Sunday, November 16, 2014

Interstellar Madness

Saw Interstellar last night. Only had to wait through TWENTY MINUTES of trailers. Had to put fingers in my ears for much of it. So loud, so invasive, so manipulative. Anyway....

I don't watch TV anymore, rarely watch a movie or read a novel. So when I do subject myself to high-resolution artificial input to my brain, it is a jarring experience.

And enjoyable. I haven't stopped watching TV because I don't like it. I have stopped watching TV because I can't help but "like" it, be drawn to it. I am a product of millions of years of evolution, and both Madison Ave (marketeers) and Hollywood know it, and take advantage of it.

Anyway....

I enjoyed watching Interstellar, with its time-traveling plot ridiculousnesses and plenty of engaging human drama. 

But one line really ticked me off. The movie is, to a large extent, a propaganda campaign to get Americans excited about being "explorers and pioneers" again. 

Cooper (McConaughey) complains that "Now we're a generation of caretakers." and asserts that:

"Mankind was born on earth. It was never meant to die here."

That is the worst sort of human species-ism. It is a statement of incredible arrogance. And it is an encouragement to humans to continue to despoil this planet, because don't worry! 

Science and technology can and will save us! Right? 'Cause it sure has done the trick so far. We are feeding more people, clothing more people, putting more people in cars and inside homes with air conditioners, getting iPhones in the hands of more and more humans. 

Go, science, go!

And if we can't figure out how to grow food for 10 billion and then 20 billion people, if we totally exhaust this planet trying to keep every human alive and healthy into old age, not to worry! There are lots of other planets out there and, statistically, lots and lots of them should be able to support human life. Just have to find them and, oh, right, get there.

But there's no way to get there without a drastic acceleration of consumption of resources of our own planet. Traveling to space is, shall we say, resource-intensive.

Where and how did we (the self-aware sliver of human organisms) go so wrong? 

I think it goes back to the development of recorded knowledge (writing, essentially or, more broadly, culture). As long as humans were constrained by the ability to transmit information only orally, the damage we could do was relatively limited, though still quite destructive.

Once, however, we could write down what we knew, then we could build upon that knowledge, generation after generation, never losing anything but a sense of responsibility about how best to use that knowledge.

That sense of responsibility might also be termed "wisdom", and unfortunately wisdom is something that humans acquire through experience in the world, not by reading a book or a webpage. 

Mankind was born on earth and there is no reason at all to think that we - the entire species - shouldn't live and die right here on earth. Especially if we recognize that the price to be paid for leaving earth is the destruction of large swaths of earth and our co-inhabitants and....

Being the moral creatures that we like to think we are, we decide that this price is unacceptable.


6 comments:

Andy A said...

Realistically, with our current energy sources, there's no scope for us to travel beyond our solar system. A manned mission to Mars was quoted at $450 billion dollars in the Regan administration.

Andy A said...

Realistically, with our current energy sources, there's no scope for us to travel beyond our solar system. A manned mission to Mars was quoted at $450 billion dollars in the Regan administration.

iudith said...

It would be pretty sad if us, humans, would tend "to export"
what is going on these days on Earth to the entire Universe :( :(

If we still have a minimal morality, then we should rather choose not to do it, regardless of whether we do have or not the resources for it.

We should still "mature" for a good few millions of years for
becoming compatible and welcome into a peaceful Universe.

iudith said...

It would be pretty sad if we, humans, would tend "to export"
what is going on these days on Earth to the entire Universe :( :(

If we still have a minimal morality, then we should rather choose not to do it, regardless of whether we do have or not
the resources for it.

We should still "mature" for a good few millions of years for becoming compatible and welcome into a peaceful Universe.

Rich Soule said...

It really looks like the world population will stop growing at such an alarming (to some) rate. Google Hans Rosling Population Growth and you'll see some interesting analysis about population growth. Hans feels like (and the data supports him) we are in the era of 'peak child' and that there will be less children per mother going forward. I don't think we have to worry about 20 billion people on earth.

Steven Feuerstein said...

It will be really nice if we don't get to 20B. Now we just figure out how to stop growing ASAP.