I have long been a fan of Greg Bear’s work. I think the first thing I ever read by him was The Strength of Stones and that segued into Blood Music which is probably my favorite novel by Bear besides Darwin’s Radio. It is hard to choose between the two.
The Enquiring Hitchhiker asks….
Question 1- As an archaeologist I found Darwin’s Radio fascinating. Do you think that the human race will undergo another major evolutionary change before we manage to wrest control of our own evolution?
Evolution never stops. We’ve defined evolution at the species level, but adaptation to changing environments occurs at the individual level throughout one’s life; we don’t individually grow wings to fly from danger, but we do bring into play phalanxes of genetic responses to changing seasons, physical threats, food supplies, sexual needs—you name it. Every aspect of biology is about solving problems on a second by second basis. What we call evolution, then, is a larger scale instance of that constant flux, observable in the different body plans of separate species, in the fossil record, in ontogeny AND phylogeny, which may or may not give us clues as to how change has happened in the past. Societies solve and support and adjust as well, politically and culturally, organizing populations, and that echoes back to how individuals adjust. To be sure, human evolution is now as much about social and technological adjustments as actual genetic adjustments; the mix and back-and-forth of this scale of evolution is not easy to quantify. But it’s important and may signal even greater changes to come. Whether or not, in all of this, a new “human” species will evolve is unknown—but if that sort of change is to come, it will have to sneak in soon. Because we’ll likely soon have the understanding and means to reverse such change, should we find it inconvenient.
Question 2- In Eon and subsequent novels you deal with the idea of alternate universes and alternate futures do you think that we are currently moving toward a physical model of the universe that allows for alternate universes in which life can arise?
These ideas are certainly fun to write about. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that a kind of “sum over histories” approach to alternate universes comes into play in living systems, including plants, which apparently have ways to maximize efficiencies through quantum adjustments in their photosynthetic chemistry. If that’s the case, and it appears pretty solid, then I may have to reassess my opinion of Frank Tippler’s quantum neurobiology! And that could imply that our own cognition and behavior may rely on a kind of motion through time which is less of a knife-edge slide into the future, and more of a smeared-out perception of competing futures… in which we may at times be able to make a choice. In CITY AT THE END OF TIME, I call it Fate-shifting. Fascinating prospects!
Question 3- Many of your works are about Humans evolving in a direction that seems to make them more dependent on each other physically and mentally. Do you think humanity is evolving toward a singular “overmind” or a small group of “control minds” and away from the rugged individual. Do you think there is room for the individual in the “Singularity”?
Centralization is not how minds get things done. Minds get things done through efficient and orderly distribution of problem-solving. An “overmind” is frightening because it’s basically unnatural. Likely it would also be terribly inefficient, and perhaps have a difficult time shedding waste heat! The Singularity is already upon us, has been upon us; no individual can grok the totality of modern technology. I know I can’t!
Question 4- I have not yet read The Mongoliad yet I am very interested in the concept and will pick it up at some point. Tell our readers why what is unique about it?
MONGOLIAD is distributed problem-solving (and story-writing) spread out among seven writers, with several other good folks providing tech support and fact checking. That it works at all—and it does, very well indeed!—points toward not just forward-looking attitudes on the part of Subutai’s founders, but a unique group of writers able to shed ego and focus on character and story.
Question 5- Our site is of course geared towards rational conservatives, libertarians, and objectivists. How would you describe yourself politically and what do you think are the major problems facing our society?
In many of my novels, I demonstrate my political persuasions through future-casting and social modeling—and because I try to play an honest game, many readers are confused about what to call me. I keep telling Jerry Pournelle I’m a liberal, mostly to irritate him—he’s been a major figure in my life–and he says I’m not a liberal, more of a maverick. Probably true. We still like each other, despite major disagreements. But the so-called rationalist and objectivist political persuasions have in recent decades slid into a lock-step with confederate conservatism that I find not only distressing, but irrational. I respect old-school libertarians—but not bigoted, pseudo-libertarian evangelicals who somehow manage to draw their ideals from both patriarchal plutocrats and Ayn Rand. That mix just doesn’t make sense. I doubt that Mr. Heinlein would sympathize with core Republican conservatism today, and I know Rand would have been disgusted. But that’s all part of continuing evolution in American politics! And times are a-changing, or swinging about in new winds. I remember back in the nineteen sixties, when I was a pre-teen conservative, trying to read a cruddy little tome called “None Dare Call It Treason.” I couldn’t get through it. The author accused Eisenhower of being a commie. Some currents never shift or run pure. Plus ca change!
Thank you for taking time out to answer these questions for us.