Science Fiction And Philosophy edited by Susan Schneider (book review).

I have to say from the start, I found ‘Science Fiction And Philosophy’ an odd book, which became odder as I read it. Divided into five sections, I felt sorry for David J. Chambers in the first section trying to get his head around virtual realities and ‘The Matrix’ in particular. I couldn’t help but remind myself, ‘I think, therefore I am’ if ever there was a need to prove my own existence. At the end of the day, that’s all you can do unless someone can offer conclusive proof otherwise you’re living in some virtual reality and Chambers didn’t even consider the red and blue pill option. If our reality is a simulation, then surely we would expect perfection than the imperfections we currently have.


Reading the second section, dealing with free will, writer Derek Parfit discussed teleportation and the transfer of personality which were dead ringers for my favourite author AE Van Vogt’s ‘Null-A’ stories and especially Algis Budrys’ story ‘Rogue Moon’. Checking their rather accurate reference notes, there weren’t any SF books and so a double-check with their sample story examples and nearly 90% of them were film and the remainder, fiction. Hardly a decisive choice for expertise in SF and I began finding myself looking at how outsiders understood SF and suspect those of you who choose to read this book will be playing the game of picking out the books they should have at least read. I mean, they should at least have known the Isaac Asimov didn’t create the Three Laws Of Robotics in 1984 but 1942, especially as they reprinted a short story of his from that time period.

With Andy Clark’s ‘Cyborgs Unplugged’, the information is more to do with what is currently being done with the technology. It also made me think that the book title is a misnomer and that really this book is more about science that the philosophical ethics behind it.

Nick Bostrom’s discussion on super-intelligence artificial intelligence and how it would sort out various problems is very utopian but hardly likely considering we can’t even create an AI with human-level intelligence yet. His options of what it could do depends a lot more on data analysis and seeing things normal humans might have missed. If anything, this chapter started making me think of treating this book as a means to stir up my own ideas.

This came to fruition as Theodore Sider tried getting his head around time travel and the killing your grandfather paradox actually ended up with me coming up with two solutions I haven’t seen done yet. See them when I write them in a couple of months’ time.

Although I’m not entirely convinced as to there being any philosophical issues regarding SF are given in this book, as a clearing house on current and advancing science and pumping ideas into my head from them, not always understanding the nature of the problems they are getting their heads around means there is some value to reading this book.

GF Willmetts

(pub: Wiley-Blackwell. 350 page indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-40514-907-5)

check out website: www.wiley.com/wiley-blackwell


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.