STRANGE country at the moment, Scotland, strung between its politics and its culture.

In the realm of the former, nothing but frustration, small-mindedness, pragmatism wrestling with dogmatism, and a looming great iceberg that seems peculiarly difficult to steer ourselves away from.

And as for the latter ... well, the late Iain M Banks’s Consider Phlebas is going to be made into an Amazon Prime series by Jeff Bezos. This means one of the most expansive and optimistic visions of humanity ever imagined – The Culture, the civilisation that sits behind Banks’s science-fiction novels – will be hitting the screens.

That means boundaryless travel, superpowered and playful humanoids, all served by an artificially-intelligent hyper-technology that ensures permanent abundance. Jowly men glowering at each other across a long table in Whitehall or Edinburgh, it ain’t.

But let us celebrate, even if only briefly, that one of the glories of contemporary Scottish culture looks like getting its fair – and global – due. Many of us who knew Iain, even glancingly, were extremely saddened by his passing in 2013.

I interviewed him a few times for media, and treasure my correspondence with him during the indyref. He was more “RIC” than “Yes Scotland”, but solidly committed to indy. At one point he wisely wrote to me, “the debate should be conducted with some degree of calmness and civility; no matter which way the decision goes, we’ll all still have to live with each other afterwards”.

Even more poignantly, when I asked Iain about screen adaptations of his work, he lamented he was “still waiting on my chance to sweep down the red carpet in my best kilty outfit”. No doubt someone will manage it on his behalf when the Amazon series finally drops.

We need to properly gauge the significance of all this. Somewhat improbably, Iain’s SF work has become part of the catechism of Silicon Valley’s loftiest elites. Notably, Elon Musk has named some of his rocket infrastructure after the titles of mega-spaceships in Banks’s novels. One is called Just Read The Instructions, the other Of Course I Still Love You.

Musk tweeted in 2014 that he was “reading The Culture series by Banks. Compelling picture of a grand, semi-utopian galactic future. Hopefully not too optimistic about AI”.

The aforementioned mega-spaceships are controlled by artificial “Minds” – and the witty, quirky titles these AI’s give to themselves and their craft (Just Another Victim Of The Ambient Morality; Outstanding Contribution To The Historical Process; Sense Amid Madness, Wit Amidst Folly) embodies Banks’s optimism about the advance of artificial intelligence.

He believes these “Minds” will benignly steer humans away from their worst, most aggressive and intolerant urges. Musk is considerably gloomier on that prospect. He has borrowed another concept from Banks’s fiction: “neural lace”. This is a mesh between brain and machine that grows and develops over time. Musk is making investments in this area – an interface he hopes will keep us faltering humans up to speed with the runaway development of AI.

Add to this Mark Zuckerberg recommending another Culture novel, Player of Games, for his book club in 2015, never mind Jeff Bezos’s own evident enthusiasm (“the Culture series is a huge personal favourite”, he tweeted the other day, “can’t wait!”) and we have a somewhat weird situation. What are the monarchs of info-capitalism getting out of the techno-socialist Utopia of an inveterate Scots lefty?

One element, I guess, is that the greatest challenge to the denizens of the Culture is ... boredom. The humans in it can endlessly modify their emotions, bodies and physical genders, and do this over a 350- and 400-year lifespan. There is no physical, energy or food scarcity, and the capacity to travel anywhere in the Galaxy is presumed. A private-jetted, fully serviced tech mogul may dimly recognise such a lifestyle – but the Culture is a trillion-strong civilisation, where such potentialities are available to all.

So, like a proper novelist, Iain M Banks’s books are mostly about the Culture testing its own assumptions. People are desperate to get a job in its “Contact” division. These are agents who deal with what the Culture regards as inferior civilisations, figuring out the best way to relate to them.

This is at least regarded as a proper challenge. It’s also the point at which the benign nature of the Culture begins to be questioned.

The Contact divisions get involved in a spectrum of “dirty tricks” (Banks’s term), including everything from info-wars to real wars, seductions to assassinations.

Indeed, Consider Phlebas leaps right into this realm, where the Culture is at war – legitimated by a direct vote – with the aggressive Idirians.

Yet the Idirians find the dominant role of the AIs in the Culture distasteful, life-threatening and spiritually empty.

Again, this will chime in the minds of the Silicon Valley elites. They can clearly observe the pitchforks raised by Trump and Brexit supporters, pointing at their dreams of humans supplanted by automation.

The tech moguls’ current favourite policy response – universal basic income – has the utopian flavour of Banks’s Culture about it.

But Iain’s fiction keeps posing the question that lies on the other side of a world beyond scarcity, which is: what would the meaning of our lives be, when certain basic struggles for survival were abolished?

No doubt, were Banks still around, he’d be mildly commenting that the way Amazon itself deploys automation is hardly in the emancipatory spirit of the Culture. Whether it’s crushing local enterprises, sweeping humans from its warehouses, or using robots to work the remaining personnel to the bone.

It’s also worth noting that Consider Phlebas is emerging into an increasingly crowded SF-TV universe. It’s dominated by Netflix, where you can binge (and I have) on the multi-part universe of Black Mirror, Star Trek or Altered Carbon.

It’s an odd kind of escapism. You lose yourself in worlds where the technological potentials are infinite, but the base emotions, criminal acts and power games seem all too familiar. I emerge from them seeking not more scientific innovation, but more moral, ethical and political innovation.

The adapter of Consider Phlebas, British writer Dennis Kelly, dropped an encouraging quote the other day: “Far from being the dystopian nightmares that we are used to, Banks creates a kind of flawed paradise, a society truly worth fighting for,” said Kelly. “Rather than a warning from the future, his books are a beckoning.”

I think we would all appreciate a “beckoning from the future” right now – and not just in the form of lurid space opera. I await this late, great Scotsman’s symphony of wry, interstellar humanism with fanboy excitement. In Scotland, at least, we need something to blow the space doors off.