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Sargon

Image via memory-alpha.wikia.com

In the original Star Trek TV series Sargon is a forceful, intelligent mind residing in a glowing orb. Sargon abducts Captain Kirk and plans to inhabit his body.¹

This fictional Sargon is named after two ancient Sargons who walked this Earth. Sargon I was a Akkadian king (2400 BCE) said to have built Babylon. Sargon II was an Assyrian king (around 700 BCE). Both were successful militarists.

More and more people are saying that the Star Trek franchise has created something of a modern myth. One of the ingredients for Star Trek‘s lasting success is the recasting of elements from history, myth and legend within an optimistic, socially progressive future.

King Sargon II and a Dignatary by Sharon Mollerus

King Sargon II and a Dignatary by Sharon Mollerus via Flickr

Depth psychologists and cultural theorists say that the use of history in storytelling sets off a subconscious resonance, giving a story charm, fascination and, as religious studies scholars would put it, numinous allure.

The use of Sargon in this episode is a good example of calling up the past, injecting it into the present while imagining the future.

¹ Excellent outline of the story » http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Return_to_Tomorrow_%28episode%29

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Science Fiction (Sci-Fi)

Science Fiction (sci-fi) is a genre of literature, TV and film sometimes trivialized by art snobs and the literary establishment.

Critics say science fiction characters are wooden, two-dimensional “cardboard cutouts” rarely developed in the manner of, say, a Holden Caufield (J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye) or a Hagar Shipley (Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel).

Some sci-fi writers accept this criticism, saying the medium began as an exploration into the human imagination rather than as a commentary on the human condition. But H. G. Wells, George Orwell and more recent authors like Frank Herbert (Dune), Ursula Le Guin (The Dispossessed), Kurt Vonnegut (Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five) and filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s intense rendering of Arthur C. Clark’s 2001: A Space Odyssey have helped to change the face of sci-fi. In fact, William Shatner, who plays Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, says that a good science fiction story must be grounded in distinct human experiences.

Gonzo Bonzo adds:

If you’re looking for some good science fiction focused on characters, you’d better read some of the novels from Robert Silverberg. Dying Inside, which is about a telepath in an early 70’s NYC, who’s losing his power, or Man in a Maze talks about the first astronaut ever to meet alien lifeforms, who comes back being unable to hide his feeling and emotions to his fellow humans, and who chose to exile on giant maze. Book of Skulls is also a good example of human centered SciFi, with very complex and multi-dimensional characters.

In more recent efforts authors like Jeff Vandermeer, Vernor Vinge (with his wonderful Rainbows End), Paul J.McAuley, Iain M.Banks, China Miéville or Ian R.McLeod are good examples of what SciFi is these days. » Source

Deutsch: Science fiction: Start- und Landeplat...

Science fiction: Start- und Landeplattform in der Stratosphäre, Zeitungsillustration von 1953 Svenska: Science fiction: Start- och landningsplattform i stratosfären, tidnings-illustration från 1953 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Despite condescension from some literati who think they know best, sci-fi finds itself in a unique position to explore unconventional ideas that the worldly wise regard as ludicrous and unworthy of attention.

An historical example of a truly great sci-fi visionary is Leonardo Da Vinci (1452–1519). Leonardo worked as a military engineer and inventor in Italy. He was venerated in France as a genius and some of his more imaginative sketches depicted flying machines, robots, a tank and submarines. But Da Vinci kept many of these innovative sketches secret, probably to avoid ridicule.

Sci-fi may still encounter a similar kind of prejudice, but the runaway success of J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek film and the recent hype around Star Wars: The Force Awakens indicates that the so-called “cultured” and “cultivated” out there may just be jealous.

And who can say – other than for themselves – what’s treasure or trash?

Related » Abyss, Alien Possession Theory (APT), Borg, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Asimov (Isaac), Cylons, Hal 9000, Lewis (C. S.), Lexx, The Matrix, Occam’s Razor, Parallel Universes, Roberts (Jane), Star Wars, Tek War, Temporal Paradox, Virtual Reality, Sci-fi, Myth and Many Possible Worlds


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Seven of Nine

Jeri Ryan aka 7 OF 9 by Jim Bacon

Jim Bacon – Jeri Ryan aka 7 OF 9

Seven of Nine is a  female Borg, masterfully played by actor Jeri Ryan in the American TV series, Star Trek: Voyager.

Originally a human girl (Annika Hansen), Seven of Nine was transformed into a semi-cybernetic entity when assimilated by the Borg during her childhood.

Seven’s humanity was restored when Commander Chakotay stimulated her human memories through a technologically augmented mind-link.

She joined the crew of the starship Voyager and, through trial and error, relearned how to interact appropriately with her fellow human beings and the other bipedal life forms that constitute the ship’s crew.

Seven is a fascinating symbol of something gone wrong, going right again. She adds a new twist to the fall and resurrection motif so common in mythic stories, old and new.


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Star Trek: Enterprise

Star Trek: The Tour Beamed up in the Transporter: Conrad Quilty-Harper

Star Trek: The Tour Beamed up in the Transporter: Conrad Quilty-Harper via Flickr

Star Trek: Enterprise, originally called Enterprise, is the most recent incarnation in the Star Trek TV franchise, running for four seasons from 2001-2005. The action is set in the future but before the time of Captain Kirk (of the original series), making it a prequel.

Enterprise is the story of the very first U.S.S. Enterprise, equipped with recently developed warp drive technology, all set to leave Earth and the solar system for deep space exploration.

The alien, technologically superior and emotionless Vulcan race has been on Earth for a while, holding back the Earth’s space program because the ‘overly emotional’ human race wasn’t ready for extended inter-species contact.

Captain Jonathan Archer doesn’t like how Vulcans have been stalling humanity for years, but initial tensions between Archer and his Vulcan Science Officer, T’Pol, gradually resolve into mutual respect.

The series initially received encouraging reviews but its fan base dwindled and, despite attempts at innovation, the show became increasingly lackluster and Enterprise eventually fell out of warp in the TV ratings.

However, Enterprise did have some bright moments amid its steady decline, especially when dealing with the topic of time travel. And the cultural and mythic importance of the entire Star Trek franchise is hard to overlook. The Oxford English Dictionary, for instance, now includes in its database the word Klingon.

Scott Bakula

Scott Bakula (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s some more information from the entry, Jonathan Archer:

Some critics of Star Trek: Enterprise, a series initially with good ratings that steadily dropped, said [Scott] Bakula was miscast or, worse, unworthy of the role. The series was canceled after four seasons, which in the Star Trek universe isn’t a total flop nor a great success.

From watching reruns today it seems the commercial demise of the show wasn’t about casting Bakula as captain. If anything, it was about inconsistent writing (sometimes lapsing into formulaic trash), bad timing and other factors. Co-creator and executive producer Branon Braga once said it pained him when his series wasn’t up to scratch. So even he knew it had problems.

Newer programs like BattleStar Galactica: Reimagined, Kyle XY, Dr. Who (series 1) and Oprhan Black suggest that sci-fi was heading in new directions at warp speed, whereas Enterprise and its writers seemed to be stuck in impulse drive. And for a while, it seemed like the franchise had gone the way of the dinosaur.

Wrong.

Enter director J.J. Abrams with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and others to reboot the idea [in 2009] for a whole new generation.


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Strong AI Thesis

The Strong AI Thesis was named by American philosopher John Searle (born 1931), to describe the belief that AI (artificial intelligence) may possess actual consciousness like that of a human being.

The idea is expressed as follows:

The appropriately programmed digital computer with the right inputs and outputs would thereby have a mind in exactly the sense that human beings have minds”¹

Searle, himself, rejects the Strong AI Thesis. He believes that computer intelligence simulates but doesn’t possess real thought, a position called “Weak AI.” His Chinese Room thought experiment gives us a compelling argument in support of his position.

English: Mica (Brionne Dawson) is trapped in t...

Mica (Brionne Dawson) is trapped in the Chinese Room. It is an imaginary space first described by philosopher John Searle, though this is from the 2009 fiction narrative feature The Chinese Room, inspired by Searle’s thought experiment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Others believe that Strong AI isn’t too far-fetched, considering that human beings are, at least in part, made up of electrochemical interactions. If Strong AI is true, we can reduce idea down to the simplest levels and argue that even your refrigerator, toaster or iPad have some kind of unique electro-organizational consciousness that would distinguish them from, say, a pile of rocks.

These ideas are explored in many science fiction novels, TV-shows and films. One of the better treatments is found in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, where the line between humans and Cylons sometimes seems very thin.

¹ John Searle, 1998 in Dennett, Damiel C. Consciousness Explained, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1991 p. 435.

Related Posts » Isaac Asimov, Commander Data, Hal 9000, Panpsychism

 

 


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TekWar

Shatner, William – TekWar (1990 PB) uploaded by sdobie
via Flickr

TekWar is a series of science fiction novels, TV shows and made-for-TV movies created by William Shatner (Captain Kirk of Star Trek) portraying a disturbing vision of mankind’s technological future.

Although the books imply that Shatner is the author, after some time it came out that they were ghost-written by science-fiction author Ron Goulart.

In TekWar dark warlords enslave the population through the distribution of a mind-altering drug in a corrupt society. What’s novel about this drug is that it’s entirely digital. A microchip.

Good and bad characters fight information wars on an advanced internet, connected directly to the mind. Users wear special headgear and information is externally displayed in holographic images.

So instead of computers merely receiving viruses through the web, as we have today, enemy hackers can literally kill each other through the neural interface.

While the idea of “killing thoughts” may seem unique to science fiction, similar non-technological myths of killing at a distance appear in voodoo doll, witchcraft and evil eye lore. And some mystics and shamanic practitioners believe they are mystically “killing” the lesser aspects of other people’s personalities through a kind of inner, transpersonal “slamming,” for lack of a better word.

English: William Shatner photographed by Jerry...

William Shatner photographed by Jerry Avenaim (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the claims of these mystics and shamans are true,¹ to me it would seem to involve a kind of unclear, gloomy or possibly hellish underworld that one hopefully would be able to rise above. But as long as individuals identify with this kind of dynamic (i.e. I’m the big, important psychic warrior and you just don’t understand...)² they’ll probably remain stuck there.

On this point the psychologist Carl Jung stressed time and again that so-called archetypal forces are powerful, transpersonal and sometimes volatile. The key, Jung said, is to not identify with any of them. And I think this is an important precursor to enjoying a higher, heavenly bliss that just can’t be found in a shadowy and tumultuous psychological underworld.

¹ (a) The Indian mystic Sri Aurobindo claimed to assist the Allied Forces in WW-II by virtue of his meditation, and at a distance. (b) Mircea Eliade in Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy notes that some shamans take up a different vocation if their culture doesn’t recognize them as such, which seems to suggest that, for some, their commitment to this practice is only as deep as their ability to make a living out of it.

² Jung called this inflation. And Joseph Campbell further delineated different types of mythic involvement with concepts of Mythic Dissociation, Mythic Eternalization, Mythic Identification, Mythic Inflation, Mythic Subordination.


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Temporal Paradoxes, Retro-Causality, Time…

Wonder Woman #37 (1949) script by Robert Kanigher, art by H.G. Peter – via Tumblr

Most theories about temporal paradoxes, retro-causality and time can get pretty complicated.

Wikipedia outlines many current philosophical positions on temporal paradoxes, so rather than go nuts by trying to rewrite what’s been said there, I’ll just link to it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temporal_paradox

If you’ve at least scanned over what Wikipedia says, read on…

I think a lot of the current thinking about temporal paradoxes, retro-causality and time is flawed because, on the one hand, thinkers talk about going back in time, but on the other hand, they continue to philosophize as if time suddenly becomes linear again, once you’ve gone back in time.

From what we see in the latest new physics experiments, time is more like a multidimensional patchwork quilt. This means, if I can put it simply, that all of time is always interactive.

One of the analogies I sometimes use when trying to explain my view of time is to say that it’s like a ball of spaghetti, with each strand of spaghetti being a kind of wormhole cutting through and connecting different moments and places in time.

We cannot time travel on the macro level. We have no time machines. As much as I’d love to, I can’t go back to, say, New York City in the 1930s or to ancient Rome at the time of Caesar. But some subatomic particles do appear to time travel. And we have repeatable scientific experiments to support this.¹

Also, some report experiencing a kind of psychological – if not large-scale physical – time travel, especially when entering into deeper, meditative states of awareness.²

Jane Roberts

Jane Roberts – A trance medium who talked about multiple universes way before the idea became popular (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As for ethics and time travel, in the TV show Star Trek, which often involves the idea of time travel, the following hypothetical problem arises:

If a person had to choose between influencing two or, perhaps, more possible historical outcomes while traveling back in time, how would she or he know which choice would be right?

One might say that the best ethical choice would be right. But even those of us stuck in the present know that “right ethics” are not always easy to determine.

One hypothetical solution to this equally hypothetical problem involves the idea that every time we make a choice, a new universe branches off, creating a potentially infinite number of universes for each choice we make.

Again, there are several other theories about time travel mentioned at Wikipedia. It’s beyond me to go into each one, especially when I feel that most of them are loaded with faulty assumptions from the outset.

¹ http://goo.gl/XUnJTB

² http://goo.gl/UVFgJj

Related Posts » Free will, Prime Directive, Jane Roberts