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17 January 2007 @ 10:11 am
The Final Five are talking to me...  
In some strange convergence of coincidence, I found out yesterday that Naomi Novik wrote a fic for yuletide pseudonymously (I knew she used to write fanfic, and she defends it vigorously, but I didn't know this was an ongoing thing, especially now that her series has been optioned for a gazillion dollars by PJackson). Then today one of my magazines arrives and she's on the cover. You think maybe some higher power is trying to tell me to just read Temeraire already?

In my copious free time. hee.

But I've been thinking a bit.

I have a meta idea on BSG, relating to Measure of Salvation. It struck me while watching Terminator 2, that the Colonies must not have had any science fiction tradition.



Because, if my Roomba (a small vacuuming robot, if you've never seen one) decided to take over the world, I'd at least have the vocabulary to discuss the options. We could ask whether it's a sentient being, whether it's a life-form (not the same question at all), and whether all Roombas are programmed to take over the world, or whether they are capable of individual decisions. We could compare them to images in our culture: are they the T-100 or more like C-3PO? We could ask if it was human hubris that made the creators not hardwire the Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics into Roombas, and others could debate whether it would have made a difference. People could have debates about sending an EMP to wipe them all out. But we can only do this because we have a hundred years of writers and other artists who imagined very many different scenarios with machines "waking up", both cautionary and hopeful, and framed the issues for us.

That is, I think, not true of the Twelve Colonies. In fact I get the idea that no one so much as raised the question about whether smart robots might be a bad idea way back before the First Cylon War. (Caprica if it goes, may make that untrue, but for now, it holds)

I see it in the way the debate is framed in such a binary way: Roslin, Lee, etc think of the Cylons as machines. Toasters. Sometimes they may acknowledge that the Cylons are alive, but that's as far as any of them go. The Cylons are no more worthy of existence than a broken car.

Whereas Helo, because of his love for Sharon and Hera, made the jump to seeing the Cylons (all the Cylons) as People. Wrong People, enemy People, but people. But few others have made that conceptual leap: Baltar, and Bill Adama, probably. Others seem to acknowledge Sharon as a person, but without necessarily extending that to all the Cylons.

So Helo decided genocide isn't a moral option even in Self/species-defense. But Roslin and Lee never reached the question of the morality of genocide in this situation because to them it wasn't genocide at all. Genocide is only genocide, if you're annhilating people; otherwise it's pest control. And we rarely think twice about tenting our homes for termites, do we?

The two points-of-view ended up incomprehensible to each other because they didn't have the words to find middle-ground. That middle ground being closer to the truth -- the Cylons are their enemies, they are not-human, but they are sentient beings. But without a tradition of stories about alien visitors and machines-run-amuck, they're forced to use the only two boxes they have: machine or person. They can't conceive that someone can be both.

Whereas we, for example, already debate how intelligent chimpanzees and dolphins are and how much they think. It's not a stretch to imagine us debating, not whether our computers are smart, but how smart they are, or whether our cars are deserving of protections from abuse. Even animals not generally regarded as thinking beings are protected from cruelty, so why not Robot Dogs?

So, what does this mean? On a superficial level, I'm sure a RTF of Earthlings might very well have some more ideas of what to do about the Cylons. But more importantly, the Colonials are going to have to come to the realization that Cylons are not the monolithic, 'machine' society they think it is. We the audience already know, but the RTF still has to discover that Sharon isn't unique. At least some Colonials will have to move beyond their two cozy, narrow categories and find some more. The question for me is what they do with that knowledge. I've often wondered whether the conflict would become more three-sided (Hard-core Cylons, Hard-core Humans, and a small group of both working together in opposition to the other who only want war) and that knowledge may be the key to get them there. Without it, I don't think there's any hope of anything either than one side or other other's extermination.



*blinks*

ok, that was rather more than I intended to say on that. I hope it made some sense. *g*

And there's now a thunderstorm outside.
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entertaining in a disturbing way: co-official batshitlyssie on January 18th, 2007 12:02 am (UTC)
That idea--that Roslin and Lee still see them as nothing but machines? YES. And I was trying to articulate that, at one point. And then got distracted.
lizardbeth: K-A Rapturelizardbeth_j on January 18th, 2007 03:07 am (UTC)
It's not even that the cylons are machines, because well, yes, they are. it's that Roslin has no concept of machines ALSO being people. It's a light switch, human or machine, with no in between. Helo tried to articulate it by bringing up the "they were trying to help us" thing, but it was... er, poorly timed. He's going to need better proof to get them to open their minds.
The Proverbial Bull in a China Shop...: Progenitorssabaceanbabe on January 18th, 2007 01:23 am (UTC)
I've often wondered whether the conflict would become more three-sided (Hard-core Cylons, Hard-core Humans, and a small group of both working together in opposition to the other who only want war) and that knowledge may be the key to get them there. Without it, I don't think there's any hope of anything either than one side or other other's extermination.

I've been thinking that's where the whole shebang has been headed since late season one. *thinks* Maybe early season 2. You know, right about the time that Helo noticeably accepted Sharon as a person and not a thing and was no longer quite so freaked out that he was in love with her. :)
weissmanweissman on January 18th, 2007 01:34 am (UTC)
Hooah!
lizardbeth: K-A Rapturelizardbeth_j on January 18th, 2007 02:56 am (UTC)
true, but they haven't gained many followers, either, have they? They can't do it alone. That's because too many Colonials, even if they recognize Sharon's person-hood, think she's different. She's the exception from the rule. What they need in order to break the RTF mindset is proof that other Cylons also can be an exception. I thought they were going that way in 'Downloaded' but of course Boomer and Caprica Six's big plan evaporated.
(no subject) - sabaceanbabe on January 18th, 2007 03:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lizardbeth_j on January 18th, 2007 03:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lizardbeth_j on January 18th, 2007 03:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sabaceanbabe on January 18th, 2007 03:20 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lizardbeth_j on January 18th, 2007 03:30 am (UTC) (Expand)
weissmanweissman on January 18th, 2007 01:36 am (UTC)
"I've often wondered whether the conflict would become more three-sided (Hard-core Cylons, Hard-core Humans, and a small group of both working together in opposition to the other who only want war) and that knowledge may be the key to get them there. Without it, I don't think there's any hope of anything either than one side or other other's extermination."

-I agree with this 100% and it adds to something the Grace Park said about a year ago, that Sharon and Helo represent a light at the end of the tunnel that in the end only some will follow.

I also agree that a major milestone for the RTF is to see the Cylons and living breathing beings. As far as how, human or not human they are. Well Hera exists, that means something.

Bob
lizardbeth: K-A Rapturelizardbeth_j on January 18th, 2007 03:24 am (UTC)
Hera (and others like her, if we get to that point), are going to be the main proof of Cylons being people. Clearly Roslin and her ilk have a very convenient compartamentalization of Hera's status as human or not. She's some sort of exotic "Other" at the moment, neither one or another. More like a weapon to keep out of the hands of the Cylons, than a child. Hopefully when she's rescued and people can see she is just a child, some eyes will open.

Cuz I'd really like Helo and Sharon to have some allies. Adama helps as much as he can, I think, but he's bound by his duty and his orders. They need more support.
(no subject) - weissman on January 18th, 2007 11:50 am (UTC) (Expand)
Geoffrey D. Wesselgdwessel on January 18th, 2007 03:49 am (UTC)
I came here via a link by lyssie.

I think you have a salient point here. As a backup example, I use the comic Watchmen -- in a world where masked adventurers are real, superhero comics went away (Action Comics #1 was mentioned in the character Hollis Mason's autobiography, so there was a sense that Watchmen took place in the "real world"), as, well, there they were in the flesh. Instead, pirate comics were the big thing, with the biggest titles being things like Tales of the Black Freighter and X-Ships.

So here's my question to you -- if the Colonies have no speculative fiction tradition (at least as we know it), what superceded it?
lizardbeth: K-A Rapturelizardbeth_j on January 18th, 2007 04:10 am (UTC)
hm, interesting question. We don't know that much about leisure things. We know they have books, and Adama gave Roslin one of his 'favorites', but I can't remember if they mentioned what kind of book it was. But yes, it makes some sense that the Colonies don't need fiction to tell them about hyperdrives and other planets, because they already have those.

My guess, however, is religion. Because if the culture's main (and only, apparently) religion's main tenet is "this has all happened before and will happen again" it crushes the whole idea of the future being something you can speculate about. Or perhaps thinking more broadly, history is more important than speculation, because to them all things are cyclical and so by studying the past, one really can know what's to come.

So perhaps histories, historical fiction and biographies are their equivalent? Other than that, I'm fairly clueless.

Or, pirates. *g*
(no subject) - gdwessel on January 18th, 2007 04:53 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lizardbeth_j on January 18th, 2007 06:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - gdwessel on January 18th, 2007 06:31 am (UTC) (Expand)
samanthamarie88: pic#55642429samanthamarie88 on January 18th, 2007 04:41 pm (UTC)
I'm getting into the whole "all of this has happened before and all of this will happen again" thing. During this mid-season break, I've been trying to get a good sense of the Colonial religion/history and the Cylon religion/history, and how they intersect. I think there is going to be a shift to the Colonial acceptance of Cylons as people. That's why Hera is the "shape of things to come". There will be a melding of the two races, although there will be some holdouts on both sides who cannot accept this (Roslin/Lee/Tigh? on the human side, and Cavil on the Cylon side).
lizardbeth: K-A Rapturelizardbeth_j on January 18th, 2007 05:38 pm (UTC)
oh yes, there's certainly already been some movement toward acceptance on both sides, as slow and small as it is. And I think actually that Lee will be one of them. As much as I dislike him, he will stick to a principle once he has one, so I imagine that once he gets his eyes opened he'll be a supporter.(getting that mind to open up may take awhile, though)

The religion thing is interesting. The part about the Cylons knowing more about the Colonial religion than the colonials do in particular. For a 'race' that's only existed for fifty-odd years and has its own religiion, the Cylons have an unuusal interest. As well as a source. It could be a simple matter of synthesis -- they learned everything, all the scriptures, all the theory etc, which no human could do. Or they had some assistance from one of the Kobol Lords which seems more likely to me.

Time-travel's involved here someplace, I bet. Self-fulfilling prophecies often equal time travel in sci-fi, and I'm thinking that's going to end up as one of the answers.
(no subject) - samanthamarie88 on January 18th, 2007 06:27 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lyssie on January 19th, 2007 04:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lizardbeth_j on January 19th, 2007 04:48 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lyssie on January 19th, 2007 04:50 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lizardbeth_j on January 19th, 2007 04:59 am (UTC) (Expand)
ellestraellestra on January 18th, 2007 08:38 pm (UTC)
I agree with you. Hate and fear usually leads to calling enemy inhuman and it is understandable in from Colonials in their current position, however Roslin’s and others reactions in miniseries suggested they’ve never considered cylon sentient and autonomous. She always repeats that they are programmed to do/think like this but them who programmed them? I always thought that was their (Colonials) main problem. That’s what got them into this whole mess. Things could have been much better if they’ve acted differently when the cylons showed sings of consciousness first. But then we wouldn’t get the BSG to watch :P. I wrote more about treatment of AI in movies at my lj - if your interested it's here :http://ellestra.livejournal.com/2577.html#cutid - and I don’t want to spam you with this as it's rather long so I just say I hope we can do better then scream “pull the plug” when/if we get there.

Oh, and one more thing – I mostly thing about humanoid cylons as humans with some serious delusions. But maybe that’s just because I’ve read way too much about humans with neural interfaces, re-lifeing from backups, nanotechnology and cloning :P
lizardbethlizardbeth_j on January 18th, 2007 09:30 pm (UTC)
I mostly thing about humanoid cylons as humans with some serious delusions. But maybe that’s just because I’ve read way too much about humans with neural interfaces, re-lifeing from backups, nanotechnology and cloning

precisely *g* Our definition of 'human' is much more flexible than any Colonial. I rather like the bits of Cylon culture we've seen that are not human and more alien, but that's my own SF subgenre bias. A detailed alien culture will always punch my buttons more than cyber-humans. *g*

I would bet that attitude of "we did this ourselves" was more prevalent in the First war, when the Cylons were more clearly their creations, instead of the self-evolved beings they are now. The Cylons seem to be the only ones who remember, or care anyway, that the humans started it all.

As far us on Earth go... yeah, we can hope that reason will win out. And we will have all those movies and such to point to and say, "We all saw that movie. Do you want to cause Judgment Day? Let's not panic and try something else."

(no subject) - ellestra on January 19th, 2007 07:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Mayhem Parvaraincitygirl on January 25th, 2007 08:01 am (UTC)

I've often wondered whether the conflict would become more three-sided (Hard-core Cylons, Hard-core Humans, and a small group of both working together in opposition to the other who only want war) and that knowledge may be the key to get them there. Without it, I don't think there's any hope of anything either than one side or other other's extermination.

Given the tremendous military and resource advantage the Cylons have over the humans, I think there will have to be some kind of rapprochement, because if the Cylons are really set on wiping out the RTF, they'll get it done eventually.

Something will have to change radically on both sides for any such rapprochement to make sense, though. I mean, after the New Caprica occupation, your average Colonial is going to be pretty distrusting of any future olive branch.
lizardbeth: Helo-Sharon fanficlizardbeth_j on January 25th, 2007 07:30 pm (UTC)
oh yes, most definitely, I agree with both your points: the Cylons will be the ultimate winners if they really want to exterminate all the humans (although that doesn't seem to be the plans of all the Cylons, now that we've seen some of their inner workings). And yeah, any "truce" by the Cylons is going to be taken skeptically by the humans, as they should.

But that's why it's going to have to be a very small group -- one Cylon (i.e. Caprica) and one human at a time. A very slow, very personal scale shift. But it's not as huge a problem as it is on our world -- there's only 40,000 odd people in the whole fleet. The Cylons are the problem, now that there are basically none left who have any connections to the humans. They have no reason to stop the war, especially not with the Cavills pushing for extermination.

Mystical crap aside, that might be the story function of the Final Five -- something in the Cylon side is going to have to change. Some split, some dissent, something, because otherwise it gets unreasonable that they don't just take their basestars en masse and wipe out the RTF. Or, at least, it does to me. Ron's Mileage may vary. *g*
(no subject) - raincitygirl on January 26th, 2007 06:09 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lizardbeth_j on January 26th, 2007 06:49 am (UTC) (Expand)