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Tag Archives: Philosophy

Titan A.E. and Humanity’s ultimate potential

In the 90s, science fiction was trying to become popular again. We hear about popular films like the Matrix, Robocop, and The Fifth Element. But there’s a lesser-known cartoon film released in the late 90s that wasn’t well received, but had great ambition. That film is Titan A.E.

The story is fairly simple. Cale is the son of a genius who invented the Titan, a device that can create a planet via a number of technologies. However, this device scares the energy-based Drej, who then destroy the Earth. Humanity is spread across the galaxy, without a real home. Cale is introduced to Korso, a colleague of his father, who thinks that he holds the key to saving humanity. So, Cale, Korso, and the young Akima must work with a ragtag gang to find this amazing machine before the Drej discover it, and destroy all that the human race hopes for.

Sounds like a great concept, right? The idea of an energy-based alien species has so much creativity. However, the film doesn’t take it to it’s fullest potential. So, why am I talking about it at all? Because it did one thing good, and that was illustrate humanity’s desire to find meaning. Each person desires to have a purpose in their life. Respectively, the human race also is looking for a communal meaning. What makes humanity valuable to the other species? What can they bring to the bigger picture?

We are told that the Titan was one of the turning points for the human race. It’s very existence showed to all other species that humans could build something amazing. However, that scared the Drej. Their ignorance causes them to choose to destroy all that humanity represents. With the destruction of humanity’s homeworld, they lost almost all value. The race, as a whole, became a beggar, trying to maintain life, and not fade into oblivion.

(Spoilers)What is interesting is Cale’s skeptical nature. He believes that humanity won’t have value in the end, even though he saw the amazing technology that his father developed. This belief drives his skepticism, and that causes the friction for the plot. Sadly, it turns out that Korso’s incentives turn self-centered, where he hopes to profit off of the destruction of the Titan, and in following, humanity’s hope.

This continues to aggressively attack what is the driver for all people; the hope that makes us tick.

So, I recommend Titan A.E. For all science fiction fans. It is a fun ride, that illustrates the search humanity has for hope and meaning.

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Posted by on 2011/08/20 in Film

 

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Following Falling Skies: Hanging on to our humanity

As I’ve been digging through my thoughts and feelings about this first season of Falling Skies, I’ve found myself returning to two major themes: the nature of man, and the nature of skitters.  And as I look at these two opposing forces, I can see the metaphoric principles that are underlying in the conflict.  I found an interview with Mark Verheiden, one of the producers of Falling skies in Entertainment Weekly, where he defined Falling Skies as a show about “people who are trying to hold on to their humanity”.  And that is an excellent definition of the show.  Every conflict, every element, everything that the 2nd Massachusetts have done was to hold onto the humanity that defined them.

In an apocalyptic setting, humanity has everything removed from them that they know and love.  Housing, basic food sources, neighbors, media, even the idea of total security disappears.  So, what do these people have left?  They have themselves, their relationships with friends and family, and the hope that they’ll somehow get out of this.  Now, many people will let one or more of these desires take over themselves, and their very being.  These desires are very good, in and of themselves.  However, when people are left alone in their desires, they have a tendency to become encompassing, and eventually take over the person’s life.  It’s when a person comes into a community of others that they are able to focus and use these desires for the better-ment of all.

We see these themes constantly appearing in Falling Skies.  Tom Mason’s primary desire is to find his son, Ben.  However, being the second in command for the 2nd Massachusetts, and having Captain Weaver limit his choices tempers that desire.  While him his fellow fighters gather around him, and desire to help him find Ben. It also allows for a community to provide a voice into his goals, and make the best possible choices.  In the end, Mason’s goals couldn’t have been reached without the 2nd Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, we have the individual John Pope.  A bit of a loner, he is an Ex-convict, and a loner. He had gathered himself a gang in the earlier months of the invasion, and was then captured by Mason and the 2nd Massachusetts.  But his independent nature has turned his desires towards self-fulfillment.  Pope normally finds that through the slaughter of Skitters, oddly enough.  That makes him a threat.  he relies on no one else, which keeps him in a dangerous position.  The same can be said about Captain Weaver, whose personal desires and drug use have put him in a dangerous leadership position, that makes him sporadic and uncontrollable.  He seems to act independent of other’s opinions,and not relying on others for consolation or advice. His unwillingness to listen to the reason of Tom Mason also hurts his relationship with the whole of the 2nd Massachusetts.  Even though these two men are contrasted in their desires and positions, they are hindered by the same problem, a lack of community

The contrasting character types of Mason and Pope/Weaver act as the base for how humanity can act.  Humanity has always been designed with the need for community.  If a person neglects this need,  they will likely become lonely, narcissistic and random.  Eventually, they will be hard to rely on. However, if one consistently returns to a community, whether it be small or big, they will find far more meaning from what they do.  Canadian Philosopher Rene Vaulier once said that “To work for Community is to work for Humanity”.  This communal aspect is one of the key to the survival of humanity.  If we live without others, we are nothing, but if we live with others, we will find strength, and purpose for one’s life.

 
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Posted by on 2011/08/13 in Opinion, Television

 

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Isaac Asimov’s “Nightfall” and our reaction to the unknown

I have not put a lot of time or effort into reading short stories.  However, they are certainly some of the most influential classical sci-fi pieces out there for the thoughtful reader to engage.  So, I wish to engage these classic stories, especially the ones that jump out at me, or that others have called classics.  In this post, I take one of science fiction’s pioneers classic stories.  This story is “Nightfall” by Isaac Asimov, originally published in 1941

The concept of this story is that there is a world out there that is always lit up by one of 6 suns that are always crossing the planet.  Because of this, the inhabitants on this planet have never known night, or darkness.  They are inherently afraid of darkness. This fear would almost cause the entire species to disintegrate into total chaos.  Our story begins when scientists discover that the 6 suns on this world will set at the same time, and thus putting the entire planet into “Nightfall”.  This classic story has been published many times, and has even been made into an audio drama, as well as a full-length novel.

The original idea of this story explores both the nature of the unknown, as well how others react to it.  There are three influential groups that interact with one another over time.  There are the scientists, the journalist(and main protagonist), and the religious cult.  The scientists are the original ones who discover the event of “Nightfall”.  However, the religious culthad predicted the event beforehand, and was using it to convert as many as was possible.  The journalist acts as the eyes and ears of the audience, who is both skeptical, but curious.  How could this event happen?  What do the leaders plan to do about it, if it’s even real?

Asimov presents everything through his classic perspective; the scientific crowd is correct because of their analytical use of science, while the religious cults and groups are crazy, and misled.  This doesn’t remove from the story’s overall value.  The story explores how mankind explores the unknown.  One can either twist the truth (like the cult), ignore it (like the general populace in the story), or explore it further (like the scientists).

But if we have these so-called “Competing forces”, then how do we test which one is right?  Both are attempting to predict the future, but each has different explanations.  So, how do you test the ideas? Use Occam’s Razor, which simply states “whatever is the simplest conclusion is most likely the truest”.  While this isn’t applicable in all situations, it certainly is a useful tool in comparing objective, physical claims of truth.

In conclusion, Nightfall presents a great exploration of both science’s look at truth, at man’s capability for twisting the Truth, and for how one can react to the unknown.  The best way to access this story is to listen to Episode 100 of Escape Pod, which features this fantastically classic story.

 
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Posted by on 2011/07/28 in Literature

 

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Seeking the Alphas: “Cause and Effect”

Summary: A problematic former patient of Rosen’s escapes as Rosen is getting acquainted with his Department of Defense liaison, and the rest of the team tries to balance their normal lives with their work as Alphas. (Source: IMDB)  This episode was Dr. Rosen-Centric, with a focus on his past work with Alphas.  We did learn more about Rachel’s background troubles, though.

Notes: This episode created one of the more unique characters.  The antagonist, named Marcus Ayers, has the ability to control and analyze his environment, in order to create sequences of events that are under his control.  This kind of control is a unique concept, for it also entails the ability to predict time.  This concept in powers has unusual potential.  Ayers’ ability seems to be based in his ability to start a cause, and fully understand the effects that this would have.  His mind has the ability to understand the angles, energies, and directions of movement, and how they will interact with other movements, to create a total form of energy.  This kind of perspective has a unique angle.  It asks the question of our ability to track everything.  Is that possible?  Can all of reality be brought into a simple understanding of equations?

It’s worth noting in this conversation that while Ayers can predict and control environments, he cannot control human wills like Rachel.  This is an interesting perspective.  It attempts to add to the idea of “The human element”.  Humans are not able to be controlled by simple equations.  We are, by nature, a complex living system.  While much of our choices are led by incentives and costs, the overall picture is not that simple.

Another unique question of this episode was the contrasting perspective of Ayers, and our newest Alpha, Cameron Hicks.  Rosen sees a similarity in ability between these two individuals.  They both can directly control their environments, though Hicks’ focus is on his own physical abilities, while Ayers’ focus is on that outside of himself.  This perspective of abilities also applies to their troubles.  Ayers personally places all causes of trouble outside of himself, on others.  Hicks takes all of his grief and focuses it on himself, being introspective on his character, and his future.  Both of these perspectives are an overextension of themselves.  They emphasize only one part of their perspective, instead of moderating, and confirming the mixture of both focus on self, and understanding of those around them.

Finally, at the end of the episode, the show began to establish a X-men esque plot line, where the entire story may go in the direction of “Alphas Vs. Humans”.  It’s unknown as to whether this will continue, but I’m sure it will play into the future.

In conclusion, this episode created an interesting concept, and explored it to it’s depth.  We saw more of Hicks, of Rosen, and of his past work with Alphas.  This episode had some unique philosophical concepts to explore,

 
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Posted by on 2011/07/25 in Alphas

 

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Seeking the Alphas: “Pilot”

syfy, information, reviewThis first pilot is what has hooked me to the show.  The episode starts off by introducing us to a random grocery worker who is receives a call, has access to a gun, and shoots.  Suddenly, we are then introduced to the Alphas, and their leader Dr. Rosen. This group is working to take on challenges where the Alpha gene is in play.  The next hour is a chase of heroes, of villains, and of discovering this gift in a storyline similar to both the X-Men and CSI.

This episode worked to establish both the mythos of the world and the characters.  First off, we had to understand what an Alpha is. It is a genetic development that enhances a certain aspect of the human mind, so that he or she has unique abilities, as well as unique weaknesses.  These are not mutations or evolutions, but abilities based in neurochemistry.  It makes things interesting.  We see powers ranging from influence to tracking electronic signals, to even being able to perfectly control your body.

As for the team, we are meeting characters, learning their quirks, and finding how they relate, or fail to relate. This kind of connection is unique within a group, especially on the first pilot.  Because each of the powers are unique to the character, it’s hard to define certain moral or ethical aspects of the ability without delving into the character. So, I won’t be focusing on character development or the special abilities of the main characters until the end of the season.

What this episode emphasized in it’s story was the reality of Alphas, and their abilities.  We saw it’s neutral nature, and how any individual can abuse and use it.  As Spiderman’s uncle once said, “With great power, comes great responsibility”.

Overall, this episode establishes the human-ness of Alphas, both their evils, their goods, their flaws, their strengths, and most importantly, their uniqueness.  It has created a universe with a lot of potential, and especially a lot of character.

 
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Posted by on 2011/07/23 in Uncategorized

 

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Why Sci Fi: An Exploration of Science Fiction’s value for the thoughtful reader

This is an article from my original blog Literary-views.  I thought it would provide a solid base for what I believe about this subject.  

 Science fiction is one of those genres that is both enjoyed and looked down upon by the general public.  We see Science fiction films making hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in the box office.  However, most sci-fi literature is looked down upon because of it’s niche audience, and it’s tendency to be written as sheer folly. This thought pattern makes one wonder why a thoughtful reader should read science fiction?  In this essay, I hope to define what I feel is the redeeming characteristic for this genre.

 Science fiction, by definition, is “Fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.”  Science fiction relies on these two elements to fuel it’s plots.  The scientific advances and social changes are usually based on a mixture of scientific theories and sheer imagination.  Whether the theory is realistic or not is of little consequence to the author.  All he has to say is that it occurs in the future.

Along with being creative and imaginative, Science Fiction’s futuristic settings also allow for an  deeper exploration of the possibilities.  When  an author  comes up with a unique concept, they  have the   opportunity to explore  how the concept will be created and used, as well as how mankind will react and use the concept itself.  A great example of this exists with the classic story of robots reaching a point of “sentience”, which is the ability to independently perceive the world around them.    The concept was inspired by Moore’s Law, which states that the number of transistors that can be placed on a integrated circuit will double every two years.  Since the robot’s basis for thought is an integrated circuit, then that means that the potential processing power within a robot’s “mind” will grow over time.  If this process were to continue onward without any friction, then a robot could, in theory, gain a system that resembles the complexities of the human mind, and thus gain “sentience”.

Now that we’ve introduced this concept of Robotic sentience, we can start inquiring into the details.  How did the robot enter into sentience?  Was it intentional, or simply based on a random event?  How would humanity react to this newly sentient being?  Would they fear it or embrace it?  How would the robot himself handle these new feelings and abilities?  Would he explore them, or expunge them?  How would the sentient robot react to mankind and it’s flawed nature?  These are only a few questions that one can consider when predicting the events, and giving us details.  Many science fiction books have explored this topic. however, the best science fiction takes time to expound and explain it all away.

It is through these great books that we find opportunities to engage issues.  In an author’s attempt at recording reactions and realities about a theory or concept, they reveal their own belief system about any number of issues.  For example, the sentient robot story would most likely rely on a random event on the robot being so advanced, that one event causes a shifting of wires and sparks, and Voila!, Robotic Sentience.   This origin story implies that the original creation of life is random by definition, and thus irreplacable. Many people may say that life’s creation was random, while others would say it was intentional.  But then as readers, we must ask “What is life?  how do we define a living being?” Most people won’t have an answer.  But that is why science fiction is fantastic.  It gives us the opportunity to engage these bigger-than-life issues that otherwise wouldn’t influence how we live.  By reading Science fiction,you are being offerred the opportunity to think, while also reading great stories.

In conclusion, Science fiction is first and foremost, a story.  It is  a grand tale set in another time and space, and often relies on a concept that seems “out of this world”.  As a reader, we enter the story, and are able to see the minutia and how it all fits together. We then have the opportunity to engage the bigger questions of life, and consider what we believe about reality, man, truth, and everything else.

 
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Posted by on 2011/07/18 in Opinion

 

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