My Thoughts On The Cosmos

As I mentioned not too long ago, I’ve been slowly watching each of Woody Allen’s movies.  In one of them, the narrator quotes Shakespeare,

“Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

– Shakespeare, Macbeth (Act V, Scene V)

In his movie September (1987),  there’s a scene where an author (Peter) asks a physicist (Lloyd I believe) about the universe.  Lloyd tells him that our cosmos is, “…Haphazard, morally neutral, and unimaginably violent…”  Peter mistakenly believed that Lloyd worked on the atomic bomb and asks him if he found it terrifying.  Lloyd tells him that while the atom bomb is indeed frightening, it’s much harder to live with the knowledge that none of it means anything.  The universe was created from nothing and will eventually vanish back into nothing.  At its root, our universe is aimless and random, a temporary, violent convulsion.  “It doesn’t matter one way or the other.”  When we relate our lives to that big picture, it’s as Shakespeare said, it signifies nothing.

I was happy I could find the scene on Youtube.

I struggle with those same thoughts as well.  I look at the world, at how fragile our lives are, and how much we humans have struggled just to live day to day.  I find myself wondering about the point of it all.  If you look behind us into the past, contemplating the first stars being born, the supernovas, the violent formation of our planet, and all the animals fighting and eating one another during our evolution, this place is terrifying.  It certainly looks “…haphazard, morally neutral, and unimaginably violent…”  But what if we instead direct our eyes to the future?

The Russian billionaire Dmitry Itskov has formed a project called Global Future 2045.  Take a look at this video and the sorts of things he’s funding and promoting.

When I see a video like this, I can’t help but think they’re way too optimistic and are getting ahead of themselves.  I can’t imagine things changing so drastically so quickly.  But that’s not really why I’m bringing this up.  Let’s just assume that humans perfect this sort of technology in the next century or two.  What does life look like to a child being born in the year 2230?  Or 2330?

If they’ve learned to make peace with one another (not a small feat), their world doesn’t seem all that scary or violent.  They have bodies which were constructed by nanorobots, remote controlled by a brain/mind which isn’t even present in their body.  They can be impaled, smashed, or burned alive and all they have to do is “respawn”, asking the nanobots to rebuild them a new body based on those same specifications.  They’d feel no pain and wouldn’t suffer at all.

There is no hunger or disease.  In fact, their bodies are no longer aging.  With each new wave of technology their body gets better.  They keep upgrading both their minds and bodies similar to how computers receive updated hardware and software today.  No longer needing to eat, no body odor, no taking showers, no pointless exercise to lose weight.  They harvest energy from either fusion power or solar panels which they’ve launched into space and the energy is directly beamed into their body.  That, or there will be new forms of super-batteries.  And as for the sun, formerly terrifying with its radiation, heat, and bright light, is now more like a warm heater, a big bright ball to adore from spacecraft.

I imagine one of these “neo-humans” landing on a desolate planet, equipped with their nanobots.  They send a small probe to the planet’s surface which then releases the nanobots into the soil.  They start breaking down the rocks and soil and transform the surface into a deep mat of nanobots and organized materials.

Once the planet is prepared, the neo-human lands, equipped with his ship’s quantum-computer filled with all sorts of blueprints, designs, and tools.  He turns on his augmented-reality system which is embedded into his highly modified brain and pulls up a sort of “editor”.  It’s sort of like the editors game designers and CAD workers use today, but far more powerful with the assistance of AI and vast pre-made blueprints.  He uses his mind to control small devices the size of modern day insects, hovering over the planet’s surface and starts terra-forming, creating a landscape and his own personal castle.

You know what blows my mind?  That world we just described is the same universe as the one we live in.  All of that is possible though it’ll take a lot of work to improve our technology to that level.  Future generations could be living lives like that if we keep at it.

This place could eventually turn into a giant amusement park filled with nothing but joy, fun, and mystery.  What a change that would be!  No toilsome work, no pain, no suffering, no death, at least not for billions of years.  You spend each day exercising your creativity and enjoying the things others create.  Could you imagine planet after planet, totally terraformed into splendor and beauty, designed by the world’s most talented artists?  One planet may be a giant water park, and with bodies made from the strongest materials known to science, they could make the rides pretty intense!  And don’t forget virtual reality.  Video games by this time will be as real as real life and you’ll be able to immerse yourself in them like the Matrix.

People will be living out fantasies as Jedi masters on theme park planets or in virtual reality online games.  Couples will go on dates, visiting cities which make Paris look like a trash dump.  With improved technology, scientists will be flying out into deep space, exploring alien worlds, black holes, quasars, and the great beyond.  Who knows what they’ll be finding!

Notice something about this future world — digital technology and reality blend as one.  That’s what nanotechnology will eventually lead to.  I see a world which can be resdesigned into practically anything you can imagine.  It’s like we live in a complex machine that’s completely programmable from the inside.  The problem is that we have no manual into how it all works, and we’re having to slowly figure out what’s going on.  We haven’t been able to get a hold of this universe’s controls yet, but we’re quickly getting the hang of things.

From our lowly human perspective of evolved pond scum, weak, frail, and barely hanging on to life, yes, this world is terrifying.  But if technology progresses and the human race further evolves into something much greater, this cosmos may be very inviting and entertaining to them.  Though I guess it doesn’t make much of a difference though considering I’ll probably be dead and gone.

Just Leave Us Alone!

Why can’t they just leave us alone, respect our constitutional right to privacy, and quit spying on us?

 

According to law enforcement agencies, the rising popularity of Internet chat services like Skype has made it difficult to eavesdrop on suspects’ communications. But now a California businessman is weighing in with what he claims is a revolutionary solution—a next-generation surveillance technology designed to covertly intercept online chats and video calls in real time.

Voice over IP chat software allows people to make phone calls over the Internet by converting analog audio signals into digital data packets. Because of the way the packets are sent over the Web, sometimes by a “peer-to-peer” connection, it can be complex and costly for law enforcement agencies to listen in on them. This has previously led some countries, like Ethiopia and Oman, to block VoIP services on “security” grounds. In the United States and Europe, too, VoIP has given authorities a headache. The FBI calls it the “going dark problem” and is pushing for new powers to force internet chat providers to build in secret backdoors to wiretap suspected criminals’ online communications.

In response, technology companies have rushed to develop new surveillance solutions. Dennis Chang, president of Sun Valley-based VOIP-Pal, obtained a series of patents related to online voice calls earlier this year. Among them is a “legal intercept” technology that Chang says “would allow government agencies to ‘silently record’ VoIP communications.”

– Source:  Slate Blogs

First we had the Patriot Act, shredding our civil liberties and flushing them down the toilet.  Next was the National Defense Authorization Act.  Who needs the fifth or fourteenth amendments?  Who needs habeas corpus?  Welcome to a world where we can be locked up indefinitely, without trial, and without charge.

Now our government doesn’t even try to hide what they’re up to.  They blatantly tell us, “Hey, we’re watching and monitoring EVERYTHING you do.  We know who you’re talking to, what you’re talking about, and what information you’re viewing.”  They’re already working to put high-tech cameras on every street corner with AI algorithms watching and tracking everything we do.  Our phones are already uploading our GPS coordinates to Apple and Microsoft, and the government is probably asking for that data too.

Seriously, leave us alone.  Before long our television sets will have little cameras in them, uploading a real-time video feed to some dark, secret government compound.  This is turning into Orwell’s 1984.  This isn’t paranoia.  It’s very real and it’s happening right now.

They have no right to our Skype conversations.  They have no right to our phone conversations.  They have no right to read our emails.  If you people can’t formulate a case for probable cause and are unable to obtain a search warrant authorized by a local judge in our county, get the hell out of our homes and our lives.

You know why you don’t want to get a local search warrant?  If you wanted to spy on anyone here where I live, you’d have to get permission from Judge Bill Hickle, who lives here in town with us, and we all know him.  We elected him because we trust him.  We run into him in the restaurant, we talk with him, and his firm handles our personal business dealings.  We know him personally, and if you asked him for permission to spy on us, and you didn’t have good evidence for why you needed to do so, he’d give you the finger, and that’s how it should be.

This next video captures how I feel about it all.

Our Leaders Are Unqualified

We have a problem.  Our leaders seem to think they can govern an advanced technological civilization without having even a basic understanding of science and technology.  Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla) seems to think the age of the Earth is a complete mystery.

“I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States,” Rubio told GQ’s Michael Hainey. “I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all.”

Huffington Post

So if you’re wondering the age of the Earth, you’re not going to ask a geologist or a physicist?  We’re not going to consult radiometric dating and other empirically tested techniques?  This question would only take you five minutes on Wikipedia.  Type in “age of the earth”, and it comes right up.  If you Google it, it’s the first link that comes up. You know why he doesn’t have a clue about these things?  He’s never thought about them.

Governor Rick Perry of Texas, a top presidential contender, was outside praying for rain like an African shaman.

And the  former Senator of my state of Missouri, Todd Akin, seems to think a woman who is raped will not get pregnant.

“Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

– Todd Akin

Do you think people like this understand the role of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in industry?  Do you think they understand the research going on in universities and how important it is?  Do you think they understand the implications and power of the military weaponry they control, such as biological weapons, nuclear weapons, and AI controlled drones?  Do you think these guys ever consider climate change, energy, or sustainability issues?  Do you think they understand biology, stem cell research, and GMOs?

These people don’t read books.  They don’t think critically.  They don’t understand how things work.

I think of future governors and leaders in control of nano-swarms, advanced AI weapon systems, and future biological weapons, holding in their hands a small button which could wipe out an entire civilization and totally destroy the Earth’s biosphere, and I can’t help but fall into despair.  I imagine them in their office, prostrate, praying on their hands and knees, “Lord Jesus, tell me what do!”  Who knows what sort of “revelation” they’ll come to.  Here they are, in control of the fate of humanity, all because they stuck some signs in peoples yards and ran a few campaign commercials where they rambled off a few political talking points while an American flag waved in the background.

We Have Good Reason For Humility

Just a few days ago was Carl Sagan day, but I forgot to post something remembering him.  He’s a hero of mine, along with Richard Feynman and Richard Dawkins.  They taught me to think critically and introduced me to many scientific ideas which have profoundly changed how I view the world. With these changes came humility. I realized how little I actually knew about the world, and how much I still have to learn.