Federation vs. Culture

Yes, I admit it – I get obsessed about specific topics, and talk about them for a while before I stop. Right now, I’m enjoying the ideas and concepts behind the Culture.

When I stop to think about it, I think I like the Culture novels because he seems to have most of the same writing preferences as I do – concepts & plot over characters and motivation over dialog and nuance. In other words, his books are rich with ideas, have a plot to move the story along, but the characters aren’t well-defined, aren’t very subtle and the dialog isn’t great.

(One of the reasons I adopted the “Song of Ice and Fire” technique for my Stone Magic books is that it forced me to focus on characterization more than I would normally.)

In any case, the more I think about it, the more I notice the similarities between the Culture and the Federation.

  • Both seem to have little-to-no-need for money (this is especially true in STNG)
  • Both have their “best and brightest” involved in interactions with aliens (Starfleet Academy vs. “Special Circumstances”)
  • Both seem to focus on peaceful expansion

The main differences:

  • The Culture seems to have no Prime Directive
  • The Federation has only minimal AI (specifically: Data)

Data is almost a perfect prototype of the Culture’s AIs – he is very smart, but very caring about the meatbags around him. If you assume that Data was able to hack his own mind to make himself smarter, which led to new discoveries to make himself even smarter, and then smarter still, he would have exactly the right type of temperament to become the template for the kind god-Minds that (essentially) rule the Culture.

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