The Evolution of Knowledge

It is interesting to note the evolution of human knowledge in each of the science fiction texts that we have read so far. In particular, I will discussed the following four short stories: “The Man Who Evolved”, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, “Will We Plug Computer Into Our Brains?” and “How We Became PostHuman.”

Initially, in “The Man Who Evolved” (1931), Hamilton describes Pollard’s quest for higher knowledge. His experiment is driven by his thirst to unearth imporatant and fundamental information about the world and humankind. In order to achieve this, he embarks on a dangerous experiment that enables him to expand his knowledge at a lethal cost. The consequence of exploring this forbidden terrority is that Pollard ends up getting killed. But in this story, it is consequential to note that the characters acquire knowledge without use of any technology.

In “Where No Man Has Gone Before” (1965), Gary Mitchell comes into contact with strange omnipotent powers. As a result with his interaction with the barrier, he becomes “godlike” and excessively arrogant. This episode of Star Trek is not unlike the Hamilton story, but I find it interesting how there are more lethal consequences of Science Fiction in this. In the Hamilton story, the allure of knowledge resulted in one man’s death. In this story, there are more casualties and far more at stake. This episode emphasizes the destructive nature of knowledge.

As we focus on the next few stories, knowledge becames less associated with power and more so with technology. In Gibson’s “Will We Plug Computers Into Our Brains?” (2000) and in Hayes’s “How We Became Posthuman” (1999), both authors describe the role of knowledge within technology. For instance, in Gibson’s essay, he discusses the idea of inserting a silicon chip into the human mind. The chip represents knowledge and by inserting it into our brains, we are essentially acquiring knowledge through technology. I thought an especially telling line of the essay was about how “our hardware, I think, is likely to turn into something like us a lot faster than we are likely to turn into something like our hardware. Our hardware is evolving at the speed of light, while we are still the product, for the most part, of unskilled labor” (Gibson). Hayes, too, discusses the concept of human information existing just as easily in a computer as in a biological human being. Like Gibson, Hayes’s essay spends much time discussing the role of technology and its potential to serve and exceed ours needs.

One thing is for sure. A lot of the newer Science Fiction stories deal greatly with the topic of technology. Even in the latest stories that we have read in class, like “Burning Chrome” (1982) and The Calcutta Chromosome (1995), the role of technology in a world of hacking to capture forbidden information is absolutely crucial. Even the belief of acquiring knowledge (which in Hamilton’s and Goldstone’s stories) went from being dangerous to being almost encouraged. One can only assume this trend parallels our own world’s constantly shifting focus on technology.

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