be their fiction. It's about how {society} would be judged based on historical records that {alien} does not know is fiction.

Would visiting aliens who cross the vast reaches of interstellar space be smart enough to realize that what they are seeing could be fiction, fantasy, storytelling, or otherwise counterfactual?

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby CorruptUser » Sat Jul 15, 2017 2:16 am UTC

Insert joke about Bible being classified as fiction.


I understand the question. We already have some of that problem now, among humans. Remember those stories about Vlad the Impaler? That's what they were; stories people liked to tell. He was basically the Bruce Schneier of his day, with people making up the best example of uncorruptable brutal badass they could think to one-up each other. So yeah, someone in the future is going to think there actually was a Norris vs NBC over the rights to the name "Law and Order". Remember the mythical city of Atlantis? It was a thought experiment, nothing more. A hypothetical place, much as a philosopher or any other PhD would create to discuss possibilities. When discussing Economics, for example, I often go to Appleton, Appalachia, as a simplistic model of a community with a single commodity to explain complex things like pensions and inflation and wages and so forth. Doesn't mean such a place exists.

But my question is what happens when, even knowing what is fiction, what misconceptions we currently have about the ancients and even living people simply from viewing their fiction. Half of what people "know" about America comes from our movies, after all.

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby trpmb6 » Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:54 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Half of what people "know" about America comes from our movies, after all.


You mean people in other countries actually think we have a guy flying around in an iron suit dealing with bad guys?


I think it could be very easy for an alien civilization to misinterpret our works of fiction as real. Especially some of the works that aren't that far off from reality. It would at least take them a bit of time to study and interpret our documents and books. But realistically, an advanced civilization that had made it to here would likely spend a good amount of time observing. If our overlords are reading this they can go ahead and post here and tell us what they do. It could be they have sophisticated AI to help them decode it all.

I think CorruptUser's point about people believing things about ancient human history as fact when they are likely grossly misrepresented (Atlantis/Troy/etc.) exemplifies this.

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:21 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:Half of what people "know" about America comes from our movies, after all.


You mean people in other countries actually think we have a guy flying around in an iron suit dealing with bad guys?


They don't think that Will Smith will personally fuck up any aliens that attempt to raze civilization, but they do think that Americans will rally to save the day. They think that America is a place that values personal freedom and lets people be who they want to be. They think the American people are just as attractive as portrayed on screen. They think we eat what actors on screen eat, drink as much as the actors drink, sound exactly the way actors sound. And let's not forget, many think American women are just as easy as the women in the movies.

Because let's be honest, most American kids grow up thinking that.

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby trpmb6 » Tue Jul 18, 2017 12:41 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
They don't think that Will Smith will personally fuck up any aliens that attempt to raze civilization, but they do think that Americans will rally to save the day. They think that America is a place that values personal freedom and lets people be who they want to be. They think the American people are just as attractive as portrayed on screen. They think we eat what actors on screen eat, drink as much as the actors drink, sound exactly the way actors sound. And let's not forget, many think American women are just as easy as the women in the movies.

Because let's be honest, most American kids grow up thinking that.


I wish Archer had been around when I was a kid. I would have much preferred to grow up thinking I could be Archer instead of growing up thinking I could be Goku. People still look at me weird when I shout kame-hame-ha when lighting off fireworks in the street.

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby morriswalters » Fri Jul 21, 2017 11:27 am UTC

I don't think we have anything to worry about in terms of aliens reading our fiction. If it's on paper, in 100 or so years unprotected and it will gone, and if we are here, we can tell them. And since they would at least be intelligent as us, one might think they would at least have the possibility in their minds that it could be fiction.

Without a Rosetta stone or something like it I'm uncertain as to how they would read our literature in the first place. Most of the meaning is tied up in people, not the paper. The Rosetta Stone allowed us to connect a living language to a dead language. And if we had died before they got here the chances are that what killed us will be written in the bones we leave behind.

Assuming they can travel fast enough, and assuming that Fermi had something going on when he espoused the Fermi Paradox, it may be quite likely that they would find dead world after dead world, once populated by of all the people who didn't find a way round it. The manner of dying would be apparent, maybe radioactive craters, maybe an atmosphere on it's way to becoming the next Venus.

If they are hunting for other life I suspect they would pause, note the location and move on without looking further. Finding a planet where intelligent life once lived would validate a belief that other life was possible. Giving you a reason to continue looking for a place where it still existed as a civilization. Rather than pawing over old bones. In any case our ethics die with us.

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby serutan » Sat Jul 22, 2017 6:32 am UTC

Dr34m(4+(h3r wrote:A thought occurred to me. What if there are advanced alien civilizations, but they can't observe everything at once? However, they are capable of making extremely advanced inferences from limited information. Wouldn't it be a really bad idea to propagate information that might lead to faulty inferences? I've had this anxiety recently. What are your thoughts on this? I should note that I'm diagnosed schizotypal and my words should be subjected to the highest level of scrutiny.



Have you read Arthur C. Clarke's short story History Lesson? It's an interesting speculation along those lines where there is a time gap that precludes alien observation before they find things.
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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby Dr34m(4+(h3r » Sun Jul 23, 2017 1:56 am UTC

serutan wrote:
Dr34m(4+(h3r wrote:A thought occurred to me. What if there are advanced alien civilizations, but they can't observe everything at once? However, they are capable of making extremely advanced inferences from limited information. Wouldn't it be a really bad idea to propagate information that might lead to faulty inferences? I've had this anxiety recently. What are your thoughts on this? I should note that I'm diagnosed schizotypal and my words should be subjected to the highest level of scrutiny.



Have you read Arthur C. Clarke's short story History Lesson? It's an interesting speculation along those lines where there is a time gap that precludes alien observation before they find things.


Not a bad story. Just read it on your recommendation.

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby trpmb6 » Mon Jul 24, 2017 4:50 pm UTC

Just read History Lesson during lunch break. The similarities to the OP topic are striking. Makes you wonder if we should start putting caches of information on mountain tops just in case.

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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby ucim » Mon Jul 24, 2017 5:14 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:Just read History Lesson during lunch break. The similarities to the OP topic are striking. Makes you wonder if we should start putting caches of information on mountain tops just in case.
Good idea. The leader of the most powerful nation in the free world ought to be charged with this all-important task.

:) Jose
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Re: The ethics of writing hard science fiction

Postby trpmb6 » Mon Jul 24, 2017 5:56 pm UTC

ucim wrote:
trpmb6 wrote:Just read History Lesson during lunch break. The similarities to the OP topic are striking. Makes you wonder if we should start putting caches of information on mountain tops just in case.
Good idea. The leader of the most powerful nation in the free world ought to be charged with this all-important task.

:) Jose


Haha. And now i'm on an Arthur C. Clarke binge. Just finished Rescue Party. The last 8 words of it are the best haha. How I've never stumbled across his short stories despite reading many of his novels is somewhat a surprise to me. And a bit of a disappointment. Oh well. I've found something to keep me going on a slow Monday.


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