The Science Of Consequences by Susan M. Schneider (book review).

Consequences is something to consider from the start with this book as a third is devoted to notes and extensive bibliography which you aren’t really going to read but where author Susan M. Schneider proclaims she researched for the other two-thirds of ‘The Science Of Consequences’. Even books such as these create their own consequences and much of the footnotes were reference rather than extra information.

Essentially, this book is all about actions and consequences, together with how not only humans but a variety of animals are conditioned by their environment to behave in certain ways, often thinking repeating certain actions will make you lucky. In other words, your brain organises a particular set of responses than allow you to think before you do anything vital.


Some things I’m not entirely convinced by. Maybe it’s because my conditioning has changed. As a type 1 diabetic, the sight of food doesn’t excite me to eat, unless I’m in a hypoglycaemic situation. Then again, I’m not entirely sure if empathic association is totally conditioned as I tend to see it as an awareness of others emotional state whether I like it or not. In many respects, I wish Schneider had also included the contrary arguments in her book just to show the alternative perspective if for no other reason than to strengthen her own arguments.

I found it interesting how Schneider thinks that praise encourages results. If she saw the lack of that in proportion to my material output here on SFCrowsnest, she’d wonder why I keep going, whereas I see getting decent material out of me is enough in itself. Maybe there is a need to explore what makes us geeks tick.

Not that I disagree with her on everything. Treating work as a game of achievement is something I learnt years ago, especially as it ends up making better use of time and not letting it drag.

If you want to avoid being manipulated by advertising and salesmen, don’t feel loneliness or boredom. I’d take that a bit further and say question everything or risk being manipulated.

Something my team of reviewers might find interesting is that imposing deadlines is good discipline to complete on time, not to mention a little praise that they’ve done well. Maybe that’s why we’re so effective and efficient.

Probably what will be the most useful chapter for some of you reading this book is chapter 15 as it looks at addiction and other problems. If you’re considering giving up smoking, the easiest way is to do something else when you get the yearning. If you’re feeling depressed, then write it down, not necessarily for printing, as expressing your problem tends to stop it bottling up. In many respects, this is an old remedy that many people have forgotten about. From my General Semantics background, it’s verbalising the non-verbal into a form that you or anyone can understand. If you do have a medical complaint where this will help, check with your doctor and keep a medical diary of significant problems because it will help them to keep track of what you’re going through.

I’m less sure in the next chapter about teaching school kids about prejudice by having them learn by segregating by eye colour for a day so they see what it’s like. I mean, if as the example goes you have a reasonable number of blue and brown eyed people, I can see it working, and I presume it extends to gray and green eyed but if it’s applied to something like hair colour, would the few ginger-haired in the class ever break the stigma of being singled out? I think this one needs some serious thought before being applied elsewhere.

Schneider uses Isaac Asimov’s story, ‘The Gods Themselves’ as an example of a story going for a happy ending without looking at the consequences to the other dimension. It’s been a while since I’ve read this book but after a quick reminder, I do think Asimov was ahead of his time. The current theory is that that are many different universe/dimensions out there, many with different science laws that might not give rise to life, so if we tapped these for energy sources, which happened at the end of the book, then we wouldn’t be causing any damage to that ecology. Whether we would ever do that for real remains to be seen.

Something which I would endorse is the wealthier countries paying the natives of the South America forests and jungles to preserve than turn it into agriculture land because to do otherwise would doom us all as it messes up the ecology for all of us.

Although I do raise concerns with some of the issues in this book as you can see from above, it will make you think about cause and effect and might make you think about some of the decisions or options in your own lives. Whether you carry them out or not in the way suggested, you might well find different solutions. If you come away thinking you can take control of your own life better than this book will have served its purpose.

GF Willmetts

(pub: Prometheus Books. 383 page indexed hardback. Price: $21.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61614-662-7)
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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.

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