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Dare to Be Aggressively Humble

Space dork

The two most canonical science fiction works when I started high school in the mid nineteen seventies were Dune, which around then was still a trilogy, and the Foundation series, also a trilogy. Dune was written by Frank Herbert, and Foundation by Isaac Asimov. Both authors were born in 1920. Herbert died in 1986, Asimov in 1992.


In both trilogies, humans have established themselves on planets all over the galaxy. In both trilogies, the organizing model of the galaxy is The Empire. Empire is, in fact, the name of the cloned multigenerational triumvirate ruler in Foundation. The head of the galactic empire in the Dune universe is The Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV of House Corrino.


I wonder how much those seminal science fiction trilogies – the Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia of science fiction – influenced the galactically imperial daydreams of today’s crop of eugenicist utilitarians calling themselves “long-termists.” I love the quotation from Vonnegut I keep seeing on social media that may or may not be a rebuttal to these would-be space edge-lord conquistadors: “To me, wanting every habitable planet to be inhabited is like wanting everybody to have athlete's foot.”


“Why do you find it necessary to call them edge lords,” you might ask. I didn’t. I called them Space Edge Lords. Because all three of the highest profile examples of over-privileged jerks only went to the edge of space. Richard Branson is the third, in case you forgot. They’re lords of the edge of space. Space edge lords. Also, ultimately the edge lord’s signature activities eventually end in ejaculation. This alludes to my earlier labeling of Foundation and Dune as perhaps seminal influences on these space edge lords and their lusting after planetary colonization. It’s all conjecture at this point, though, I admit.


You might not know this, but Vonnegut wrote a humorous story on the subject of inseminating the Andromeda galaxy. He wrote it for an anthology Harlan Ellison, the bad boy of science fiction, was putting together called Again, Dangerous Visions, an appropriate title for a follow up to his first such anthology, Dangerous Visions. Vonnegut’s story was called “The Big Space Fuck.” Read it and then see “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I guarantee you’ll laugh when you first see the ship, Discovery One. Or just look at Bezos’s edge-lord rocket. There’s a visual joke for you.


In Vonnegut’s story, Earth is going to launch a rocket ship full of semen into space to spread the seed of humanity. The rocket is called The Arthur C. Clarke, named after the author of the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey and the co-author with Kubrick of the screenplay. It’s very, very short. The Vonnegut story, not Arthur C. Clarke’s “rocket.”

Here’s the link:

It's only fitting that our three paragons of space edge lordship should be supremely vain and neurotically worried about the way the public perceives them. They are the most obscenely obnoxious clown mascots of capitalist overreach. They represent everything wrong with the way our species is being piloted toward its destiny. They are drunk drivers of a third-millennium falcon squirting from their joysticks as they zap into hyperspace.


It's the utterly wrong thinking and behavior they themselves exemplify so comically that dooms us humans never to fulfill their asinine ambition. We’ll be lucky to survive to the end of the twenty-first century, let alone continue our turgid rush toward the unreachable limits of knowledge and endeavor.


I see us, assuming we survive, ten thousand years in the future. Our numbers have been whittled to maybe a dozen small tribes. We strive to maintain our languages, but it’s a losing effort. We as a species are on our way out. Whenever they can bring themselves to look upon our disgrace, the neighboring polar gorillas, who have mastered the art of making fire, eye us with pity.

But one or more of us happen to salvage copies of The Foundation Trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation; and Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune. We strain to read them to each other in the eternally cloudy dusk of the last temperate forests at the South Pole, but we are successful in spite of the waning of the light and of our intellectual powers.

Do we laugh at the hubris of imperial speculation? Do we snicker: how funny these people were to believe that their worst impulses would somehow lead them to spread themselves across the Milky Way where they would thrive, rather than drown in an ocean of their own filth on the tiny, parochial planet they barely strayed a few million miles from. Isn’t it rich?


Is that what we’ll cackle?

Or will we believe those books are ancient historical texts describing the once glorious history of our decayed species? Will we weep and rend our garments like the people of Israel by the rivers of Babylon remembering Zion? Will we flagellate ourselves in penance? Will we cry out in atonement for the failure of a once great galactic civilization, a failure of which we are the last, evaporating stains of evidence?


More fun than that, will we perhaps celebrate a holiday during which we revile the errors of old? Will we maybe invent three hundred sixty-five such holidays, one for every day of the year? We’ll sing songs about not going down that road of poisoning ourselves and the world this time, siblings. We’ll not allow lords to lord it over us. We’ll not merely exclude ambitious warriors from our peaceful societies, but anathematize their overweening desires for domination.


We will cut every egoist down in their prime by drumming into them their own humble humanity. Every winner will be taught they are not better than any loser. The value of every human, every animal, every plant, every mushroom, every slime mold, every river, every rock, every breath of air will be drummed into these wannabe Alexanders, Picassos, Genghises, Buckleys, Shakespeares, Edisons, Leonardos and Einsteins. Oh, what you create is beautiful, Picasso, and your equations sublimely elegant, Einstein, but look at the opalescent drool of the legless, brain-damaged twisted human born of fetal alcohol syndrome. Are you better than this?


Is your life worth more? No, we’ll admonish them, a thousand times No. The beauty you create is as the drool of human gargoyles, and their drool as sublime as your most treasured masterpiece.


And I know this sounds, superficially, like the story “Harrison Bergeron” from Vonnegut’s collection, Welcome to the Monkey House, but it’s not. Non-rights-depriving achievement contributing to the common good and joy will not be hindered, just put in its proper perspective.


And then we’ll end the year by burning in effigy the three space edge lords, and dance around the flames chanting, “Not this time. Not this time. Not this time you naked emperors of nothing!”


But why wait? Why oughtn’t we try this out right now, before the worship of overfed wealth-hording self-pleasuring chew-pizzles takes us all the way down to ignominy and ruin. Burn them in effigy. Although, as long as they’re contemporaneous with us, why waste effigy stuffing? The better future loves a good human sacrifice. The better future loves the smell of burning imperial flesh.


Do we dare dream of a better, non-imperial future? Let’s. Let’s dare.

Vonnegut Asimov Dune Edgelords Moment of Truth Long-termism


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