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Alexey Dodsworth (Universities of São Paulo and Venice) “’All These Worlds Are Yours – Except Europa’: On Ethics of Terraforming, and the future of space settlements.”

It is in 2001 and 2010 that Clarke foresees the existence of alien life in the ocean of the Jovian moon Europa. It is noteworthy that such works were written in the 60s and 80s, when the astrophysical concept of “circumstellar habitable zone” (CHZ) was still restricted to planetary bodies orbiting within a specific stellar distance in which the existence of liquid water could be made feasible depending on the stellar heat. Therefore by taking into account the CHZ variables of our solar system, Mars was supposed to be its habitable limit.

However, in spite of being in discordance of the scientific knowledge then in force, Clarke’s unusual bets have been proven to be quite right. During the year 2003, NASA was surprised by the discovery of an ocean more massive than the terrestrial one, under a layer of ice in the moon Europa. That is, Europa does indeed have liquid solvents, which makes this Jovian moon (as well as several Saturnine moons) a potentially habitable location. The concept of CHZ has since been reconsidered in order to cover previously unlikely planetary sites i.e. bodies beyond Mars.

Nowadays astrobiologists tend to admit that our universe is probably biophilic, that is conducive to the existence of life. The “rare Earth” hypothesis has been replaced by indications that the cosmos is replete with potentially habitable sites.

In the face of this new and surprising scenario, bioethical issues will play a key role in space settlement projects. Fundamental bioethical questions arise: What has superior intrinsic value? How should we behave in the face of the possibility of colonising other worlds? For anthropocentrists it is the human being who has superior intrinsic value, that is we are ontologically allowed to colonise and terraform whatever we want. For ecocentrists it is not mankind but life that has an intrinsic value, regardless of its contingential form. Zoocentrists tend to attribute intrinsic value to some species to the detriment of others. Cosmocentrists argue that even uninhabited worlds have intrinsic value and therefore humans have no right to terraform them. As the cosmic imperative of preserving potentially biotic sites is expressed through the fictional character Bowman in his transhuman-energetic version: “All these worlds are yours – except Europa. Attempt no landings here”. I intend to advocate in favour of strong ecocentric bioethics, just as Clarke did through his books.

Alexey Dodsworth is an SF writer, and a Brazilian-Italian PhD scholar currently based in Venice, Italy. His research on transhumanism, ethics and space settlements has been under development at both the universities of São Paulo and Venice. Dodsworth was awarded in 2015 with the Argos prize for his sci-fi book “Dezoito de Escorpião”. His book “Extemporâneo” was selected and sponsored by the cultural action program of the State of São Paulo in 2016. Dodsworth was the special adviser in the Ministry of Education in Brazil during 2015, and served as consultant on ethics to UNESCO in Brazil for three years.”

 

 

Dr Robert Poole (Uclan) “A Prophet in His Own Future: Clarke, NASA, and 2001

This paper looks at how Arthur C. Clarke sought to capitalise upon the success of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey to campaign for a post-Apollo program of manned flights to the solar system. It uses material from both the Kubrick and Clarke archives and from NASA papers in the Library of Congress.

Clarke’s collaboration with Kubrick on 2001 boosted his profile as a space advocate. He was invited to NASA in 1965 to advise them on how to adapt the space program to capture the public imagination, and addressed several international space conferences. In late 1966, as it became clear that 2001 would not be the kind of hard-SF pro-space film that Clarke had first envisaged, he founded the Spaceward Corporation with the publicist Thomas Buck. The aim was to capitalise upon the expected success of 2001 and build public support for a further round of the manned space exploration. He wrote a new manifesto for space travel, The Promise of Space, embarking on a lecture tour of the United States to promote it in connection with 2001, and turning it into a 90-minute documentary. He and Buck also approached numerous figures in the world of space technology to support a further film on man”s future in space, but NASA, suspicious of over-visionary advocacy, refused to co-operate and the film was never made. Meanwhile the manned space program was drastically cut as public support subsided.

This story demonstrates both the scale of Clarke’s visionary ambitions for manned space flight and the limited practical influence which he had in the corporate world of space technology despite his status as a figurehead. It also points up the very different views which Kubrick and Clarke had during its making of what kind of film 2001 should be.

Robert Poole is author of:

“The myth of progress: 2001: A Space Odyssey”, in Limiting Outer Space: Astroculture After Apollo ed. Alexander C. T. Geppert (Palgrave Macmillan, Dec. 2017).

2001: A Space Odyssey and the dawn of man”, in Stanley Kubrick: New Perspectives ed. P. Kramer, T. Ljujic & R. Daniels (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2015).

“The challenge of the spaceship: Arthur C. Clarke and the history of the future, 1945-75”, History and Technology 28, 3, “European Astroculture” (Autumn 2012).

Earthrise: How Man First Saw the Earth (Yale University Press, 2008).

Thomas Connolly (Maynooth University) “Asimov and Clarke: Two Visions of Human Society”

Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov make up two of the “Big Three” names that dominated mid-century Anlgophone SF (the third, of course, being Robert Heinlein). Yet, although the two writers shared a warm friendship lasting until Asimov’s death in 1992, their conceptions of human society differed wildly. I will here take a closer look at how each writer envisioned human society, making the argument that Asimov and Clarke each crystallised a certain set of ideas concerning the human that can be correlated to the US and British SF traditions.

Asimov’s view of humanity emerges in part as a response to US technological hegemony in the mid-century period. The SF of the “Golden Age” pulps, particularly Astounding under the editorship of Campbell, abounds with stories of human technological triumph, and Asimov’s stories form part of a lineage of triumphalist technocratic SF extending back to the early space operas of Smith, Campbell, and Hamilton. His works dramatise the conflict between the individual as social actor on the one hand and passive victim of socio-historical forces on the other. The resulting view of the individual that emerges is largely mechanistic: like his famous robots, Asimov’s humans are determined by fixed, calculable behaviours, subject to mass biopolitical control by faceless organisations (as evident in, for example, the Foundation series). In this, Asimov ultimately espouses a variation of US postwar social engineering, in which the individual is sublimated to the needs of mass society.

Clarke, conversely, although an avid reader of the US pulps, was also influenced by the tradition of British speculative fiction, particularly Olaf Stapledon, that tempers his hard SF works with a metaphysical bent. Like Asimov, Clarke’s works are concerned with questions of individual agency and the form of human society, and are also committed to a version of post-national technocratic imperialism centred on space travel. But where Asimov advocates a system perhaps best characterised as biopolitical anti-humanism, Clarke’s more sceptical position regarding the potentially destructive impacts of technological rationalisation leads him reject mechanistic interpretations of human nature in favour of a kind of organic humanism, in which the needs of individuals and the needs of society are brought into egalitarian alignment in a process of cosmic transcendence.

As is clear, Asimov and Clarke thus offer usefully contrasting answers to that all-important question in SF: how can we best respond to the—ever more invasive—technological systems that surround us?

Thomas Connolly is a final-year doctoral candidate in Maynooth University, Ireland. My research examines the concept of the “human” in Anglo-American SF, using posthumanist and spatio-temporal theories to examine a range of authors from H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle to Isaac Asimov and Ursula Le Guin. I completed both my B.A. in English and Mathematical Physics and my M.A. in twentieth-century Irish literature and cultural theory in Maynooth University, and was the recipient in 2012 of the John and Pat Hume Doctoral Scholarship.

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