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Ken MacLeod
science fiction author

In science fiction, the key challenge is thinking about questions of the future. Some of the tools we have for thinking are broken or blunted. The climate change issue is a good example. It’s difficult for the informed lay person even to decide if there’s a problem or not. The difficulty lies not in the complexity of the science, but in the subversion of the institutions of science, communication and democracy. The role of the interest groups involved, whether it’s the energy corporations or the environmental campaigners, has been to accuse the other side of doing what the other side accuses them of doing - namely, subversion.

We need to invent new mechanisms of trust and verification, as the futurist K. Eric Drexler argued in Engines of Creation. But we also need to reawaken confidence in what are, with telling disparagement, called ‘technical fixes’. New and/or improved methods of generation and transmission could achieve the modest goal of bringing electricity to every household on earth and the greater goal of making the whole carbon issue irrelevant. As well as standing for a new Enlightenment, we should raise again the banner of Improvement.

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