Mankind | Are we an “advanced civilization”?

When considering countries or regions that benefit from peace and a stable political system, like the U.S, Europe, most of Asia, Australia, NZ … it would seem fair to see us and call us an advanced civilization. Even if, objectively, we don’t (yet) have another to compare it to. If you are reading this, chances are you are probably from one of these countries. In these, it’s reasonable to say people make a relatively comfortable living. There are a lot of things wrong with the world but, let’s face it, they hardly ever pass onto this side of the screen.

It helps to think that there were once services that only a century ago where exclusive to millionaires – which you can now afford – like travelling to distant locations. And most of us, with a little luck, will live to see their 90th anniversary when, a few centuries ago, you’d be nearly an elder at 50. Medicine has also reduced child mortality to virtually zero. Again, not a hundred years ago, families were large because they knew most younglings would not make it into adulthood. You can now get a smartphone relatively cheap that allows you nearly instant access to basically anything you need. You couldn’t get that a decade ago. And we went to the moon and all.

So, an advanced civilization we are.

But are we really? We’ve created a society so complex it takes us nearly 20 years in school to earn a decent place in it. Teaching methods and tools have improved but we still take the same 20 years as we did for decades. It’s a good thing we live to nearly a hundred now. Some people are lucky enough to make it big in life and make a lot of money. To these, life will bring on different challenges. But, to most of us, we have to work hard to pay our bills. We spend a significant part of what we earn in energy (home electricity, car gas …) and in the supermarket (food et al.). And, of course, then there are the mortgages (the roof over our heads), transportation, education and healthcare. All of these are, in a way, “basic needs”. Some are more basic than others, sure, but the truth is, for most people, there is very little left after you pay for the basic stuff.

Why? Because we’re NOT an advanced civilization. Not even a rational one, it seems.

What would an advanced, thinking, civilization do, before starting to put out, say, new smartphones, smart TVs and car models nearly every year? A thinking civilization, an advanced one, would try to take care of people’s basic needs with the least effort – or, in the world we live in, the least cost. This would – should – be its prime directive! Pretty obvious, right? Apparently not. By this I don’t mean to have the Government pay for everything. Quite the contrary, actually. I mean to put the trendy word “sustainability” to the test and try to make basic goods and services as cheap as they can be for everyone. Ideally, at no cost at all.

All the basic needs stated above – and some more that may feel basic to you – should represent like 5% (at most) of what you earn. Or less. You should have 95%, or more, to invest, create or do whatever pleases you. In an advanced civilization, basic needs shouldn’t “eat up” 95% of your earnings. How’s this possible in this day and age? Some may say the world is too divided for this but, frankly, I don’t think that’s it. Any medium-sized country could take the reins and do the right thing, start walking in the right direction. Is this rocket science? I don’t think so. Not yet.

Point of fact is: that’s what our great minds should be focusing on. Is there a doubt in your mind that if the people who are working on smartphones and smart TVs were to focus on, say, solar cells, you would have a solar panel the size of, say, a tablet – irony intended -, able to provide for free/clean energy for your car and perhaps even your home? And all this probably before the end of this decade? And, of course, in the long-term, this progress would release resources for much needed and not-immediately-profitable enterprises, such as expanding our world.

We need an “intelligent” civilization. Not (more) “smart” phones. We need Future Man.

Bruno De Marques.

***

Kirkus Reviews describes Future Man as a “Highly imaginative (…) action packed novel” … “This wildly creative work certainly takes readers to many unexpected places.

RevolutionSF calls Future Man a “Thrilling adventure based on World War II history (…) made better by dialogue that really sounds like it comes from real people” adding that “The story takes place in present tense (…) It ratchets up the tension, as if it’s happening right now and you, the reader, are right there” concluding with “Future Man is a potent combo of history, science and adventure.”

Future Man is available now!

Amazon US (Worldwide) http://www.amazon.com/Future-Man-Bruno-Marques/dp/1480818143/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442492225&sr=8-1&keywords=future+man+bruno

Amazon UK (Europe) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Future-Man-Bruno-Marques/dp/1480818143/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442492273&sr=8-1&keywords=future+man+bruno

 Hardcover, softcover and e-book editions are available in Amazon (all stores) | Apple iBooks | Google | Barnes & Noble | Ingram | Baker & Taylor | Bowker | Kobo | Scribd

 

 

Mankind | Can we get any less interesting?

If you’re anything like me, at least once you’ve wondered how it would be like to live in the Old West, be a Cowboy roaming the frontier, or perhaps a Knight in medieval times. But there’s no need to look so further back: some of us would settle for being a glamorous movie star in 1930s, a WWII hero in the 1940s or part of the American space program’s “Original Seven”, in the 1960s.

This is the result of hearing stories or reading or watching romanticized and “action-alized” versions of tales from those periods. We all know now that those were difficult times for most people. And the further back you look, the more difficult they were. Misery, disease and war. In short, most of these times would have actually been rather terrible to live in. And if you think of how uptight your grandfather probably feels/felt to you, just imagine how uptight his grand-grand-grand x 20 x grandfather from 500-years-ago would feel. Yeah. Chances are he wouldn’t laugh at any of your jokes. Maybe the ones with funny dismemberments.

But there was still, to some degree, truth to those stories – I mean there were once Cowboys roaming the frontier and Knights fighting just causes. And there were glamorous Hollywood stars in the 30s, WWII heroes in the 40s and brave astronauts in the 60s and 70s.

You’ve probably noticed that, apart from recent armed conflicts, fiction is failing to romanticize the following decades: the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000s. Have you read or watched a movie that romanticized these times? If you did, it’s probably the exception. There aren’t a lot. Or, at least, not as much as there should be anyway, considering we’re talking about 4 decades ago already, wouldn’t you agree? Someone might say we’re still too close to those times for us to be able to “distanciate” ourselves from them and find the substance and charm to romanticize them. But that was never an issue in the past: you had “Back to the Future”(1985), that romanticized the 50s, only 30 years before it was produced. You had the “Right Stuff”(1983) that romanticized the American Space Program in the 60s – only 20 years before. And countless examples in literature.

So what’s wrong?  I don’t know for sure. I doubt anybody does. But I have a theory – again, my 2 cents on the matter. I believe we’re getting less and less interesting. That our times are getting less and less interesting.

There’s a Chinese saying that goes “May you live in interesting times.” I found out like 10 years ago that it was actually a curse and, by interesting, it actually means “troublesome times”. As in war and people-dying-for-no-reason kind of times. I was very disappointed. Before I knew what it actually meant, I liked it a lot more as it made a lot more sense to me than it does now. So indulge me in pretending it means what I first thought it meant: its literal meaning. So I may simply say that the last 40 years have not been “interesting times”.

And the fact that writers haven’t found the necessary substance in the 80s, the 90s or the 00s to romanticize these periods is (almost) undeniable proof of just that.

Just think: the most stressing global fact we’ve lived in the turn of the year 2000 was the “Millennium Bug.” Remember when we all thought computers would fail with turn of the millennium and that, by the next day, there’d be no record of your bank account or that you ever owned the house you live in? That bug. The actual issue was that the date-field in computers only had 2 spots instead of 4 and that meant it would go from “99” (1999) to “00” (2000) and, since these weren’t in sequence like before, nobody knew how computers would react. Now romanticize that! Not easy, huh? How exciting can you make it? How jealous will people feel in 50 years for not being here to live these days? This is the kind of crappy substance writers have had to work with for the last 40 years. No wonder so many turned to science fiction. Unless you spice it up with superheroes, vampires, aliens or time travelling robots from the future, there’s not a lot (with epic-story potential or cinematic “spectaculararity”) going on in the present. Or in the last 40 years for that matter. Nothing truly worth fantasizing over by future generations.

If you consider that the 80s where the times when remakes, reboots and sequels kicked into gear, along with the evolve-and-not-revolutionize wave – in just about everything – it’s not hard to see why there aren’t exciting subjects to write about.

Being a child of the 70s as I am, I thought this couldn’t get any worse. Turned out I was wrong. I wasn’t counting on how smartphones and tablets would take over our lives. And so we went down a few more steps in the “uninteresting-lives” scale. I’m sure you’ve seen evidence of this yourself. You enter a room, be it your living room or some party lounge, and you find everybody checking stuff out on their smartphones. You can tell something’s wrong with that picture but you soon ignore that feeling and join them. True?

Can we get any less interesting? Yes, apparently. Unless we do something about it.

But fear not: Future Man is here.

Bruno De Marques.

***

Kirkus Reviews describes Future Man as a “Highly imaginative (…) action packed novel” … “This wildly creative work certainly takes readers to many unexpected places.

RevolutionSF calls Future Man a “Thrilling adventure based on World War II history (…) made better by dialogue that really sounds like it comes from real people” adding that “The story takes place in present tense (…) It ratchets up the tension, as if it’s happening right now and you, the reader, are right there” concluding with “Future Man is a potent combo of history, science and adventure.”

Future Man is available now!

Amazon US (Worldwide) http://www.amazon.com/Future-Man-Bruno-Marques/dp/1480818143/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442492225&sr=8-1&keywords=future+man+bruno

Amazon UK (Europe) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Future-Man-Bruno-Marques/dp/1480818143/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442492273&sr=8-1&keywords=future+man+bruno

 Hardcover, softcover and e-book editions are available in Amazon (all stores) | Apple iBooks | Google | Barnes & Noble | Ingram | Baker & Taylor | Bowker | Kobo | Scribd

 

Mankind | The next Great World War

“Forfeiting our future”. An expression usually connected to environmental concerns. And rightfully so. But should these be the maximum expression of our fears? Are these the only extinction-level-events casting a long wide shadow over our future?

500 years ago, Mr. Copernicus tried so hard to displace Earth from the center of the universe, but in most ways, we seem incapable of seeing it otherwise. Believe it or not, most of us still see our blue planet as the center of the universe. Not astronomically speaking – maybe because that’s no longer up for debate – but, apparently, regarding everything else. In their hearts, most people believe that mankind is, unquestionably, either the first or the only civilization in the Cosmos. They must. Why else would the concept of “UFOs” or “aliens” sound ludicrous to most of us?

It’s easy to forget these were the offical designations and if they exist is because our governments, at some point, felt the need to come up with a name for them.

Try standing up right now and saying out loud you believe in UFOs or aliens. Chances are you’ll experience a Harry Potter moment, the sorts of when one of the characters says the word “Voldemort”, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Or, best case scenario, you’ll feel like an alien yourself.

A little presumptuous on our part, wouldn’t you say, to think we’re alone? And even naïve? Could this hiding-our-heads-in-the-sand-thinking be, in any way … dangerous?!

“Knowing history helps to not repeat our mistakes.” We’ve all heard or read this before. Probably from some history teacher trying to sell his class to restless students. Not you, of course. You know it’s a great point but, sometimes, you also know it’s hard to come up with an example of just how important one’s knowledge of history truly is. Well, how about this:

We, as in Mankind, must work on our own future or some other civilization’s future might cross paths with ours, taking us by surprise. Remember “Expansion”? It’s our choice, of course. But if Mankind chooses not to go ahead with it, it could be only a matter of time before another civilization does it. Why? Maybe because it has happened countless times in the past:

    • To the Mayan and Aztec civilizations, by the Spanish
    • To native Africans, by the Portuguese
    • To native Americans, by the English
    • In Asia, Australia, …

And, not surprisingly, always with the same outcome: mass murder, genocide and/or slavery. It has happened so often, in fact, that it might not be an exaggeration to say that most nations, if not all, who felt they had the upper hand in war and its technologies have travelled, often incredible distances, to subdue and conquer others. How unreasonable should it be to speculate that, at some point in Mankind’s existence, be it tomorrow or in 500 years, it will happen again?

The future is coming. Whose “future” will prevail, it should be up to us. What role do we wish to play in such a conflict? The strong yet humane wolf or the helpless sheep, without even the leverage to negotiate some sort of solution?

We should labor so one day we may overwhelm unwelcomed visitors with our technological prowess and not by (something as crude and ancient as) “fire”. Are we talking about developing weapons here? No!!! We’re talking about high-concept tech. Weapons, should they ever become a necessity (God-forbid), they should be a by-product of these technological advancements and focus in incapacitating / non-lethal approaches. The greater the technological gap between us and our unwelcomed visitors is, the more violent the conflict will be. An easy conclusion, again drawn from history’s teachings.

Our next great war. Not “World War 3”. More like “War for the World 1”. In short, let’s not make it ‘WTF’1.

Should a conflict like this arise tomorrow – and it could, just like an Earthquake or a Tsunami – chances are that, contrary to Sci-Fi popular belief, we would lose. Badly.

What we do know for sure is that such an amount of technological development will not happen overnight. It may take us centuries. If we started today, we’d already be nearly 40 years behind. And it surely feels like we’re not doing enough.

There are no certainties as far as the future goes. Except for one: that there’s no hiding from it.

You may ask the Mayans and the Aztecs. If you could find one.

Bruno De Marques. #thefutureneedsyou

Mankind | Global Space Expansion

20th century classic Sci-Fi authors had foreseen great things for the following century. This one.

If I remember correctly, none of them mentioned smartphones or tablets and the influence they’d have in our society today. Were they wrong? Personally, I don’t think so. It’s only that, in the great scheme of the future, smartphones and tablets would be small. Or should be small. Like a Tricorder. It’s surely useful in Star trek but would they need one if they didn’t have Enterprise-Class starships? Silly question. Of course they would. They could browse the net, buy stuff and upload home videos. We all know how much fun that can be.

Which part of the “future” would – could be considered the most important? Here are my 2 cents: I would go with spreading mankind throughout the Cosmos.

Global space expansion. It sounds kind of intrusive, doesn’t it?

The truth is that we’ve been doing it for 100,000 years. Maybe more. It’s like global maritime expansion, only with space. 500 years ago, we ‘spread’ to the Americas and found out the world was round. Bummer! The only way left to expand is up, towards the heavens. And we’ve been doing it ever since. Up until walking on the moon, that is.

<I’m sorry if I’m not mentioning space exploration by way of unmanned spacecraft. It’s great but not exactly what we’re meant for, I believe. But the tech is awesome and will surely be useful in days to come>

But space expansion – or space exploration, if you like – is outstandingly complex, extremely dangerous and outrageously expensive and, most of all, brings no foreseeable profit. Not even long-term. And that was the end of that. Or nearly. It is undeniable that some countries are now turning again back towards space, under the “affordable and reusable” banners. But instead of investing in new technologies and materials, they are using dated solutions. Old propulsion systems that date back to WWII. And even shaping spacecraft like ‘pods’ again, like the ones we were launching when people drove cars with tail fins and TVs ‘in color’ were the bomb.

Expansion is an expensive ordeal and we should be directing most of our resources – minds and money – towards it. I have a crazy idea: why instead of having a new smartphone model every year, why don’t we have a new one every 3 years, and have the great minds presently dedicated to developing new gadgets dedicate the 2 years in between to space expansion tech? Once they’re done dealing with our basic needs, of course.

Just stop coming up with new smartphones and stuff every year with nearly unperceivable improvements! Please.

Ultimately, it’s Mankind’s choice to expand or not. It will be a choice but not without consequence. We could – would – do this expansion thing with Startrek-like respect for everyone and everything. We could do it. And all of this could be a couple of breakthroughs away.

If we stay on Earth and another civilization arrives at our doorstep, they will have accomplished something we never could: travel across space until they found intelligent life. Could they be considered more advanced? It remains to be seen. Something tells me they’ll rave over our smartphones but also wonder, owning such tech, what we are still doing here. That’s assuming they’re the dialoging kind.

Bruno De Marques.

#thefutureneedsyou

The ‘future’ | Are smartphones and tablets ‘it’?

Let’s do something the two of us.

Close your eyes and try to picture the future in your mind. What do you see?

It’s different with everyone but it’s likely you’ll see a futuristic cityscape with tall, sleek buildings reaching for the skies and flying vehicles, either moving around or floating in queues. Looking down at ground-level, you may see humanoid robots, involved in all kinds of tasks, from helping people cross the street to street-cleaning. If you would look up, I mean way up, you might get a glimpse of a huge starship – or many – the size of a small city. Or man colonizing other worlds.

You might be surprised if I told you that what you see is not your imagination at work. It’s your vision of the future, as unbiased as you can make it. Subconsciously so. Imprinted on your mind by what you’ve read, watched and discussed since the day you were born. Most likely, whether you’re a fan or not, Science-fiction-related stuff. But not from 21st century Sci-fi. No. What you see are actually (or, at the very least, heavily influenced by) elements from 20th century Science-fiction.

20th Sci-fi was very hopeful regarding what the 21st century would bring to all of us: every bit of the future you’ve just pictured in your mind plus all the opportunities it would create and entice.

Now open your eyes!

We’re 15 years into the 21st century and what do you see from the future you’ve pictured? Not a lot, huh? But there’re smartphones and tablets and smart TVs, right? But they weren’t there, were they? In the future you’ve pictured? Perhaps because, in your mind, they aren’t life-changing events. Or they shouldn’t be. But they are. And now we spend our days around them.

If someone had asked you what you think of the 21st century, before our little “parlor trick” I mean, you’d probably have responded positively. But something has changed, right? (I really hope so. This is me trying really hard, okay?)

You see, the truth is that “the future” never came. We’re still living in the past. And, if nothing changes, we’re going to be living in the past for centuries to come.

“Is this an issue? Should I care?” Yes, you should.

“Why?” Stick around. The future needs you.

Bruno De Marques.

#thefutureneedsyou