For a Social Science Fiction

Interstellar has a lot of physics in it.

Like, really, a lot of physics. While some science fiction is quite happy to loiter on the "putty" end of the Mohs Scale of Sci-Fi Hardness [TV Tropes], Interstellar at least aspires to the more unscratchable reaches. The general consensus seems to be that the bulk of it (until the denouement, at least) is at least vaguely plausible; the involvement of Kip Thorne [Wikipedia] certainly doesn't hurt the credibility in that regard. The space tech also feels real: It seems delightfully plausible that our first interstellar voyages would be on clunky, ruggedly built ships with a distinctly 70s vibe — I am 100% willing to accept the Endurance in a way that I simply cannot accept the Enterprise from the shiny Star Trek reboot. If spaceships ever leave the realm of engineering for that of graphic design, it's going to be a long time in the future indeed.

So, naturally, most of the back-and-forth about the film's plausibility has centered on the physics in the second and third halves, from the gravity-induced time dilation to the precise nature and limits of the tesseract. That's all well and good, but there's much more interesting science to be picked apart here.

Specifically, I'm interested in all the social science behind how we get to the world portrayed in the opening act.

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