FUTURODYSSEY
Volume 1, Number 10
July, 2013
In This Issue
Editorial: Best Science Fiction Movies
Book Review - Consciousness by Christof Koch
Book Review - Why Does the World Exist? by Jim Holt
West Side Salon for Philosophy and the Future
The Future Evolution of the Human Mind - and Beyond
Archive: Futurodyssey and Wisdom Page Updates
Center for Future Consciousness Website
 
Books by Tom Lombardo

   
 
 
 

 
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Upcoming
Events




West Side Salon for Philosophy and the Future

Beginning April 2 (Tuesday) I will be hosting a new philosophical dialogue group that will meet every  two weeks. We will be meeting from 6 to 8 pm and, as a start, the location will be at Sun City Grand, Chaparral Center, Navajo Room, 19871 Remington Drive, Surprise, AZ. Locations may vary for later meetings. See more details in this newsletter.



The Future Evolution of the Human Mind - and Beyond

A ten-session new course at Sun City Grand, Chaparral Center, 19781 N. Remington Drive, Surprise, AZ. Dates and Time: Thursdays, 10 am to noon, beginning September 26th and running through December 5th. See Course Content in Newsletter.


This Month's Highlights:  
  • Editorial: Best Science Fiction Movies    
  • New Book Review - Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist by Christof Koch  
  • New Book Review - Why Does the World Exist? by Jim Holt 
  • Update on the West Side Salon for Philosophy and the Future  
  • The Future Evolution of the Human Mind - and Beyond 
  • Archive: Futurodyssey and Wisdom Page Updates   
Tom Lombardo's Evolving List
of All-Time Best Science Fiction Movies  
    




Before getting into reading science fiction, my life-long love for the genre began in the movies. Growing up in the 1950s, I was fortunate to see Forbidden Planet, The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, and many other early classic films when they first came out. As a young kid, I was mesmerized by these films. They captured me right at the core of my psyche, and at six years old, I actually wrote a science fiction story inspired by watching The War of the Worlds.



Like everything else in the universe, science fiction films have evolved since I was first held spellbound by visions of outer space and time travel, sitting as a kid in the Alhambra Theatre in Waterbury, Connecticut. I have followed its cinematic evolution through the decades, perhaps being compulsively addicted to watching (and frequently re-watching) every new film that caught my eye. (I have watched the first Star Wars: A New Hope at least fifteen times.) Along the way I also discovered science fiction films produced prior to my birth, including such early classics as Metropolis and Things to Come. I think many would agree that Metropolis (1927) is still one of the very best science fiction films ever created.

Of course, a lot of science fiction movies are junk. This last year (2012-2013) I have been repeatedly disappointed by numerous super special effects extravaganzas that are equally lame, infantile, and shallow cinematic productions. Perhaps this says something about our culture. Yet, over the years, some films stand out among the clutter, films that stimulate the intellect and visual imagination, move the heart, and create a sense of wonder. Cloud Atlas and Avatar (the most beautiful science fiction movie ever made) are two recent films that have made it toward the top of my list of the all time best science fiction films.

   

A comment I have frequently made about science movies in comparison to science fiction novels is that the films generally do not come close to the quality of the books. It would be a great thing if some of the really imaginative and intelligent science fiction novels were turned into movies--of course only under the direction of someone of the caliber of a James Cameron or a Stanley Kubrick--to compensate for all the schlock that is put up on the screen. I am waiting for Hyperion, or A Canticle for Leibowitz, or A Fire Upon the Deep to come to life on the big screen, but until the movie business decides to expand its mental horizons, I will have to content myself with the intermittant good efforts realized in science fiction films to date.

Since I believe that "science fiction is the mythology of the future," and since science fiction films have become so immensely popular in the last few decades, saturating and shaping our collective consciousness (and probably our collective unconscious as well), it is definitely worth the time and energy to thoughtfully consider which movies are the best produced in this genre. Of course, a variety of such lists already exists, but none of these, to my knowledge, have been compiled and published on the Web by a futurist or a philosopher, so here is my shot at it.

    

The criteria I used to rate science fiction movies, which roughly parallels the criteria I used in ranking science fiction novels, are:
  • Scope and originality of imagination (creativity)
  • Depth and originality of story and plot
  • Viewer engagement
  • Scientific/technological/philosophical intelligence
  • Emotional and personal impact
  • Visual richness of settings and scenes - jolt to the senses
  • Characters (development, interest, uniqueness)
  • Overall memorability
I have not included in this list movies that are clearly fantasy, fantastical adventure, monster, horror, or comic book superhero films. Hence, The Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Batman movies (such as Dark Knight Rises) are not on the list, though especially with Tolkien's great saga, I thought the movies were excellent. I also thought both the original King Kong (1933) and the last version (2005) were great movies but not science fiction. (The 1976 version was awful.) I have, however, included Frankenstein, Thor, and X-Men on the list since there is some science fiction element to these films.



Ranked lists are attempts to quantify and simplify the oscillating and vacillating, the indeterminately rich, and the multi-perspectival manifestation of reality. I wavered over the first seven films considerably, never quite being sure of the exact order in which to place them. I looked at other people's lists and compared them with my own judgments. I re-watched a number of films on the list, to refresh my memory and perhaps bring some further enlightenment. Perhaps tomorrow I might change my mind. But, the list has realized some degree of clarity and order in my mind, and there is a difference between quality and junk, so, as of the beginning of June 2013, here is my ranked list of the best science fiction movies ever made.

See the List of Best Science Fiction Movies


   

See Best Science Fiction Novels


New Book Review - Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist by Christof Koch

Reviewed by Tom Lombardo






Christof Koch is one of the leading figures in the study of brain and consciousness. His most recent book, Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist, has a lot to say about recent ideas and research in the study of the brain, and is also quite revealing about the conscious content of the mind of Christof Koch -- his personality, his hopes and anxieties, his goals and professional dreams.

Read the book review.  

 

New Book Review - Why Does the World Exist by Jim Holt

Reviewed by Tom Lombardo
 

   
 
Why Does the World Exist? is exceedingly clear and well written. It is philosophically engaging and highly informative. And it artistically weaves together a personal narrative and quest with a deeply intellectual and highly abstract inquiry. All told, Why Does the World Exist? is one of the very best popular philosophy books I have ever read.

 
If any question were to be identified as the ultimate or most basic puzzle in the philosophical study of being or existence (ontology), it would probably be "Why is there something rather than nothing?" and this puzzle is the focus of Holt's book. If you really think about question, which Holt's book definitely provokes the reader into doing, it is a puzzle that can (and should) send one's head spinning.

Read the book review.  

 

West Side Salon for Philosophy and the Future




Beginning  in April I started hosting a new philosophical dialogue group that meets roughly every two weeks on Tuesday evenings from 6 to 8 pm. The location is Sun City Grand, Chaparral Center, Navajo Room, 19871 Remington Drive, Surprise, AZ. Locations may vary for later meetings.

The title "Philosophy and the Future" is intended to cover a very broad range of topics, including all the general issues of philosophy, such as wisdom, the philosophy of mind and consciousness, ethics, and cosmology. On the "futures" end of things, included are the future of science and technology, the human mind, and human society and culture; science fiction scenarios about the future; and space travel and exploration. Often we will weave together philosophy and the future.

The first two months we have been discussing new books under the general theme of "Consciousness and the Cosmos," including Thomas Nagel's Mind and Cosmos, Christof Koch's Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist and David Brin's science fiction novel Existence.

Future meetings will frequently (though not always) take the form of selecting out other new books (in either philosophy or the future) and discussing them. The next books on the list are: Jim Holt's Why Does the World Exist?, Ray Kurweil's How to Create a Mind, and Lee Smolin's Time Reborn.




See book reviews on Existence, Why Does the World Exist?, and Consciousness in CFC Website and Newsletters.

There will be a $5.00 nominal charge for attending Salon meetings through the entire remaining spring and summer. If you are interested in attending, you can register online. If you don't get to registering before attending a meeting, come and we will work something out.

You can also register for the Salon on Meet-Up: West Side Salon for Philosophy and the Future .

Upcoming Salon Meetings: July 16th and July 30th

Email me at tlombardo1@cox.net if you have any questions.

The Future Evolution of the Human Mind -  
and Beyond

Fall Course at Sun City Grand Learning Center, Surprise, AZ

September 26th through December 5th

 
 
I am offering this fall a new updated course "The Future Evolution of the Human Mind - and Beyond." I will be covering the topics below over a ten-session period.  
  • Introduction: The Question of Human Evolution - Are Humans Continuing to Evolve?  
  • The Study and Purposeful Evolution of Mind, Consciousness, Self, Society, and the Brain - A Brief History of Efforts to Understand and Improve Ourselves 
  • The Contemporary Transformation, Accelerative Change, and the Modern Existential Crisis - How the Speed and Stress of Modern Times May be Pushing Us Toward Further Evolution 
  • Cyborgs, Technology, and Human Evolution - The Interdependent Nature of Humans and Machines and What It Means for Our Future - The Promises of Transhumanism   
  • Humans, Ecology, and Nature - How Changes in the Environment and Our Understanding of Nature and Ecology Will Affect Us in the Future 
  • Biological and Biotechnological Evolution in Humans - Issues of Physical Health, Well-Being, and the Potential for Extended Mortality/Immortality - Will We Purposefully Alter Our Genetic Make-Up, Perhaps Creating a Diversity of Human Types?  
  • Computer and Robotic Augmentation and Transcendence - Will We Merge with Our Machines? Will Our Machines Transcend Us? What are the Possibilities of the Technological Singularity?   

 

  • Purposeful Psychological Evolution - Issues of Psychological Health and Well-Being - Can Humans Evolve their Minds and Personalities through Psychological Knowledge and Practices?   
  • Education and the Future of Psychology - How Will Future Education Transform the Human Mind?  
  • Society, Culture, and Psycho-Social Evolution - How will Ongoing Globalization and Urbanization Affect Our Future Psychological Evolution?  
  • Ethical, Spiritual, and Religious Evolution - What are the Possibilities of Ethical and Spiritual Evolution? What is Evolutionary Spirituality?  
  • Wisdom and Transcendence - Wisdom as the Central Ideal for Our Psycho-Social Evolution  
  • Space Travel and the Concept of Cosmic Consciousness  - Will Our Descendents Become Inhabitants of the Cosmos? Will They Realize Cosmic Consciousness?   
  • Philosophical and Cosmological Perspectives and Conclusions - Is the Ongoing Evolution of Mind the Universe Waking Up? Why is There Consciousness in the Cosmos and What Does it Mean?   
Archives -
Futurodyssey and Wisdom Page  Updates


This last fall I began publishing two redesigned newsletters: Futurodyssey--the online publication for the Center for Future Consciousness--and the Wisdom Page Updates--the online publication for The Wisdom Page. There are Archives for both newsletters. You can view earlier issues of each newsletter by going to:   
 

 

That's it for this month: The Best Science Fiction Movies, book reviews of Why Does the World Exist? and Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist,  an update on the Philosophy and the Future Salon, and the course outline and schedule for my new fall course on "The Future Evolution of the Human Mind -- and Beyond."
Tom & Jeanne Lombardo
Center For Future Consciousness