View Full Version : what are the odds?

04-15-2005, 10:14 AM
in SF, we see all the time new worlds with apparently one culture (most prevalent in t.v. and movies, of course, where there's no time and probably little interest in delving too deep into it). assuming most worlds developed along the same lines as earth (which is easy to assume, seeing as how most of the planets have a lot in common with earth, right down to geography and comparable physical bodies and psychologies), what would it take for earth to come together under one umbrella? i've seen where cataclysm on other planets is the premise for this 'brotherhood of man,' but that's where most explanation ends. hey, i'm not a polymath here, i need something else to help me connect the dots. :) the forming of one generic culture rather indicates the eradication of most others, doesn't it?

so, realistically, is it plausible to have a one-world culture? if so, how? if only under certain conditions, such as mutual agreement (this shouldn't be construed as that culture not being warlike), would this indicate a higher level of social sophistication that's contrary to the notion that they're basically just like us (which is somewhat of a slam against humanity, lol)?

04-15-2005, 01:05 PM
I think that if on the world in question, the civilization (I'm assuming you mean something similar to human civilization) arose as ours did over thousands of years, then yes, that there would be only one culture is probably a poor assumption.

However, if the world is one colonized by humans (such as in Asimov's "Foundation" series, or Niven's "Destiny's Road" then it's entirely concievable there would be one culture, extrapolated over a relatively short period of time from the original colonists. Yet, even "Destiny's Road" has two factions of descendents of the original colonists, which amounts to two separate primary cultures and a third group to carry on trade between them.

I guess one question is: how large of a population is necessary for disparate cultures to arise?

On the other hand, we are advancing at such a pace that if we extrapolate into the future (and not all that far, either), it's concievable that a visitor to our planet will perceive it occupied by a single culture. (Ref: an interview on today's Fresh Air (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4600258) program about outsourcing and globalization, and the views of Ray Kurzweil, especially in an interview in the June issue of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine).

04-15-2005, 06:19 PM
in Isaac Asimov's Robot novels, he said that earth's greater radioactivity allowed it to develop sentient life long before anywhere else. the same idea might justify greater genetic homogeneity among the inhabitants of another planet. if there aren't distinguishable races, racial prejudice will be less prevalent, allowing the globalization of culture, as well as economy. of course, genetic differences don't directly caus ethe differences in culture, but reducing the hostility between races would allow mroe mixing of cultures.

also, if the planet is smalle,r the population smaller, and the better communication developed earlier than in human history, cultures wouldn't have the opportunity to diversify as much.

The Geek
04-15-2005, 08:20 PM
Any global calamity could, in theory, bring global unity, but I've always sort of had the very problem you mention. I find it hard to but that everyone on the same planet would share a language/culture/etc.

As for a global calamity, a good old fashioned alien invasion would work just fine. :)

04-15-2005, 08:37 PM
actually, now that i think about it, it seems fairly plausible on a limited basis.

the central concept is that planets take the place of nations. therefore, national culture becomes planetary, while subtler intranational differences become intraplanetary ones.

if planest are to deal effectively with one another, some kind of world goverment is needed. imagine the chaos that would result from aliens or other planets of humans interacting with present-day earth. ultimately Earth itself would have ot become one country to effectively negotiate with other planets in a way that did not produce anarchy. after a whie, nationalism and global trade, combined with the markedly different alien societies to contrast with, would result in the emergence of an overall earth culture just like the overall culture of a modern-day nation.

imagine if someone who hadn't heard of it before visited IRaq. he would probably not meet any Kurds, he'd be unable to understand the distinciton between Shi`a and Sunni, and he'd probably spend most of his time with a limited subset of iraqis. i would find it pretty likely that he come away with once impresions of what Iraq was like.

similarly, suppose that member sof alien race came to earth to find about our religion. at least during early contact, they'd probably be unable to grasp the difference between Catholics, Protestants, and others. in fact, i don't fully grasp all the different smaller offshoots of chrisitanity. i imagine that most aliens would simply decide that chrisitianity is one religion and leave it at that. if they visisted mostly America, they might well have too little contact with adherents of other religions, like Buddhism, for them to take much note of it. while they'd probably notice the Jews, they might end up lumping them with the christians too.

similarly, when we met aliens, we might well have dealings mainly with teh upper class. we might undersdtand the basic beliefs held by most of their society, but not grasp internal distinctions such as religious disputes over seemingly small issues. so until we had long periosds of prolonged contact with aliens from all walks of their life, we would perceive them as prettyu homogenous, culturally

04-15-2005, 09:01 PM
There are also just as many books that do deal with diversity in their stories. A novel of any sort is telescopic view into a segment of a life or lives dealing with particular problems at a particular time. You are getting a close up view via the telescope but with the inherent limitations of a telescope in that you don't have the peripheral vision to view a larger picture.

Indeed, it would be difficult to encompass a world's complete history encapsulated within a few hundred thousand words, regardless if it's a fabricated world or not. The why of how a particular world owns it's beliefs or culture is usually alluded to enough to understand but not delved into deeply. It would take up more space than is required by the tale being told... unless you have all the time in the world to write a series that is perhaps 20 - 30 volumes long.

04-16-2005, 06:09 AM
actually, now that i think about it, it seems fairly plausible on a limited basis.

the central concept is that planets take the place of nations. therefore, national culture becomes planetary, while subtler intranational differences become intraplanetary ones.
That may well be how nations and species will perceive each other on a political level, as you say. But at the level of individuals, even the two ends of a moderately long street can have markedly different cultures, languages etc. and it would be interesting to explore this difference in perception, and how individual, civilian aliens might differ from the ones chosen to represent their society on the interplanetary stage.

[Somewhere I still have notes for a Star Trek story in which one of the characters was a lazy, laid-back Klingon academic whose dearest ambition was to become a burden on the state, if he could only find a state willing to let him. Just because the leaders you see on the telly are all gung-ho and militaristic, doesn't mean all the people are!]

04-16-2005, 08:50 PM
and i admit it's something you see on t.v. and movies moreso in books where you can give some cursory background information, if any at all. while i doubt you have to do 30 volumes to do a brief planetary history (an encompassing one, yes, like you mention), there's certainly the impression that prit near all planets visited are under one rule (eventho often a coup is in progress).

were we visited today by aliens, we as curious humans would want to know everything we possibly could about them, as much as they'd be willing to tell us. odd, that, i think: we'd probably wind up knowing more about them than we know about ourselves in a lot of ways. i reckon the united nations would insist on dealing with aliens, which no doubt is the only reason they stay away, heh heh. certainly before dropping in they'd have an overall of how earth works, but like FA said, maybe not down to the nth degree (although it shouldn't be surprising if they *did*).

interesting analogy about the long street, WH. i live on a long street which starts out on the posher side (where i used to live), the middle of the street (where i live now, just one street back), and where elm street crosses, it's a sharp drop into lower income houses. almost literally, the 'higher' you go up on the street the more expensive the homes are, and presumably the difference in lifestyle to a certain degree. while i can't say the culture is necessarily vastly different, certain outward aspects are markedly different, which certainly obviously reflects the economics of the two ends, but also reflects the attitudes in some way. and this had been a very redneck suburb, but the urban areas are emptying out by a lot of people and now we've got black families where we didn't before, and mexicans are spotted on a corner or two here and there, both of whom bring a different culture onto the street. not surprisingly, i know a lot of people who hate it, although most don't really care overmuch.

04-17-2005, 05:28 AM
We have for example Boswall, which is yobs and junkies at one end and quite respectable at the other, and Leith Walk, which is a mile long, and one end is rowdily working-class and the other end is a posh gay hang-out. Even the street where my shop is, which is all of 50 yards long, is posh arty shops at the top and hostels, soup-kitchens and drug-dealers at the bottom. And the different groups tend to have markedly different accents and vocabularies.

Btw, in case you thought I was exaggerating about criminal women on the other thread, this past week we had a 15-year-old girl fatally stabbed by a 17-year-old ditto after a trivial row at a party, and a 14-year-old girl on trial for the attempted murder of two adult men during a violent mugging (not solo - there were 3 or 4 boys with her as well).

04-17-2005, 01:32 PM
If you want to understand a civilisation where a single government with a single ideology rules over a large population without any form of dissent or opposition...start looking for the mass graves. They'll be there, trust me.

04-17-2005, 11:53 PM
in america, a lot of schools (mostly urban) required students to pass through a metal detector. plenty of girls have been caught trying to smuggle in razor blades in their mouth, as one way they'd fight each other is slashing at one another's faces. i've not heard if it being much of a problem in several years: it almost was a fad thing to do, it seemed.

it's weird. i graduated in 1988, and i think that was the last year where violence was contained to mostly fist-fights. class of '89 is where kids started bringing in guns and knives on an unprecedented scale (or maybe it's a case of them just getting caught? i tend not to agree with that, though, as i'd not even heard rumours of these things being carried in by the worst kids).

i think a lot of this is copy-cat type stuff. you see in a movie where the kids lie in the middle of a busy highway, then kids die doing it in real life. you see a story about one guy making a shoe bomb with a lighter, and now lighters on airplanes are forbidden. news reports about kids getting high off airplane glue sends kids right to the hobby shop.

that's not to say these people wouldn't have just done some other form of crime. people are pretty inventive when it comes to stuff like that, sometimes. one ex-con i know told me how they'd use to melt celophane wrappers from cigarette packs to make shivs out of. not really surprising: give a criminal all day to think about something and they're going to arrive at some conclusions, lol.

i think something else that should be considered is the economy of a place. naturally, were every job in america gone tomorrow, those who didn't kill themselves will eventually turn to crime if that's the only other recourse to feed their family. i once got into an argument with a girl who i otherwise wanted to sack because she said up and down how she wouldn't crash a bakery window to feed her kids. bullsh*t. if your one single option is pretty theft or starving your children, 99.9% of people, at least i think, would toss that brick. i would without a second's hesitation if i had no choice. ironically, this girl was a 20 year old single mother drinking beer with us, so not only was she breaking the law by being underage, she can't really claim to be highly pious having a child out of wedlock. but, oh, she wouldn't break a window to feed her child. yeah, right. gimme a break. i'm far more impressed with people when they admit what they'd do in a pinch than trying to impress me with their hypothetical ethics that fly in the face of everything else they say and do right in front of me.

i've seen chicks battle it out. things like what you describe only seems to come to our attention when someone gets killed. but the people i know who've been stabbed (actually, i've know quite a few, all male) are never the top news story of the day.

i blame rock and roll. it all started going to hell after that.

we don't have as many accents and terrifically different vernaculars one on end of the street as opposed to the other, but we're not as, ah, concentrated, i guess you could say, as maybe y'all are over there. i get some professional-type in a social situation and a lot of 'em abandon their eloquence and polished political correctness the moment you give 'em a beer. on a per capita basis, it's been my experience that a working-class person is just as 'good' as professionals are trained to be. that is, people is people.

i like what you said, zolah. i'm not a historian to debate it, though. a lot if not most successful civilizations have also been very warlike. propaganda programmes are usually tough to remove, too. for right or wrong, the east has operated under a code of honour, and how many people have died for that? not to mention repressing the women-folk. for right or wrong, americans have our 'duty,' reinforced, in my case, from first grade by saying the pledge of allegiance every morning then learning about how great the pilgrims were and how our country was based on getting away from oppression (oh, and the pilgrims weren't oppressive, as evidence by them getting the boot from how many european countries for their ultra-strict beliefs? lol), and not colonized by the europeans for profit. the point is those in power will use high ideals to get you to do what they want you to do. amazingly, globalization has been tauted as the best thing since sliced bread from time to time, saying how better off we all are now while plant after plant shuts down and you can't hardly talk to someone who speaks your language when you need technical advice. those in power say it's a great opportunity for people to go back to school and improve their lives (conveniently neglecting to say that you're now if competition with everyone else that's been displaced on top of the kids who'll do the same job for less).

04-18-2005, 05:41 AM
I don't believe it's possible to make a shiv from melted cellophane. Have you tried it? Last time I saw heat applied to cellophane, it burned. Besides, consider just how much cellophane it would take to produce a single shiv.

Rock and roll isn't anymore to blame for how bad society is than any other kind of music. It's a reflection of society. Nothing more. There were gangs a century ago and a century before that. What's changed is the ready availability of weapons to people who have no need for them except for illegal usage.

04-18-2005, 10:09 AM
having never been to prison i have to defer to one with that experience. doesn't matter really how much cellophane it takes, they'd use that much, i reckon.

i don't think rock and roll was a reflection as much as an instigator (now, really, i don't believe this, but just playing devil's advocate. guess i forgot to add the smiley to the previous statement.) by the same token, what long-standing social relevance has jazz, for example, had where you could point to it and say, 'wow, it all went downhill from there, huh,'? defenders of r&r like to paint it as a symptom. how true is that, though?

04-19-2005, 03:42 AM
in SF, we see all the time new worlds with apparently one culture (most prevalent in t.v. and movies, of course, where there's no time and probably little interest in delving too deep into it). assuming most worlds developed along the same lines as earth (which is easy to assume, seeing as how most of the planets have a lot in common with earth, right down to geography and comparable physical bodies and psychologies), what would it take for earth to come together under one umbrella?The one-world culture trope is one of the things I find most implausible about a lot of SF movies and TV. In most cases, I think, it's just lazy world building (like the one-world fashion sense that usually goes along with it). Assuming humanoids and human-style cultures, it just doesn't seem plausible to me at all that such a degree of homogeneity could ever naturally come about. Human history is much more about division and diversity than about unification and similarity.

The only situation in which I can imagine a one-world culture is if there were some overwhelming outside threat or disaster that forced different societies to unite to combat it, or if the culture were alien in some really fundamental way.

- Victoria

04-19-2005, 04:08 AM
The only situation in which I can imagine a one-world culture is if there were some overwhelming outside threat or disaster that forced different societies to unite to combat it, or if the culture were alien in some really fundamental way.

- Victoria

Or a disaster that left only one culture. Of course, it could be interesting taking that premise and then showing how the culture fragments as factions grow in power and force each other and themselves to take on various roles.

04-19-2005, 06:12 AM
of course history has been mroe about diversification than unification. that's because the great unifying technologies and sociasl structures are of relatively recent invention. i'm saying that it is possible, not guarenteed, but a plausible S-F premise, that given enough time, a global economy and government will lead to near homogeneity.Preyer- your latest post baffles me. i don't know what it was supposed to be about,or what relevance it has to the thread, and i disagree with many of the views espoused.

for the record, globalizationhas had some negative effects, as every social or technological advance has had. perhapsa the most significant is allowing a rebalancing of the standards of different societies. formerly, american workers competed with other americans in a situation where they all demanded far more than is typical in the rest of the world. being forced into competition with the inhabitants of poorer countries will temporarily cause some displacement, but the solution is to keep progressing until we achieve a world-wide standard of libving which we all find tolerable. of course, that won't ever be completely acheived, but the need to try is an inevitable consequence of the same advances which allow us to be here on this message board.

iI'm none too sure about copycats ebing terrible prevalent. i chalk it up to a heightened interest in that kind of story. the enws media are always happy to fabricate a trend.

04-19-2005, 11:46 AM
being a victim of globalization, we're bound not to see eye-to-eye on it. i find it very dubious anyone would call themselves 'temporarily displaced' with a smile on their face if it was them who just lost their job and now have to turn around and start working for a new company, having given the last one eleven years of their life like i had. so some mexicans can have my job, make a crappy product (which is proven to be the case), and *still* live in squalor? the vast majority of american jobs lost have gone directly to third world countries. the reason isn't to raise their standard of living. anyone who spouts that jibberish is, well, i'll be nice and say 'not right.' these jobs go to third world countries not for quality issued, it's pure plain money. even at minimum wage, americans can't compete. and now that mexico is wanting more money, the shift has been more to china, but even there things seem to be changing gradually, as it's my understanding, thus it's now india and pakistan who are getting work. once they want more, the shift will be to the next third world country.

it's a bubble that will burst. when it does, america will be the worse off for it while those countries won't have progressed virtually one iota. they're certainly not getting paid enough to buy the products they produce. they depend greatly on americans essentially buying back our own product, and once we can't (this particularly applies to the auto industry in which i worked), they'll be 'permanently laid-off', too.

so, with all due respect towards you and your opinion, please don't tell me i lost my job for the betterment of the world. that'd be utterly ignorant nonsense. and please don't say i, as a union member, made too much money. unless, of course, you want to pisss me right the hell on off, lol. suffice it to say i earned every dime i made.

i'm not sure what you're baffled about, FA. i've otherwise just responded to threads and comments, some of which may go off on a tangent for a little bit. you hardly need anyone's permission to debate anything you don't agree with. sadly, i feel we probably have very little common ground when it comes to issues outside literary discussions, so that you disagree with a lot of what i wrote doesn't come as any surprise.

i agree the media fabricates trends. always have to a certain extent. thus the old saying (paraphrased), 'newspapers are half gossip, half lies, and half truths.' a lot of newspapers in particularly have political affiliations, so by 'fabricating,' i also mean the order and prominance of the articles can certainly lead a casual reader over time to give more weight to an issue or ideal than it merits on its own.

funny, too, that plenty of very evolved worlds like to walk around in robes. does wearing a robe harken back to great greek philosophers, illustrating how intellectually advanced they are? if your society were so intellectually advanced, would that negate its potential for waging war?

04-20-2005, 01:41 AM
I'm not trying to downplay the suiffering caused by globalization, and by "temporary" i mean temporary in the sense of history. of courtse, lasting harm will be done to a number of people and careers. things may not whooly improve in our lifetimes. but every kind of progress or development has attendant problems, and the answer is not to reject the advance or principle. ultimately, globalization couldn't be stopped anymroe even if we wanted to, without repressive isolationist governments, and anyway i hope the ultimately the benefits will outweigh the costs.