David Brin's best-selling novels include The Postman (filmed in 1997) plus explorations of our near-future in Earth and Existence. His award-winning novels and short stories explore vividly speculative ideas through a hard-science lens. His nonfiction book, The Transparent Society, won the American Library Association's Freedom of Speech Award for exploring 21st Century concerns about security, secrecy, accountability and privacy.
This Hugo and Nebula award-winning series by David Brin, one of the most inspiring recent works of science fiction, includes these novels:
Complete access to my novels, story collections and published short stories, and to my nonfiction books, articles and essays.
David Brin often writes about uplift (as science and science fiction) on his Contrary Brin blog. He also estaablished these pages dedicated to curating uplift-related information.
David Brin's Uplift series portrays humanity's desperate struggle for survival in a dangerous universe... and how we may cope by adding diversity to our civilization — by bringing "wise partners," other sentient beings, with us on this journey.
Artificial intelligence is one way that we envision these "wise partners." But in this science fiction series diversity is achieved by boosting the intelligence of some of our fellow creatures on Planet Earth. Think of it: Dolphins and apes — especially! — seem trapped under a "glass ceiling" that limits their ability to speak, to argue, to create, to use tools, to invent and take part in Terran culture. But what if we, the first species on Earth to cross the wide gulf of sapience, were to turn around and offer the hand of "uplift" to them? To pass on the gift (that sometimes threatens to be a curse) of a fully empowered mind?
And then, what if we find out that's the normal thing to do? What if others have been performing "uplift" for a very long time, out there amid the myriad stars?
Billions of years ago, an alien race known as the Progenitors began to genetically alter lower species, granting them intelligence, so they can enter Galactic civilization, and achieve star-faring status. No species has ever reached the stars without the guidance of a patron — except humankind. Humans, by their own initiative, achieved star-faring status and uplifted their own clans — chimpanzees and dolphins. But it's a dangerous universe, and established alien clans don't look favorably upon upstart Earthlings, who claim to have started on their own.
These best-selling space epics interweave multiple viewpoints, both human and alien, with complex story lines and solid science. Among the most popular features of these series are the non-human characters, especially the neo-dolphins and neo-chimps, whose thoughts, reactions and psychological stresses are expressed in ways that readers find transfixing and moving. Both strange and strangely familiar... awkward, beautiful and fun.
As David Brin comments, "Each story in the Uplift Universe deals with some issue of good and evil — or the murky realm between." Science Fiction critic John Clute writes that Brin "takes on the galaxy with all the exuberance of an E.E. Smith reborn. There is a ladder to the stars in these books, and humanity (with our new partners) claws upward into pole position in the Five Galaxies."
It's one thing to portray this endeavor in fiction: the prospects, dangers and hopes for increasing animal — and possibly human — intelligence. But could it happen in real life? And if so, what are the ethical, biological, and political drawbacks? If both right and left oppose it, out of reflex, how could such a program ever start? And would the goal — an Earth civilization filled with diverse and beautifully different minds — be worth the pain of getting there? Preliminary questions are asked in Existence
And over at BBC Future Brin joins a groups of others do answer the question, "... as we expand our understanding of how the brain works, and use animal experiments to learn more about the genes involved in intelligence, will we reach a point where we can pull other species onto our intellectual plane?"
Also, in a recent issue of Scientific American, David was asked to speculate about whether science will be able to uplift non-humans. But we've always done this — for example, when we bring a new generation of barbarians, er, children, into the world. Our recent fixation on the notion of diversity as a general good has led to countless subdivisions of interest groups, subcultures and passionate hobby-obsessions, even Klingon-speakers. How better to improve our overall wisdom than by increasing the range of minds who are engaged in our great conversation?
The novel Earth is known for its many predictions that were realized. Did the Uplift novels predict the latest scientific innovation? "For the very first time, scientists have demonstrated that a brain implant can improve thinking ability in primates." Of course, this begins the debate over the wisdom of pursuing the science: "The question now is: Should we go around enhancing the brains of other living creatures? Do we have the right? Would we live to regret it?"
The idea of augmenting the intelligence of humans and other species is a favorite among science fiction writers and filmmakers. Here are just a few examples:
Uplift isn't the only place where fictional dolphins swim. These clever underwater companions navigate film and television and books.
Orangs, chimps, and apes are a favorite foil for fiction. Though Brin wrote elsewhere about one giant, lovelorn ape, writers tend to prefer primates as tricksters. See these examples from fiction and screen.
In this YouTube video David Brin talks about why his Uplift novels seem to differ from his more realistic near-future novels. Then in his Trekspertise interview Brin discusses what makes Science Fiction different from other fiction. Or watch this video where he talks about how humans 'uplift' to civilization.
Want to see other bright minds talk about how science and science fiction contribute to uplift? Watch scholar, writer, and researcher (on propaganda, public diplomacy, the Middle East and science fiction) Etienne Augé talk about why our world needs more science fiction. And Dr. Laura Wiebe looks at how fictional futures can re-imagine real ones.
MTV stopped by WorldCon 2012 and asked David Brin a few questions about Uplift. Watch the interview here.
blastr magazine compiled a list of 12 sci-fi epic adventure series to rival the George R. R. Martin/HBO series Game of Thrones — and Uplift made the list! blastr called the Uplift series "one of the most fascinating pieces of sci-fi worldbuilding you'll ever pick up."
blastr's list was generated from a reddit thread, so feel free to upvote Uplift.
In this interview with Wired Magazine David Brin touches on a great many topics, including why it might be a good idea to uplift our more intelligent sea creatures: "...the evolution of creatures like us, with hands and fire and all that sort of thing, may be rare in the galaxy. In which case, when we do build starships and head out there, perhaps we’ll find lots and lots of life worlds, but they’re all like Polynesia. We’ll find lots and lots of intelligent lifeforms out there, but they’re all dolphins, whales, squid, who could never build their own starships."
From its very beginnings, science fiction has been transfixed by the eerie notion that human beings may someday pick up the Creator’s toolkit and start "making life," even new kinds of intelligent life. Robots and super-smart computers make up part of this tradition, but there is another side. Perhaps the most important "technology" ever discovered was the domestication of animals to serve human purposes. The question is not whether we’ll take on these powers, but when. In the long run, we’ll be better prepared if we’ve thought about it well in advance.
How easy would it be to uplift other creatures? Would some be easier to transform than others? Brin's novels imagine uplifting primates and dolphins first — and now a philosopher is evaluating the elephant. Perhaps the Streaker of the future will need an elephant?
Will bitter ideological rifts dominate the 21st Century, as they did the 20th? Or might we shrug off some of the obsolete intellectual baggage we've inherited from past thinkers who (in fact) knew much less than we do now? David Brin's questionnaire regarding ideology and human destiny pokes at the deeper assumptions that underlie the many assumptions we take for granted.
The science may be getting close. In "Intelligence, Uplift, and Our Place in a Big Cosmos" Brin looks at the current state of research dedicated boosting brain power.
And in "Are animals intelligent ... enough?" Brin discusses the scientific discussion on whether (and which) animals are ready for uplift.
But if the science and the species are ready, will we be allowed to uplift openly — publicly — or will the technology be driven underground? As Brin notes, "There are — at present — rules against doing such insertion experiments on higher creatures like apes. But when the prospect looms closer, can you doubt trials will begin?"
Still more to think about: In "Amazing — and sometimes deadly — animals," Brin cautions we may not want to uplift another species that murders, noting "...among mammals in general just 0.3 percent of deaths are murders. For the common ancestor of primates, the rate is 2.3 percent. With 2 percent as a human baseline, we come across as both uncommonly peaceful for primates and uncommonly violent for mammals."
David Brin wrote the storyline, scenario and opening sequence to the famous Dreamcast game (now ported to Playstation 2!)... Ecco The Dolphin: Defender of the Future. The scenario is special for its emphasis on an interesting science fictional back story. But the real excitement lies in Appaloosa Inc.'s vivid new 3-D worlds and rendering-on-the-fly technology. The underwater worlds of Ecco are truly wonderful to behold, and the game playing is outtasight. The wonderful old Dreamcast game has been re-issued as a downloadable for the Nintendo Wii. For a great (and impartial) review of Ecco the Dolphin, see the GameSpot review.
This is the role-playing game based on David Brin's award-winning "Uplift" series! GURPS Uplift includes complete descriptions of the important alien races, maps and descriptions of the Terragens planets, and rules for creating — and Uplifting — new species. It is intended for use with the GURPS Basic Set, GURPS Compendium I, and GURPS Space. Also:
The website TV Tropes compiled a series of Uplift-inspired tropes, including: Alien Invasion, Assimilation Plot, Banana Peel, Batman Gambit, Bizarre Alien Biology, Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism, Evil Matriarch, Kill it With Water....
Other tv trope pages:
Need a gift for your nerdy sci-fi friends? Underbrain Industries offers T-shirts, mugs and caps with logos from the Uplift Universe — like symbols of the Five Galaxies, dolphins & chimps posing for the Uplift Center, and the Terragens Marines patch. And the Eye-Q symbol for the Quantum Eye oracle computer in Existence! Got civilization? This will ensure that you do.
David Brin's science fiction novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, winning multiple Hugo, Nebula and other awards. At least a dozen have been translated into more than twenty languages. They range from bold and prophetic explorations of our near-future to Brin's Uplift series, envisioning galactic issues of sapience and destiny (and star-faring dolphins!). Learn More
Short stories and novellas have different rhythms and artistic flavor, and Brin's short stories and novellas, several of which earned Hugo and other awards, exploit that difference to explore a wider range of real and vividly speculative ideas. Many have been selected for anthologies and reprints, and most have been published in anthology form. Learn More
Since 2004, David Brin has maintained a blog about science, technology, science fiction, books, and the future — themes his science fiction and nonfiction writings continue to explore. Learn More
Who could've predicted that social media — indeed, all of our online society — would play such an important role in the 21st Century — restoring the voices of advisors and influencers! Lively and intelligent comments spill over onto Brin's social media pages. Learn More
David Brin's Ph.D in Physics from the University of California at San Diego (the lab of nobelist Hannes Alfven) followed a masters in optics and an undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Caltech. Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in Brin's PhD research. Learn More
Brin's non-fiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?, continues to receive acclaim for its accuracy in predicting 21st Century concerns about online security, secrecy, accountability and privacy. Learn More
Brin speaks plausibly and entertainingly about trends in technology and society to audiences willing to confront the challenges that our rambunctious civilization will face in the decades ahead. He also talks about the field of science fiction, especially in relation to his own novels and stories. To date he has presented at more than 300 meetings, conferences, corporate retreats and other gatherings. Learn More
Brin advises corporations and governmental and private defense- and security-related agencies about information-age issues, scientific trends, future social and political trends, and education. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World's Best Futurists, and he was appraised as "#1 influencer" in Onalytica's Top 100 report of Artificial Intelligence influencers, brands & publications. Past consultations include Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and many others. Learn More
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"The fiction of David Brin is informed by a central recurring theme as well, in his case the operation of various kinds of evolution: organic and synthetic, directed and undirected, fast and slow. This interest in dynamic change feeds into his vision of SF as an essentially optimistic form: not because he believes in 'progress' but because he believes in the ability of humankind to improve its condition."
"Brin deftly explores the issues of identity, privacy and work in a world where everyone is supported with a living wage and has ready access to duplication technology. The book features the author's usual style, with a lighter touch and punnish humor abounding amid the hard SF speculation. The duplication of the 'ditective' makes for a challenging twist on the standard private eye narrative, allowing Morris to simultaneously lead the reader through three separate (and interacting) plot lines."
— Publisher's Weekly
"Existence is a book that makes you think deeply about both the future and life's most important issues. I found it fascinating and I could not put it down."
"If enough people read Brin's book [The Transparent Society], or are brushed by the currents of thought in represents, then it may turn into a self-negating prophecy: a warning of dystopia that by virtue of the horror it paints helps avoid that horror. That was the function of George Orwell's 1984. That is an honorable role for anyone's book."