Read “Heiroglyph.” Seriously, Go Do It.

I mentioned previously that I started reading Hieroglyph, a solarpunk anthology that focuses on worlds where technology isn’t the source of our destruction, but the source of positive change and and development. The anthology is great so far, but I wanted to describe one story in particular that stood out to me – one of the few times I’ll ever say, “Everyone go read this story now.”

Karl Schroeder’s story “Degrees of Freedom” focuses predominantly on aboriginal land claims in Canada, while discussing Canadian treatment of aboriginals, the Northern Gateway pipeline, and the growth of aboriginal self-government. His story envisions a situation where FNMI tribes have gained more power and authority, not less, and are generating a social movement to raise awareness of their concerns through social media. This social media takes the form of apps and Internet software for various stakeholders to discuss an issue in plain terms, generate visuals of cause and effect, and come to a solution. One platform that Schroeder describes in particular is Wegetit.com, where users come to agreement on the definition of a basic term like “treaty” and then move onto increasingly complex concepts, leading into a greater discussion of a concept that has no clear, easy answer – like whether or not aboriginal self-government is a good idea.

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Schroeder’s characters go on to spend days coming to a conclusion about this subject – dragging along the narrator, Canada’s minister for aboriginal affairs, while he figures out exactly what is going on. The concept is brilliantly executed, and presents something that is applicable to various social and political issues besides aboriginal rights. The entire thing comes down to one issue, as described by the minister’s son: “The science [to solve the world’s problems] has been there for decades … There’s only one issue that’s worthy of our time and effort right now, because if we overcome it, we’ll solve all the others. The only problem worth solving is the problem of how we govern ourselves.” The aboriginal society that Schroeder presents uses the technology above to come to a communal consensus about an issue, and then devise a solution, in a way that in their mind doesn’t require the input of the government, since the majority of people have already come to an agreement online. While people might wail “communism!” –  which, as much as I love the idea, would likely never work – the idea of citizenry discussing issues and coming to conclusions via the platforms that Schroeder describes is not so far-fetched, and might actually improve the way the government and the people interact. If the government can see the will of the majority clearly articulated via a platform like the ones described in “Degrees,” maybe they’ll actually get something done.

Or maybe it’s a pipe dream – but I think the concepts in “Degrees of Freedom” could actually work. If you want some food-for-thought speculative fiction, check it out – and the rest of Hieroglyph, while you’re at it.

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