Jeremy Bentham was on to something, but Gaia takes it too far: considering individuality vs.superorganisms in “Foundation and Earth” (also spoilers)

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DONE! I cannot begin to tell you how amazing it feels to be able to put this series to bed and move on with my life.

I’m happy to have read the series, if for no other reason than I can now say that I did. It feels like an accomplishment, and like it gives me more credibility as an accomplished science-fiction reader. Though, I am admittedly still in my infancy in that genre.

Asimov and I disagree on many fundamental concepts on which his opinions were expressed throughout the series. Most notably, his views on women, sexuality, and gender relations, though there were others as well. This made the series a challenging one for me to read – I had to labour (yes, labour) to put aside my objections and offense so that I could read the books. This was near-impossible for me at the start, but by book 7 I had improved enough to be able to focus on plot. It also helped that books 6 (Foundation’s Edge) and 7 (Foundation and Earth) benefited from some improvements to the treatment of female characters.

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW!

Furthermore, I liked this book because I love being right, and it is rare that my predictions are correct (remember my Anna Karenina predictions – they were way off!). After reading Forward the Foundation I predicted that Daneel would be back, and I was right! Go me!

giphy

Recap:

So – ready for the spoilers? Okay – here we go. It turns out that Earth was radioactive this whole time, just like everyone kept saying it was. I assumed this would be as a result of nuclear war on the planet, because I think we can all agree that seems to be an inevitability of our times. However, it’s attributed to a fight between Spacers and Settlers, and their hatred of Earth. So, kind of nuclear war? But not really…to be  honest those details from the book – the WWWWWH of Earth becoming radioactive – are fuzzy.

I’m in a satisfying state of post-book-completion-haze right now. Pray, have mercy!

Fun fact: Trevize hilariously contracts a deadly STI whilst visiting a planet of topless women. HA! Suck it, Trevize. That’ll learn ya.

Trevize & Co. find Earth, and since it is uninhabitable, they figure the moon is the next most likely location of its ‘secret.’ They land on the moon, find Daneel, Trev determines his gut decision in favour of Galaxia was right all along, and Daneel mind-melds with a toddler. THE END.

Slightly more insightful thoughts:

An overarching theme of Foundation and Earth is the question of whether it’s better to be an individual, or one part of a larger inter-connected whole (aka Gaia, aka superorganism). The entire plot, in fact, is driven by Trevize’s desperate search for Earth to find support for his decision in favour of Gaia for the future of humanity.

Ultimately, the novel determines achieving Galaxia, in other words becoming a superorganism, is better for the well-being of humanity. But is this right? Free-will is such a fundamental belief in so many world cultures, it is difficult to envision parting from it. In fact, the necessity of giving up so much of my own free-will and self-determination to a higher power is one of the big reasons why I struggled so much with religion when I was younger.

The concept of utilitarianism seems relevant to this discussion as well – is it really the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people that matters? If it is, is it right to sacrifice personal happiness for the common good – even if that means giving up our individuality?

ARYA

Well, I couldn’t do it. Arya Stark and Trevize both have me beat there. I might be able to do it if I was able to maintain my individuality, while still participating in the ‘greater whole’ – but to completely sacrifice people’s ability to have dominion over themselves, to make their own decisions…I just can’t get behind that plan.

SIDE BAR: In Googling utilitarianism, because I couldn’t remember anything about it, the internet informed me of Spock’s “needs of the many” quote. I learned something new about Star Trek today. So, that’s pretty exciting.

 

Final thoughts: I still think I should have read iRobot instead.

Modern Family gif credit: giphy.com: http://giphy.com/gifs/modern-family-julie-bowen-i-told-you-so-3o85xpZcINGzBPDI0U
Game of Thrones photo credit: http://www.vulture.com/2016/05/arya-lessons-faceless-men-game-of-thrones.html

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Jeremy Bentham was on to something, but Gaia takes it too far: considering individuality vs.superorganisms in “Foundation and Earth” (also spoilers)

    • Thanks for the comment! Daneel does briefly explain the cause in Foundation and Earth as well, but not in great detail. Further evidence I should have read the Robot series instead!

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