Obligate Dramatic Irony
The thing about sci-fi is that there’s stuff we can’t write anymore, and not in the culture wars sense.
In the 50s, before we reached a local maximum on robotics, we had stories about smart houses and ambulatory robot assistants.
In the 60s and 70s when we had no clue what the conditions were like on other planets, we had stories about sirens on Titan and planets that were ripe for human colonization because the atmosphere on them are by default earth-like.
In the 80s and 90s, when we had no fucking idea what this internet thing would be capable of, we had stories about metaverses and uber-powerful hackers.
Of course we can still write stuff about, like, civilizations on Jupiter or whatever, but when we do, we must do so through a filter/layer/film of something that we can call “obligate dramatic irony”. We now know for certain that the other planets in our solar system are devoid of intelligent humanoid life, so it gets that much harder to suspend your disbelief (a thing that takes work), and so the threshold for how cool a premise needs to be to use the scenario gets elevated. 1
Sci-fi pushes at the frontiers of current science for inspiration, and I think this is rad! This lessens the work needed to suspend your disbelief, increases the wonder and delight because of a thrumming background sense of plausibility, and it’s not like our current understandings of science is not conducive to a wealth of new and fucking awesome premises in SF 2.
The flip-side is just that previous frontiers are now largely blocked, and unblocked only through a self-consciously retro aesthetic (or something more clever), if writing, and a layer of obligate dramatic irony, if reading.
Anyways, this is probably something that’s already been talked about by McLuhan or DFW or the assholes who talk about hauntology/disenchantment or whatever. Please email me the key phrase to google if you know.
Rich Friend, Poor Friend
For context, I mostly socialize in upper middle class and tech- and rationalist-leaning circles, and it’s likely that at least some of what I describe are just quirks of my local culture.
I have this pet theory that I’ve shopped around a fair bit, that it’s much harder for financially comfortable people to make deep friendships.
What do I mean by a deep friendship? I mean one where you can trust the other person to come through when you need them to. There’s levels to this as well, of course. You probably ask casual friends to help you move, but not acquaintances. Close friends could be people who will let you crash on their couch for two weeks without prior notice or who will lend you rent money for the month. People who live more marginal, riskier lives might think about this in terms of who is willing to bail them out of jail or smuggle them medicine.
The thing is, money exists, and can solve most of your problems better than your friends can. If you can afford it, it’s much less annoying to hire movers, book an airbnb, contact your doctor, or call your lawyer – get professional problem solvers involved, in other words. 1
So this dynamic emerges where my rich friends never ask each other for help, pay for services using money, and never do anything unpleasant for each other, whereas my poorer friends are always doing stuff for each other out of necessity and becoming closer knit in the process.
[This is a good summary of my thesis, you can stop reading at this point if I linked this to you in a group chat or something.]Continue reading “Rich Friend, Poor Friend”
- Money does stop working in catastrophic circumstances that we will face rarely in life – someone to comfort us when a loved one dies, or trying to mend a relationship that has turned into a horrible soulsucking mess, or your apartment burns down with everything in it and you’re too catatonic to start replacing your documents and things. For those things, you kind of either have close relationships that are already established, or you’re just kind of fucked.[↑]