Corporations in space -- 12/09/10

This is my 4th entry in my 5th year of taking part in Holidailies. If you have wandered in from Holidailies, you can scroll down to read a brief introduction.

Stephen Bainbridge (a law professor who blogs) had a blog entry yesterday that he titled "Welcome To The Future, Where The Stars Belong to Corporations." He was discussing how Star Trek seemed to exist in some vaguely socialist future that has transcended capitalism. His entry was inspired by an entry of the same title on
io 9 (a science fiction oriented blog). And that, in turn, was inspired by the successful launch earlier this week by SpaceX corporation.

Although there certainly are numerous examples of Star Trek style futures as well as Evil Corporation plots, I would suggest that they exist more in the works of Hollywood than in science fiction literature (which, after all, features a large number of writers with libertarian views) and that written s.f. is quite far from silly Roddenberry visions. (Roddenberry had ruled that there was no such thing as money in the Star Trek future, that mankind would have evolved beyond needing such a filthy thing as money. Hmmm, and yet I do not believe Roddenberry insisted on giving his creation away nor that he worked for free.)

Professor Bainbridge mentioned Robert Heinlein and Jerry Pournelle as examples of writers who did include corporations in their novels -- and did not insist on making those corporations be the sources of evil. I would suggest that we not forget authors such as Larry Niven, Poul Anderson, Neal Stephenson, Jack Vance, Charles Stross, and Peter F. Hamilton -- and this is just off the top of my head, no searching through my bookshelves or crawling through the Internet.

I would make a point of separating written science fiction from the Hollywood stuff. When it comes to Hollywood movies, if there is a corporation involved in the plot, you can be pretty certain that it is an evil and greedy corporation run by evil and greedy corporate scum. (The truly amusing part of this is that these movies about evil corporations are being made by large corporations for the purpose of making a profit.) but consider Josh Whedon's Firefly series (or Serenity, his movie spinoff). This was definitely not a Roddenberry future. And, while television science fiction is on my mind, how about Battlestar Galactica and Caprica? The multi planet civilization envisioned there had businesses of various sizes, from mom-and-pop shops to large corporations.

Of course most movies are just recycling memes from the first motion pictures of a century ago, except with much better special effects, and they are made by people who are fairly ignorant of anything outside of their jobs. Corporations are just organizations created by and run by people. Some of them are admirable and some of them are scum. As far as I can see, the same thing applies to governments, except that governments are bigger, more powerful, more corrupt, and are responsible for far more evil and suffering in the world than any corporation.

A brief introduction.... (edited to update it from 2006)
A brief introduction for anyone who wanders in here from the Holidailies site -- I'm a middle-aged (*cough* okay, 63 67 , but I don't look a day over 62 66 ) guy who lives in Rhode Island with my wife Nancy (a middle-school math teacher), daughter Gillian ("Jill" -- 24
28 yr old college student), son Jeremy (21 25 yr old college student restaurant manager), and Tiger (senior citizen cat). Eldest child Adam lives in New York City with his wife Leah and our grandson s Sam and Milo . I'm a former programmer/systems analyst who got into doing software training and currently works from home doing quality assurance and editing on course material for both classroom courses and Web-based training courses. I've been writing this online journal since 1996.

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