For Science Fiction to ‘Live Long and Prosper’


I am saddened by the passing of Leonard Nimoy (alias Mr Spock) on Friday, but I know his legacy will ‘Live Long And Prosper’ (LLAP).

As a result of his portrayal of Mr Spock, a whole generation accepted that there were advantages in thinking things through logically, and there was no shame in doing so. For instance, the idea of the Vulcan nerve pinch was Nimoy’s, brought about by the thought while on set that it did not waste effort and energy, and did not have collateral damage.

What he did was to extend Arthur Conan Doyle’s use of the observational and deductive skills he gave to Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes was inspired from a real life person, Joseph Bell, who was a surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

But Leonard Nimoy took the observational skills and logical deduction one stage further, and applied to how a ‘person’ would apply it to themselves to change the way they live.

The road of Joseph Bell to Arthur Conan Doyle to Sherlock Holmes to Gene Rodenberry to Mr Spock will not end here, rather it will be built upon.



I can only speculate what that future road will be, but am willing to have a go… (as I’m sure all of the named people in the road would have done had they been here now)…

As President Obama noted, ‘Long before nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy.’ This goes to show that the deductive, logical, call-it-what-you-will, way of thinking is creeping into our society. Most people have it to some extent, with a specialist minority taking it to the extreme.

Will that minority grow in number and this way of thinking become more pervasive in the rest of society? Yes, mainly because it is being taught more in schools and people interact more like this. We are definitely on an upward trend here and now.

Where will this trend lead us? Certainly NOT towards us thinking all the same and acting the same way,  because there is far too much knowledge for any one person to absorb and everyone has different talents (e.g. one person can have very good eyesight to see things others cannot while another can easily find their way through mathematical paradigms like Einstein did). What will happen is that there will EASIER INTERACTION between all people. Some people will not be able to understand how other people got to where they did, but can more easily accept what they are saying as true. It’s really all down to having a common framework, vast though it is, of doing business with other people. It’s a form of globalisation, but not as we know it, where the variety and versatility of human society will be allowed to increase.

As to where that extra versatility will come from is another matter. We are already seeing some of that taking place in the science area. There are a whole stream of developments under way. Information technology capability continues expanding at a very fast pace. Genetics and its impact on human lives is only really just starting, despite the fact we have identified the cause of many diseases having their basis in ‘faulty genes’. The UK has recently passed legislation to allow three parent families to avoid such diseases. Access to space is being pursued by various means. We now have in effect a commercial roadmap of private venture spaceplanes being developed for the rich tourist industry to be followed by the industrial mining for minerals from the Moon, Mars and asteroids, to be followed by building the infrastructure to gain access to space, e.g. space elevators, which will lead to colonisation of the planets. We have a better understanding of climate change, though more work needs to be done. This will more conservation of the pragmatic kind (we have already seen a major push to recycling in order to prevent greater pollution). The list can go on and on, but what I’ve mentioned is only the tip of the iceberg. So how are these advances, not just in science going to interact with other advances and with society?

There have been attempts to start up frameworks within which people can work. Neil Gaiman’s Hieroglyph project is an example. But these, whilst making some progress are, in my opinion, not really working.

Part of the problem is the inhibiting Intellectual Property Rights. Don’t get me wrong, I can understand why we have to them. People would not invest in research and development because they cannot see a return  without the licenses granted through the IPR system. This system will in due course be amended to make things easier, though at this stage I cannot quite see how.

Another part of the problem is the vastness of what any framework has to cover. Systems engineering has made a start in this area, but again in my opinion, has stalled. It has become stuck in the detail and minor debates of developing turn the handle processes. Whilst this is useful, it seems to have lost the development of the vision of the way ahead, and certainly the widening of the framework to cover more topics of interest. This will in due course sort itself out. It’s a case of when.

Once these and other problems are overcome, there will be a step up in research and development progress. For one thing, science and art will see greater connections between them. For another, society will change in reaction to all this. I’m not sure how yet, but this is the stuff that science fiction should be speculating about.

Notice the ‘should‘ in my last statement. We have seen dystopias, climate change treatises and designer genetics, amongst other things. But I have always been left with the feeling that they are extrapolations of science imposed on how a society works together today. They are not speculating how society might change as a result of all this change in science understanding and artistic development.

What we need is more people like Leonard Nimoy playing Mr Spock and science fiction novels that show us how we as a society could live in the future. 


4 thoughts on “For Science Fiction to ‘Live Long and Prosper’

  1. Rosie, this is possibly the most insightful blog you’ve written to date. Excellent commentary and analysis. I’m going to have to reread this one and dissect it a little further.

    The only thing that bothers me is that your blog implies there is a tendency in technical and scientific education in Britain and the Continent towards increasing sophistication, in short, a continuation of the Scientific Revolution. What bothers me is that here in the States there is no corresponding tendency, and if anything, quite the opposite. I’m speaking about public education here in the States.

    Is there anything like “Creationism” and “intelligent design” being insisted upon in Britain? (I sincerely hope not.)

    Anyway, once again, excellent post.

    1. Thank you for your encouragement.

      There had been a tendency in this country between 1970s – 1990s to dumb down the science subjects i.e. not teach as much or into as much depth. The tide has turned, I think in part thanks to Newcastle University demonstrating the effect of that dumbing down with solid analysis. This has resulted in some undergraduate courses taking longer – 4 years instead of 3.

      There also seems to be a massive push into research and development at the Universities. It’s paying dividends in interesting ways. And some of that includes coming up with better methods that will be taught instead of the old, now useless, methods on the undergraduate courses.

      I have not seen any evidence that they insist on creationism or intelligent design being taught, though I would expect it to be discussed in philosophy as an alternative viewpoint and what impact that viewpoint has on the societies it appears in.

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