What’s happening to this country…

There’s really no words for this video.  A half-deaf Indian woodcarver is walking down the sidewalk, working on a carving.  A police officer pulls up, yells, “Hey, hey! Put the knife down.  PUT THE KNIFE DOWN!”  The Indian man is confused, begins to turn around and is gunned down in the back before he even knows what happened.   A woman bystander screams, “He didn’t do anything!” The time from when the officer gives the first warning to when he’s gunning the woodcarver down is around four seconds.  Count that out to yourself and think about how you could be dead within a few seconds because you didn’t hear a police officer behind you.

And listen to what the fellow officer tells him at the end, “You did the right thing.” I’m terrified of the police.  If they’re around, I won’t even keep my hands in my pockets.  If I’m listening to my mp3 player, I turn it off and pull out the earbuds.

Since we’re on such grim topics, did you hear Obama renewed the Patriot Act?

President Barack Obama has signed a three-month extension of key surveillance provisions of the Patriot Act.

The law extends two areas of the 2001 act. One provision allows law enforcement officials to set roving wiretaps to monitor multiple communication devices. The other allows them to ask a special court for access to business and library records that could be relevant to a terrorist threat.

A third provision gives the FBI court-approved rights for surveillance of non-American “lone wolf” suspects – those not known to be tied to specific terrorist groups.

Obama signed the three-month extension of the provisions Friday. They were to expire Monday.

Source:  Washington Post

That’s just what we need, more surveillance.  But you know, it only gets worse.  America doesn’t believe in the whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing anymore.  Check this out.

Planning a sojourn in the northeastern United States? You could soon be taking part in a novel security programme that can supposedly ‘sense’ whether you are planning to commit a crime.

Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST), a US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) programme designed to spot people who are intending to commit a terrorist act, has in the past few months completed its first round of field tests at an undisclosed location in the northeast, Nature has learned.

Like a lie detector, FAST measures a variety of physiological indicators, ranging from heart rate to the steadiness of a person’s gaze, to judge a subject’s state of mind. But there are major differences from the polygraph. FAST relies on non-contact sensors, so it can measure indicators as someone walks through a corridor at an airport, and it does not depend on active questioning of the subject.

….

Some scientists question whether there really are unique signatures for ‘malintent’ — the agency’s term for the intention to cause harm — that can be differentiated from the normal anxieties of travel. “Even having an iris scan or fingerprint read at immigration is enough to raise the heart rate of most legitimate travellers,” says Ormerod.

Steven Aftergood, a senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, a think-tank based in Washington DC that promotes the use of science in policy-making, is pessimistic about the FAST tests. He thinks that they will produce a large proportion of false positives, frequently tagging innocent people as potential terrorists and making the system unworkable in a busy airport. “I believe that the premise of this approach — that there is an identifiable physiological signature uniquely associated with malicious intent — is mistaken. To my knowledge, it has not been demonstrated,” he says. “Without it, the whole thing seems like a charade.”

Source:  Nature

In public places, including airports, high tech scanners will be reading our heartrates, and watching our gazes.  Worried about marital problems, your job, or your children’s future in this economy?  Well, you might be a terrorist!  They’ll be yanking you out of line to be interrogated and strip searched, and that’s just what you need when you’re already stressed out.  As if the whole nude body scans and feeling us up wasn’t enough.  When will this end?

STM – Introduction – The Big Picture

Let’s now look at the universe and life from the largest perspective possible.  The best “big picture” perspective I’ve found on this can be found in Ray Kurzweil’s book The Singularity Is Near.  He looks at the world from the standpoint of increasing order and information.  To him, the evolution of everything, including ourselves, is a continual process of creating patterns of order.  He divides all of time into six main epochs:  1) Information in atomic structures, 2) Information in DNA, 3) Information in Neural Patterns, 4) Information in hardware and software designs, 5) merger of technology and human intelligence, and 6) “The universe wakes up”.  Let’s briefly discuss these epochs.

Information in atomic structures

This stage consists of the birth of our universe through the big bang and the development of the first atoms.   The underlying structure of our universe consists of patterns of matter and energy.  In later posts, I’d like to discuss this epoch in detail, going into all the details and ramifications of it all.  For now, I’ll keep things very basic.  Theories related to quantum gravity specify that both time and space exist as small packets of information – discrete “quanta”.  John Wheeler describes it as a space-time “foam”.  This base reality allows atoms to store and transmit discrete units of information.  When we finally get around to discussing all of this, we’ll look into particle physics, string theory, and quantum mechanics, going into a lot of detail as to what the fabric of our universe is made of.  We’ll also dive into theories of parallel universes, and what they may be like.  Currently I’m doing a lot of research into this area, and still have a lot to learn myself.  That’s another reason why I’ll have to put off writing about all of this in detail for some time.  For now, what’s important is that the laws of physics in our universe are conducive to evolution of structures with increasing levels of order and complexity.

Information in DNA

After the evolution of the galaxies, the sun, and our solar system, simple single celled life-forms sprang up on planet Earth.  What’s really amazing about this is that they didn’t seem to waste any time.  Pretty much as soon as the Earth could support life, these single celled lifeforms were present.  These cells based their structures around the carbon atom, which can form more compounds than any other.  In other words, it was the most conducive atom to use for encoding information and building life. These self-replicating organisms eventually adopted the use DNA, both to build themselves, and to makes copies of themselves.  Over a very long time, diverse life-forms evolved on planet Earth, consisting of huge colonies of these microorganisms.

Information in neural patterns

Carl Sagan, in his wonderful series Cosmos, tells us that we’re star-stuff contemplating the stars.  The atoms of which we are made were forged in the nuclear fires of stars and later spread out all over space when they exploded in amazing supernovas.  As this epoch progressed, the star-stuff became aware of its environment.  Having to outwit predators and catch prey, these animals had to develop more and more sophisticated minds in order to survive and reproduce.

The earliest creatures, if they had any awareness at all, were only aware of what was right next to them and existed solely in the present.  As these creatures developed sensory organs and memory, however, they obtained a sense of space and time.  For instance, they developed eyes allowing them to see objects miles away.  They developed hearing allowing them to spatially arrange what was around them based on changes in air pressures, and so on and so forth.  Their memories allowed them to learn from their mistakes, pass on knowledge about the world to the next generation, and also feel a sense of identity.  This epoch will be one of the main focuses of this book.  I want to write, in detail, what this awareness consists of, how and why it developed, and give you all the trajectory that it’s on.  We’ll go on a journey, investigating how the human species evolved, take a look at our ancestors, and see why the brain in our head developed like it did.   We’ll see that what the “mind” consists of is information and particular algorithms for processing it.

Information in hardware and software designs

Using our minds we humans ushered in the fourth epoch as we created technology to help us live our daily lives.  Right now, information about the world is making its way into a vast “cloud” of technology, which we now call the internet.  Spread out over countless computers, more and more people are relying on this information to survive.  Also, artificial intelligence algorithms are becoming inseparable from our daily lives.  When we go to the store to buy something, computer intelligence processes our credit cards, debits our accounts, and communicates with our bank.  Companies need computers to manage their inventory and organize their workforce effectively.  Scientists rely on vast computer databases of information, gathered by high tech equipment, and analyzed by artificial intelligence algorithms.  Everyone is reliant on the computer nowadays.

The human is quickly being displaced by the machine.  Why?  Electronic circuits can conduct electricity over a million times faster than our brains.   Even though the brain’s calculation mechanisms are slow, it still is able to perform amazing things by having somewhere between 100~1000 trillion individual connections, all wired in parallel.  Though any individual neural connection is limited to around two-hundred computations per second, there’s so many connections that the brain still does some rather amazing calculation feats.   If you were to build an artificial brain using the kinds of electrical circuits we now use in our computers, that robot would think one million times faster than you do now.  Considering that technology is always getting smaller and faster, we’ll be using that power to help us reverse engineering the human brain, more and more quickly.  We have some serious changes coming to our world within the coming century and beyond.

What’s keeping us from completely understanding the human brain right now?  Well, it’s hard to find a way to get into an animal’s skull to read the electrical currents pulsing through their brain.  For humans, we’re currently reliant on big huge fMRI machines and MEG.  Their resolution is continually improving, but we also have to consider upcoming advances in nanotechnology.  The ideal is to have legions of microscopic computers injected into the body, which will then make their way up to the brain and read the electrical currents in detail.  This sort of technology will be available as soon as computer chips shrink small enough in size.  It’s not unrealistic to expect this sort of technology in twenty years or so.  Once neuroscientists have access to this level of information, reverse engineering the brain will be progressing in leaps and bounds.

The real wonder to ponder is this:  What happens when we can run an artificial human brain on high speed electronic hardware?  What happens when we have robots which will be able to do everything we can do, and much better at that?  They’ll be able to exchange information with one another at unimaginable speeds, and think millions of times faster than we can — and that’s just robots version 1.0.  You have to remember, eventually the robots will be able to upgrade themselves, designing their own chips.  At that point progress and innovation in our society is going to be a straight line upward.   It will be an exponential function growing at exponential powers.  It will be off the charts.  Kurzweil calls this transition ‘The Singularity’, hence the title of his book.  There will come a point in the not so distant future where our information technology is progressing so quickly, we’ll be unable to keep up, no matter how hard we try.  Our brains are just not fast enough.  We already see that trend today, and it’s only going to get worse.

It’s hard to imagine a mind thinking one million times faster than we do.  One day to this robot would be like one-million days to us.   That’s 2,739 years per day.  This robot can think up over two and a half MILLENIA of progress and innovation, in a single day.  Then you build an army of them and put them together in parallel, and what in the world does that even mean?  We can’t even imagine this yet it will happen within most of our lifetimes.  Starting with a basis of literally all human knowledge in existence, they will go to town, upgrading themselves in ways we can’t even imagine.  Making discovery after discovery.  It will be the ultimate power on Earth – far more powerful than anything we’ve ever thought or conceived.

Computer scientists started to realize this quite some time ago and almost found themselves lost for words.

You know, things are going to be really different! … No, no, I mean really different!
—Mark Miller (Computer Scientist) To Eric Drexler, around 1986

As I discuss in Engines of Creation, if you can build genuine AI, there are reasons to believe that you can build things like neurons that are a million times faster. That leads to the conclusion that you can make systems that think a million times faster than a person. With AI, these systems could do engineering design. Combining this with the capability of a system to build something that is better than it, you have the possibility for a very abrupt transition. This situation may be more difficult to deal with even than nanotechnology, but it is much more difficult to think about it constructively at this point. Thus, it hasn’t been the focus of things that I discuss, although I periodically point to it and say: “That’s important too.”

—Eric Drexler, 1989

So what happens to humans?  Do we become their pets?  Their contented playthings?  There’s no way of knowing, but I think one thing is clear: humans will have to upgrade themselves and integrate with their technology if they’re to continue having any relevance in the story of the universe.  This leads us to the next epoch.

The Merger Of Technology and Human Intelligence

Human beings will slowly merge with technology in stages over many decades, possibly centuries.  With time we’ll become more and more reliant on our technology and devices.  Next, I envision that we’ll have armies of tiny robots injected into our bodies which will keep us from getting sick, repair any damage our cells undergo, keep us from aging, and integrate with our brains, greatly enhancing our thinking abilities, and give us access to what’s going on around us in ways we can’t now comprehend.  This is a trans-human era where we leave our biological origins behind, step by step.

In the long run, humans will slowly shed their biological bodies in favor of a new and improved technologically created super-body.  Eventually their brains will be upgraded as well, possibly completely replaced once the nature of consciousness is discovered and figured out.  Just imagine if you could think a million times faster than you do now, and knew literally all human knowledge in existence.  With billions of these super-brains working on improving their lives, it’d be child’s play to reinvent the human body into something much better.

Kurzweil goes even deeper than this in his book.  He believes we’ll cover the earth with tiny robots which we’ll be capable of controlling with our conscious thought.  This will allow us to manifest any reality we want on the Earth’s surface as these little bots assemble themselves together into whatever configuration we ask.  If we want to “materialize” in the physical world, the nano-bots will assemble themselves together into any form we want, in any location we want.  But he speculates that this will be rather rare as most of us will interact with one another in virtual reality simulations on super-computers.  We’ll be immersed in all kinds of activities, sort of like the Matrix movie but without the dystopian aspects.

This sounds like science fiction, I know, but if you really think about it, and study the trends, it’s not as crazy as you may think.  Something akin to it probably will happen.   I think Kurzweil has some great insights into the general direction humanity will be moving, but I think he vastly underestimates the amount of time it will take to bring all of this into existence.  Besides various hurdles we’re sure to encounter designing this technology, and the dangers involved, there will also be heavy social resistance to these ideas.  Most people are not ready for this.  It’s all too much.

The Universe Wakes Up

And for the far distant future?  Our species will expand throughout the cosmos, turning entire planets, stars and all their energy into computational machines which do our bidding.  We’ll be like a giant shape-shifting cloud of robots and technology, our minds immersed both in reality and daydream, sailing through the cosmos.  Billions of unmanned probes will scour the deepest aspects of space, feeding back to our giant collective mind everything which they find.  Our technology will keep getting more and more advanced, our minds faster and faster, and our understanding of the universe more and more vast.

You able to take all that in?  It’s a lot to chew on.  My next post will be some more thoughts on the Singularity and its development.

Life Is Good

Isn’t it glorious to finally find out something you’ve been wanting to learn for years?  I had been struggling to understand how our brain works with numbers, and what numbers are.  I began thinking, “I wish a neuroscientist would focus on mathematics, showing which brain circuits are involved in numerical thinking, and how we do mathematical logic and calculation.”  I figured that it was probably a combination of different mental systems, notably our language system and the same systems which we use to categorize and do other abstract thought.  Then, I found Stanislas Dehaene’s book The Number Sense:  How The Mind Creates Mathematics.  My mouth dropped.  As I found it on Amazon, its cover began to beam with a glorious aura.  I opened it and found this in the introduction.

This book will take you on a tour of arithmetic as seen from the eyes of a biologist, but without neglecting its cultural components. In Chapters 1 and 2, through an initial visit of animals and human infant’s abilities for arithmetic, I shall try to convince you that our mathematical abilities are not without biological precursors. Indeed, in Chapter 3 we shall find many traces of the animal mode of processing numbers still at work in adult human behavior. In Chapters 4 and 5, by observing how children learn to count and to calculate, we shall then attempt to understand how this initial approximate system can be overcome, and the difficulties that the acquisition of advanced mathematics raises for our primate brain. This will be a good occasion to investigate current methods of mathematical teaching and to examine the extent to which they have naturally adapted to our mental architecture. In Chapter 6 we shall also try to sort out the characteristics that: distinguish a young Einstein or a calculating prodigy from the rest of us. In Chapters 7 and 8, finally, our number hunt will end up in the fissures of the cerebral cortex, where the neuronal circuits that support calculation are located, and from which, alas, they can be dislodged by a lesion or a vascular accident, thus depriving otherwise normal persons of their number sense.

He’s not only going to teach me how humans do mathematical thought, but also the gradual evolution of animal brains and how and why they acquired a ‘number sense’?  I’ll learn the degree to which different animals can do mathematics?  Forgive me if I neglect all else until I finish this book in its entirety.

STM: Introduction – Existence Is Weird

“The reason why certain people turn to philosophy, why I became a philosopher, since I was a little boy, I always felt that existence as such was weird.  I mean, here we are.  Isn’t that odd?”

– Alan Watts

I want you to imagine we’re together on a park bench.  We’ve never met before, and we don’t know anything about each other.  What I’d like to do is lean toward you, swivel my head around to gaze toward everything around us, and then say, “This is bizarre.”  I nod my head, lean back for a moment, and hope you know what I’m talking about.  If you’re most people, I don’t think I’ll connect, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll find someone who shares my sentiment.

People are odd.  The world is odd.  Our culture is odd.  Everything is odd and there’s certainly no shortage of oddities to give you.

The biggest oddity?  You want to know the strangest thing of all?  Existence.  I currently seem to exist.  I say “seem” because some days I seriously have my doubts.  But, I exist, and here of all places, in the human male form no doubt.  To all of our amazement, especially my own, I have two arms, two legs, a mouth, a chest, and all the other things human males possess.  I walk around, see things, hear things, eat things, desire things, despise things, run away from things, love things, and do all sort of things.

Impressed?  Nah, you’re probably not.  There’s billions of other males just like me roaming about.  I like to comfort myself by saying there’s no one out there just like me, but truth be told, most other males are 99.9999% the same as me, with a few minor variations, of course.  It’s those minor variations which most of us focus on.  I’m special, what can I say.  But considering this is our first meeting, maybe I could show you something?  First impressions are important you know.  Follow me?  Where are we going you ask?  This is kind of gross, but we’re heading to the bathroom for a moment.  It’ll just be a second, come on.  I just defecated!  Well, I did earlier and decided not to flush.  What?  Oh, don’t give me that look.  Just look into the toilet.  You do that too, do you not?  I ate grape nut flakes for breakfast, spaghetti for lunch, and out came… that.  Whooaa, I’m quite a machine!  Ladies watch out, the human mulcher is making his way through!  Time for the carnival side show!  Here’s what you do.  You stick delicious food in my mouth, and believe it or not, my digestive acids will toil away for hours, possibly days, making a rather disgusting mixture which will slowly ooze its way through my innards without me even thinking about it!  And the end result?  Right before your eyes buddy. OOhhhh yeeaahhh, I’m alivvvveeeee baby!  You should see when I get the flu bug!

Are you grossed out?  I’m sorry.  But you know what’s odd?  Everything that just happened!   We live in an infinite universe, with near infinite possibilities, and out of ALL the possibilities to get nutrients and energy from the environment, my body went with the method above.  Yeah.  And hey, though I sometimes like to deny it, inside of my body is some rather disgusting looking organs.  Isn’t it fascinating that we have long tubes of intestines?  No?  Honestly, I don’t like them much either, but they’re pretty important to me for the time being.   I also have this heart, beating and beating, pumping blood all around.  Truth be told, blood grosses me out.

Yep, here I am, checking out that cute girl sitting on the blanket here in the park.  You know stranger, I can’t look directly at her.  That would be “creepy”.  I want to, but I can’t.  She may even want to, but she can’t either.  We have to exchange glances and I have to catch her looking at me, and vice versa, or something like that.  She looks my way, I either smile, or look away awkwardly, or something.  Hell if I know,  I’m a theoretical physicist.  I have no idea how that stuff works.  But, she’s practically beaming out there.  There’s nothing like distant radiation from a giant nuclear furnace ninety-three million miles away to illuminate the world.  Yes, the big yellow-orange fireball.  Don’t look at it too closely, it’ll burn your eyes out, literally.

And what do we have underneath us my friend?  Liquid magma!  Nothing like it.  Well, actually a lot of planets have liquid magma cores.  It’s a common part of the nebular solar system formation process.  It all begins with a giant gas cloud collapsing in on itself, spinning faster and faster due to the conservation of angular momentum.  The dense gas cloud at the center bursts into nuclear fusion, blasting out rays of higher energy radiation, beaming their way through space at three hundred million meters per second.  The small specs of dust eventually collect themselves together into rocks and stones which themselves gather together into bigger and bigger molten clumps as they slam into each other from their chaotic initial orbits.  Quite an amazing process if you think about it.  After a while, the top-most rock layer of the inner planets cool down enough to be solid.  Nothing like a firm foundation under your feet — well, it’s firm for a few miles at least.  If you dig too deep, you’ll reach the magma.  No worries though, your drill bit’s going to melt a long ways before that.  It gets hot very fast.  In the early 1970’s, the Soviets dug a hole seven and a half miles deep.  They held the world record for a long time, though it’s just recently been beaten in 2008.  Look up the Kola borehole if you’re interested.

Stranger, I see you have a human body too?  Guess what?  I suffered from a headache the other day.  You get those too huh?  In my case, the blood vessels within the big blob of jelly in my head start to contract when my blood sugar gets too low, and all in all, it’s not very fun.  But hey, look at these weird teeth in my mouth!  And my fingers have these strange nails at the end.  Our ancestors had claws.  If I don’t cut these annoying nails strangers like yourself will think I’m a vagrant.  Worse still, that cute girl won’t want to date me either as she’ll think, “Ewww, he doesn’t keep proper hygiene.”  And hey, have you noticed that women like to paint theirs?  Why?  *shrugs*  It doesn’t do much for me, but to each their own.

I never chose my parents.  I never chose this body.  I never even chose what I like and dislike.  Consciousness was just sort of crammed into this “thing” which you see before you now.  I don’t even remember when I was born.  My hippocampus wasn’t finished developing, so my early memories didn’t quite stick.   It’s hard to say when my first memory was.  It’s not like they have a time-stamp on them.  Truth be told, my early life seems to fade from me day by day.  I can only recall the especially vivid events from my childhood.  The rest?  It just seems to be gone.

What is this on the ground?  An acorn.  Hey stranger.  If I stick this in the ground, in a very long time, there will be a giant brown thing protruding upward toward the sky with green leaves!  Dirt + water + time + acorn + sunshine = giant oak tree.  How is that even possible?  Do you have any clue how amazing and absurd that is?  Just go and build a machine which can take dirt and turn it into a beautiful tree, and get back with me.  Make sure to write out how it all works in detail, because I sure am interested to know.

By now you may be wondering, “Is this what this book’s going to be about?  Hundreds of pages of Jason mentioning random mundane events then exclaiming, ‘Isn’t it strange!?'”  No, but even if it was, it wouldn’t be about anything “mundane”.  There is nothing mundane about everyday existence.  Our everyday existence is the very puzzle I plan to deeply discuss.

It’s very common to see people bored with life, thinking nothing is going on around them.  I attribute this phenomenon to what I’ll call “living in a box”.  The human mind has a strong inclination to become self-absorbed, short-circuiting itself from reality, looping back on its own sensory systems and filtering out all deeper aspects of reality.  The average mind is filled with sex, other people’s sex lives, eating, thinking about what they’ll eat later, and other “everyday existence” tasks such as, but not limited to, mowing the lawn, taking out the garbage, getting a haircut, running in place on a treadmill, washing dishes, getting their car’s oil changed, going to the supermarket, watching movies, listening to music, tweeting on Twitter, and checking their Facebook page.   None of these time-consuming activities connect them to the deeper picture of life or the universe.   At the end of their days, the majority of their lifespan went into working some job, running their children to little league games, preparing meals, cleaning house, washing their car, fixing their bathroom toilet, and things of this nature, and the question is, did they ever connect with the universe?

I don’t think so.  But isn’t that life?  Isn’t that human existence?  No, it isn’t.  It might be your life.  It might be your parent’s life.  It might be your neighbor’s life.  But that’s not life.  Life includes insects, plants, and fungi.  Life includes trees, flowers, beetles, ants, birds, apes, penguins, seals, and parrots.  Where do they fit into that schedule other than an as an occasional pet, a bouquet of roses for your lover on Valentine’s day, and walking the dog?  If your entire life has consisted in the sorts of everyday activities listed above, you haven’t a clue what life is.  You’re completely disconnected from life.  You’re living in this box which we might call human culture, and chances are, you’re living in only one culture of many, and you’re probably not aware of how other members of your own species are living.  To top it off, if you lack knowledge in history, you won’t even know how people in your own culture used to live in the past.  In other words, you’re stuck in one short time period, in your own particular culture, only thinking of your own species, and primarily concerning your thoughts with mating rituals, eating, sleeping, and acquiring junk in the hopes that it’ll make you happy, mostly doing so in a strange competition with the people around you for status.

But there’s even more to life than life, if that makes any sense.  Life takes place in an ecosystem and the surrounding universe.  What about the weather, the planet, the solar system, and the all the laws governing them?  What about black holes, quasars, and distant galaxies?  When you look up at night and see the sea of stars twinkling in the sky, have you ever taken the time to just think about all that you’re looking at?  Do you know why the wind blows, why the seasons change, the nature behind the beams of light traveling from the sun to you, why the sky is blue, why it becomes black and transparent at night, why the Earth is round, why it’s surface is covered with salty oceans, why it’s spinning, why it’s floating through space the way it is, why we have a moon, why there’s other planets in our solar system and why they are the way they are… Think about your life and ask where all of that fits into your everyday activities?  To most people, they don’t unless space and time are used as the theme for a sci-fi thriller or a love scene as two young people stare up at the Milky Way.  “Everyday existence” is this incredibly narrow band of activities which pander to a small band of human potential existence.  It’s so narrow, it’s infinitesimal in the bigger scheme of things.   The reason people feel disconnected and bored is because that narrow band, while it’s interesting and important, is too narrow to be life’s complete focus, and with time it quickly becomes boring and uninteresting.  People will say, “Is this all there is to life?”  No friend, you’ve been short-circuited.  We need to plug you back in.

I hope to connect you back into reality and get you thinking about life, what you are, and where you are.  I hope to ignite that childhood curiosity which used to burn brightly in your soul.  I wish I could write about all of life and the entire universe, but other people have already written great books on those topics, and I decided that I want to focus on a few particular areas:  space, time, and the human mind.

Hold Up While I Kidnap You

Imagine if you were kidnapped tonight, were injected with an agent which kept you fast asleep for an unknown duration of time, and then awoke lying on the floor in this place.

What sort of thoughts and emotion does this sight evoke in you?  What would you be thinking?  Would you be completely overwhelmed?  I thought so.  This place is so beautiful and so serene, I can imagine that you would conclude that you’d died and woke up in heaven.  The high ceilings invite your gaze up to the light, which is shining down from above onto the splendorous stone arches. The columns are adorned with ever sort of artistic delicacy and even the floors are dazzling with patterns and designs of all sorts.  You wonder if anyone is around, so you call out, but there is no response.  There’s only your voice echoing throughout the massive central chamber.  It’s time to do a little exploring.  You enter a hallway and notice a series of life-size stone statues.

Look closely at their faces – they’re all at peace and contemplative in mood.  And notice the man on the far right holding the child.  Look at the kindness in his eyes.  And the man on the left – he looks like a wise sage, almost as if he’s watching over the hall.  Where in the world are you?  Who built this place?  What are the books they’re holding and what’s contained within them?   You find out that this hallway leads to a giant circular library.

You take a look at a few of the book bindings:  Quantum well lasers, quantum chromodynamics, QFT and Topology, Charged Particle Beams, An Advanced Course In Modern Nuclear Physics, and other science books fill the shelves.  You think that this must be the home of some sort of scientist.  You head outdoors through the central archway and find yourself in a flower garden with a stream, and then look back to see the exterior of the building you were just in.

You waltz down the path along the stream, listening to the soothing sound of the flowing water, and delight yourself in the sunbeams piercing the through the trees, which are illuminating the flowers of every design and color.

You make you way downstream and find out you’re on a floating island.

Sorry, I’ve just kidnapped you and taken you to my dream home.  Don’t worry, you’ll find me upstairs in the central tower doing research.  Feel free to meet me up there.  In the meantime, have a look around, enjoy the sights, and raid the kitchen for a nice meal.  The robots will gladly make you anything you desire.

If I were immortal, this is where I’d live.  If scientists perfect anti-aging technology before I die, eventually this island will be floating somewhere in the skies over the Pacific ocean.  It’d take a while to construct, but if you’re going to live forever, you’re going to need a lot to do!  I’d design anti-gravitational technology, embed it into the rocks below, and lift an island into the sky.  I’d then build a massive palace at its center connected to various trails along which streams flow toward guest houses.  This place would hover over the ocean, and I would construct wormholes to suck up the ocean water for my streams and sky waterfalls.

The entire island would spin, itself being a giant time-keeping device. The central tower would be an observatory with a massive telescope.  On nights I was not doing any observation, the outer towers would ionize the atmosphere, and blue, green, and red streams of light would dance across the sky in every direction.

You may say, “Jason, that’s ridiculous.”  Well, say what you like.  There’s nothing in the laws of physics which say this sort of place is impossible — well, I don’t know exactly how to make the island float, but if I were immortal, I’m sure I’d figure out the secrets of gravity eventually.  I’d have time to perfect my robot technology, and various small drones of all sorts would maintain the place, upkeeping the flower beds.  I don’t know what would be more fun: building such a place, or living there.

In Michio Kaku’s series Time, he asked various people on the street whether they would drink an elixir which gave them eternal life, completely stopping their aging process.  A few liked the idea, but amazingly most people had strange reasons why they wouldn’t want to.  I guess they don’t like living very much.  That’s sad really.  I have a million things I would do if I had the time.  I’d learn to make rock sculptures, I’d paint, I’d master every form of engineering and masonry, I’d study all the sciences, I’d fly through space, exploring various worlds, I’d genetically engineer all sorts of plants and even docile peaceful animals for my island, I’d build contraptions and inventions of every conceivable kind, and my list goes on for a hundred or so pages.  One person told Dr. Kaku, “I think I’d get bored.”  Bored?  How could you get bored in an infinite universe?  I don’t think people realize the world they live in.  Death and aging are pointless.  It’s simply your mitochondria emitting free-radicals in your cells as its producing energy, destroying cellular DNA.  There’s no reason why you can’t patch that up and live for millions of years.  If you wanted to die after a few billion years, or even a million years, then I can understand; but the normal human lifespan?  Wayyyyyy too short.

I’m sure that with time, I’d start altering my own brain, integrating it with various technologies I’d create.  After all, it’s a complex biological computer.  First, I’d add circuitry allowing me to remember anything I was exposed to.  Next I’d enable a new mathematical calculation system so that I could more easily work with numbers and equations.  Then I’d greatly expand my ability to imagine figures and rotate them, also adding in capabilities to imagine multi-dimensional space-time, and time travel, making complex physics as to understand as Newtonian mechanics in three dimensions. All in all, it would be glorious.