If we find ourselves alone in the cosmos amid a great silence, without others to talk to, humans will solve that problem by making our own friends among the higher animals, such as dolphins and chimps, giving them a boost to uplift their intelligence.
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From its very beginnings, science fiction has been transfixed by the eerie notion that human beings may someday pick up the Creator’s toolkit and start “making life,” even new kinds of intelligent life. Robots and super-smart computers make up part of this tradition, but there is another side. Perhaps the most important “technology” ever discovered was the domestication of animals to serve human purposes. Ever since Mary Shelley wroteFrankenstein, countless science fiction tales dealt with our ongoing temptation to meddle with other creatures. Many authors such as H.G. Wells, Pierre Boule, Mary Shelly, and Cordwainer Smith explored the concept of of “uplift” — genetically engineering other animals to bring them into our civilization with human-level powers of thought. Most of those writers hewed to the same story-line, suggesting that this process would be abused by madmen who impose a slave-master relationship on the newly risen beings.
Anyway, the question is not whether we’ll take on these powers, but when. In the long run, we’ll be better prepared if we’ve thought about it well in advance. Science fiction can play a role.
Science fiction author David Brin discusses Brightness Reef, the first novel of his new Uplift trilogy -- which follow the adventures of his award-winning books, Startide Rising and The Uplift War. Brightness Reef takes us to a new galaxy, where humans struggle to find their place in the galactic civilization. The planet Jijo has been set off limits for colonization, but refugees escaping persecution have founded colonies in secret. When a starship crashes on Jijo, bringing a mysterious visitor, their fragile society is threatened.
Cameras stare across a forbidden desert, monitoring disputed territory in a conflict that is so bitter the opponents cannot even agree what to name it. One side calls the struggle a war, with countless innocent lives in jeopardy.
Jijo's ocean stroked her flank like a mother's nuzzling touch or a lover's caress. Though it seemed a bit disloyal, Makanee felt this alien ocean had a silkier texture and finer taste than the waters of Earth, the homeworld she had not seen in years. -- A new story set in the Uplift Universe.
A description of tropes appearing in Uplift series, including: Alien Invasion, Assimilation Plot, Banana Peel, Batman Gambit, Bizarre Alien Biology, Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism, Evil Matriarch, Kill it With Water...
The Five Galaxies are a tough neighborhood . . . and humanity is the new kid on the block. Of the thousands of races in a galaxy full of aliens, ours is the only one that claims to have evolved on its own, without genetic engineering by a Patron species. With its own new clients – genetically modified dolphins and chimpanzees – upstart humanity faces a jealous universe. The ancient Patron clans can't decide whether to enslave the races of Terra . . . or just wipe them out.
The Galactics have wealth, power, and incredible technology. The people of Earth have guts, originality and a handful of allies . . . and they won't give up.
The Terran exploration vessel Streaker, bearing one of the most important discoveries in galactic history, has crashed on the uncharted world of Kithrup. Above, in space, armadas of alien races clash in a titanic struggle to claim her.
Let's consider uplift: The matter of whether humanity might someday... or even should... meddle in other creatures on this planet and bestow upon them the debatable "gift" of full sapience -- the ability to argue, ponder, store information, appraise, discuss, create, express and manipulate tools, so that they might join us in the problematic task of being worthy planetary managers.
Human beings have long believed that it is our unique level of intelligence that separates us from other animals. Our ability for higher learning, creative thought, and – perhaps most importantly – our sophisticated communication via speech and language, defines us as a superior species. However, as we expand our understanding of how the brain works, and use animal experiments to learn more about the genes involved in intelligence, will we reach a point where we can pull other species onto our intellectual plane?
There is growing evidence that something very special happened to a few thousand African hominids, half a million or so years ago… and in accelerating stages ever since, up to today. That special thing - a runaway selection process that made a race capable of contemplating what YOU are contemplating, right now - was certainly unique on Earth and may be unprecedented across vast stretches of the Galaxy. It enabled us to rise so high that our abilities and numbers may threaten the whole planet. Or else - if we choose - empower us to save the Earth, and heal it and tend and manage it.
From Pierre Boule to H.G. Wells, nearly all tales about ‘uplift’ of other species (to our level of intelligence) assumed that it would be done stupidly – because stupidity leads to errors and conflict, which transform any concept into an action plot! Mistakes create peril, so those authors portrayed the uplifters being callous, unwise, even vicious slave-masters. When writers do this, the plot almost writes itself. What's more challenging is to write a story that shows humanity doing something well, or at least openly, with good intentions — and yet still crafting a story filled with action and excitement, where Crichtonian errors can get discovered through vibrant criticism.
The concept of “uplift” is one of the most popular that I’ve put in my novels, and people love to read where I portray the endgame, and that is dolphins and chimps are almost ready — they can talk to us, they can add their wisdom to our culture.
These novels set 200 years in the future are about this endgame, about where the dolphins and the chimps are proving themselves. And it’s a wonderful, glorious thing. We’ve expanded the range of what it means to be human. We’ve expanded the range of wisdom that can participate, compete and partake in this wonderful enlightenment of ours.
If we lack extraterrestrials to contact, humans might look closer to home, Brin suggests. "If we want others to talk to, hey, let’s make them," he speculates.
"We’ve always done this — for example, when we bring a new generation of barbarians, er, children, into the world," he notes. The recent fixation on the notion of diversity as a general good has led to "countless subdivisions of quasi-tribal interest groups, sub-cultures and passionate hobby-obsessions, even Klingon-speakers," Brin says, "an endless tidal surge of style-variations that seem joyfully alien to many."
Winning entries from the Computer Graphic Society's CG Challenge: Illustrate Alien Relations in the Uplift Universe. David Brin’s Uplift Universe is an epic spanning 5 Galaxies and billions of years of history. The story David tells over 6 blockbuster novels, is one of political and personal intrigue set in the near future. The epic centers on humans and their two Uplifted client races: Neo-Chimps and Neo-Dolphins. Upon contact with the galactic civilizations, the human clan and their clients are a source of trouble from the start…
Originally 17 galaxies were linked by tubes of focus time. As the universe expanded these tubes snapped, isolating galaxies onto themselves. Three billion years ago, when 11 galaxies were still joined together, the mythical Progenitors arose to begin the cycle of Uplift in which a Patron race aids a Client race to cross into full sentience. In return the Client gives the Patron 100,000 years of indentured servitude. Though the Progenitors have long since departed this plane of existence, before leaving they established the Library, other institutions and Galactic Law. (Or so the mythology goes.) Now after several billion years the Uplift Cycle remains unbroken and a myriad of Patron and Client races roam the remaining 5 linked galaxies believing that the Progenitors will some day return. An extensive compilation by Stewart Blandon.
A comedy set in David Brin’s Uplift Universe. In the distant future, chimpanzees and dolphins have been uplifted to starfaring status -- and are helping humans choose the next species for uplift, when powerful alien starships arrive to wipe out all life on Earth.
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