Outside the Job Description

A genuinely different type of job description.  Published by Panther Books 1977.  Cover illustration by Peter Gudynas.

A genuinely different type of job description. Published by Panther Books 1977. Cover illustration by Peter Gudynas.

The various occupations of those who take humanity out to the stars will, more than likely, be similar to those we know on Earth today.  After all, it will be our current civilization that travels out there, subject to a few changes in detail regarding the equipment it uses.

Indeed, when I talked about this in a previous webpost – Occupational Hazards – I suggested that not much at all may differ at a basic level in terms of the jobs people carry out.  It will just be a question of different environments, more advanced technologies and so on.  However, it’s possible that fundamental developments in science may change all that.

Science fiction has often contemplated parallel worlds – self-contained universes which are alternate realities to our own, often suggested to be the consequence of the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum physics.  In which case one might as well treat the number of potential alternatives as infinite, possibly where the laws of physics may differ from our own or where the history of Earth took a different turn at some point.  So, if parallel worlds were ever found to exist…

Trevor Hoyle created the intriguing role of Myth Technologist in his ‘Q’ series of novels, beginning with Seeking the Mythical Future in 1977 – a researcher into the alternate realities from the potentially infinite number of futures which may be possible.  It’s explained that physics dictates the paradox of a series of mythical futures which are known to exist, or not to exist, at one and the same time.  The problem, though, lies in knowing what alternative future an investigator has entered – mythical or actual – and then the over-riding question of whether he would ever come out again.

So there’s a job you won’t find listed in the Yellow Pages, at least in this part of the UK.  (I checked – there’s no entry between ‘Musicians and Composers’ and ‘Nail Technicians’.)  But it’s unlikely to be anyone’s choice of career path until such time as parallel worlds become easily accessible.

It also reminds us of the probably highly undesirable job of “precog” in Philip K Dick’s 1956 short story The Minority Report, as later adapted into the 2002 film of the same name – an instance where one unfortunately spends one’s working life connected up to a machine of some sort.  Precogs identify crime before it happens so it can be prevented by the police Precrime Division – but then, of course, that crime never happens after all.  It turns out to be more a prediction of possible alternate realities.  Again, though, there’s unlikely to be much future for a prospective precog until we see considerably more evidence for the existence of extrasensory perception.

Even so, we might yet see some roles with which we’re all too familiar today assume a vastly greater significance in times to come.  Consider The Blood Red Game, Michael Moorcock’s early science fiction novel from 1965.  The ability to play the ritual Game for the highest of all stakes – the continued survival of the human race itself – against merciless alien competitors becomes the most critical function that any human being could have.

Knowing how to play a complex game, possibly in virtual reality, becomes crucial.  And so the job of “computer games player”, as we understand it to be already practised with considerable expertise by millions around the world at present, may prove to have more far-reaching consequences and benefits than we might imagine.  Maybe it’s not such a futile use of time as many might consider.

In fact, who’s to say what current pastimes and hobbies might, or might not, be truly valuable for the future of humanity in the long run?

Richard Hayes, Assistant Editor (Odyssey)

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