Battery Yates

Battery Yates
Battery Yates, Sausalito, CA

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Unipolar Moment

A Review of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season One (1987-1988)

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: "The only person you're truly competing against, Wesley, is yourself."
Wesley Crusher: "Then you're not disappointed?"
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: "Wesley - you have to measure your successes and your failures within, not by anything that I or anyone else might think. But, erm... if it helps you to know this... *I* failed the first time, and you may not tell anyone!"

-Picard and Crusher discussing his Starfleet Academy test, from the episode "Coming of Age"

 Q in "Encounter at Farpoint"My long-term study of Star Trek continues apace. I completed Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Animated Series (too short and uninteresting to review, sadly, other than providing a quick rating of 5 out of 10 right now), and the Star Trek films through Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Last month, I began watching an episode of TNG while riding the exercise bike each weekday morning. (Ok, just Monday through Thursday. Friday's my day off.) And although Season One is considered among the worst of this celebrated series' offerings--other than the dreaded Season Two, of course--I have to admit that my reaction here is surprisingly positive.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

An Unambiguous Utopia

A Review of Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed (1974)

"True journey is return..." - Shevek

Even though I never seem to remember its author's name, William G. Perry's scheme for cognitive development comes to mind nearly every day. It shares common traits with Milton Bennett's developmental model of intercultural sensitivity, as well as Carol Gilligan's stages of the ethic of care and Lawrence Kohlberg's model of moral development, both of which Jean Piaget's constructivist work deeply influenced. (Geek snort.) As a humanist, I find much social science inherently problematic, reliant upon assumptions that elide contextual differences. These criticisms equally apply to Perry, Gilligan, Kohlberg, and Piaget, of course, as the extensive literatures on educational psychology illustrate. But these theories, and particularly Perry's, continue to undergird my philosophical metanarrative of life in powerful ways.

Written at roughly the same time as Perry's model, science fiction master Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed reads like a fictionalization of one individual's pursuit of full cognitive development. The book's (mass market paperback) cover strikingly describes it as "an astonishing tale of one man's search for utopia." It's misleading in a very clever way. This book is not about "utopia" as the elusive, perfect place, that "no place" of Thomas More. Le Guin's vision of utopia is a state of mind, of cognitive enlightenment, of the realization that the perfect place--the state of true freedom--is nowhere but in ourselves, an epistemological nirvana.