quotes from the worlds of DAVID BRIN
Collected from many sources, some of these quotes have gained a fair amount of use over the years. For the images, right-click to save and share; click for a larger version.
"A hallmark of sanity is the courage to face even unpleasant points of view." -- Earth
"Each of us is many. Within every human, a cacophony of voices rages." -- Earth
"Prison for the crime of puberty -- that was how secondary school seemed." -- Earth
"Life is not fair.... Anyone who says it is, or even that it ought to be, is a fool or worse." -- Startide Rising
"A successful person is one who can lay a foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her."
"Some claim we must let our wisdom catch up with advances in technology, suggesting that we would be better off if we slowed or suppressed changes in technology. I disagree; I believe that technology has not yet caught up with our wisdom."
"Self-awareness is probably over-rated. A complex, self-regulating system doesn't need it in order to be successful, or even smart." -- Earth
"Only a knowledgeable, empowered and vocal citizenry can perform well in a democracy."
"Our civilization's success depends at least as much on the mistakes we avoid as successes we plan, but sadly no one compiles lists of these narrow escapes."
"The worst mistake of first contact, made throughout history by individuals on both sides of every encounter, has been the unfortunate habit of making assumptions. It often proved fatal." -- A Contrarian Perspective on Altruism, 2002
"Our most precious human gift: The wonder of curiosity. The insatiable thirst to know more about what we know... and to speculate about what we don't -- and to explore this vast realm."
"Self-righteous people can talk themselves into forgetting they are a part of a civilization. Instead of negotiating, they despise the neighbors who nurture them, feeding on that culture while disdaining it."
on PROGRESS & CHANGE
"Change is the very fabric of our time."
"We are in a race to cross a very dangerous zone, between where we are and where our grandchildren may be. Will they know how to manage the planet? How to expand beyond the planet? How to stay calm? How to argue in a fair and decent way, bypassing politics? This isn't a vast utopia; it is just us, much more reasonable, having raised better grand- children.
"In order to get there, we have to get past all these pitfalls. We have already skirted past the one called nuclear war -- it is pretty impressive. There are so many others along the next twenty, thirty years; that is our job. And if we make it, we might be the first intelligent life form to make it."
"Change can't be prevented, only guided." -- Earth
"Change is the principal feature of our age and literature should explore how people deal with it. The best science fiction does that, head-on." -- Orbit interview 2002, reprinted by SFF World
"Progress doesn't always go the way we expect it to. It is sometimes wiser than we are." -- The Odd Way We Design Our Destiny
on the FUTURE
"The village is coming back, like it or not." -- Tomorrow Happens
"To predict is human... but to be right is divine." -- Stones of Significance
On the singularity: "What's important is not me. And it's not you. It's us." -- Interview on Point of Inquiry
"The expansion of our horizons of interest may be among the most human of all activities, as we stretch our gaze and curiosity beyond the mere present, the mere town, nation, or even planet."
"If facts are inconvenient, well then, why not damn those who live and work with facts? How's that working out?"
"What if this was all a fight between two factions of the government or aristocracy? Such things happened all the time, and when dragons battle each other, peasants are better off ducking out of the way." -- Existence
"For every good idea, ten thousand idiotic ones must first be posed, sifted, sniffed, tried, and discarded. A mind that's afraid to toy with the ridiculous will never come up with the brilliantly original." -- Orbit interview 2002, reprinted by SFF World
"We all create monsters in our minds. The only important difference may be which of us let our monsters become real." -- Earth
"Only people with full stomachs become environmentalists." -- Earth
"We aren't a curse upon the world. We are her eyes. Her brain, testes, ovaries... her ambition and her heart. Her voice. So sing." -- Existence
"Our species' greatest harvest -- words." -- Earth
"But there is another reason to protect other species, seldom mentioned. Perhaps we are the first to talk and think and build and aspire, but we won't be the last. Others will follow us in this adventure. Some day we may be judged by how well we served, when we alone were Earth's caretakers." -- The Uplift War
on PRIVACY, OPENNESS & INFORMATION
"Liberty flourishes, not when government is weak, but when government is accountable."
"It is simplistic to claim that secrecy is the root of all evil. But there is no evil that is not worsened by secrecy." -- The Transparent Society
"If government and corporations will know everything about us, our sole option is to know everything about them."
"Reciprocal accountability, or criticism, is the only known antidote to error."
"For we already live in the openness experiment, and have for two hundred years. It is called the Enlightenment -- with "light" both a core word and a key concept in our turn away from 4,000 years of feudalism. All of the great enlightenment arenas -- markets, science and democracy -- flourish in direct proportion to how much their players (consumers, scientists and voters) know, in order to make good decisions. To whatever extent these arenas get clogged by secrecy, they fail." -- The Transparent Society
"Light is the scourge of evil." -- Earth
"Information is not like money or any other commodity. The cracks that it can slip through are almost infinitely small, and it can be duplicated at almost zero cost. Soon information will be like air, like the weather, and as easy to control...."
"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 their intelligence."
"To meddle in the makeup of other species, in an attempt to 'uplift' their intelligence, might be the most ethically fraught and worrisome decision humanity could make. But to refuse the chance might be the most damnably selfish one. It would say: 'we stumbled into this gift and now we refuse to share.'"
"But we're at the dawn of a new era. In today's Hollywood, writers are the lowest form of life. But that will change when a small team -- writer-led -- can create a rough, animated storyboard of a film, fully 90 minutes long with spoken dialogue and music, that can gain a web following long before any studio sees it. This new intermediate art form will change everything and shift the center of power over to story. To the writer."
PROVOCATIVELY (and decidedly) TONGUE-in-CHEEK
"We must go forth and crush every world view that doesn't believe in free speech and tolerance!"
"200 of us skeptics climbed a Mayan temple in order to stave off the end of the world by standing there, shaking our heads and uttering the skeptics' incantation: "naaaaah!" Feel free to thank us for staving off doomsday. You're welcome." -- December 22, 2012
"In every one of my past lives, I had this same personality -- ornery, contrarian, outspoken and willing to be wrong, just to shock stodgy consensus. In none of those other lives did I make it past age sixteen! Garroted, hung, eviscerated, burned at the stake... I recall them all. This is the very first society that not only let me live past 60, but with honor and kids and respect, paying me well for all of those disruptive traits that other cultures punished! Whether you know I am kidding about reincarnation, or imagine that I meant it, one thing is clear. I'm loyal to this enlightenment civilization. I have no reason to be anything else. I'll serve it till death, offering up the one thing I can provide that it needs most: criticism. I hope you'll do that, too. It is the truest patriotism."
"It's said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power." -- The Postman
"Why must conversions always come so late? Why do people always apologize to corpses?"
"When it comes to privacy and accountability, people always demand the former for themselves and the latter for everyone else." -- The Transparent Society
"Creative people see Prometheus in a mirror, never Pandora." -- Brightness Reef
"Where subtlety fails us, we simply make do with cream pies." -- The Uplift War
"IAAMOAC: I Am A Member Of A Civilization"
"CITOKATE: Criticism Is The Only Known Antidote To Error"
"Science is the best and only reliable method human beings have ever found for penetrating delusions and gradually discovering what is true."
"For all its beauty, honesty, and effectiveness at improving the human condition, science demands a terrible price -- that we accept what experiments tell us about the universe, whether we like it or not. It's about consensus and teamwork and respectful critical argument, working with, and through, natural law. It requires that we utter, frequently, those hateful words -- 'I might be wrong.'
"On the other hand, magic is what happens when we convince ourselves something is, even when it isn't. Subjective Truth, winning over mere objective fact. The will, triumphing over all else. No wonder, even after the cornucopia of wealth and knowledge engendered by science, magic remains more popular, more embedded in the human heart." -- Existence
"One of the worst calumnies has been to portray scientists as timid herd creatures, chasing teensy grants and chanting the consensus paradigm. There has never lived a profession more inherently competitive. Every participant dreams of being the next one to upset the apple cart. Freshly-tenured junior professors are the Young Guns, swaggering down Main Street looking to build a reputation by overturning some Nobelist's accepted model. Don't be fooled by all the prim detail and surface courtesy. If objective reality weren't the fierce arbiter, it would be a bloodbath. The dopes who call science "timidly orthodox" would not last two minutes."
on FICTION & WRITING
"My first duty is to write a gripping yarn. Second is to convey credible characters who make you feel what they feel. Only third comes the idea."
"Science Fiction contemplates the possibility of successfully defying Fate."
"I like to be surprised. Fresh implications and plot twists erupt as a story unfolds. Characters develop backgrounds, adding depth and feeling. Writing feels like exploring."
"If you believe you can make a living as a writer, you already have enough ego. Don't let too much of it prevent you from seeking the feedback you need in order to keep honing your craft."
"Anyone who wants simple, pat stories should buy another author's product. The real universe ain't that way and neither are my fictive ones."
"I would normally never set out to write a trilogy."
"Many post-holocaust novels are little-boy wish fantasies about running amok in a world without rules. In fact, such lonely 'heroes' would vanish like soot after a real apocalypse."
"Anyone who wants simple, pat stories should buy another author's product. The universe ain't that way, and neither are my fictive ones."
"I'm appalled by the notion of 'eternal human verities' -- a loathsome concept, foisted by brooding, husk-like academics, proclaiming that people will forever be the same, repeating every Proustian obsession, every omphaloskeptic navel-contemplation, and every dopey mistake of our parents and their parents all the way until time's end. A horrible concept that is-fortunately disproved by history and science and every generation of bright kids who strive to climb a little higher than their ignorant ancestors. And to raise kids of their own who will be better still. The greatest story. The greatest possible story."
share this page
Contact David Brin by email.