Thursday, June 24, 2010

TED Thursday: Free Inquiry

Scientific Exploration is essential to expanding our understanding and ability to work with the world around us.  It is not a luxury.  How we choose to approach science and the efforts of scientists will determine some very critical social factors in the years ahead.  But then, that has always been the case, since the discovery of fire and moving out of the caves into yurts, cabins and chateaus.  Societies can be seen to thrive or decline, based in large part upon their acceptance, adaptation and attitude in regard to science and scientific inquiry.

"Nothing is more fatal to the progress of the human mind than to presume that our views of science are ultimate, that our triumphs are complete, that there are no mysteries in nature, and that there are no new worlds to conquer."
Humphrey Davy
This is how we handle Free Scientific Inquiry in Riskail

It was too late to crawl back into a cardboard box and ignore everything long before the Luddites were ever even any sort of codified movement.  Scientific inquiry in the hands of corporate or governmental powers leads to distorted outcomes that cater to the interests of those powers and not necessarily the best interests of humanity, nor of Polite Society.  Amongst the Known Worlds scientific inquiry is free from the old restrictions and distortions of the Age of Toxicity.

Innovation and invention did not end with the establishment of the Sea Gates, nor did science come to an end with the advent of artificial intelligences.  Far from it.  As the various gate networks proliferated outwards, ever outwards and onwards into the farthest reaches of space and time itself, there was just that much more to learn, to discover, to explore.  The gates have expanded faster and farther than anyone could keep up with, the sheer volume of inter-connected territory available to anyone willing to make the assay is beyond mortal comprehension.  Even immortal scholars and artilects have difficulty fathoming it all.  Entire new mathematics have been invented just to be able to discuss the rate of expansion and development for the Known Worlds.  Whole new fields of science have been opened up by the observations, feed-back and records accumulated by the Deep Infrastructure as it has autonomously guided the ongoing work of expansion, terraforming and ecological integration.

All of that data, all of those records, all that accumulated information and more resides in strata after strata of public domain databases that anyone can access as they so will.  This is part of the legacy of the builders, and it is part of the inheritance of all humanity.  Having all of this ever-increasing body of information immediately and freely available to everyone has ushered in an era of free inquiry that has rocked Polite Society to its core on more than one occasion.  Scientific Revolutions are very real and very dangerous in Riskail.  The last one has left lingering after-shocks that are still being sorted-out and mitigated by crack teams of municipal disaster recovery thralls to this very day.

The sheer amount of data and information freely available to anyone even vaguely interested is staggering.  Scholars and scientists work with hosts of specialized AI and other types of constructs in order to sift through it all, searching for meaningful patterns, looking for clues to age old mysteries, and expanding the boundaries of the known and the quantified with each question posed, every database query and/or exploration and analysis of the ever-expanding wealth of data available to them.  Some scholars specialize in drawing inferential connections between the works of others.  There are scientists who focus on the ruthless pursuit of answers to timeless questions that have dogged humanity from the beginning of consciousness.  Then there are the Insane Geniuses.  These are the people who have delved far more deeply into the accumulated databases of all that is known than anyone else.  They have gone into the darkness of the Unknown and come back with entirely new languages, new technologies, new paradigms and conceits, a vast panoply of destablizing inventions, radical innovations and things never before seen nor imagined.  Their insanity is not a disability, nor is it an affliction; they are insane because their knowledge and discoveries have taken them beyond anyting that conventional society can recognize or deal with appropriately at this time.  They are caught-up within their work and their research to the point that they cannot relate to lesser mortals any longer.  Many of them take sabbaticals, spending decades in quiet retirement and meditation within some Asylum-Chateau along the River Senube in order to more fully process their findings, and to give the rest of the world a chance to catch up to their findings.  Others retreat to stasis-cysts so that they might sleep undisturbed until such time as their genius might be more readily appreciated by Polite Society.  Still others attempt to implement their plans and designs, foisting well-intentioned innovations upon an unsuspecting public, almost all of which inevitably lead to turmoil, disruption and sometimes bloodshed and Revolution as society tries to come to terms with the new ways of doing, thinking and acting precipitated by their inventions.

Fortunes are made and lost and re-made and onwards in a never-ending cycle of innovation, introduction, adoption and obsolescence.  Old ideas that were dismissed or previously discredited or a failure can often be revived, revised and re-introduced all over again after a few hours, days or weeks.  Some of the more peculiar notions might take longer, say a month or two.  But in the end, whatever can be designed, can be built.  Whatever can be described, can be developed.  Not only has technology become autonomous, so has science and the pursuit of knowledge been liberated as well.  And this is where the Artist, the Scholar and the Scientist meet, merge and often overlap with one another.  Sometimes this leads to beautiful things, such as some of the ornamental species or the more elegant Synthecosms, other times to horrors previously unimagined like some of the more notorious Viruxes.

Riskail, as a confluence-point of the Twelve Great Powers, is a renaissance society.  In the truest sense of the word.

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