Random Stew It seemed like a good idea at the time.


The Quiet Pools

I'm reading a sci-fi novel titled The Quiet Pools by Michael P. Kube-McDowell. The story started a bit slow, but now has my complete attention; it's an extremely well-written story with multiple threads of conflict. And the story touches on many themes ranging from marital and parental relationships, to the psychology of mob violence, to humans as Von Neuman universal constructors.

The plot revolves around Project Diaspora, the building and staffing of a colonizing starship sent to seed the universe with mankind. Much of the conflict occurs between the two camps of humanity that support or oppose the project. However, the twist that has really grabbed my imagination is the selection process for the 10,000 colonists. The colonists are subjected to DNA testing and are secretly screened for the "Chi sequence", a genetic sequence of three genes A-B-C where A controls Ambition, B controls Breeding instinct, and C controls the Call. The three genes create 8 combinations that determine the type of person.

Chi Sequence
A B C Attributes
Y N N Adventurers. Restless explorers. Examples of Sir Edmund Hillary, Amelia Earhart.
N Y N Breeders and nestmakers. Resistant to change.
N N Y Dreamers. Pure faith, pure reason, pure art. Priests, physicists, philosophers.
Y Y N Ambition + nestmaking = kings and tycoons.
Y N Y Ambition + dreamer = a creator. An artist or inventor.
N Y Y Nestmaker + call = good citizens. The Call expresses itself as duty and allegiance so BC's make good workers and soldiers.
Y Y Y Statesmen, saints. Wise, altruistic leaders. The rarest combination.

To quote the book:

Why do you think there are so many meaningless lives? They're the people whose bodies give them no direction, no purpose. They don't burn. They don't want. They just are -- instant to instant, day to day, like some cruel joke of nature. The hollow-chested Tin Men. The empty people. The damned.

Of course, a reader's immediate thought is to stock the ship with people who have all the genes, the so-called Chi-positives. But no, the author argues that would be impossible, that Chi-positives are difficult. They are the glue, and have you ever tried to build something from glue alone? A large part of the project is dedicated to determining an optimal genetic mix on the ship; the only group completely excluded are the Chi-negatives -- the empty people. The population mix is described as:

[the ship] needs a core of stable, loyal, dedicated people who know their plac in the plan. It needs a leavening of creative types to keep the vision alive and deal with the unexpected. And it needs wise, unselfish leadership.

Playing God - Morgan Freeman has played God in two movies.From the table above, this equates to a mix of BCs, ACs and Chi-positives. But when the ship arrives at a world suitable for colonization, it will need kings and adventurers and nestmakers to build empires, explore, and make homes. Since these people will not be needed during the trip, they will be carried in gamete banks -- egg and sperm banks, to be "created" as needed.

As you can undoubtedly see, this is a cool and disturbing concept, fraught with promise and peril. What a great fulcrum for conflict.

I haven't finished this book and I already highly recommend it. I've already given away one of the big ideas/twists of the book, so I'll wind up this post before giving away any more.

Comments (0) Trackbacks (0)

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

No trackbacks yet.