Science fiction has had a tremendous impact on our modern technical society, inspiring generations of scientists, engineers, and technologists. Come explore the great books of sci-fi with David White.
Science fiction serves as an important culture touchstone and imaginative workspace for much of the modern world. Many of the inventions which define our current society came as direct descendants of ideas in present in speculative fiction. People have drawn inspiration and critically examined prevailing social, political, and economic questions through the lens of other worlds, similar but different to our own.
Come along for a 9-month odyssey of sci-fi as we examine a series of great books! We will cover a vast array of topics, including war, politics, gender, genetic engineering, consciousness, androids, pandemics, alien intelligences, and so much more. Two of the books for future salons will be chosen based on attendees’ preferences.
We will explore many questions along the way including: How is the future a useful setting to talk about the present? How can technology change societal relations? To what extremes should we go to protect our way of life from outside forces?
Salons will take place on the third Sunday of each month: 1 PM New York time, 7 PM Berlin.
|June 19, 2022
|Isaac Asimov: Worlds Different from Our Own
We will begin to establish a general scaffolding for reading speculative fiction through a selection of three short stories by Isaac Asimov: “Nightfall,” “The Last Question,” and “Profession.” How do these fictional works speak to their present? How can we draw out a model for discussing the impact of technology on social relations?
|July 17, 2022
|Ender’s Game: The Costs of War
Ender’s Game serves as an important meditation on the nature of war and difficulties of communication. We will investigate the harsh reality of military training, psychological costs of warfare, and the challenge of loving your enemy. Other discussion will include the ability of anonymous online contributors to affect the wider political discourse.
|August 21, 2022
|Dune: Desert Palace Intrigue
Dune is one of the ground-breaking and best-selling novels of sci-fi. We will discuss about how destiny can shape you, the effects of having one resource control the entire economy, how feuding political families differ from modern political systems, and consequences of environmentalism.
|September 18, 2022
|Oryx and Crake: Bioengineering Consequences
Oryx and Crake explores a world with bioengineering technology much more advanced than our own. The themes we will examine are the short and long-term effects of having the ability to rewrite our genetic destiny, as well as how to contend with a bioengineering disaster and the tension between humanities and technology as scientific prowess grows.
|October 16, 2022
|Solaris: The Limits of Communication
Solaris shows the limitations of human understanding through the lens of communication with an extraterrestrial lifeform. We will reason about minds organized much differently than our own, how communication can break down when both parties lack a common framework, and how alien the world can actually be.
|November 20, 2022
|Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep: Artificial Empathy
One of Phillip K. Dick’s most prominent novels, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, explores what it means to be human in a world of lifelike androids. We will talk about humankind’s place in the world with indistinguishable robots, the ethics of killing artificial life, and empathy in a post-apocalyptic world.
|January 15, 2023
|The Left Hand of Darkness: A World Without Gender
The Left Hand of Darkness broke ground in the use of gender in science fiction. We will speak about the importance of gender in understanding social customs and expected behavior, misunderstanding and communication in the presence of telepathy, and kinship/cooperation in the face of differing mores.
|February 19, 2023
|Station Eleven: Post-Pandemic Life
Station Eleven explores the changes to the world in the face of terrible pandemic. Topics will include how to respond to civilization collapse, what is worth curating for future generations, the social and psychological cost of pandemics, and the intersection of Shakespeare with modern life.
|March 26, 2023
|The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect: Exploding Technological Progress
Chosen by series attendees, The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect depicts a world after the invention of a super intelligent computer who generates a technological singularity. We will explore the implications of exploding technological progress, the nature of desire in a world where reality can be altered at will, and how our culture is altered by such technology.
|April 16, 2023
|The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect
The novel depicts a world after the invention of a super intelligent computer who generates a technological singularity. We will explore the implications of exploding technological progress, the nature of desire in a world where reality can be altered at will, and how our culture is altered by such technology.