The Age of Creation
By Brenda Cooper, 2001
Science Fiction often showcases meta-themes. Many themes may be explored in current literature, and new themes emerge while old ones fade in the reflection of the science and politics of the day.
Space exploration is one meta-theme. It was followed by a meta-theme of humanity’s tiny nature when compared to a galaxy of infinitely powerful beings. Then a long series of stories and movies illuminated the possible dark sides of our choices.
Today, there are a number of books and stories emphasizing humans as creators. Call it the old manifest destiny idea made green and infused with the new energy of a galaxy to explore, and hopefully the wisdom we’ve gained from past excesses.
Sure, creation and human ingenuity have been science fiction themes for a long time.
Recently, there has been much fine work exploring grand-scale creation: Bioengineering. Nanotechnology. Terraforming. Becoming machines. Designing biospheres. Changing species.
Heinlein captured a generation with stories of space travel. Then we walked on the moon. Now there is a healthy commercial interest in near space; we will be there in droves soon.
It is an important step to realize that we need to expand beyond this beautiful nursery we have grown in. It is another step to do more than react to what we find – to be creators of resources instead.
It’s a truly gross simplification, but look at it this way:
- The industrial economy – Man using Earth’s resources to make machines and tools to allow man to do more. I have time to write this because I’m NOT doing my laundry by the side of a stream.
- The service economy – Many machines. One person can’t know/do it all anymore. Specialization and integration. When I need to have my washing machine fixed, I call someone who knows how to fix it.
- The information economy – Synthesis of knowledge. Even machines share information to reach human ends (accept cookies in your browser? I do.) In “smart houses” the appliances talk to each other.
- The creation economy – Transformation of resources. You can’t create more ‘stuff’ in the universe, but you can sure change it. In ways so tiny we can’t see them (genetics/nano-technology) and so big we have to stretch our imaginations like huge rubber bands (changing planets?).
We’re in the early stages of an “Age of Creation” that will have us designing biospheres for a modified Mars sometimes soon. After all, you can already buy The Case for Mars : The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must (nonfiction).