Kim Stanley Robinson spoke on urgent issues for humanity
Declaring that “The world should be a public utility,” and “We have already had climate change,” science fiction writer, futurist and self-proclaimed optimist Kim Stanley Robinson spoke at the Mount Shasta library Thursday.
The winner of every major science fiction writing award, Robinson spoke on such subjects as climate shift, capitalism, overpopulation, GMOs, the future, and artificial intelligence.
A politically active environmentalist, he also read from two of his books, his short story “Muir on Shasta,” and he took questions from the audience.
Reading from “50 Degrees Below Zero,” the second book in a series on the catastrophic consequences of global warming, Robinson noted that he had described the government’s response to a flooded Washington DC as inadequate and in a slightly cynical, humorous style.
“The book was published six months before Katrina and we had some laughs,” Robinson said. “Then Katrina hit and it wasn’t funny anymore.”
On global warming, Robinson said he doesn’t need a lot of scientific data to know that it’s real.
“We have already had climate change. The glaciers are melting,” Robinson said. “Hey, I can see it.”
He also read from his latest book, “2312,” which describes a submerged Manhattan that has been turned into a Venice like city that a character in the book finds delightful.
“Three hundred years from now it won’t be remembered that it was a catastrophe,” Robinson said.
Citing famous scientists from hundreds of years ago who proclaimed that humanity would “never” do a variety of scientific accomplishments or run out of certain resources, Robinson said now that we have achieved a high level of scientific knowledge we can make predictions.
“Three hundred years ago, they could not have possibly imagined what could happen,” Robinson said. “God knows what we can come up with now. It would be rash and stupid to say we will never have a base on the moon. We might.”
He also noted that colonizing Mars, the subject of one of Robinson's award winning series, is possible, but “only if the Earth is well.”
In response to a question on GMOs, Robinson said that an extended family member had developed a new strain of rice.
“Global warming has meant the monsoons are much greater than before,” Robinson said. “The rice can survive under water for two months instead of two weeks. I think that’s good.”
Robinson acknowledged that when scientists from the companies that produce foods with GMOs say it is safe, they are greeted with suspicion.
“When you are mad at science, you are really mad at capitalism,” Robinson said. “The danger is when it becomes private for profit, like a Monsanto. The world should be a public utility. We should have public source genetic engineering.”
Another question from the audience noted that Robinson’s books often have humanity cooperating on a level that doesn’t appear to be true in our time.
“I’m more hopeful now, despite the media hoopla. The media is an inventive soap opera, not the reality on the ground,” Robinson said. “We are seeing scientific progress versus capitalism. We are making progress, but it’s contested and under the radar.”
On artificial intelligence, Robinson said science “never comes in the ways we think.”
“AI is science,” Robinson said.
On sustainability and overpopulation, Robinson noted that studies have shown where women achieve more rights they have fewer children.
“Social justice means less population,” he said.
Robinson said among the science fiction writing community he is known as an “optimist.”
“I’m thought of as a kind of Boy Scout,” Robinson said as he pointed to his head with a smile, suggesting he was a little crazy. “I figure if I write it, maybe it will come true.”
The Mount Shasta library carries several of Robinson’s books. Robinson does not have an official website, but synopses and reviews of his books can be found at www.amazon.com.