Oyun bittikten sonra dahi…

(Pek belli olmasa da, bu Iain M. Banks’in Culture’ı üzerine bir yazıdır, lütfen feedreader‘ınızın ayarlarıyla oynamayınız..)

Civilization ya da nerede kaldı bu ütopya?Civilization’da hedeflerden birine ulaşılıp da, akabinde oyun bittikten sonra acaba kaçımız gelen teklifi değerlendirip, oynamaya devam eder? Ya da, daha doğrusu neden devam edilmez? Bugün, Banks’in 1994’te Culture üzerine yazdığı bir makaleyi okurken kendimi bunu düşünürken buldum — daha doğrusu, savaşın olmadığı, her medeniyetin diğer medeniyetlerin saldırısına / toprak çalmasına / casus göndermesine karşı önlem alma gereği duymadığı, tamamıyla ütopik bir mod‘u tasarlamaya çalıştım.

Uzunca bir süredir mevcut olan lakin pek kullanmadığım bir blog kategorim var “Ütopya/distopya” başlıklı. Hatta, üşenmedim, gittim baktım, hepi topu 3 adet girişi bu kategoriye dahil etmişim ve bunların da ikisini hikayeler oluşturmakta. Culture serisinden şimdilik 3 kitap okumuş durumdayım (Consider Phlebas / Player of Games / Use of Weapons) fakat arzu ettiğim ütopyanın ta kendisi oluverdi. Benim hayalimdeki cennet, yazılmış bütün kitapları barındıran (yanında filmler de olsa iyi olurdu) devasa bir kütüphane olagelmiştir (ve lütfen nargile ve puro başta olmak üzere envai çeşit tütün ürünü – ah tabii ki ölümsüzlük de cabası, zaten cennet dedim dikkat ederseniz!). Böyle bir hayatı sürmek için Culture evreni de hiç fena değil. Kaç haftadır şöyle bir özet geçeyim istiyordum ama zaten sağolsun Banks yukarıda anılan makalede güzel güzel özetlemiş:

[…]As mentioned above, there is another force at work in the Culture aside from the nature of its human inhabitants and the limitations and opportunities presented by life in space, and that is Artificial Intelligence. This is taken for granted in the Culture stories, and – unlike FTL travel – is not only likely in the future of our own species, but probably inevitable (always assuming homo sapiens avoids destruction).

Certainly there are arguments against the possibility of Artificial Intelligence, but they tend to boil down to one of three assertions: one, that there is some vital field or other presently intangible influence exclusive to biological life – perhaps even carbon-based biological life – which may eventually fall within the remit of scientific understanding but which cannot be emulated in any other form (all of which is neither impossible nor likely); two, that self-awareness resides in a supernatural soul – presumably linked to a broad-based occult system involving gods or a god, reincarnation or whatever – and which one assumes can never be understood scientifically (equally improbable, though I do write as an atheist); and, three, that matter cannot become self-aware (or more precisely that it cannot support any informational formulation which might be said to be self-aware or taken together with its material substrate exhibit the signs of self-awareness). …I leave all the more than nominally self-aware readers to spot the logical problem with that argument.

It is, of course, entirely possible that real AIs will refuse to have anything to do with their human creators (or rather, perhaps, the human creators of their non-human creators), but assuming that they do – and the design of their software may be amenable to optimization in this regard – I would argue that it is quite possible they would agree to help further the aims of their source civilisation (a contention we’ll return to shortly). At this point, regardless of whatever alterations humanity might impose on itself through genetic manipulation, humanity would no longer be a one-sentience-type species. The future of our species would affect, be affected by and coexist with the future of the AI life-forms we create.

The Culture reached this phase at around the same time as it began to inhabit space. Its AIs cooperate with the humans of the civilisation; at first the struggle is simply to survive and thrive in space; later – when the technology required to do so has become mundane – the task becomes less physical, more metaphysical, and the aims of civilisation moral rather than material.

Briefly, nothing and nobody in the Culture is exploited. It is essentially an automated civilisation in its manufacturing processes, with human labour restricted to something indistinguishable from play, or a hobby.

No machine is exploited, either; the idea here being that any job can be automated in such a way as to ensure that it can be done by a machine well below the level of potential consciousness; what to us would be a stunningly sophisticated computer running a factory (for example) would be looked on by the Culture’s AIs as a glorified calculator, and no more exploited than an insect is exploited when it pollinates a fruit tree a human later eats a fruit from.

Where intelligent supervision of a manufacturing or maintenance operation is required, the intellectual challenge involved (and the relative lightness of the effort required) would make such supervision rewarding and enjoyable, whether for human or machine. The precise degree of supervision required can be adjusted to a level which satisfies the demand for it arising from the nature of the civilisation’s members. People – and, I’d argue, the sort of conscious machines which would happily cooperate with them – hate to feel exploited, but they also hate to feel useless. One of the most important tasks in setting up and running a stable and internally content civilisation is finding an acceptable balance between the desire for freedom of choice in one’s actions (and the freedom from mortal fear in one’s life) and the need to feel that even in a society so self-correctingly Utopian one is still contributing something. Philosophy matters, here, and sound education.

Education in the Culture is something that never ends; it may be at its most intense in the first tenth or so of an individual’s life, but it goes on until death (another subject we’ll return to). To live in the Culture is to live in a fundamentally rational civilisation (this may preclude the human species from ever achieving something similar; our history is, arguably, not encouraging in this regard). The Culture is quite self-consciously rational, sceptical, and materialist. Everything matters, and nothing does. Vast though the Culture may be – thirty trillion people, scattered fairly evenly through the galaxy – it is thinly spread, exists for now solely in this one galaxy, and has only been around for an eyeblink, compared to the life of the universe. There is life, and enjoyment, but what of it? Most matter is not animate, most that is animate is not sentient, and the ferocity of evolution pre-sentience (and, too often, post-sentience) has filled uncountable lives with pain and suffering. And even universes die, eventually. (Though we’ll come back to that, too.)

In the midst of this, the average Culture person – human or machine – knows that they are lucky to be where they are when they are. Part of their education, both initially and continually, comprises the understanding that beings less fortunate – though no less intellectually or morally worthy – than themselves have suffered and, elsewhere, are still suffering. For the Culture to continue without terminal decadence, the point needs to be made, regularly, that its easy hedonism is not some ground-state of nature, but something desirable, assiduously worked for in the past, not necessarily easily attained, and requiring appreciation and maintenance both in the present and the future.

An understanding of the place the Culture occupies in the history and development of life in the galaxy is what helps drive the civilisation’s largely cooperative and – it would claim – fundamentally benign techno-cultural diplomatic policy, but the ideas behind it go deeper. Philosophically, the Culture accepts, generally, that questions such as ‘What is the meaning of life?’ are themselves meaningless. The question implies – indeed an answer to it would demand – a moral framework beyond the only moral framework we can comprehend without resorting to superstition (and thus abandoning the moral framework informing – and symbiotic with – language itself).

In summary, we make our own meanings, whether we like it or not.

The same self-generative belief-system applies to the Culture’s AIs. They are designed (by other AIs, for virtually all of the Culture’s history) within very broad parameters, but those parameters do exist; Culture AIs are designed to want to live, to want to experience, to desire to understand, and to find existence and their own thought-processes in some way rewarding, even enjoyable.

The humans of the Culture, having solved all the obvious problems of their shared pasts to be free from hunger, want, disease and the fear of natural disaster and attack, would find it a slightly empty existence only and merely enjoying themselves, and so need the good-works of the Contact section to let them feel vicariously useful. For the Culture’s AIs, that need to feel useful is largely replaced by the desire to experience, but as a drive it is no less strong. The universe – or at least in this era, the galaxy – is waiting there, largely unexplored (by the Culture, anyway), its physical principles and laws quite comprehensively understood but the results of fifteen billion years of the chaotically formative application and interaction of those laws still far from fully mapped and evaluated.

By Goîdel out of Chaos, the galaxy is, in other words, an immensely, intrinsically, and inexhaustibly interesting place; an intellectual playground for machines that know everything except fear and what lies hidden within the next uncharted stellar system.

This is where I think one has to ask why any AI civilisation – and probably any sophisticated culture at all – would want to spread itself everywhere in the galaxy (or the universe, for that matter). It would be perfectly possible to build a Von Neumann machine that would build copies of itself and eventually, unless stopped, turn the universe into nothing but those self-copies, but the question does arise; why? What is the point? To put it in what we might still regard as frivolous terms but which the Culture would have the wisdom to take perfectly seriously, where is the fun in that?

Interest – the delight in experience, in understanding – comes from the unknown; understanding is a process as well as a state, denoting the shift from the unknown to the known, from the random to the ordered… a universe where everything is already understood perfectly and where uniformity has replaced diversity, would, I’d contend, be anathema to any self-respecting AI.

Probably only humans find the idea of Von Neumann machines frightening, because we half-understand – and even partially relate to – the obsessiveness of the ethos such constructs embody. An AI would think the idea mad, ludicrous and – perhaps most damning of all – boring.

This is not to say that the odd Von-Neumann-machine event doesn’t crop up in the galaxy every now and again (probably by accident rather than design), but something so rampantly monomaniac is unlikely to last long pitched against beings possessed of a more rounded wit, and which really only want to alter the Von Neumann machine’s software a bit and make friends…

One idea behind the Culture as it is depicted in the stories is that it has gone through cyclical stages during which there has been extensive human-machine interfacing, and other stages (sometimes coinciding with the human-machine eras) when extensive genetic alteration has been the norm. The era of the stories written so far – dating from about 1300 AD to 2100 AD – is one in which the people of the Culture have returned, probably temporarily, to something more ‘classical’ in terms of their relations with the machines and the potential of their own genes.

The Culture recognises, expects and incorporates fashions – albeit long-term fashions – in such matters. It can look back to times when people lived much of their lives in what we would now call cyberspace, and to eras when people chose to alter themselves or their children through genetic manipulation, producing a variety of morphological sub-species. Remnants of the various waves of such civilisational fashions can be found scattered throughout the Culture, and virtually everyone in the Culture carries the results of genetic manipulation in every cell of their body; it is arguably the most reliable signifier of Culture status.

Thanks to that genetic manipulation, the average Culture human will be born whole and healthy and of significantly (though not immensely) greater intelligence than their basic human genetic inheritance might imply. There are thousands of alterations to that human-basic inheritance – blister-free callusing and a clot-filter protecting the brain are two of the less important ones mentioned in the stories – but the major changes the standard Culture person would expect to be born with would include an optimized immune system and enhanced senses, freedom from inheritable diseases or defects, the ability to control their autonomic processes and nervous system (pain can, in effect, be switched off), and to survive and fully recover from wounds which would either kill or permanently mutilate without such genetic tinkering.

The vast majority of people are also born with greatly altered glands housed within their central nervous systems, usually referred to as ‘drug glands’. These secrete – on command – mood- and sensory-appreciation-altering compounds into the person’s bloodstream. A similar preponderance of Culture inhabitants have subtly altered reproductive organs – and control over the associated nerves – to enhance sexual pleasure. Ovulation is at will in the female, and a fetus up to a certain stage may be re-absorbed, aborted, or held at a static point in its development; again, as willed. An elaborate thought-code, self-administered in a trance-like state (or simply a consistent desire, even if not conscious) will lead, over the course of about a year, to what amounts to a viral change from one sex into the other. The convention – tradition, even – in the Culture during the time of the stories written so far is that each person should give birth to one child in their lives. In practice, the population grows slowly. (And sporadically, in addition, for other reasons, as we’ll come to later.)

To us, perhaps, the idea of being able to find out what sex is like for our complimentary gender, or being able to get drunk/stoned/tripped-out or whatever just by thinking about it (and of course the Culture’s drug-glands produce no unpleasant side-effects or physiological addiction) may seem like mere wish-fulfilment. And indeed it is partly wish-fulfilment, but then the fulfilment of wishes is both one of civilisation’s most powerful drives and arguably one of its highest functions; we wish to live longer, we wish to live more comfortably, we wish to live with less anxiety and more enjoyment, less ignorance and more knowledge than our ancestors did… but the abilities to change sex and to alter one’s brain-chemistry – without resort to external technology or any form of payment – both have more serious functions within the Culture. A society in which it is so easy to change sex will rapidly find out if it is treating one gender better than the other; within the population, over time, there will gradually be greater and greater numbers of the sex it is more rewarding to be, and so pressure for change – within society rather than the individuals – will presumably therefore build up until some form of sexual equality and hence numerical parity is established. In a similar fashion, a society in which everybody is free to, and does, choose to spend the majority of their time zonked out of their brains will know that there is something significantly wrong with reality, and (one would hope) do what it can to make that reality more appealing and less – in the pejorative sense – mundane.

Implicit in the stories so far is that through self-correcting mechanisms of this nature the Culture reached a rough steady-state in such matters thousands of years ago, and has settled into a kind of long-lived civilisational main sequence which should last for the forseeable future, and thousands of generations.

Which brings us to the length of those generations, and the fact that they can be said to exist at all. Humans in the Culture normally live about three-and-a-half to four centuries. The majority of their lives consists of a three-century plateau which they reach in what we would compare to our mid-twenties, after a relatively normal pace of maturation during childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. They age very slowly during those three hundred years, then begin to age more quickly, then they die.

Philosophy, again; death is regarded as part of life, and nothing, including the universe, lasts forever. It is seen as bad manners to try and pretend that death is somehow not natural; instead death is seen as giving shape to life.

While burial, cremation and other – to us – conventional forms of body disposal are not unknown in the Culture, the most common form of funeral involves the deceased – usually surrounded by friends – being visited by a Displacement Drone, which – using the technique of near-instantaneous transmission of a remotely induced singularity via hyperspace – removes the corpse from its last resting place and deposits it in the core of the relevant system’s sun, from where the component particles of the cadaver start a million-year migration to the star’s surface, to shine – possibly – long after the Culture itself is history.

None of this, of course, is compulsory (nothing in the Culture is compulsory). Some people choose biological immortality; others have their personality transcribed into AIs and die happy feeling they continue to exist elsewhere; others again go into Storage, to be woken in more (or less) interesting times, or only every decade, or century, or aeon, or over exponentially increasing intervals, or only when it looks like something really different is happening…[…]

Iain M. Banks, A Few Notes On Culture, 1994

Uzunca bir alıntı oldu, değil mi? Geldiği yerde daha da uzunu var ama, halimize şükretmeliyiz… Hem okumak zorunda da değilsiniz, ben bile sadece bugün okuduğumla yetindim, şimdi alıntılarken bir daha okumayıp, kopya/pasta kardeşlerin hünerli ellerine bıraktım kendimi. Hoş olan, Banks’in yukarıda bahsettiğim makalesinde, Culture evreninin gerçekleşme olasılığını tartışırken, “insanların birbirlerini yok etmediği varsayımında bulunduğu” şerhini koyması. Bu konuyu açacak olursak:

Daha evvelden de belirtmiş idim, öncelikli olarak çevirmek istediğim kitap (ki kitap çevireceğimden değil, lakin bir gün çevirecek olursam, zaten topu topu iki kitap var çevirmek istediğim) Robert Michels’in On Political Parties ‘idir (diğeri de Murakami’nin Wind-Up Bird Chronicles‘ı zaten). İşte o kitapta Robert Michels, saygı duyduğum bir saptamada bulunur: Oligarşinin Demir Yasası. Nedir bu yasa:


The Iron law of oligarchy is a political theory, first developed by the German sociologist Robert Michels in his 1911 book, Political Parties. It states that all forms of organization, regardless of how democratic or autocratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably develop into oligarchies.

ya da Türkçe söyleyecek olursak:

Oligarşinin Demir Yasası, siyasi bir teori olup, ilk olarak Alman Sosyolog Robert Michels tarafından 1911 tarihli Siyasi Partiler kitabında öne sürülmüştür. Bu yasaya göre, her türden hareket (organizasyon), menşei ne kadar demokratik ya da zıttı otokratik olursa olsun, nihayetinde kaçınılmaz olarak oligarşiye dönüşmeye mahkumdur.

Bir ütopya kurmaya kalkışacak olursanız, başınızı en çok ağrıtmaya aday olan bu (çok gerçekçi) yasanın çaresine Culture evreninde, bu en skeptik ve hahacı naçiz yours truly‘yi bile neredeyse ikna edecek bir şekilde bakılıyor (Nasıl bakıldığını soracak olursanız, açın kitapları okuyun derim – HAHA!) (E tabii ki teknolojiden faydalanılarak, ne sandıydınız?!) (Kaldı ki, daha ortalarda teknolojinin T’si yokken bile Aristo Efendi olayı çözmüştü köleler vasıtası ile – yukarıdaki uzuuun Banks alıntısını okumamışsınızdır nasıl olsa, bari o alıntıdan bir alıntı yapayım:

No machine is exploited, either; the idea here being that any job can be automated in such a way as to ensure that it can be done by a machine well below the level of potential consciousness; what to us would be a stunningly sophisticated computer running a factory (for example) would be looked on by the Culture’s AIs as a glorified calculator, and no more exploited than an insect is exploited when it pollinates a fruit tree a human later eats a fruit from.

ve bakınız, parantezi kapatmayı unutmuyorum! HAHA! HAHAHA!) (Teknolojinin olayı köleliğe ne gözle baktığınızla orantılı. Sonuçta o kadar lafı geçen Aristo Efendi’nin asıl yüzü ortadır… Efendim? İlim irfan mı dediniz? Taşın yere ondan yapıldığı ve kavuşmak istediği için düştüğünü söyleyen bir adamdan bahsettiğimizi hatırlatmak isterim -yine de az evvel Aristo’nun Fizik‘ini taradım, bu savı öne sürdüğü kısmı bulamadım… Turan?-)

LeGuin ile Rowling’in isimlerinin birlikte geçtiği bir cümle şöyle demekteydi (Nicholas Lezard adında biri demiş, hakkını yemeyeyim):

‘Rowling can type, but Le Guin can write.’ (ilgilenen olursa, bu meseleye şu girişte değinmiş idim)

Banks de hakikaten iyi edebiyatçı. Şimdi karşı çıkanlarınız olacaktır elbet ama nasıl ki Sartre (Kiklops), varoluşçuluğunu gayet iyi bir şekilde kafa ütüleyen felsefe kitapları ile değil de (/yanısıra) hakikaten iyi yazılmış romanlarıyla anlatıyordu, Banks de Culture’ını olay örgüsü sağlam ve olduğu zaman tam duygusal olmayı becerebilen romanlarıyla anlatıyor. Balveda, Fal N’geestra, Diziet Sma bunlar kanlı canlı karakterlerdi. Sadece karakterler değil, iyi bir bilimkurgu romanının olmazsa olmazı diye tabir edeceğim “O dünyayı anlatırken aslında bu dünyayı anlatıyor olması” olgusu ise hele de Player of Games‘de tavan yapıyor (henüz Inversions‘ı okumadım). Alın hemen size bir kuple Player of Games’den – “kahramanımız”, ziyarete gittiği (quote)yabancı(unquote) gezegen hakkında bilgilendirilmektedir:

‘The thing to remember, Gurgeh,’ the ship interrupted quickly, ‘is that their society is based on ownership. Everything that you see and touch, everything you come into contact with, will belong to somebody or to an institution; it will be theirs, they will own it. In the same way, everyone you meet will be conscious of both their position in society and their relationship to others around them.

‘It is especially important to remember that the ownership of humans is possible too; not in terms of actual slavery, which they are proud to have abolished, but in the sense that, according to which sex and class one belongs to, one may be partially owned by another or others by having to sell one’s labour or talents to somebody with the means to buy them. In the case of males, they give themselves most totally when they become soldiers; the personnel in their armed forces are like slaves, with little personal freedom, and under threat of death if they disobey. Females sell their bodies, usually, entering into the legal contract of “marriage” to Intermediates, who then pay them for their sexual favours by-‘

‘Oh, ship, come on!’ He laughed. He had done his own research into the Empire, reading its own histories and watching its explanatory recordings. The ship’s view of the Empire’s customs and institutions sounded biased and unfair and terribly Culture-prim. Flere-Imsaho and the ship remote made a show of looking at each other, then the small library drone flushed grey yellow with resignation, and said in

its high voice, ‘All right, let’s go back to the beginning…’

bu da güzeldi – “kahramanımız”, ziyarete gittiği (quote)yabancı(unquote) gezegende bir baloya katılmıştır:

Every few metres along the walls, and on both sides of every doorway, gaudily-uniformed males stood stock still, their trousered legs slightly apart, gloved hands clasped behind their rod-straight backs, their gaze fixed firmly on the high, painted ceilings.

‘What are they standing there for?’ Gurgeh whispered to the drone in Eächic, low enough so that Pequil couldn’t hear.

‘Show,’ the machine said.

Gurgeh thought about this. ‘Show?’

‘Yes; to show that the Emperor is rich and important enough to have hundreds of flunkeys standing around doing nothing.’

‘Doesn’t everybody know that already?’

The drone didn’t answer for a moment. Then it sighed. ‘You haven’t really cracked the psychology of wealth and power yet, have you, Jernau Gurgeh?’

Gurgeh walked on, smiling on the side of his face Flere-Imsaho couldn’t see.

Banks bunları anlatırken, arka planda okuyucuya küçük sürprizler ve yan hikayeler de sunar. İlk kitabın (Horza’yı konu edinen) son 20 sayfasında şoka uğramıştım (evet, bu küçük olarak tanımlanamaz sanırım), kaldı ki, tak diye sonundaki ansiklopedik bilgi de zihin açıcıydı. İkinci kitap.. ahh ahh… orada bir Trinev Dutleysdaughter meselesi vardır ki, gerçekten çok zerafet katar romana — birkaç satır sürse bile… Use of Weapons, başlı başına bir girişi hak ediyor, bugün State of the Art‘a başlar gibi yaptım, onu bitirirsem, Use of Weapons‘da roman rakamlı bölümleri okuyacağım tekrar ama bu sefer kronolojik sırasıyla.

Gelelim bugünkü “bunları biliyor musunuz?” köşemize: bu uzuuuun girişi aslında 4. kez yazdığımı, ilk 3 seferde aptalca hatalar sonucu yazdığım bütün kısımları heder olduğunu biliyor musunuz? Ben biliyorum. Hele en son gidişte iyice kopup, vazgeçmiştim yazmaktan ki, bir şekilde Banks’in makalesini alıntıladıktan sonra kaydetmişim, onun yüzü suyu hürmetine tekrardan yazabildim. Saat olmuş geceyarısı, halbuki bir giriş de Black Books nezdinde dizilerle ilgili yapacaktım… kaldı yarına…

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