“Civilization now depends on self-deception. Perhaps it always has.”
Ted Chiang has been writing compelling, complicated, sometimes twisted novels since he was in high school, and you may know him if you ever saw Villeneuve’s movie Arrival, which is based on his novel Stories Of Your Life. Each one of his short stories leaves us with more questions than answers, and that’s because his very technical approach to science is paired with a deeply philosophical approach to fiction, so we can look at every novel as a fable about the human condition.
What’s expected of Us is a super short story that was published on Nature Magazine in 2005 and is still relevant in the way we can understand our destiny. What do we know about our future? Is everything predetermined, or do our actions have the ability of changing the course of events? If you had the proof that everything is already written in stone, how would that affect your future? Would you just freeze and stop doing whatever it was you were doing? Humans, in Chiang’s own words, have the ability to predict their future in a certain sense, as they already know some facts that will happen to them: they know life is not limitless, that at some point everybody has to die, as they know that tomorrow the sun will rise again and start a whole new circle. In this circularity of events, our perception of time embodies a whole new meaning, where every event is connected to the other in a vision that is not far away from the language Eptapods teach humans in Stories of your Life.