(2019 midterm assignment)

Model Midterm answers 2019 (Index)

Essay 3: Web Highlights

LITR 4368
Literature of the Future  

Model Assignments


Zachariah Gandin

Exploration into Humanity

          My interest is in humanity and I am holistically invested in our mutual success and growth right now and into the future. From what I have gleaned from the stories we have learned in Narratives of the Future, and the assessments of my past peers that I learned from the Model Assignments, I realize that I am not alone in both my interest and investment. These Narratives of the Future all seem to paint the picture for me, that we as a human race are very much obsessed with our own outcome and success. It seems to be in our very DNA to want to grow and better ourselves but it is not always clear how we should do this and a lot of the times, those feelings lead to a state of general dissatisfaction, sometimes subtle but sometimes very loud. That state of general dissatisfaction basically looks like people feeling deep down that they want more or to grow and be better but they do not know how to direct or examine these feelings and so end up either being obsessed with destroying it all and starting anew or gaining more and more material things until Earth runs out of those things. Luckily, those like me and the authors we are reading seem to be very aware of these feelings and care about the outcome of humanity enough to follow those feelings and explore their interpretations and ramifications.

          In Zach Thomas’s essay “Where is Our Humanity?” seems to follow the same line of thinking I follow in his examination of the three future narrative types of creation/apocalyptic, evolution, and alternative futures. He creates an excellent narrative that flows from one idea to the next that feels like one conducive argument, an argument for the hope in humanity. There is always an undertone and eventually an overtone of hope throughout his essay in which he first explains the narrative type, such as with the world succumbing to the Apocalypse in Revelations and then giving way to a beautiful image of what God intended. He shows that this theme is ever present in the other narratives and narrative types, such as the strife taking place in Parable of the Sower not being the finish line but only the “platform for the future” in which a harmonious and thriving community was her goal after the struggle of the present. Thomas paints an overall optimistic vision of the future in describing the narratives of the future to chronicle how humans gather knowledge to overcome obstacles and how there is always an ideal and beautiful world that starts after it ends.

          For the second essay, I continued to look for those who focused on humanity as a subject and topics that encompassed that subject like our empathy. “Singularity and Human Empathy” by Christa Van Allen seemed to do just that as she explores the concepts and ideals that make a human, human. She does this in a very interesting way and one unique to science fiction and narratives of the future in which humanity is explored from a sort of opposite side, as humans or artificial intelligence seeking to become more human. The idea that sparked her interest was that of a singularity, of something like an artificial intelligence becoming “so self-aware, so autonomous that it seeks the human condition.” She uses “Mozart in Mirrorshades” to paint a contrast of humans as awful and lacking this empathy and then juxtaposes it with examples of robots such Robbie from Robbie in I, Robot, who sacrifices itself to protect a girl because he cannot help being “faithful and loving and kind.” She seems to pose the point that what makes a human, human, is their empathy and that if a singularity obtains more empathy than a human then they become more human than humans and ponders what would happen to our world after such an event. As an optimist, I hope that we are in fact evolving in such a way that robots and A.I.’s are speculated to be as well in a more empathic direction, and that if a singularity were to occur in such a way, it would serve as way for humans to be reminded of and reclaim their own empathy. Or perhaps it would signal something more radical like the beginning of humans becoming obsolete and these new empathic artificial intelligences actually being the next step of human evolution.

          Kerisha Loctor’s essay “Merging of Future Narratives” I found helpful in a different way as it helped me to actually construct this very essay that I am writing right now. I was unable to find a Web Highlights essay that encompassed humanity in the way that I was particularly focusing but Loctor did focus on the interconnection and patterns present throughout all of the narrative types of Narratives of the Future like I tried to in my own first part. Loctor makes an important argument that I agree with that although the models of future narratives are usually discussed separate from one another as separate entities, they are in fact entwined than they may initially appear and actually complement one another. She does a good job of explaining all three narrative types and how they interrelate with each other although she does not make it obvious that she explored anything too terribly far beyond the narratives themselves. That said, I very much appreciate that she also comes from a more optimistic standpoint much like the other two essays I have looked at thus far, in that she sees all of the narratives coming away with an important discovery of truth about themselves or the world to be used for the betterment and growth of both.

          From reading these three essays by my predecessors I learned that there are other students interested in the same or at least very similar ideas that I am in regards to humanity, our outcomes, and the concepts that define us such as empathy. I got a deeper dive that complimented the in-class discussions I have participated in that took me deeper into the ideas that I enjoyed the most but may not have had a chance to explore more fully. And ultimately, this class, the narratives we have read, the discussions I have had with my peers and Dr. White, and the essays I have read have lent me hope into the ponderings of our future because although many seem to be obsessed with our imminent destruction and all the terrible things humanity could be capable, there always seems to be a better place we are striving for or envisioning. It is also the simple fact that we can predict and prophesize the things that could lead to our destruction that may prevent it.