Forwards, Backwards, Sideways, Nowhere

Bian Aldiss was asked by the Guardian to ruminate on the future of civilisations, as a new exhinition of science fiction art has opened recently. The whole article is a litany of "It's all very well, but...". This is the disposition that There but for the Grace of God, comes Hell. Cultural conservatives make the best science fiction writers, or as Aldiss pithily puts it,

Why are we not by now living like this?

The perceptions of such charms tie in with that narrow bridge running from reason to despair. We know yet we know not. All of the wonderful schemes and glorious criticisms arcing from the self-styled leaders of the alienated, are dismissed as jiggery-pokery, a neap tide that eventually founders against the sea-wall of human nature. Carpers of capitalism, beware, since other systems are undoubtedly worse:

There is no way in which research could pause, or innovation delay. The machine cannot stop. Capitalism is ever hungry for more. Capitalism allied with evolution has prompted a revolt - as Lewis Mumford pointed out decades ago - against the inhibitions of orthodox Christianity, which now seem gratuitous to many. Greed, one of the seven deadly sins, has now acquired social standing, and its commercials fund television programmes. No, the machine cannot stop. Besides, the neighbours are waiting to move in if it does.

Aldiss is comfortable in his old age; he has accepted the comforts of scepticism and listens to the vapid bone-whispers of the idealists as another iteration on the wheel, exercised by the powerless, guilty as they have a voice, and willing purification and mortification on their own. Dangerous hindrances.

Invocation of the orchestra and the restaurant as the highest structures of civilisation, where Aldiss gropes towards the revelations of high trust, when the crossbow is left by the door and strangers converse, is some small recognition of our new age. A grumpy old man of letters may well see television and commercials as the highlights of our age, but everywhere, there is an outbreak of conversation, some good, some bad, and perhaps, we could view parts of the blogosphere as a finely tuned orchestra, with specialists weaving concordant themes for a harmonious whole. This is not yet here, sophisticated social structures grazing and interacting across a baroque netscape. Yet, we feel the first tender offshoots, as even now the music of chambers and recitals has blown a stiffening and brazen wind across empires, the 'economies of scale' that even now accrete, secrete, fart and merge.