Landscapes of Change: Science, Science Fiction, and Advances in Biology

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Bergethon, Peter R. "Landscapes of Change: Science, Science Fiction, and Advances in Biology". New Boundaries in Political Science Fiction. Donald M. Hassler and Clyde Wilcox, editors. Columbia, SC: U of South Carolina Press, 2008: [3]-16.[1]

Excellent on Isaac Asimov's 1953 essay "Social Science Fiction" (rpt., among other places, Science Fiction: The Future, 1st, and also 2nd edn. [1983]), as an introduction to scientific thinking — and most immediately for users of this wiki, the Conclusion, pp. 12-15, especially section 3, "Biology, evolution, and nanotechnology are probably linked" (pp. 14-15; italics removed).

The fact that the complicated machinery of biological cells and organism apparently undergoes a "just-in-time" and "point-of-action" style of control has important implications when self-organizing biological systems are considered. The exciting new technology at the turn of the millennium is nanotechnology. Nanotechnology focuses on manufacturing processes that will arrange atoms in precise and detailed positions in order to gain function. In its current conception, these manufacturing processes will lead to revolutions in small, molecular-sized devices for material manufacture (food, building materials, pollution control), manipulation (nano-devices to repair diseased tissues and cure disease), and computation (nano-computers). To the biologist, nanotechnology and nanomachines sound like cellular systems. It seems likely that the control mechanisms of successful nanotechnological machines will be organized in the same fashion as the decentralized, biological, self-organizing systems described above [here: below]. This implies a remarkable degree of autonomy and self-organizing systems that will evolve on their own. Evolution in this context is likely an emergent property of a complex, decentralized, self-organizing system. Once started[,] such machines will evolve steadily toward evermore lifelike action [AL: Artificial Life]. (p. 14)

Note: Section 1 of the Conclusion concludes "In nature, permissive systems become extinct, collapsing under their own weight. Conservative systems survive and flourish. This fundamental view of the natural order of biological life will inevitably find its way into social and political science fiction in the coming years" (p. 13) — a conservative reading that can prove usefully provocative.

RDE, finishing, 22Dec21