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Sci-Fi Whys
#1
For no real reason other than I feel like it:

1) Why is it that in SF it doesn't matter how advanced a future civ is, it can't cure baldness? (Yes - this is based on ST:TNG and not original to me - but it's a start)

2) Why is it that in SF an oppressive one world government (usually rising to power due to massive overpopulation and resource exhaustion) can control virtually every aspect of people's lives - sometimes down to the point of having suicide booths that people presumably use - but can't provide widely available birth control and family planning services? Even when it has resources and technology far beyond our own?

3) On a related note - Why is it that in SF - no matter how advanced the tech or how massive the population problem a given future or alien world may have - birth control and family planning services are never available or used?

4) Why is it that in so many SF stories - films in particular - airlocks are made so that both doors can open at once? Or can be configured to do this in a matter of seconds to a few minutes?

What other SF Whys come to mind?

Todd
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#2
I think these whys you proposed are based on a bad understanding of these future civs and the writers translate some problems that happen now without taking into consideration the reality of the future.
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#3
Could be. It's also the case that issues of birth control (and by extension sex) seem to be very touchy for many people.

Also, if the societies and governments in the stories did successfully limit their populations then it would also remove an element (or even a major plot point) from the story or even eliminate the story entirely.

Todd
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#4
Interesting story about baldness in Sci/Fi:

At a press conference about Star Trek: The Next Generation, a reporter asked Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry about casting Patrick Stewart, commenting that "Surely by the 24th century, they would have found a cure for male pattern baldness." Gene Roddenberry had the perfect response.

"No, by the 24th century, no one will care."
Evidence separates truth from fiction.
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#5
By the 24th century they don't care about that the people who dies, does that permanently also.
Star Trek is very dated. To me is good fiction but in a fantasy way. The same way Doctor Who has to me good Science Fiction altough is very fantastic.
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#6
All of these issues are because the writer isn't "playing with" all of the "toys" he or she has available to them. Granted, it's sometimes hard to remember that in a future with star ships and warp drive and transporters little things like baldness would still be meaningful to people. And that "Oh, the population has matured and they no longer suffer from vanity" line is pure crap and we all know it. There will always be a market for cosmetics, baldness treatments and erectile dysfunction cures. It may not be a pill or a cream like we know today, but there'll be some technology to make people more attractive and virile for as long as possible.

As for birth control/family planning, I can think of several sci-fi stories that have addressed that - Larry Niven's "Known Space" setting had a procreation lottery on earth. And I can't remember what book it was in, but I remember a story about earth having a population control monitoring program where the population was maintained with automated birth control, and when someone did die, somewhere in the world a woman got pregnant.

The airlock thing is just a case of modern day earthbound humans not knowing on a visceral level the dangers of the vacuum of space.

I'm more upset with Starfleet engineers that don't understand that seat belts and circuit breakers might be a good idea.
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#7
(10-20-2019, 04:02 PM)rom65536 Wrote: All of these issues are because the writer isn't "playing with" all of the "toys" he or she has available to them. Granted, it's sometimes hard to remember that in a future with star ships and warp drive and transporters little things like baldness would still be meaningful to people. And that "Oh, the population has matured and they no longer suffer from vanity" line is pure crap and we all know it. There will always be a market for cosmetics, baldness treatments and erectile dysfunction cures. It may not be a pill or a cream like we know today, but there'll be some technology to make people more attractive and virile for as long as possible.

As for birth control/family planning, I can think of several sci-fi stories that have addressed that - Larry Niven's "Known Space" setting had a procreation lottery on earth. And I can't remember what book it was in, but I remember a story about earth having a population control monitoring program where the population was maintained with automated birth control, and when someone did die, somewhere in the world a woman got pregnant.

The airlock thing is just a case of modern day earthbound humans not knowing on a visceral level the dangers of the vacuum of space.

I'm more upset with Starfleet engineers that don't understand that seat belts and circuit breakers might be a good idea.

Playing Devil's Advocate just a bit...

A lot of this - when speaking of the Star Trek setting in particular - is that it's based on a RL TV show and the people making it have to use RL actors. So they will have some number of RL human failings unless some rather draconian screening processes are used. Which would have its own host of problems.

The issue with circuit breakers and seat belts - and probably airlocks - is likely a matter of screenwriters either being lazy, unimaginative, or having to hit a deadline (repeatedly in the case of a TV show). Put another way - TV and movies usually run on drama and have to get a story told in a limited amount of time. Which means you either have to think up a repeating series of plausible and dramatic events in order to move the story forward - or you have to cheat and just dictate that dramatic things will happen, regardless of how implausible they would actually be in RL.

Written works don't necessarily have that limitation - but in the case of franchises like ST and SW, by the time you get to the point of there being written works a lot of the tropes of the setting have been laid down and people aren't going to want to mess with them. Possibly combined with the whole issue of deadlines again.

That all said, and turning the Devil's Advocate button off again...

Written works have much less excuse for this kind of thing, particularly when it comes to something like a standalone novel like the Ringworld books or the like. The more so if they are attempting to present themselves as 'hard science' to one degree or another. As we've learned from our experiences with OA, there is no single formal definition of 'hard science fiction' - but basic logic (or common sense) and consistency are a separate issue from whether or not the science and tech works in this universe.

Taking Niven's Known Space universe (and the Ringworld books in particular) as an example (since I actually feel they are an example of birth control/family planning not being addressed well):

Earth is described as having 18 billion people living on it. It's implied that this not necessarily a state of affairs that is purely a good thing or a choice. At the same time, birth control is described as simple and easy (a crystal of some kind implanted in the arms of men and women each year), there is a worldwide government that imposes population control as part of its job via 'Birthrights' and these Birthrights can be used once by each citizen, or won via combat in some kind of arena (you die if you lose), or via a lottery system, or (IIRC) by flat out buying one for an immense amount of money (the ability to accumulate that much money being seen as a desirable trait).

This situation (or at least the basics of it) appears to have been in place for quite some time - the 18 billion population for Earth is mentioned in several Known Space books spread across hundreds of years of the setting's history.

Why - if this is the case - can't the population be gradually reduced? Given the presence of such effective birth control and high living standards (apparently), why hasn't the population gradually reduced on its own?

The Puppeteers are a variant example of this, although with a better explanation - their method or reproduction is apparently more difficult to control. That said, their civ apparently has held their numbers stable at a trillion for a very long (a million years or so IIRC) and they have tech way beyond that of Earth. In all that time and with all their tech (and apparently being quite motivated about it) they can't come up with something that would work to reduce their population, but can only just hold the line?

Stepping outside of the Known Space verse there are also the Moties from The Mote in God's Eye - who have even worse problems.

The underlying thread in all of these seems to be (IMHO) that the urge to breed or the act of breeding and producing more of our selves is just this side of a fundamental law of nature that can only be slowed or held stable with massive effort - but never really reversed, no matter how much control over the issue may otherwise exist. Admittedly, Malthusian pressures or dangers were a big social thing at the time these books were written. But later works don't necessarily have that excuse since by now there are alternative arguments or counter-examples along the lines that people living with access to higher standards of living and family planning services tend to have fewer children.

That all said - in the case of both Earth and the Puppeteer homeworld it is flat out stated that the government has more or less complete control of people's reproduction - but it apparently can't actually reduce the population. To me this is...inconsistent...at best.

One could perhaps argue that these elements are just background information filling out the story and so the author shouldn't be expected to have to explain them - but in the case of the Ringworld books a significant amount of time is spent on this issue as a problem - but with no real explanation as to why it continues to be a problem when all the other described circumstances are included.

My 2c worth,

Todd
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#8
Todd:

One reason I can think of for population reduction being difficult is that it might well lead to social problems. To reduce the population, it's necessary to reduce the birth rate; but that necessarily shifts the average age of the population upwards, a phenomenon already being seen in Japan.

Even if one assumes that the various problems of old age are reduced or eliminated by such things as boosterspice, it's quite likely that someone two hundred years old (even if they mostly have the body of a 30-year-old) would have rather inflexible attitudes and might find it difficult to respond to technological change.

I said "mostly" there because it is fairly obvious that a boosterspice-enhanced body is in fact aged; the fact that Tree-of-Life is lethal to oldsters, even if kept apparently young by advanced medicine, is evidence of that.

None of this applies, perhaps, to someone who is kept in all respects physiologically 25 or so at the age of 700 or more, as in OA.

BTW, why isn't this discussed in the books? Because they are ficitional stories written to entertain, perhaps.
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#9
Regarding baldness: They clearly had the technology to cause hair growth in the federation. Their medical technology was so advanced that they could change what species people appeared to be, let alone reverse some hair follicle die off. But I do think that the point was that baldness wasn't really cared about. Which is entirely understandable given that the culture was supposed to present one in which arbitrary fads and obsessions were largely a thing of the past. It's an idealistic culture in which educated personal choice is valued. If someone wants to add hair because the like the way it looks? No problem. If someone doesn't mind that they're naturally balding. Also no problem. If the decision is made to affect it either way to to a destructive need to seek validation through following trends? That is a problem.

I think SciFi where everyone is a beautiful twentysomething is a bit unimaginative. I'm sure that if medical technology dropped in our laps now where every aspect of the body could be safely and cheaply changed then by friday everyone would look like an athlete model. But a society that's had the ability to do that for a while will inevitably value appearance in very different ways to us. How you physically appear will be far more of a personal choice, and would likely become as widely varied as fashion is IRL (the variety of which scales with the decreasing cost of new items).
OA Wish list:
  1. DNI
  2. Internal medical system
  3. A dormbot, because domestic chores suck!
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