October 24, 2007

Temporal Insults

Having finally got around to seeing the Transformers movie, I found myself getting aggravated by the implications of one small bit of dialogue.

It made me think of that old saying, "Those that can, do." I wonder what percentage of sci-fi writer in Hollywood were, at one time or another, aspiring scientist or engineers. 

Millions of man-hours, oceans of sweat and tears, and trillions of dollars have gone into the development of the technologies we enjoy today. The fact that I can sit here avoiding work while plugging away at a piece of software developed in Australia, hosted in the US, and that eventually broadcasts my meager rantings to the rest of the world (am I banned in China yet?) over an interconnected system of integrated circuits, fiber-optics, and maybe even across some man-made chunks of metal orbiting in space, is a testament to the work done by millions of incredibly smart and diligent people before me.


Which is why I'm not about to denigrate those people by claiming that the technology of our modern age is built on alien, future, or stolen technology.

Transformers' writers claim O'RLY?

This certianly isn't the first time a sci-fi show has insulted the hard work of real scientists and engineers.

Star Trek has gone down this road several times. Voyager Enterprise says Temporal shenanigans are always dropping "futuristic" technologies in our lap, not years of study and hard work. We 21st century neanderthals are too simple to figure this stuff out on our own.

Stargate seems to swing back and forth between mocking and adoring scientists. Being set in the present insulates them somewhat from the holier-than-thou attitude of Star Trek, but they still imply that many of the cool widgets we see coming into the public sphere are the result of recently stolen/adapted alien technology.

And I'm sure there are many other examples from sci-fi I've never seen.

New technology does diffuse between cultures over time, and after these exchanges, rapid development can and does happen. The Middle East as we know it today, as backward a place as it can sometimes seem, would be a very different place without Western technology trickling in over the last two centuries. But these are matters of historical record, not fiction.

Some of the largest consumers of sci-fi entertainment are those very same scientists, engineers, and all-around geeks who bring these modern wonders to the rest of humanity. To have the integrity of your work impugned by your own entertainment just seems odd. I guess a great many of us are willing to shrug off a minor slap in the face for the chance to see our high-tech far-flung fantasies brought to life.

Posted in Random Debris by: Will at 03:38 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 I'm one of those engineers, and when I run into this kind of thing I just consider the source, grin, and move on.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 24, 2007 11:55 PM (+rSRq)


I'm sure a lot of this is driven by adolescent (or not so adolescent) yearnings for the existence of real aliens and time travelers, etc.. Haruhi-ism lite I guess. Lots of desires for weirdness but thankfully none of the omnipotence to bring it about. I just didn't think to put all that in the original rant.


Posted by: Will at October 25, 2007 08:00 AM (WnBa/)

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