Thursday, October 23, 2008

You must remember this ... or, maybe not

As a science fiction writer, I keep an eye on breaking science and technology stories, and sometimes they can be a leeetle bit perturbing.

Where's the story about the flying car, the starship engine, the time machine? Of these, there is no sign, and yet mind control and memory erasure are apparently (!) almost within our grasp. Which is worrying, because this planet is in an incredible mess, both environmentally and politically speaking,with an assortment of lunatics and maniacs in charge ... and scientists are rapidly placing into their hands the tools to bring about the classic Orwellian future.

Did you see the story, yesterday? It's all over the web today; here is is a Science Daily:

Memories Selectively, Safely Erased In Mice.

Well, everything starts out with research in mice and progresses up the ladder from there, which is fine ... unless you're a mouse, of course. But then again, since you just had your memory erased, you can't remember what the humans did to you, so, what the hey?

Is anyone out there old enough to remember the SF novels from the 1960s? The best of the earlier SF from 1940 onward was reprinted in that era, as well as a lot of new stuff. You had short novels like The Android Avenger and The Mad Metropolis and what have you ... the word "dystopian" took on a whole new meaning.

A familiar theme in those days was "the government uses a massive computer to scan people's minds, and then either wipes the minds of the "deviants," or sends them laboring in the asteroid mines, or executes them. It made for fun reading, I'll tell you -- and Ace Science Fiction made a ton of money on these novels, at about 40c a pop. I read this stuff in the late 60s and early 70s ... I read way ahead of my reading age, and was encouraged to read anything and everything.

But there was always a cushy sense of, "it makes a good story but it can't possibly happen, because these things are utterly impossible."

Uh...huh. Right. Okay. That certainly explains TIME Magazine's feature article last month, "The Army's Totally Serious Mind Control Project." Read it here:,8599,1841108,00.html

The issue of memory erasure is yet another double-edged sword, which goes hand in hand with mind control. Consider this:

First, you'd blank key memories in the person's mind ... those memories which tell you and me what's right, wrong, rational, compassionate, sane and bonkers. Then you reprogram the individual with whatever the game plan is today, wind him up, (or her; I'm impartial), hand out the automatic weapons, and send 'em off to war.

This is an SF scenario from waaaay back when. It was done best in the Kurt Russell movie, SOLDIER. If you can rent it, do. It's ... a very good movie, as well as being chilling in more ways than on. Russell must have worked for months to get the physique ... time which he didn't have to spend learning his dialog; he doesn't have any. Cool.

(It's not a movie you'll watch often, but Jason Scott Lee and Jason Isaacs were very good in this; and Russell was in another league from the usual. I can't say "highly recommended" as a movie, because it's not that pleasant; but "highly recommended" as a piece of movie making, with a "message" that has (unfortunately) been lost among the SF and special effects. Take a fresh look at it, in light of what's starting to happen on the line where science and SF meet and become somewhat fuzzy. Hmmm.

Of course, it's not all bad news. We might not be getting flying cars anytime soon, but a little while ago BMW unveiled a new model ... imagine this: a Bimmer that's also a shapeshifter. The car changes its morphology to suit the caprice of its driver. (Take that, Batman!) BMW released a photo shoot of the car in various modes, and I was reminded of something right out of the NARC series:

Some things in the future are going to be very cool indeed. Mind you, they're also going to cost an arm and a leg. Seriously. We're slithering into an era where you could sell your limbs and organs for human transplants. No joke. Did you see the news story last week about the guy in German who lost both arms in a combine harvester accident, and back in July surgeons grafted on a pair of replacement limbs ... and they work. See it (with picture) here:

...woah. But it's all going to cost megabucks. Folks like you and me won't be able to afford this stuff, though we'll be able to drool over the later offspring of the BMW Gina (the shapeshifting car, above) as it drives by ... "poodling" sloooowly down the street so everyone can see it.

And you find yourself imagining a society in which the super-rich can have the high-tech cars and the transplant organs, while the story at street level doesn't change a hell of a lot -- save for the gradual phasing-in of things which are for our own good; like the selective memory erasure.

Suppose the Dominionists get into power in the US in 4, or 8, or 16 years. (Don't get me started on Dominionists! If you're not aware of who they are, just SEARCH on this blog, right here, and I've posted several times about them -- and how close they are to the White House.) Suppose they do indeed intend to switch out the US Constitution for Old Testament law, which folks like McCain and Palin believe has to be instituted all over the world and reign for a thousand years (!) before Jesus will get himself back here...

Now, it would be bloody damned hard to make a country like the USA conform to Old Testament law ... unless you selectively erased what you didn't want people to remember/know, and replaced it with, say, Biblical teachings dished up in classrooms, along with the Creationism lessons.

In fact, it's not actually that hard to get people to forget what's important. Alas, it's happening every day -- and an unfortunately apt example of this is the fact that African Americans are much more likely that their white neighbors to vote "Yes" to Proposition 8, which will ban gay marriage rights in California.

It's counter intuitive. You'd be prepared to swear that Americans of color would fight tooth and claw to prevent civil liberties being taken away. But in fact, they're likely to believe that "marriage is something that happens between a man and a woman." Why? Because their pastor told them so.

Half a century ago, African Americans were categorized as labor-grades by society, and as the comedy relief in movies. Their rights were few, and they were often treated with derision -- especially when they attended church, where they sang and danced. Other Christians would respond with gales of laughter to the weird exhibition in the church. It took many years of struggle, hard work, clean living, courage and intelligence to earn, and keep, the civil liberties African Americans enjoy today. And then you read stuff like this:,0,895684.story

The story is called, "Black clergy both for and against gay marriage speak out."

...and at this point, one just gives up. In future, we're going to get to the point where memory erasure can be achieved chemically in an afternoon; but right now we're at a point in history where all you have to do is tell people, "God says this," and "God says that," and tell them often enough, and loudly enough --

And they'll forget the past and, secure in their own civil liberties, blithely vote to confiscate civil liberties from other users of this poor planet, who are just as deserving of freedom as they are. (Unless you listen to churchmen, of course. Then the whole world goes haywire.)

Meanwhile, UFOs have been seen over Australia in vastly increasing numbers in the last few years. Any chance the aliens might get here in the nick of time and rescue us all from ourselves?!

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