Posts Tagged ‘Uplift Storm’

The Uplift Omnibus – making monkeys smarter . . .

The Hugo, Nebula and Locus award-winnign UPLIFT, an omnibus edition from science fiction author David Brin, containing SUNDIVER, STARTIDE RISING and THE UPLIFT WARThis week we’ve released UPLIFT (UK | ANZ), an omnibus edition of the first three award-winning Uplift books. It’s one of the most highly regarded classic science fiction series ever written. And it’s no surprise – because I can’t help but seeing signs everywhere that David Brin seems to get things so very right . . .

In the Uplift universe, humans have the technology to enhance the intelligence of other species – such as dolphins and apes – and they have raised these animals to our own level of consciousness. In fact, in these books no species has ever reached a level of sentience without being genetically “uplifted” by another race. But humans are the only ones who have seemingly never been helped out in this way . . .

This book raises some very interesting questions. Why does humanity seem to be the only species on Earth to have broken through what you might call a “glass ceiling” of sentience? What makes us so different to all the other species? And if we could genetically “uplift” other species – should we?

This question is much more pertinent now than you might think.

Recently, as reported by the New York Times, scientists have been experimenting with increasing the intelligence of monkeys by using brain implants. Granted, the research is aimed at helping people who’ve had their brain damaged through dementia, strokes or injury – rather than trying to help out the little furry dude involved. And for the moment, it’s just a case of the monkey being able to match up some objects and pictures a little better than usual – rather than hold a conversation about the meaning of life and the universe.

But the question arises – how long will it be until we really can raise an animal’s intelligence level to that of a human being?

Perhaps not that long, according to an article from the University of Edinburgh. It claims that a new gene has been discovered that might have played a crucial role in our development towards using tools and language. This gene is unique to humans, and seems to have developed after we evolved from apes. What’s more – it seems to have come from nowhere. It emerged fully-formed, over an incredibly brief period of time, from DNA thought to be “non-coding”, or else termed “junk DNA”. (David Brin asks, of course – might it have been “donated”?)

The very isolation of this gene, which brings us a step closer towards working out what makes us human, could also bring us closer to being able to artificially create it within other species. And if we can do this – what might these new, more intelligent animals be like? And what could we learn about the world and our place within it? But what risks might we also take by doing so? Planet of the Apes, anyone?

EXILES, an Uplift Storm omnibus from the Hugo, Nebula and Locus award-winning science fiction author David Brin, containing the novels BRIGHTNESS REEF, INFINITY'S SHORE and HEAVEN'S REACHIf this question interests you as much as it does me, check out David Brin’s Hugo, Locus and Nebula award-winning UPLIFT (UK | ANZ), an omnibus containing SUNDIVER, STARTIDE RISING and THE UPLIFT WAR – out now.

And don’t forget that in January we’ll also be releasing EXILES (UK | ANZ), an omnibus containing the three Uplift Storm novels BRIGHTNESS REEF, INFINITY’S SHORE and HEAVEN’S REACH.

And if you’re really keen, check out this awesome Uplift merchandise. A great Christmas present for a nerd near you!

Are we alone in the universe? Alien Life, Alpha Centauri & The Fermi Paradox

David Brin, award-winning science fiction author of EXISTENCE and the UPLIFT novels
David Brin – photo by Cheryl Brigham

== Essential Questions About Alien Life ==

And now the news from Alpha Centauri . . . (oh, I’ve waited for so long to utter those words! News. From Alpha Centauri) . . .

After an incredible decade, in which the number of planets known beyond our solar system increased from zero to several thousand, astronomers have detected an Earth-sized world orbiting between the two stars nearest to our system, Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B. Much too hot to sustain life, it nevertheless will help in narrowing down the search space for others. Moreover, now we have a target for the first interstellar probes, which are already under discussion. Indeed, the youngest of you readers may live to see the launch.

Ah, but this raises the perennial question. If planets are more common than we ever thought, then what about life-worlds? And even alien intelligences?

EXISTENCE by the award-winning author of the Uplift novels, David Brin, a science fiction book about first contact, the near future and a possible coming apocalypseI have been involved in this topic all my life, having grown up in Southern California, the part of human civilization least rooted in the familiar, traditional or . . . perhaps . . . sane. I am best-known today as an author of novels and stories about our many possible-plausible futures, including some that explore a wide range of possible extraterrestrial civilizations. My scientific career, ranging from optics to astrophysics, led to papers about SETI in the 1980s that include what is still the only full review article in the field, compiling all then public theories for what I called The Great Silence, but that is now more widely known as the Fermi Paradox.

(See a collection of articles and speculations about the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI))

The Fermi Paradox refers to a question posed by the great physicist Enrico Fermi in the 1940s, demanding: “If it seems so likely the universe may host other life forms, how come we haven’t seen any signs?”  Not just of radio beacons, but of mighty structures that our own descendants might someday build out there in space. Or leakage from chatty commerce between civilizations. Or indeed, any trace that the Earth was visited during the 2 billion years that it was “prime real estate” with an oxygen atmosphere, but nothing higher than slime molds to defend it. (more…)