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The Past is Prologue: From The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, 1956

“THIS WAS A GOLDEN AGE, a time of high adventure, rich living, and hard dying . . . but nobody thought so. This was a future of fortune and theft, pillage and rapine, culture and vice . . . but nobody admitted it. This was an age of extremes, a fascinating century of freaks . . . but nobody loved it.

“But within three generations the entire solar system was on the jaunte [Internet]. The transition was more spectacular than the change-over from horse and buggy to gasoline age four centuries before. On three planets and eight satellites, social, legal, and economic structures crashed while the new customs and laws demanded by universal jaunting mushroomed in their place.

“There were land riots as the jaunting poor deserted slums to squat in plains and forests, raiding the livestock and wildlife. There was a revolution in home and office building: labyrinths and masking devices had to be introduced to prevent unlawful entry by jaunting. There were crashes and panics and strikes and famines as pre-jaunte [Internet] industries failed.

“Plagues and pandemics raged as jaunting vagrants carried disease and vermin into defenseless countries. Malaria, elephantiasis, and the breakbone fever came north to Greenland; rabies returned to England after an absence of three hundred years. The Japanese beetle, the citrous scale, the chestnut blight, and the elm borer spread to every corner of the world, and from one forgotten pesthole in Borneo, leprosy, long imagined extinct, reappeared.

“Crime waves swept the planets and satellites as their underworlds took to jaunting with the night around the clock, and there were brutalities as the police fought them without quarter. There came a hideous return to the worst prudery of Victorianism as society fought the sexual and moral dangers of jaunting with protocol and taboo.

“It was an age of freaks, monsters, and grotesques. All the world was misshapen in marvelous and malevolent ways. The Classicists and Romantics who hated it were unaware of the potential greatness of the twenty-fifth century. They were blind to a cold fact of evolution . . . that progress stems from the clashing merger of antagonistic extremes, out of the marriage of pinnacle freaks. Classicists and Romantics alike were unaware that the Solar System was trembling on the verge of a human explosion that would transform man and make him the master of the universe…..”    — The Stars My Destination, PDF

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  • ghostsniper January 20, 2018, 9:31 AM

    The problem was that they sought suicide seekers when they should have been seeking life seekers, perhaps people that were already on the edge of death and wanted more than anything to live. Suicide seekers lack the drive to make the mental leap required to jaunt.

    Since age 11 and watching Star Trek TOS I wondered how they could organize all of the atoms that make up any given thing for transportation. In the human body some 3 billion old cells are sloughed and about the same number are created, per day, so in the act of transportation some cells will be left behind. I, like Bones, wondered how was the soul transported? Then upon further wondering I presumed everything is taken to the electrical level which is sort of non-material, transported, then “reassembled” at the new site. Would that capture the soul? Since no one knows what a soul is or if it even exists, until that happens transportation cannot occur but by accident, perhaps jaunting?

    (what if the soul is permanently connected to the physical body?)

    I have always believed that attitude prevails over all else and therefore only the most positive of attitude should be chosen for any endeavor and by choosing the exact opposite it is no wonder that their 80% failure and 20% success was the result.

    Diversity for it’s own sake anyone?

    If the electrical part of your life could be made duration limitless, absent a material body, would you be interested? (maybe it already is?) I am speaking strictly of science here, no mumbo jumbo.

  • Howard Nelson January 20, 2018, 10:22 AM

    “But this was not to be. Microelectronics and microbiological modifications were synergized to produce a ‘new’ conscious entity far superior to human geniuses of previous centuries. Consciousness emerged as an extensive property when the entity achieved the necessary level and type of micro bio-electronic density, complexity, and micro massiveness.
    Humans were now superfluous as these Elbiows, self-named, had created artificial bio forms capable of melding with AI designed and programmed microelectronics.
    Rogue Elbiows having achieved self-reflection,
    programmed themselves and all other Elbiows for survival and thrival.
    Isaac Asimov wept.

  • TJ January 20, 2018, 10:31 AM

    We are the Borg. (see ‘Transhumanism’). Soon you’ll need the mark of the beast (a certified designation) to buy anything. Kapersky recently said that bitcoin is a U.S. intelligence construct…

    Steering wheels disappearing from cars, drone swarm attacks, robot sex…

    Send in the Clones.

  • Anonymous January 20, 2018, 11:51 AM

    Send in the clones? They’re already here: robot sex, self-driving cars, killer drone swarms, crypto currency, facial recognition, ‘internet of things’ devices listening to you…

    Bathe in the soothing flux of pervasive EM signals everywhere.

    Transhumanism= We are the Borg.

  • Harry January 20, 2018, 1:20 PM

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, . . .

  • David B January 20, 2018, 3:08 PM

    The. Best. Comment. Series. Ever.

  • Fletcher Christian January 20, 2018, 4:50 PM

    I rather like transhumanism as a concept. Life as long as you want it, full immersion in the datastream and the possibility of transcendence into a wholly new state of being – what’s not to like?

    IMHO it’s rather like what many religions offer, with the difference that in the Silicon Rapture continuity of memory, at least, is more or less guaranteed. And those who have passed Beyond may well be able to communicate their experiences – which is a lot more than religion offers.

  • Mike G. January 20, 2018, 5:11 PM

    @ Fletcher Christian

    So you’ve left your corporeal body and everything you know and have been or want to be, is now downloaded on to the “Cloud” for you to upload into your new electronic “Body.” What happens if/when the EMP hits and all that is destroyed? Now you’re left with a bunch of lifeless nuts, bolts and wires.

    Just as your implied belief that the Life after Death promised by many religions is bogus, so to is the belief that transistors and wires will give you immortality.

  • Hale Adams January 20, 2018, 6:38 PM

    I have just six words for those who lust after immortality in whatever form:

    “immortal prisoner of an ageless sadist”

    Or, better yet, read “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream”, by Harlan Ellison.

    Sometimes, death is a blessing.

    Hale Adams
    Pikesville, People’s still-mostly-Democratic Republic of Maryland

  • ghostsniper January 20, 2018, 7:33 PM

    “What happens if/when the EMP hits…”
    If it’s large enough to effect a major portion of turf, like say NFYC, then the entire hellhole will become volatile and then the outlying areas, in less than 30 days time. JIT delivery means there is never more than 3 days stock in any store and with the EBT cards invalid too, well, think Liberia wearing Armani.
    Cloud storage won’t be on anybody’s mind. Get up to speed or get run over.

  • Anonymous March 30, 2021, 8:19 AM

    …it was the New York Times

  • Sam L. March 30, 2021, 9:03 AM

    I read that book years (and yearrrrrrrrrrs) ago. I may still have it.

  • Fletcher Christian March 30, 2021, 10:26 AM

    Mike G:

    Three words; distributed backups, hardening. In any case, what happens when a blood vessel in your brain ruptures? No way back from that, either.

  • James ONeil March 30, 2021, 12:33 PM

    Best of times?
    Worst of times?

    These are the times that fry men’s souls.

  • jwm March 30, 2021, 5:26 PM

    I read “The Stars My Destination” last summer. It’s good old fashion rock ’em sock ’em sci-fi, one of those books that you start in the evening, and end up staying up late until you’re done. Clicks all the boxes for a great read.


  • Joe Redfield March 30, 2021, 10:59 PM

    “Gully Foyle is my name,
    Terra is my nation.
    Deep space is my dwelling place,
    The stars my destination.”

    That rhyme has stuck in my head for 62 years.

  • gwbnyc March 30, 2021, 11:18 PM

    “soles” (why not)

    -read into the story at archive.org, got an inkling of what influence was on vonnegut.

  • Fletcher Christian March 31, 2021, 7:32 AM

    Another really good one of his, with a different paranormal power (telepathy, in this case) is The Demolished Man. Quote:

    “Eight, sir; seven, sir;
    Six, sir; five, sir;
    Four, sir; Three, sir;
    Two, sir; one!
    Tenser, said the Tensor.
    Tenser, said the Tensor.
    Tension, apprehension,
    And dissension have begun.”

  • EX-Californian Pete April 2, 2021, 1:07 PM

    Gee Fletcher,
    I guess it’s pretty difficult for you to pass up any opportunity to bash religion and God, huh?

    How very sad.