“The Expanse” is a popular science fiction television series (based on a book series of the same name) that at first seems to follow a predictable storyline: essentially the Cold War revisited, only in this case with warlike Mars (previously settled by people from Earth) pitted against Earth as the two planets vie over the resources of the asteroid belt (which is a stand-in for today’s so-called less developed countries).
But quickly we are drawn into a mystery that implicates a non-state actor with interests so important that that unknown actor has its own warships which are superior to those of Earth and Mars. While I made some fun of “The Expanse” previously for its assumptions about energy, after watching the entire series I’ve come to appreciate the nuanced manner in which it deals with the systemic risk that unfolds as the story progresses.
Here I must issue a spoiler alert for those who have not seen the series and wish to see it unhindered by foreknowledge of the plot.
Those who’ve seen the series know that the systemic risk results from the discovery of what comes to be known as the “proto-molecule,” an alien life form first encountered on one of Saturn’s moons. The proto-molecule has the miraculous power to transform anything living that it touches, remaking and reorganizing it from the ground up. (Later it learns to transform inanimate matter as well.)
The life form is initially controlled by a large conglomerate which immediately sees the proto-molecule’s potential as a weapon, one that could be sold to the highest bidder in the solar system. (The parallels to current-day genetic engineering and bioweapons seem obvious.)
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