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The Culture GSV

Behold the high technology of a Culture GSV.

Image courtesy Luke John Frost

Living spaceships and psychic navigators are fantastic ideas, but humanity's future in the cosmos is undoubtedly a robotic one. The technological singularity approaches, promising an age when computer intellects outpace the cognitive abilities of their human masters.

Sure, the machines might go all "Matrix" and enslave every last one of us in a battery tank, but what if they proved benevolent? What if they tackled all the complex scientific, political and social problems for us and left us to do absolutely anything we want?

That's where the General Systems Vehicles of Iain M. Banks' "The Culture" series enter the picture. These titanic vessels house vast populations, factories or defense forces -- each controlled by a trio of extremely powerful artificial intelligences called Minds. These number crunchers do all the heavy lifting while the humanoids in their charge are free to peruse whatever sort of hedonistic or altruistic lifestyle they desire.

Wouldn't that be swell? Life in the Culture's utopia doesn't always go so swimmingly, but it does mean interstellar travel without ever having to understand how it works.

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