Which of your own novels is your personal favorite?
That's like asking: Which of your children do you like best? Glory Season is my brave, indomitable daughter. The Postman is my courageous, civilization-saving son. Earth is the child who combined science and nature to become a planet. The Uplift War... well, I never had a better character than Fiben, the earthy-intellectual chimp!
Were you happy with the Kevin Costner adaptation of your post-apocalyptic novel The Postman?
The Postman was written as an answer to all those post-apocalypse books and films that seem to revel in the idea of civilization's fall. It's a story about how much we take for granted — and how desperately we would miss the little, gracious things that connect us today. It is a story about the last idealist in a fallen America. One who cannot let go of a dream we all once shared. Who sparks restored faith that we can recover, and perhaps even become better than we were.
Was the film faithful to this? Well, despite several scenes that can only be called self-indulgent, or even goofy... plus the fact that I was never consulted, even once... I nevertheless came away more pleased than unhappy with what Costner created. Though flawed, it's a pretty good flick — if you let yourself get into it. One that deals (a bit simplistically) with important issues and is more faithful to the book's inner heart than I expected at any point during the long decade before it was released. Costner's postman is a man of decency, a calloused idealist, not particularly courageous, who has to learn the hard way about responsibility and what it means to be a hero. The movie is filled with scenes that convey how deeply we would miss the little things... and big ones like freedom and justice. In fact, it includes some clever or touching moments that I wish I'd thought of, when writing the book.
Visually and musically, it's as beautiful as Dances with Wolves. KC is foremost a cinematographer, I will gladly grant him that.
Would I have done things differently? You bet! In a million ways. But I didn't have the 80 million dollars to make it, and in keeping true to the heart, he earned some leeway when it came to brains. Anyway, life is filled with compromises. I'd rather look for reasons to be happy.
I have posted my full response to this question elsewhere.
Are you planning on returning to the Uplift Universe?
Yes. Soon, even! Next big thing. In the meantime, have a look at the Uplift Universe page.
Can you reveal some of the inspirations behind the Uplift Saga? How did you come up with the idea?
If we don't find intelligent life in the galaxy, humanity will create it. We might contrive new entities through artificial intelligence. It could happen the American way — by encouraging more and more of us to diversify in new directions, with new interests and passions and quirky viewpoints. And of course, diversity spreads whenever we add new intelligent life forms called our children.
Then there is the idea of creating other species to talk to, through some change in the animal species that already exist around us.
Other authors have poked at this idea before. Cordwainer Smith and Pierre Boulle and H.G. Wells. Boulle's Planet of the Apes and Wells's The Food of the Gods or The Island of Dr. Moreau, and all other attempts to deal with this topic, did stick to just one perspective, however. Just one dire warning: They all portray power being executed in secret by mad scientists, then horribly abused by turning these new intelligent life forms into slaves.
I believe that — partly because of these cautionary tales — that's not what we will do. Because of those self-preventing prophecies I wanted to do something else instead. What if we try to uplift other creatures with good intentions? With the aim of making them fellow citizens, interesting people, in ways better than us? Certainly adding to the diversity and perspective and wisdom of an ever-widening Earth culture?
Wouldn't those creatures still have interesting problems? Of course they would! More complex and interesting than mere slavery. At least, that is what I hoped to explore.
Do you worry about the loss of privacy as both the government and amateurs have more and more access to surveillance?
I got some of my nicest letters based on Chapter 9 of The Transparent Society, because I really disassemble my own theory, and I appraise and talk about all sorts of ways a transparent society could go wrong! For example, you could have a really nasty version of majority-rule, such as Ray Bradbury shows in Fahrenheit 451. Even if transparency prevents Big Brother, will that mean we've traded top-down tyranny for the lateral kind? Oppression by hundreds of millions of judgmental Little Brothers?
Serious concerns! Still, real life offers reason to hope. If you look at the last 50 years, whenever the public learns more about some eccentric group, it judges that group on one criterion, and this is always the one it uses: Is this group mean?
Are they harmful and oppressive to others? When the answer is yes, the more we learn about the group, the less they're tolerated. If the answer is no, the more we learn about the group, the more they're tolerated.
If that's true and if it holds in the future — if people continue to defend others' eccentricities because (a) they think it's cool to live in a world of harmless eccentrics and (b) for the sake of their own protection — then you would likely see a 51 percent or 60 percent or 70 percent dictatorship by a majority that insists on crushing just one thing: intolerance. Okay, that's still group-think majority-imposed will. But the least harmful one you can imagine.
As far as privacy itself is concerned, I have a simple answer to that. (It makes up chapter 4 of The Transparent Society.) Human beings want it. We naturally are built to want some privacy. Moreover, if we remain a free and knowing people, then sovereign citizens will demand a little privacy, though we'll find that we must redefine the term for changing times — and practice our tolerance for harmelss eccentricities!
The question really boils down to: Will tomorrow's citizens be free and knowing? Will new technologies empower us to exert reciprocal accountability, even upon the mighty? It may seem ironic, but for privacy and freedom to survive, we'll need a civilization that is mostly open and transparent, so that each of us may catch the would-be voyeurs and Big Brothers. So that most of us know most of what's going on, most of the time.
It can happen! The proof is us. Because it is already the method that we've used for 200 years. And to see this all laid out, have a look at one of the only public policy books from the 20th Century that's still in print and selling more each year: The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?
What do you foresee as tiny cameras proliferate?
Essentially, this is the greatest of all human experiments. In theory... sousveillance (looking at the mighty from below) should cancel our worst fears about the surveillance state, if we get into the habit of stripping the mighty naked.
If that happens, we should eventually equilibrate into a situation where people — for their own sakes or because they believe in the Golden Rule or because they think they will be caught if they violate it — eagerly and fiercely zoom in upon areas where others might be conniving or scheming or cheating or pursuing grossly-harmful deluded paths...
... while looking away when none of these dangers apply. A socially-sanctioned discretion based on "none of my business" and leaving each other alone... because you'll want that other person to be your ally next time, when you are the one saying "make that guy leave me alone!"
That is where it should wind up. If we're capable of calm, or rationally acting in our own self-interest. It is stylishly cynical for most people to guffaw, at this point and assume this is a fairy tale. I can just hear some readers muttering "Humans aren't like that!"
Well, maybe not. But I have seen plenty of evidence that we are now more like that than our ancestors ever imagined they could be. The goal may not be easily attainable, but we've already taken strides in that direction.
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 200 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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