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“The Three-Body Problem” and Scidolatry

I tried to watch the 30-episode Chinese TV series The Three-Body, based on Liu Cixin’s now-famous novel The Three-Body Problem. I couldn’t last more than an hour and had to skim to the end quickly. I generally have a soft spot for sci-fi and can often passively receive low-quality junk for quite a while before my brain can come up with a firm “stop” signal.

But this is worse than junk.  It’s poison.

Its philosophy is exactly what warned by Frank Herbert (the author of Dune):

“Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free.  But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.”

If The Three-Body is regarded as a masterpiece, it is masterful proof of how correct and prescient Frank Herbert was. Herbert’s philosophy has the characteristics of a good science fiction work, warning of the various monsters and demons that will emerge in the future to enslave people rather than using vain imaginations to pave the way for them to enter people and make them lose their freedom faster.

The Three-Body is pure science-superstition and techno-idolatry. 

I gave it a name: Scidolatry.

This coming from a Chinese author is actually not that surprising.  Lacking liberal arts education (I use the phrase “liberal arts” in its true meaning, representing knowledge of a free man, not what is taught in today’s liberal arts colleges) and heavily influenced by techno-political propaganda for the past century, especially the last near 50 years, China has produced its most creative and audacious freethinking sci-fi author who expands his imagination over an imaginary universe but is still locked in the cocoon of scidolatry, very likely unknowingly, failing to provide any deep insight and helpful diagnosis of the existing problems of humanity, let alone any guidance in the better direction.

Instead, Liu Cixin spitefully rejects the best values man has ever had concerning his eternity, and presumptively and unapologetically assumes that science and technology are man’s only hope. It should be noted that his assumption is a premise rather than a conclusion of the plot. The author takes it for granted. The author eventually allows some personality and heroism to save the Earth and humanity, but it is only an element of drama rather than a deviation from this ideological foundation.

If the author just insists that what he writes is what he believes, then that is his own view, and it might be fine. A personal view can be presented tastefully even if objectionable. What is distasteful is that the idea is presented in a presumptuous and pretentious way with blatant stereotypes and biases.

If you ask, “What stereotypes and biases?” here is a small sample. It is a brief conversation between Shen Yufei and a man (I didn’t catch his name, but he is depicted as some kind of a wise man or a guru):

Shen:  你什么意思 (what you mean?)

The guru:  “没意思,你看我没意思,我看你也没意思,所以这就很有意思” (“It’s meaningless, you find me meaningless, I find you meaningless, so this is very meaningful.”

Shen: (speechless, apparently left in awe by the “deepness” of the man’s words)

What the “wise man” said is meaningless mumbo-jumbo, but the way it is depicted, it is supposed to be superior wisdom.   

If you ask where the stereotype is, here is the hint: Shen is one of the main villains, a deeply evil figure. She is the leading redemptionist scientist in the plot, but really is a thinly veiled type for Christians. In contrast, the “wise man” is a Buddhist.  What he said is supposed to be “Zen”.

The pseudo-philosophy in that conversation is not only a slanderous mischaracterization of Christians but may also be a misrepresentation of Buddhism at the same time.

There really is no deep reflection on the meaning of the universe, or humanity at all.  Everything is reduced to propaganda. It is not necessarily political propaganda, but rather the author’s personal one, which unfortunately is shockingly shallow and narrow in value even though remarkably imaginative at the same time.

Besides, the author’s lack of understanding of real science is only paralleled by his groundless rich imagination. It is almost repugnant, even with the large latitude of forgiveness I usually bring to sci-fi for scientific reality or even just possibility.

However, I must give credit where it is due:  the cinematography and acting are both quite good.

Don’t read it; don’t watch it, unless you are a scidolater (one who worships science) and don’t mind becoming a slave of machines or a slave of people who control machines.

[Recommend my two-volume book for more reading]:

BIT & COIN:  Merging Digitality and Physicality