How Things Work: Soft Power and Scifi

How Things Work: Soft Power and ScifiSome brief thoughts on life, the universe, and everything before I get started on my daily wordcount for Project Arecibo. One of the things I had to admit to myself when I began this journey is that I don’t understand how things work. Like, seriously. How is my life supposed to go, and what do I have to make that happen? Cracking that unspoken, unwritten code is part of my recovery journey. Hopefully before I die, I’ll figure out how I’m supposed to live.

One insight I’ve gained so far is how our culture and civilization use soft power. Soft power defined, is ‘is the ability to attract and co-opt, rather than coerce (contrast hard power). In other words, soft power involves shaping the preferences of others through appeal and attraction.’ When you start looking at soft power, you start to understand how much it shapes our world. No one is putting a gun to people’s head and saying ‘make this happen.’ They’re making things happen by attracting and shaping their preferences. That’s soft power at work.

Soft Power and Scifi

You can see the difference between hard and soft power in Star Wars, for example. The Dark Side / Empire / First Order leads through the use of hard power (military power, coercion, fear, dominance) whereas the Light Side / Rebellion / Resistance leads through soft power (diplomacy, influence, inspiration, and leadership). There are examples on both sides using hard and soft power, of course. But step back and look at the whole picture: it’s clear that they fall on different ends of the power spectrum.

Another example: In Jurassic Park, scientists used hard power (technology, money, corporations) to coerce a new form of prehistoric life into a modern existence. However as Ian Malcolm is famous for pointing out, ‘life finds a way.’ He’s absolutely right: life does break free, it does expands to new territories, and crash through barriers painfully, maybe even dangerously. Most of Michael Chricton’s storytelling can be summed up in the same truism we’ve discussed since Frankenstein: science doesn’t have all the solutions, and sometimes it just makes more problems. In fact, most of Chricton’s stories are just a re-hashed version of the Frankenstein plot structure, but that’s a different blog post.

And So …

Wrapping this up, I want to re-iterate: I don’t understand how things work. This discussion of soft power and scifi is just me saying “oh, now I can see things in a new way.” Does it mean I’m seeing some place I want to go? No idea. Does it mean I have all the answers? Absolutely not. I think it’s important to show humility and modesty as I continue down my path. If anything, I hope I inspire you to do the same.

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