Do We Need a New Foundation?

Almost since I was able to read, I have been a consumer of science fiction stories.  Back in the 1960s Asimov’s Foundation trilogy was considered part of the canon of great science fiction.  For the non-science-fiction-nerd, the Foundation stories are based on a conceit that a galaxy wide empire of human planets was formed and then, just as with the Roman Empire, it ends up in decay.  A mathematical genius named Harry Seldon perfects the science of “psychohistory” and calculates that the fall of the galactic empire is imminent and unstoppable and that the dark age to follow it will last 30,000 years before civilization reestablishes itself again across the Milky Way galaxy.  Seldon also calculates that if he could manage to set up an isolated “foundation” of scientists it can act as a seed to hasten the new civilization so that the galaxy can be restored to order in just a millennium.  Okay, end of science fiction history lesson.

Remarkably, the real world is now starting to resemble the fictional galactic empire and it got me thinking.  Do we need a foundation in this country that can survive the wreck of our republic and maybe form the nucleus for a rebirth of normalcy in this part of the world?  Asimov wrote the story so that the Foundation was located in the most obscure backwater of the galaxy so that it would be missed by the still powerful empire until it was too exhausted to be dangerous to the new civilization growing there.  Whether the analogy extends that far is a question.  In fact, I don’t even see a reason why it should be just one seed.  It seems smarter to have multiple centers and let them coalesce over time once the threat from the present federal government is reduced or eliminated.  But I could see how a large and powerful state like Texas would be a target for the feds while a small state like Arkansas might be missed when the feds go looking for trouble.  And another difference between literature and real life might be that rather than a complete destruction of the old state possibly we’ll see the old union start to reform with both sides of the political divide forming coalitions with the states that have the same politics.  Maybe the red states start pulling the same sort of stuff that the blue states do.  They can restrict their trade to just the states that align with their political view.  They can pass state laws to make it more difficult for the blue states and federal government to interfere in the aspects of life that they tend to cause problems in.  And they can coordinate their efforts to punish the blue states when they make a nuisance of themselves.

These things are already happening on the ground in the blue states with initiatives like sanctuary cities and so the question is whether some kind of coordination between these centers in the red states would be the equivalent of a new foundation.  Maybe the term foundation doesn’t seem precisely right but what we are talking about is the strength of a state being needed to protect its people from the feds and the woke establishment.  A state is big enough to resist coercion from the federal government.  The blue states have done a great deal along these lines and for the most part not a lot has been done to stop or even hinder them.  I know that the Left will resist this with every force they can bring to bear but just having the authorities in the reddest states begin the work of separating their interests from the blue states would be a sea change in how we all look at our place in the country.  And it would legitimize the point of view that the states are going to begin taking back their rights from the federal government.  In fact, that might be the only thing that can save this country.  What I mean is that even though both sides hate each other if we loosen up the controls so that the individual states can control their own affairs, they may be able to stand belonging to the same loose confederation as their enemies.

Now the only question is where should the new capitol be?  Never mind.  No capitol.  Just let the senators zoom from home when they need to talk.  And no salary either.  And two terms maximum.  Let’s be smart this time.

I Robot – A Science Fiction Movie Review

My regular readers will know that my estimation of Isaac Asimov’s work is not uniformly positive.  I read the “I Robot” stories as a kid and enjoyed them a good deal.  I think what I found entertaining was the cleverness of the interplay of the Three Laws of Robotics with the plot lines.  Re-reading them many years later I saw that aside from the cleverness, the stories were not particularly rich in characterization or description.  And for short stories of that era that wasn’t unusual.  So, let’s say I Robot is a worthy example of its time and type.

A film was made from the stories back in 2004.  It bears no resemblance to any of the stories but involves the concepts of the three laws and how they relate to a world that has adopted an almost universal use of robots in commercial, industrial and even personal service.  Will Smith is a cop in Chicago who despises robots because of a past encounter.  The plot revolves around his investigation of a murder that contrary to the requirements of the three laws has apparently been committed by a robot.  For fans of Firefly the voice of the killer robot Sonny is provided by Alan Tudyk (aka Hoban “Wash” Washburne).

I was sort of busy back in 2004 and didn’t see the movie when it came out.  But I Robot, the movie, has been in almost constant rotation on AMC for the last year or two so I’ve seen all or part of it a number of times now.  When I first viewed it I wasn’t very enthusiastic for it.  The dissimilarity from the Asimov stories probably annoyed me.  If I grasp for any other reasons, I’ll point to the presence of Shia LaBeouf in the cast in a part so insipid that it makes you shake your head wondering what the director was thinking.

Interestingly, over time I actually grew to enjoy the movie more.  It’s an action adventure movie and the scenes featuring Will Smith battling enormous numbers of robots are cleverly done and quite a lot of fun.  Tudyk does a good job making the robot character sympathetic.  And Bridget Moynahan makes the Susan Calvin character more personable than Asimov ever did.

So here we have a couple of inversions of the typical situation.  For the most part, I find that a movie made from a book almost never lives up to it.  But in this case, it surpasses it.  And here is an example of a book that has decreased in my estimation over time while the movie has done the reverse.

I Robot is not a film version of the Asimov stories and it does not break any new ground as a science fiction movie either for the special effects or for original story telling.  But it’s a pretty good Will Smith action adventure.  And he does kill a lot of robots with a big gun.  How can you go wrong with that?