Saturday, May 17, 2008


2001: A Space Odyssey.

It's fascinating to see old movies made about the future. This was done in the (fifties? sixties?) and while being completely groundbreaking in the central premise, nontheless looks incredibly outdated when you read between the lines. When you look at all the cultural assumptions built in.
2001 is already almost a decade past. We don't have Jupiter missions, or passenger shuttles, or Clavius base. But we do have human-machine interfaces that are generations ahead. Everything is... so much smaller. Buttons. Computers. Cameras. Food trays. Furniture. Everything.
At the time it was made, the movie looked very futuristic because the cultural bias was invisible - like looking at crystal in water. Cultural bias, when seen in the culture it belongs to, is impossible to see. Half a century later, the crystal's changed color, and sticks out like a sore thumb.
Text is HUGE. Displays, labels, buttons... diagrams are 2-color. Every screen is a 14-inch, and large displays are a matrix of multiple screens. With gaps in between to prevent gaussian blur :)

It got me thinking - there always will be some rules that can hold true for all sci-fi for a long time, given where we are now.
1. No artificial gravity. The benefits far outweigh the cost. apart from the resources wasted in terms of energy, look at the wasted space! Walls, ceiling and floor should be interchangeable. Footfall had that right, at least.
2. No large empty spaces. Not even cargo holds. At the max, maybe a net system outside where the cargo containers can be moored; that much empty space is just a waste of air, light, heat. No big roomy corridors, just crawlspaces and passages. No rooms, just bunks.
3. Minimal manned EVA. Everything to be remote-controlled, waldos and VR.
4. VR, VR, and VR. When you're in space, you are the ship. You need to move around inside and outside the ship as little as possible; ideally, the entire journey should happen with you plugged into the ship systems, floating in a life-support tube.
5. No High-speed maneuvers and stunts, at least in the immediate timeline; wastes far too much fuel.
6. Aliens will not be hominid, and most probably not even bipedal. Probably not organic either.
7. Space war will last days at the very most, and will result in complete annihilation or unconditional surrender, just because each side will have weapon technology so different from the other that any faceoff will be a race to find that one tech that the other can't counter. So 'war' will not be soldiers, fighters and lasers; it'll be espionage, crackers, viruses, and decryption tech.
8. Further down the timeline, there will be only supercomputers talking to each other.
9. Time travel will be possible, but each instant it's done, the time-traveller will be in a different universe. So you can't change your past, just someone else's.
10. Everything will be cordless, wireless, and batteries will never run out.

Unlike my laptop who's dying even as we speak. Ciao.


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