One of the things that I keep realizing is that there are themes running though TSCB that I put in almost subconsciously, themes that I keep seeing popping up in various other places.
One theme is the risk/reward of technology. I came across one of Vox’s reprints of an article he wrote about the Unabomber’s Manifesto. The Unabomber was afraid of technology, or more specifically that it be used by government to enslave people, and by companies and people to take from them their ability to support themselves, to make them dependent on goods and services provided by others. He wanted to have us all return to something like an Amish tech level or lower, on the theory that when you are in tune with nature you can’t be tech-traped (or something along those lines). That has problems to say the least.
In TSCB, the Armadillo warships and their AIs scared the government so bad that they put the kibosh on it, and reverted to an effectively lower and inferior level of military technology. Taj saw that for humans to be the most useful, they had to know how things work. She is constantly teaching everyone on board everything she can (a bit more on this in the sequel). From the fundamentals of language and math and story-telling with Quinn (note she doesn’t just tell him stories, but has him tell them back to check for understanding and cement the knowledge), to how to operate sensors and coms and understand how they work to anyone that spends time on the bridge. She requires the use of checklists so that the crew know the function and condition of the ship’s systems.
In the classroom I encounter a specific dichotomy regularly. Kids think they don’t need to learn and know things because they can “just Google it.” but they struggle to find good web resources and evaluate what they do find because they know so little. Often they lack sufficient fluency with math fundamentals to easily see more advanced concepts. They have a difficult time differentiating wikipedia and The Onion from peer-review papers (if they can find them). Technology can be a tool, or a crutch. Taj is, in a way, the ultimate tool, but she refuses to be used as a crutch because she has learned by hard experience that by definition crutches are for the crippled, and a team where everyone is as strong as they can be will be the most effective.