Tag Archives: transhumanism

The Eerie Silence and Machine Intelligences

From The Daily Galaxy:

Conscious-machine_cp3hb_2263

The species that you and all other living human beings on this planet belong to is Homo sapiens. During a time of dramatic climate change 200,000 years ago,Homo sapiens (modern humans) evolved in Africa. Is the human species entering another evolutionary inflection point?

Paul Davies, a British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist and Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science and Co-Director of the Cosmology Initiative at Arizona State University, says in his new book The Eerie Silence that any aliens exploring the universe will be AI-empowered machines. Not only are machines better able to endure extended exposure to the conditions of space, but they have the potential to develop intelligence far beyond the capacity of the human brain.”I think it very likely – in fact inevitable – that biological intelligence is only a transitory phenomenon, a fleeting phase in the evolution of the universe,” Davies writes. “If we ever encounter extraterrestrial intelligence, I believe it is overwhelmingly likely to be post-biological in nature.”

Before the year 2020, scientists are expected to launch intelligent space robots that will venture out to explore the universe for us.
“Robotic exploration probably will always be the trail blazer for human exploration of far space,” says Wolfgang Fink, physicist and researcher at Caltech. “We haven’t yet landed a human being on Mars but we have a robot there now. In that sense, it’s much easier to send a robotic explorer. When you can take the human out of the loop, that is becoming very exciting.”
As the growing global population continues to increase the burden on the Earth’s natural resources, senior curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Roger Launius, thinks that we’ll have to alter human biology to prepare to colonize space.
In the September issue of Endeavour, Launius takes a look at the historical debate surrounding human colonization of the solar system. Experiments have shown that certain life forms can survive in space. Recently, British scientists found that bacteria living on rocks taken from Britain’s Beer village were able to survive 553 days in space, on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS). The microbes returned to Earth alive, proving they could withstand the harsh environment.
Humans, on the other hand, are unable to survive beyond about a minute and a half in space without significant technological assistance. Other than some quick trips to the moon and the ISS, astronauts haven’t spent too much time too far away from Earth. Scientists don’t know enough yet about the dangers of long-distance space travel on human biological systems. A one-way trip to Mars, for example, would take approximately six months. That means astronauts will be in deep space for more than a year with potentially life-threatening consequences.
Launius, who calls himself a cyborg for using medical equipment to enhance his own life, says the difficult question is knowing where to draw the line in transforming human biological systems to adapt to space. Credit: NASA/Brittany Green
“If it’s about exploration, we’re doing that very effectively with robots,” Launius said. “If it’s about humans going somewhere, then I think the only purpose for it is to get off this planet and become a multi-planetary species.”
Stephen Hawking agrees: “I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space,” Hawking told the Big Think website in August. “It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn’t have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet.”
If humans are to colonize other planets, Launius said it could well require the “next state of human evolution” to create a separate human presence where families will live and die on that planet. In other words, it wouldn’t really be Homo sapien sapiens that would be living in the colonies, it could be cyborgs—a living organism with a mixture of organic and electromechanical parts—or in simpler terms, part human, part machine.
“There are cyborgs walking about us,” Launius said. “There are individuals who have been technologically enhanced with things such as pacemakers and cochlea ear implants that allow those people to have fuller lives. I would not be alive without technological advances.”
The possibility of using cyborgs for space travel has been the subject of research for at least half a century. A seminal  article published in 1960 by Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline titled “Cyborgs and Space” changed the debate, saying that there was a better alternative to recreating the Earth’s environment in space, the predominant thinking during that time. The two scientists compared that approach to “a fish taking a small quantity of water along with him to live on land.” They felt that humans should be willing to partially adapt to the environment to which they would be traveling.
“Altering man’s bodily functions to meet the requirements of extraterrestrial environments would be more logical than providing an earthly environment for him in space,” Clynes and Kline wrote.
“It does raise profound ethical, moral and perhaps even religious questions that haven’t been seriously addressed,” Launius said. “We have a ways to go before that happens.”
Some experts such as medical ethicist Grant Gillett believe that the danger is that we might end up producing a psychopath because we don’t quite understand the nature of cyborgs.
NASA, writes Lauris, still isn’t focusing much research on how to improve human biological systems for space exploration. Instead, its Human Research Program is focused on risk reduction: risks of fatigue, inadequate nutrition, health problems and radiation. While financial and ethical concerns may have held back cyborg research, Launius believes that society may have to engage in the cyborg debate again when space programs get closer to launching long-term deep space exploration missions.
“If our objective is to become space-faring people, it’s probably going to force you to reconsider how to reengineer humans,’ Launius said.
When one mentions merging humans with machines in the future, it is usually in the context of the Technological Singularity, not long range space exploration ( although as little as ten years ago, this was a serious proposal considered by NASA ).
Many have thought of the Eerie Silence over the decades, including futurists as George Dvorsky and John Smart, who propose that once man and machines merge, a super-intelligence will emerge and our civilization will disappear from the visible Universe.
Thus, another possible explanation for the Eerie Silence.
Hat tip to the Daily Grail.

Scott Corrales on “Pre-Adamic” Civilizations

From Inexplicata:

 

Pride comes before a fall. This seems to hold true, at least, for the explanations given in human myth and fiction for the collapse of all the civilizations that came before us: The urge to build a tower to reach heaven ended in the linguistic sundering and scattering of humankind; in some traditions, the gods became fearful of human prowess and initiative, and took pre-emptive measure to keep or species at bay, destroying their own creation by fire and flood. What more poignant ending than the destruction of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Númenor – his own version of Atlantis – as it is plunged into the sea by the Creator, who refashions the world in order to keep mortals from ever setting foot on the Undying Lands?

There was a time when students of history freely discussed “antediluvian” civilizations, or even “Pre-Adamic” ones. A Mexican textbook from the 1960s (Historia de Mexico: Etapas Precortesiana y Colonial) speaks freely of “Atlantis” as one of the serious theories concerning the arrival of humans to the Americas, stating the following on page 14: “ATLANTIS – Lovely and ancient in literature is the belief that men in the New World came from the Old One across a continent that stretched out in the Atlantic Ocean, and which was called Atlantis, according to the vague reports given to us by the philosopher Plato in the dialogues “Critias” and “Timaeus”. Atlantis served as a footbridge between both worlds, until it was destroyed by a cataclysm. Its remnants can be seen in the Azores, Madeira and Cape Verde, as well as the Antilles.”

We may well think the authors of the textbook irresponsible for placing the seed of pseudoscience into the minds of impressionable young students, but…might they have been closer to the mark that we care to admit? In May 2001, a series of underwater probes of the Caribbean Sea revealed to an astonished world the existence of what many considered to be the ruins of a sunken civilization at a depth of six hundred meters off Cuba’s Cape San Antonio. Covering an area of nearly twenty square kilometers of seabed, the city – dubbed “Mega” due to its size –consists of cube-shaped and pyramidal structures. Cuban geologist Manuel Iturralde believes that the ruins indeed belong to an antediluvian civilization, dating back to the 10th millennium B.C.E.

The extensive Cuban cave systems are also a source of wonder, such as Cave Number 1 on Youth Island (formerly Island of Pines). The cave dome, measuring some 25 meters in diameter (81 feet), has skylights that allow for illumination from the blazing Caribbean sun during the day and the moon by night. The complexity of its pictograms places them at the very apex of cave art, leading some to think of wiring diagrams. “Seen as a whole, the Central Motif (the main pictogram) suggests to the viewer the image of a star map, a representation of constellations, but it could also mean something completely different,” according to the antrhopologist Núñez Jiménez, writing in 1986. A possible star map on the domed ceiling of an ancient cave is enough to fuel more speculative television broadcasts about ancient astronauts…
Youth Island is relatively close to Cuba’s Guanacahibibes area, where sunken, dreaming Mega awaits further exploration. Could there be any connection between one and the other? Videotaped images of the undersea ruins were analyzed by the Centro de Arqueología Marina y Antropología de la Academia Cubana de Ciencias (Center for Marine Archaeology and Anthropology of the Cuban Academy of Sciences), which officially stated that “there was no simple and straightforward explanation for these structures,” yet unequivocally ascertaining they were man-made, rather than a natural phenomenon.

The Resurgence of Paleoufology

The branch of UFO research which could rightly deserve the appellation of “paleoufology” constituted a controversial field of investigation during the 1970′s, when authors like Otto Binder (Unsolved Mysteries of the Past), Richard E. Mooney (Gods of Air and Darkness), and Erich Von Daniken (Chariots of the Gods?) wrote extensively on human/alien interaction at the dawn of recorded history and even earlier. Proof of the existence of “gods” or “ancient astronauts” could be found everywhere, and to judge by the conclusions found in the books of the time, it seemed that every major engineering project in antiquity had been “farmed out” to alien contractors! Paleoufology lost its appeal and languished in obscurity until the works of Zechariah Sitchin thrust it once again into prominence in the early 1990s, gaining further momentum with theAncient Aliens television program on the History Channel in the ‘00s. Clearly, there is still a great deal to learn about this aspect of the phenomenon.

Guatemalan researcher Oscar Rafael Padilla, an attorney and Ph.D who has dedicated 30 of his 51 years to the research of the UFO phenomenon is also the compiler of an extraordinary taxonomy of extraterrestrial creatures, composed by taking into consideration such characteristics as the existence–or lack of–hair, eye type, body shape and similarities to the human body, among others. One of the species portrayed in Clasificación Exobiológica de Entidades Extraterrestres (Exobiological Classification of Extraterrestrial Entities), is characterized by its large head and eyes in relation to the thinness of its body. The being has been classified as belonging to the family Homidia (due to its resemblance to humans), orderPrimates (due to its walking on two extremities), subclass Euteria(since they are allegedly placental mammals). Padilla also believes that this particular variety of non-human entity played a significant role in ancient times.

Dr. Padilla recalls a very curious stele that was on display in Guatemala’s Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology until its removal in 1990, when it was transferred to Japan for scientific study, according to his own research. The stele portrayed the figure of a being with enormous ears, three-fingered hands, elongated legs, no feet, and two strange filaments on its head which, in Padilla’s opinion, constitute “antennae”.

Scientists have dismissed Dr. Padilla’s allegedly alien as a colorful primitive depiction of an imaginary monster–very much like our own science-fiction beasts–and left the matter at that. But there is growing evidence throughout South America that ancient artisans depicted certain things we now know to be fact much too clearly.
Brazilian UFO researcher Jean Alencar has noted that the mythology of this country is replete with descriptions and statuettes of beings endowed with the power of flight. The legends of Brazilian natives, like those of other countries, detail experiences of gods or travelers from the sky who descended to earth when humans were little more that animals to instruct them in the arts of agriculture, astronomy, medicine, and other disciplines. Alencar points out one figure in particular, Bep-Kororoti, a space warrior worshipped by the tribes of the upper reaches of the Xingú River. Not unlike the heroes of India’sMahabharata, Bep-Kororoti possessed a flying vehicle capable of destroying anything in its path. His aspect terrified the primitive natives, until he stepped out of his “raiment” and revealed himself to be fair-skinned, handsome, and kind. He amused the natives with his “magic” until he grew restless for his land in the sky and returned there.

Pre-Humans and Non-Humans

The Sahara, a warm subtropical desert, occupies almost 3 million square miles. Its relative humidity can go as low as twenty percent and strong dry winds like the harmattan contribute to the evaporation. Such inhospitable conditions make survival an almost insuperable barrier for animals such as gazelles, antelope, jackals and the varieties of reptiles and insects that can be found there.

Yet humans have tenaciously clung to life in this environment, and appear to have done so far back in history when the climate wasn’t so harsh. These human cultures, now lost to us, nonetheless left behind a number of beautiful and disturbing drawings that have created controversy since their discovery.

Almost nine thousand years ago, one of these cultures flourished on Djebel Zenkekra in the Tassili-n-Ajjer Massif, a natural, fortress-shaped mountain formation that provided relief from the unforgiving desert sun during the day and shelter against the animals that roamed the Neolithic swamps which would later turn to desert.

The Tassili Culture, for want of a better name, bequeathed to posterity a collection of 4000 images, painted in a variety of colors unavailable to their counterparts in the Altamira and Lascaux Caves: using flints for brushes, dark reds, yellows, and even shades of green supplemented the basic reds and whites available to the prehistoric cave artists. Everyday life was their subject matter–the endless cycle of hunting, battle, and domestic life was captured in stone, along with a gallery of figures which stand out in stark contrast to humans in their workaday poses. While there are many such examples of cave art in other rock shelters and ledges throughout the upper reaches of the Sahara, the ones on Djebel Zenkekra hold a special fascination.

Discovered by the 19th century French explorer Henri Lhote, these figures were so unusual he dubbed them “Martians,” explaining “their contour is simple, inartistic, and with rounded heads; their only detail is the double oval at the figure’s centre, which evokes the image we currently have of Martians.”

Lhote’s round-headed denizens of the Red Planet were depicted by the primitive cave artists as wearing suits strongly reminiscent of those worn by our own astronauts on the Moon, down to the detail of the boots. Several hundred such drawings exist, scattered over many miles of desert: strange helmeted and antennaed figures, often floating in weightlessness as if the artist had been able to witness one of our modern spacewalks. Other images are of a technological bent, showing what could be taken as solar panels, space stations, floating spheres containing humanoid figures.
Unwilling to be caught up in the ancient astronaut craze, anthropologists have suggested that the Tassili “roundheads” are merely ceremonial dancers or priests wearing empty gourds over their heads. The problem with this rational approach is that the agricultural know-how and resources to grow pumpkins were nonexistent in North Africa at the time the Tassili drawings were created, and would probably not have been available for another thousand years.

Could extraterrestrial visitors included the then-lush Tassili region among their forays in ancient human history? Dozens of books in an equal number of languages have provided circumstantial evidence of non-human intervention in earthly affairs. Biblical texts speak of the “sons of God” attracted by the “daughters of Men,” Mayan bas-reliefs depict what could be a space traveler, and so forth. But it is this forsaken complex of African drawings that provides a graphic illustration a similar nature.

In 1976, Spanish researchers Jorge Blaschke, Rafael Brancas and Julio Martínez reached the Tassili Massif to conduct a systematic study of the enigmatic cave drawings. In the course of their research, they were stunned to find a clear depiction of a helmeted and suited figure, linked by a tether to the interior of a large, spherical object, leading three human females toward it. Dr. Martínez noticed that the artist had taken great care in showing the women: one of them an adolescent, the other a mother carrying a child, and the third a visibly pregnant woman. Could this be representative of the genetic experiments which are allegedly still being conducted in our days by large-headed Greys.

The examples of cave art found in the Spanish caverns of Ojo Guareña and Altamira, and the French ones at Lascaux and Font de Gaume, have proven that our distant ancestors were able to represent what they saw with a clarity and simplicity that is stunning to twentieth century eyes. This skill extends to depictions of things that anthropologists and archaeologists often find troublesome: equally faithful representations of domed objects, some of them in threes, others with legs or antennae.

The small French village of Le Cabrerets lies next to the impressive Pech Merle Cavern–a colossal labyrinthine complex almost a mile long. Using a red pigment, Cro-Magnon artists depicted on one of its walls a being that would fall perfectly into Dr. Padilla’s taxonomy: it has an enormous bald head, an unusually pointed chin, no ears, and its eyes are represented as elongated slits which taper toward its temples. The straight lines crossing the figure appear to indicate that it was wounded or slain by caveman spears, while a drawing of a hat-shaped object appears floating over the creature’s head. Nor is Pech Merle an oddity: Twenty miles away, another cave, Cougnac, contains a similar representation of a wounded or slain creature. Lest we think that Cro-Magnon artists lacked a flair for depicting the human form, it should be noted that other French caves, such as Rouffignac, contain clearly recognizable human figures, including what seem to be mask-wearing humans. The Pech Merle and Cougnac “dead men” are clearly something else. Archaeologists tell us that these ancient images were drawn at the beginning of the Magdalenian Period–some twenty thousand years ago.

North America has also provided its share of enigmatic prehistoric drawings. A particularly impressive one can be found at Canyonlands National Park, in Utah. There, a duo of unusual creatures (remarkably similar to those depicted at Tassili) is engaged in strange activity: one of them appears to be pointing an item at the ground–a flashlight? Farther south, an artist of Mexico’s Tlatilco culture drew a perfect image of a little man who gives the impression of wearing boots and a square helmet.

When even steadfast UFO naysayers like Carl Sagan are willing to concede that alien visitations in the remote past cannot be dismissed out of hand, can we still believe that this evidence, which is there for anyone to see, is simply a misinterpretation of conventional events, seen from a primitive human perspective? Or can we lend credence to the ancient Sumerian and Babylonian stories of divine beings coming down to earth to teach humans the rudiments of civilization?

 

 

 

I love the Ancient Alien Theory, even though it’s heavily anthropomorphic and modern mythic.

I’m not saying it’s not possible however; there could have been nearby interstellar cultures who came by and spread their own culture among primitive hominids in order to preserve it, just as we intend.

But I think in the end, it becomes economically unviable to maintain interstellar colonies without going through a technological singularity and creating a more viable Universe in which to enter into without traveling Einsteinian space extensively and uneconomically.

Antediluviana: Chronicles of Worlds Before This One

Hat tip to The Anomalist.

Sci-Fi Classics: Olaf Stapledon’s ‘Last Men in London’

Olaf Stapledon was one of the most influential science-fiction authors of the early 20th Century. His many works were studied by C.S. Lewis, Arthur C. Clarke, Brian Aldiss, John Maynard Smith and Stanislaw Lem and influenced these author’s future works. And I must admit, gave me the idea for the “Children of Humanity” of my own amateur scribblings.

Recently Adelade University in Australia has made the works of Stapledon online for download and I for one am thrilled. I printed out ‘Star Maker’ an ‘Last and First Men’ some years ago on another site and I’m now in the process of reading ‘Last Men in London’.

Introduction

The Future’s Concern with the Past

MEN and women of Earth! Brief Terrestrials, of that moment when the First Human Species hung in the crest of its attainment, wavelike, poised for downfall, I, a member of the last Human Species, address you for a second time from an age two thousand million years after your day, from an age as remotely future to you as the Earth’s beginning is remotely past.

In my earlier communication I told of the huge flux of events between your day and mine. I told of the rise and fall of many mankinds, of the spirit’s long desolations and brief splendours. I told how, again and again, after age-long sleep, man woke to see dimly what he should be doing with himself; how he strove accordingly to master his world and his own nature; and how, each time, circumstances or his own ignorance and impotence flung him back into darkness. I told how he struggled with invaders, and how he was driven from planet to planet, refashioning himself for each new world. I told, not only of his great vicissitudes, but also of the many and diverse modes of mind which he assumed in different epochs. I told how at length, through good fortune and skilled control, there was fashioned a more glorious mankind, the Eighteenth Human Species, my own. I hinted as best I might at the great richness and subtlety, the perfect harmony and felicity, of this last expression of the human spirit. I told of our discovery that our own fair planet must soon be destroyed with all the sun’s offspring; and of our exultant acceptance even of this doom. I told of the final endeavours which the coming end imposes on us.

In this my second communication I shall say little of my own world, and less of the ages that lie between us. Instead I shall speak mostly of your world and of yourselves. I shall try to show you yourselves through the eyes of the Last Men. Of myself and my fellow-workers, I shall speak, but chiefly as the link between your world and mine, as pioneering explorers in your world, and secret dwellers in your minds. I shall tell of the difficulties and dangers of our strange exploration of ages that to us are past, and of our still stranger influence upon past minds. But mostly I shall speak of men and women living in Europe in your twentieth Christian century, and of a great crisis that we observe in your world, a great opportunity which you tragically fail to grasp.

In relation to the long drama which I unfolded in my earlier communication it might well seem that even the most urgent and the most far-reaching events of your little sphere are utterly trivial. The rise and fall of your world-moving individuals, the flowering and withering of your nations, and all their blind, plant-like struggle for existence, the slow changes and sudden upheavals of your society, the archaic passions of your religious sects, and quick-changes of your fashionable thought, all seem, in relation to those aeons of history, no more than the ineffective gyrations of flotsam of the great river of humanity, whose direction is determined, not by any such superficial movements, but by the thrust of its own mass and the configuration of the terrain.

In the light of the stars what significance is there in such minute events as the defeat of an army, the issue of a political controversy, the success or failure of a book, the result of a football match? In that cold light even the downfall of a species is a matter of little importance. And the final extinction of man, after his two thousand million years of precarious blundering, is but the cessation of one brief tremulous theme in the great music of the cosmos.

Yet minute events have sometimes remarkable consequences. Again and again this was evident in the great story that I told. And now I am to describe events some of which, though momentary and minute in relation to the whole career of man, are yet in relation to yourselves long-drawn-out and big with destiny. In consequence of these momentary happenings, so near you, yet so obscure, man’s career is fated to be the weary succession of disasters and incomplete victories which I described on an earlier occasion.

But the account of these events, though it is in some sense the main theme of this book, is not its sole, not even its chief purpose. I shall say much of your baseness, much of your futility. But all that I say, if I say it well, and if the mind that I have chosen for my mouthpiece serves me adequately, shall be kindled with a sense of that beauty which, in spite of all your follies and treasons, is yours uniquely. For though the whole career of your species is so confused and barren, and though, against the background of the rise and fall of species after species and the destruction of world after world, the life of any individual among you, even the most glorious, seems so completely ineffective and insignificant, yet, in the least member of your or any other species, there lies for the discerning eye a beauty peculiar not only to that one species but to that one individual.

To us the human dawn is precious for its own sake. And it is as creatures of the dawn that we regard you, even in your highest achievement. To us the early human natures and every primitive human individual have a beauty which we ourselves, in spite of all our triumphs, have not; the beauty namely of life’s first bewildered venturing upon the wings of the spirit, the beauty of the child with all its innocent brutishness and cruelty. We understand the past better than it can understand itself, and love it better than it can love itself. Seeing it in relation to all things, we see it as it is; and so we can observe even its follies and treasons with reverence, knowing that we ourselves would have behaved so, had we been so placed and so fashioned. The achievements of the past, however precarious and evanescent, we salute with respect, knowing well that to achieve anything at all in such circumstances and with such a nature entailed a faith and fortitude which in those days were miracles. We are therefore moved by filial piety to observe all the past races of men, and if possible every single individual life, with careful precision, so that, before we are destroyed, we may crown those races our equals in glory though not in achievement. Thus we shall contribute to the cosmos a beauty which it would otherwise lack, namely the critical yet admiring love which we bear toward you.

But it is not only as observers that we, who are of man’s evening, are concerned with you, children of the dawn. In my earlier message I told how the future might actually influence the past, how beings such as my contemporaries, who have in some degree the freedom of eternity, may from their footing in eternity, reach into past minds and contribute to their experience. For whatever is truly eternal is present equally in all times; and so we, in so far as we are capable of eternity, are influences present in your age. I said that we seek out all those points in past history where our help is entailed for the fulfilment of the past’s own nature, and that this work of inspiration has become one of our main tasks. How this can be, I shall explain more fully later. Strange it is indeed that we, who are so closely occupied with the great adventure of racial experience, so closely also with preparations to face the impending ruin of our world, and with research for dissemination of a seed of life in remote regions of the galaxy, should yet also find ourselves under obligation toward the vanished and unalterable past.

No influence of ours can save your species from destruction. Nothing could save it but a profound change in your own nature; and that cannot be. Wandering among you, we move always with fore-knowledge of the doom which your own imperfection imposes on you. Even if we could, we would not change it; for it is a theme required in the strange music of the spheres.

Although Stapledon’s premise of different “Mankinds” marks higher rungs on the evolutionary ladder a couple of billion years into the future, he leaves the conflict part of our very natures intact which is the glue that holds the various Mankinds together.

And that is the special quality of Stapledon’s writings that never dates itself.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/stapledon/olaf/

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/stapledon/olaf/london/contents.html

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/stapledon/olaf/

Special hat tip to the Daily Grail.

Canned “E” Primates for Interstellar Travel and a Possible Destination for Them

From kurzweilai.net:

The awesome 100 Year Starship (100YSS) initiative by DARPA and NASA proposes to send people to the stars by the year 2100 — a huge challenge that will require bold, visionary, out-of-the-box thinking.

There are major challenges. “Using current propulsion technology, travel to a nearby star (such as our closest star system, Alpha Centauri, at 4.37 light years from the Sun, which also has a a planet with about the mass of the Earth orbiting it) would take close to 100,000 years,” according to Icarus Interstellar, which has teamed with the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence and the Foundation for Enterprise Development to manage the project.

“To make the trip on timescales of a human lifetime, the rocket needs to travel much faster than current probes, at least 5% the speed of light. … It’s actually physically impossible to do this using chemical rockets, since you’d need more fuel than exists in the known universe,” Icarus Interstellar points out.

Daedalus concept (credit: Adrian Mann)

So the Icarus team has chosen a fusion-based propulsion design for Project Icarus, offering a million times more energy compared to chemical reactions. It would be evolved from their Daedalus design.

This propulsion technology is not yet well developed, and there are serious problems, such as the need for heavy neutron shields and risks of interstellar dust impacts, equivalent to small nuclear explosions on the craft’s skin, as the Icarus team states.

Although Einstein’s fundamental speed-of-light limit seems solid, ways to work around it were also proposed by physicists at the recent 100 Year Starship Symposium.

However, as a reality check, I will assume as a worse case that none of these exotic propulsion breakthroughs will be developed in this century.

That leaves us with an unmanned craft, but for that, as Icarus Interstellar points out, “one needs a large amount of system autonomy and redundancy. If the craft travels five light years from Earth, for example, it means that any message informing mission control of some kind of system error would take five years to reach the scientists, and another five years for a solution to be received.

“Ten years is really too long to wait, so the craft needs a highly capable artificial intelligence, so that it can figure out solutions to problems with a high degree of autonomy.”

If a technological Singularity happens, all bets are off. However, again as a worse case, I assume here that a Singularity does not happen, or fully simulating an astronaut does not happen. So human monitoring and control will still be needed.

The mind-uploading solution

The very high cost of a crewed space mission comes from the need to ensure the survival and safety of the humans on-board and the need to travel at extremely high speeds to ensure it’s done within a human lifetime.

One way to  overcome that is to do without the wetware bodies of the crew, and send only their minds to the stars — their “software” — uploaded to advanced circuitry, augmented by AI subsystems in the starship’s processing system.

The basic idea of uploading is to “take a particular brain [of an astronaut, in this case], scan its structure in detail, and construct a software model of it that is so faithful to the original that, when run on appropriate hardware, it will behave in essentially the same way as the original brain,” as Oxford University’s Whole Brain Emulation Roadmap explains.

It’s also known as “whole brain emulation” and “substrate-independent minds” — the astronaut’s memories, thoughts, feelings, personality, and “self” would be copied to an alternative processing substrate — such as a digital, analog, or quantum computer.

An e-crew — a crew of human uploads implemented in solid-state electronic circuitry — will not require air, water, food, medical care, or radiation shielding, and may be able to withstand extreme acceleration. So the size and weight of the starship will be dramatically reduced.

Combined advances in neuroscience and computer science suggest that mind uploading technology could be developed in this century, as noted in a recent Special Issue on Mind Uploading of the International Journal of Machine Consciousness).

Uploading research is politically incorrect: it is tainted by association with transhumanists — those fringe lunatics of the Rapture of the Nerds — so it’s often difficult to justify and defend.

The Rapture of the Nerds thing could very well be more of a political sticking point than a technological one in the next few decades, especially in the conservative United States.

However the U.S. has the most advanced robotic tech and DARPA has already developed electronic “telepathy” gear so soldiers can control warfare drones from anywhere on the planet, so it’s not a stretch that semi “autonomous” AI will be in the mix for future space probes in the coming decades.

But there will always be a human being in the loop because no matter how advanced computers become, they will never attain “consciousness.”

Uploaded e-crews for interstellar missions

__________________________________

Just in case we do develop canned “e” primates via mind uploading in the future, there could be a nearby destination for them:

Astronomers have discovered what may be five planets orbiting Tau Ceti, the closest single star beyond our solar system whose temperature and luminosity nearly match the sun’s, Science Now reports.

If the planets are in fact there, one of them is about the right distance from the star to sport mild temperatures, oceans of liquid water, and even life, and slight changes in Tau Ceti’s motion through space suggest that the star may be responding to gravitational tugs from five planets that are only about two to seven times as massive as Earth.

Tau Ceti is only 12 light-years from Earth, just three times as far as our sun’s nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri.

Early SETI target

The Sun (left) is both larger and somewhat hotter than the less active Tau Ceti (right).

Tau Ceti resembles the sun so much that astronomer Frank Drake, who has long sought radio signals from possible extraterrestrial civilizations, made it his first target back in 1960. Unlike most stars, which are faint, cool, and small, Tau Ceti is a bright G-type yellow main-sequence star like the sun, a trait that only one in 25 stars boasts.

Moreover, unlike Alpha Centauri, which also harbors a G-type star and even a planet, Tau Ceti is single, so there’s no second star in the system whose gravity could yank planets away.

It’s the fourth planet — planet e — that the scientists suggest might be another life-bearing world, even though it’s about four times as massive as Earth.

If the planets exist, they orbit a star that’s about twice as old as our own, so a suitable planet has had plenty of time to develop life much more advanced than Homo sapiens.

I have a question; if we ship “e” humans to another star, what is the motivation for them to study a base human habitable planet?

Would they retain primate curiosity or would they be altruistic?

Another Earth just 12 light-years away?

No Terminators Here, It’s Old-Fashioned Human Killers

From Wired.com:

The Pentagon wants to make perfectly clear that every time one of its flying robots releases its lethal payload, it’s the result of a decision made by an accountable human being in a lawful chain of command. Human rights groups and nervous citizens fear that technological advances in autonomy will slowly lead to the day when robots make that critical decision for themselves. But according to a new policy directive issued by a top Pentagon official, there shall be no SkyNet, thank you very much.

Here’s what happened while you were preparing for Thanksgiving: Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter signed, on November 21, a series of instructions to “minimize the probability and consequences of failures” in autonomous or semi-autonomous armed robots “that could lead to unintended engagements,” starting at the design stage (.pdf, thanks to Cryptome.org). Translated from the bureaucrat, the Pentagon wants to make sure that there isn’t a circumstance when one of the military’s many Predators, Reapers, drone-like missiles or other deadly robots effectively automatizes the decision to harm a human being.

The hardware and software controlling a deadly robot needs to come equipped with “safeties, anti-tamper mechanisms, and information assurance.” The design has got to have proper “human-machine interfaces and controls.” And, above all, it has to operate “consistent with commander and operator intentions and, if unable to do so, terminate engagements or seek additional human operator input before continuing the engagement.” If not, the Pentagon isn’t going to buy it or use it.

It’s reasonable to worry that advancements in robot autonomy are going to slowly push flesh-and-blood troops out of the role of deciding who to kill. To be sure, military autonomous systems aren’t nearly there yet. No Predator, for instance, can fire its Hellfire missile without a human directing it. But the military is wading its toe into murkier ethical and operational waters: The Navy’s experimental X-47B prototype will soon be able to land on an aircraft carrier with the barest of human directions. That’s still a long way from deciding on its own to release its weapons. But this is how a very deadly slope can slip.

It’s that sort of thing that worries Human Rights Watch, for instance. Last week, the organization, among the most influential non-governmental institutions in the world, issued a report warning that new developments in drone autonomy represented the demise of established “legal and non-legal checks on the killing of civilians.” Its solution: “prohibit the “development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons through an international legally binding instrument.”

Laudable impulse, wrong solution, writes Matthew Waxman. A former Defense Department official for detainee policy, Waxman and co-author Kenneth Anderson observe that technological advancements in robotic weapons autonomy is far from predictable, and the definition of “autonomy” is murky enough to make it unwise to tell the world that it has to curtail those advancements at an arbitrary point. Better, they write, for the U.S. to start an international conversation about how much autonomy on a killer robot is appropriate, so as to “embed evolving internal state standards into incrementally advancing automation.”

Waxman and Anderson should be pleased with Carter’s memo, since those standards are exactly what Carter wants the Pentagon to bake into its next drone arsenal. Before the Pentagon agrees to develop or buy new autonomous or somewhat autonomous weapons, a team of senior Pentagon officials and military officers will have to certify that the design itself “incorporates the necessary capabilities to allow commanders and operators to exercise appropriate levels of human judgment in the use of force.” The machines and their software need to provide reliability assurances and failsafes to make sure that’s how they work in practice, too. And anyone operating any such deadly robot needs sufficient certification in both the system they’re using and the rule of law. The phrase “appropriate levels of human judgment” is frequently repeated, to make sure everyone gets the idea. (Now for the lawyers to argue about the meaning of “appropriate.”)

So much for SkyNet. But Carter’s directive blesses the forward march of autonomy in most everything military robots do that can’t kill you. It “[d]oes not apply to autonomous or semi-autonomous cyberspace systems for cyberspace operations; unarmed, unmanned platforms; unguided munitions; munitions manually guided by the operator (e.g., laser- or wire-guided munitions); mines; or unexploded explosive ordnance,” Carter writes.

Oh happy - happy, joy – joy. The semi-intelligent machines still needs a human in the loop to kill you, but doesn’t need one to spy on you.

Oh well, Big Brother still needs a body to put in jail to make the expense of robots worth their while I suppose…

Pentagon: A Human Will Always Decide When a Robot Kills You

Of Bracewell Probes, Black Knights, VALIS and NASA’s Unmanned Machines

Bracewell Probe – “…is an interstellar probe theorized by Ronald Bracewell in 1960 that is sent to prospective nearby solar systems to study for life, or primitive civilizations.” ( http://dad2059.wordpress.com/2010/06/08/ancient-bracewell-probe-in-solar-system/)

Black Knight Satellite – “Forbidden History Website Link and Article:

https://forbiddenhistory.info/?q=node/57 

“Black Knight” Satellite

What is the “Black Knight” satellite? It is a mysterious satellite, of unknown origin, discovered in 1960 which shadowed Sputnik. It is believed to have been of extraterrestrial origin, and signaled back old radio waves from the 1920s and 1930s before it disappeared. In short wave patterns analyzed by astronomer Duncan Lunan, it revealed its origin as Epsilon Boötes (or the star system as it was 13,000 years ago).

In “Disneyland of the Gods”, by John Keel, he reports in depth on this satellite:

“In February 1960 the US detected an unknown object in polar orbit, a feat that neither they or the USSR had been able to accomplish. As if that wasn’t enough, it apparently was several sizes larger than anything either country would have been able to get off the ground.

And then, the oddness began. HAM operators began to receive strange coded messages. One person in particular said he managed to decode one of the transmissions, and it corresponded to a star chart. A star chart which would have been plotted from earth 13,000 years ago, and focused on the Epsilon Bostes star system.

On September 3, 1960, seven months after the satellite was first detected by radar, a tracking camera at Grumman Aircraft Corporation’s Long Island factory took a photograph of it. People on the ground had been occasionally seeing it for about two weeks at that point. Viewers would make it out as a red glowing object moving in an east-to-west orbit. Most satellites of the time, according to what little material I’ve been able to find on the black knight satellite, moved from west-to-east. It’s speed was also about three times normal. A committee was formed to examine it, but nothing more was ever made public.

Three years later, Gordon Cooper was launched into space for a 22 orbit mission. On his final orbit, he reported seeing a glowing green shape ahead of his capsule, and heading in his direction. It’s said that the Muchea tracking station, in Australia, which Cooper reported this too was also able to pick it up on radar traveling in an east-to-west orbit. This event was reported by NBC, but reporters were forbidden to ask Cooper about the event on his landing. The official explanation is that an electrical malfunction in the capsule had caused high levels of carbon dioxide, which induced hallucinations.[1]“

Now, I [webmaster] haven’t been able to find reports on this satellite from any news source, but given the recently discovered photos from Russian satellite footage and the stories regarding unknown objects that the early US astronauts saw, I’m inclined to believe this satellite existed. However, the question is its origin- was it a secret US military project, an artifact from earlier in history, or extraterrestrial? The evidence is insufficient to determine the answer.” (http://www.alienscientist.com/forum/showthread.php?2424-The-Black-Knight-Satellite-What-is-it-Where-did-it-come-from)

VALIS – “…is a 1981 science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick. The title is an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System, Dick’s gnostic vision of one aspect ofGod.

[...]Horselover Fat believes his visions expose hidden facts about the reality of life on Earth, and a group of others join him in researching these matters. One of their theories is that there is some kind of alien space probe in orbit around Earth, and that it is aiding them in their quest. It also aided the United States in disclosing the Watergate scandal and the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974. There is a filmed account of an alternate universe Nixon, “Ferris Freemont” and his fall, engineered by a fictionalised Valis, which leads them to an estate owned by the Lamptons, popular musicians. Valis (the fictional film) contains obvious references to identical revelations to those that Horselover Fat has experienced. They decide the goal that they have been led toward is Sophia, who is two years old and the Messiah or incarnation of Holy Wisdom anticipated by some variants of Gnostic Christianity. She tells them that their conclusions are correct, but dies after a laser accident. Undeterred, Fat goes on a global search for the next incarnation of Sophia. Dick also offers a rationalist explanation of his apparent “theophany”, acknowledging that it might have been visual and auditory hallucinations from either schizophrenia or drug addiction sequelae.

……………

Now what does the above have to do with future NASA machines that will be tele-operated from the orbit of the Earth, Moon and a moon of Mars?

That the end product of the future NASA machines will be intelligent, whether they be pure robotic intelligences, uploaded minds or a combination of both.

Let’s study the possible alien Black Knight/VALIS Bracewell probe first:

Originally posted by Esoterica a member of ATS Post ID 292902 
Thread - http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread292902/pg1 

I was in a bookstore and was just flipping through a bargain book of weird happenings.  One entry, only a couple of paragraphs long, caught my interest because I had never heard of it before.

The basic blurb was that in 1957, an unknown satellite was detected shadowing the Sputnik I craft.  It was in a polar orbit, something that neither the Americans or Soviets were capable of at the time.  There was a statement that ham radio operaters pickd up radio transmissions that were “decoded” (whatever that means) as being a star map that indicated the craft originated from Epsilon Bootes 13,000 years before.  This object was dubbed “The Black Knight.”

Also in this blurb, there was mention that science fiction author Philip K. Dick believed that he was in contact with this object, which he wrote several novels about, and gave it various names (VALIS, Zebra). 

So obviously intrigued, I did some searching on ATS and found no mention of it.  Google had a few returns which indicated this story was first written about in John Keel’s “Disneyland of the Gods.”  The effort is hampered because there are several legit satellite projects codenamed “Black Knight.”

The information of Dick’s experiences and writings indicated he received visions, and seemed to interperet the experience and object in somewhat Christian religious terms, in addition to strange communications and diagrams he couldn’t interperet.  He eventually became paranoid Russian scientists were attempting to control the satellite.  A science fiction writer infamous for his heavy drug use eventually living out a sci-fi story… seems to me just as likely that it was just his lifestyle catching up to him than any ET communication.  But who knows.

In my searching, I also discovered a very close story from 1927, 30 years earlier.  It involves the phenomena of Long Delayed Echoes.  Essentially, these are radio transmissions that are reflected back, apparently from space, seconds to minutes after they are first sent.  There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it.  It could be atmospheric effects just making it appear as if the transmissions are coming from space, or it could ben an alien craft attempting to communicate with us.  Logically, it would send back transmissions it recieved from Earth because it could be almost positive that we could receive it.  Anyway, the story is that Norwegian scientists received strange radio “echoes” in 1927-28.  In the 1970′s Scottish astronomer Duncan Lunan interpereted the delayed transmission as a star map… of Epsilon Bootis.  Whether these are two instances of the same stragne transmissions, or one story is a retelling of the other is unknown to me.  It wouldn’t be the first time the same ideas were repackaged and attempted to be passed off as a “new” anomalous story.

Anyway, I made this thread just to get the story out there, and to ask if anybody has any additional information regarding it.  Below are links to everything pertinent I could find on the internet, and most are just retellings of the same story in different forms.

I have a theory; One billion years ago intelligent life and eventually civilization arose on the second planet of Epsilon Bootes. I have no idea what form these beings had, but they had the ability to manipulate their environment to the point where they built a highly technical civilization. They built space probes to explore their solar system and telescopes to spy upon the stars closest to them and out into the Universe.

Then they observed a small G2 star about 200 light-years from them and with eventually more powerful telescopes, they spied a small, green world dead center of the star’s habitable zone.

They studied and they studied. Their viewing apparatuses evolved to the point where they can see the surface of the green world. They studied the flora and fauna more as time went by. In the meantime however, their own star evolved. The star, which is a K-type, burns hotter and is prone to fierce magnetic storms and flares. And it was due for a slight expansion.

The beings on the second world knew their planet was going to be razed by the expansion and there was no safe haven close by. They had to move their civilization lock, stock and barrel to a safe distance. And the safest distance was out to the seventh world in their solar system. But the planet wasn’t suitable to their form of life. And it was too late to change the planet into one in which they could survive in their present form on it’s surface.

But it wasn’t too late to change themselves.

The change didn’t take long, being real close to a Technological Singularity, their civilization transformed itself into a cyborg/machine culture in which they uploaded their minds into indestructible materials. The original race perished, but their children survived and thrived on the seventh planet.

In the meanwhile, their studies of Sol 3 didn’t stop. By the time the original Epsilon Bootes 2 civilization evolved into the Epsilon Bootes 7 civilization, a creature arose on the green world that caught the collective eye of the Booteans.

And the creature showed the promise of the one trait the Booteans held in high esteem; Intelligence.

Knowing full well they dodged a major extinction event, the Booteans decided they needed to nurture possible intelligence wherever it is found in the Universe, for in their observations Intelligence seemed to be rare, despite the fact that life itself wasn’t.

And they couldn’t believe their incredible good luck in discovering a proto-intelligent species relatively close-by to their own solar system.

So they decide to construct an intelligent probe to send to the planet in order to “help” the creatures along on the evolutionary path to reach their full potential. The probe was outfitted with all kinds of communication devices which are electromagnetic, digital, radio, quantum and what could be described as “telepathic.”

The rest is history. The Bootean probe has been in the L2 zone of the Moon’s orbit for what I guess to be about 7 million years, a relatively short amount of time in the Universe scheme of things, the evolution of intelligent beings and their close proximity to each other in Time and Space.

Could the U.S. military have the probe in its possession and has been trying to access it’s memory for decades? Is the UFO phenomenon all mental hallucinations created by the Probe in order to get us ready to accept the existence of K1, 2 or 3 civilizations?

If we turn our telescopes to Epsilon Bootes, will we find a thriving post-Singularity culture there, or Ascension Fossils?

And will our own NASA probes eventually evolve into intelligent machines that explores our Solar System and nearby stars?

Maybe I’ll get my mind uploaded in a couple of decades and find out for myself!

Hunting Dyson Spheres With Kepler Data

From kurzweilai.net:

med_fractaldyson_bowers

Geoff Marcy has received a grant from the UK’s Templeton Foundation to look for Dyson spheres, Paul Gilster writes on Centauri Dreams, the news forum of the Tau Zero Foundation.

Freeman Dyson hypothesized the vast structures over fifty years ago that could ring or completely enclose their parent star. Such structures, the work of a Kardashev Type II civilization — one capable of drawing on the entire energy output of its star — would power the most power-hungry society and offer up reserves of energy that would support its continuing expansion into the cosmos, if it so chose.

Marcy’s plan is to look at a thousand Kepler systems for telltale evidence of such structures by examining changes in light levels around the parent star.

Interestingly, the grant of $200,000 goes beyond the Dyson sphere search to look into possible laser traffic among extraterrestrial civilizations. Says Marcy:

Technological civilizations may communicate with their space probes located throughout the galaxy by using laser beams, either in visible light or infrared light. Laser light is detectable from other civilizations because the power is concentrated into a narrow beam and the light is all at one specific color or frequency. The lasers outshine the host star at the color of the laser.

The topic of Dyson spheres calls Richard Carrigan to mind. The retired Fermilab physicist has studied data from the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) to identify objects that radiate waste heat in ways that imply a star completely enclosed by a Dyson sphere. This is unconventional SETI in that it presumes no beacons deliberately announcing themselves to the cosmos, but instead looks for signs of civilization that are the natural consequences of physics.

Carrigan has estimated that a star like the Sun, if enclosed with a shell at the radius of the Earth, would re-radiate its energies at approximately 300 Kelvin. Marcy will turn some of the thinking behind what Carrigan calls ‘cosmic archaeology’ toward stellar systems we now know to have planets, thanks to the work of Kepler. Ultimately, Carrigan’s ‘archaeology’ could extend to planetary atmospheres possibly marked by industrial activity, or perhaps forms of large-scale engineering other than Dyson spheres that may be acquired through astronomical surveys and remain waiting in our data to be discovered. All this reminds us once again how the model for SETI is changing.

For more, see two Richard Carrigan papers: “IRAS-based Whole-Sky Upper Limit on Dyson Spheres,” Journal of Astrophysics 698 (2009), pp. 2075-2086 (preprint), and “Starry Messages: Searching for Signatures of Interstellar Archaeology,” JBIS 63 (2010), p. 90 (preprint). Also see James Annis, “Placing a limit on star-fed Kardashev type III civilisations,” JBIS 52, pp.33-36 (1999).

A recent Centauri Dreams story on all this is Interstellar Archaeology on the Galactic Scale but see also Searching for Dyson Spheres and Toward an Interstellar Archaeology .

The Dyson Sphere Hypothesis is an extrapolation of 1950s technologies and theories that claim that advanced societies will need more and more energy, spouting radiation and radio waves all over the place. Dyson theorized that civilizations as they grew should be detectable in the infrared radiation range, the waste heat being the thing that is the signature of a Kardashev II civilization.

Little did we realize then that as our technology advanced, it required less and less energy to supply it, and that’s not counting digital technology that doesn’t broadcast out into the Cosmos!

So is looking for Dyson Spheres/Swarms a waste of time? I don’t think so. Simply because of the fact that aliens by large might not think like humans and some might prefer a brute force approach of providing their civilizations the energy they require.

Plus stellar archaeology is cool!

Dyson sphere hunt using Kepler data .

Is Day-Dream Learning Possible?

From myth-os.com:

Sleep-learning, or presenting information to a sleeping person by playing a sound recording has not been very useful. Researchers have determined that learning during sleep is “impractical and probably impossible.” But what about daydream learning?

Subliminal learning is the concept of indirect learning by subliminal messages. James Vicary pioneered subliminal learning in 1957 when he planted messages in a movie shown in New Jersey. The messages flashed for a split second and told the audience to drink Coca-Cola and eat popcorn.

A recent study published in the journal Neuron used sophisticated perceptual masking, computational modeling, and neuroimaging to show that instrumental learning can occur in the human brain without conscious processing of contextual cues. Dr. Mathias Pessiglione from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at the University College London reported: “We conclude that, even without conscious processing of contextual cues, our brain can learn their reward value and use them to provide a bias on decision making.” (“Subliminal Learning Demonstrated In Human Brain,” ScienceDaily, Aug. 28, 2008)

“By restricting the amount of time that the clues were displayed to study participants, they ensured that the brain’s conscious vision system could not process the information. Indeed, when shown the cues after the study, participants did not recall having seen any of them before. Brain scans of participants showed that the cues did not activate the brain’s main processing centers, but rather the striatum, which is presumed to employ machine-learning algorithms to solve problems.”

“When you become aware of the associations between the cues and the outcomes, you amplify the phenomenon,” Pessiglione said. “You make better choices.” (Alexis Madrigal, “Humans Can Learn from Subliminal Cues Alone,” Wired, August 27, 2008)

What better place for daydream learning than the Cloud? Cloud computing refers to resources and applications that are available from any Internet connected device.

The Cloud is also collectively associated with the “technological singularity” (popularized by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge) or the future appearance of greater-than-human super intelligence through technology. The singularity will surpass the human mind, be unstoppable, and increase human awareness.

“Could the Internet ‘wake up’? And if so, what sorts of thoughts would it think? And would it be friend or foe?

“Neuroscientist Christof Koch believes we may soon find out — indeed, the complexity of the Web may have already surpassed that of the human brain. In his book ‘Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist,’ published earlier this year, he makes a rough calculation: Take the number of computers on the planet — several billion — and multiply by the number of transistors in each machine — hundreds of millions — and you get about a billion billion, written more elegantly as 10^18. That’s a thousand times larger than the number of synapses in the human brain (about 10^15).”

In an interview, Koch, who taught at Caltech and is now chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, noted that the kinds of connections that wire together the Internet — its “architecture” — are very different from the synaptic connections in our brains, “but certainly by any measure it’s a very, very complex system. Could it be conscious? In principle, yes it can.” (Dan Falk, “Could the Internet Ever ‘Wake Up’? And would that be such a bad thing?” Slate, Sept. 20, 2012)

There has been some speculation about what it would take to bring down the Internet. According to most authorities, there is no Internet kill switch, regardless of what some organizations may claim. Parts of the net do go down from time-to-time, making it inaccessible for some — albeit temporarily. “Eventually the information will route around the dead spots and bring you back in,” said IT expert Dewayne Hendricks.

“The Internet works like the Borg Collective of Star Trek — it’s basically a kind of hive mind,” he adds. Essentially, because it’s in everybody’s best interest to keep the Internet up and running, there’s a constant effort to patch and repair any problems. “It’s like trying to defeat the Borg — a system that’s massively distributed, decentralized, and redundant.”

I have wondered about this at times and there have been science-fiction stories that have had it as a theme ( Stross’s Accelerando and Rucker’s Postsingular ).

It is debatable whether the ‘Net on it’s own will become sentient or not, but the potential is certainly there and one wonders whether it hasn’t already!

Singularity Now: Is “Daydream Learning” Possible?

Hat tip to The Anomalist.

Science Fiction and Real World Warfare

From Foreign Policy:

Last month, Small Wars Journal managing editor Robert Haddick asked whether new technology has rendered aircraft carriers obsolete. Well, not everyone thinks so, especially in science-fiction, where “flat tops” still rule in TV shows like Battlestar Galactica. So FP’s Michael Peck spoke with Chris Weuve, a naval analyst, former U.S. Naval War College research professor, and an ardent science-fiction fan about how naval warfare is portrayed in the literature and television of outer-space.

Foreign PolicyHow has sci-fi incorporated the themes of wet-navy warfare? How have warships at sea influenced the depiction of warships in space?

Chris Weuve: There are a lot of naval metaphors that have made their way into SF. They are analogs, models of ways to think about naval combat. When people started writing about science-fiction combat, it was very easy to say that a spaceship is like a ship that floats on the water. So when people were looking for ways to think about, there was a tendency to use models they already understood. As navies have changed over time, that means there is a fair number of models that various science fiction authors can draw on. You have a model that resembles the Age of Sail, World War I or World War II surface action, or submarines, or fighters in space. Combine a couple of those, and you have aircraft carriers in space. I’m not one who gets hung up on the real physics because it is science fiction. But all of these models are based more upon historical analogs then analysis of the actual situation in space.

FPLet’s reverse the question. Has sci-fi affected the way that our navies conduct warfare?

CW: This is a question that I occasionally think about. Many people point to the development of the shipboard Combat Information Center in World War II as being inspired by E.E. Doc Smith’s Lensman novels from the 1940s. Smith realized that with hundreds of ships over huge expanses, the mere act of coordinating them was problematic. I think there is a synergistic effect. I also know a number of naval officers who have admitted to me that the reason they joined the Navy was because Starfleet Command wasn’t hiring.

FPHow do these different space warfare models differ from their oceanic counterparts?

CW: Science fiction authors and moviemakers tend to gravitate towards historical models they — and their audience — understand.  So, sometimes you end up with “submarines in space” — but a submarine is a vessel designed to hide under the water, which obscures your vision and forces you to use capricious sensors like sonar.  Space, on the other hand, is wide open, and any ship putting out enough heat to keep its crew alive stands out from the background, if you have enough time to look.  Other times we get “dreadnoughts in space,” with gunnery duels like Jutland – but again, hiding is hard, so this battle should take place at extreme range.  Or you get “airplanes in space,” which largely ignores that airplanes work in the real world because they take advantage of the fact that air and sea have different attributes.

All of these models are fun, and some work better than others, but they all present space combat in a way that doesn’t really fit with the salient attributes of space.  And lest I get a thousand emails from people who say I don’t understand how combat in their favorite universe works — yes, I do.  My answers are necessarily approximations for this interview.  Someday I should write a book.

I would certainly hope that mankind doesn’t spread its’ particular brand of tribal warfare into the Solar System and the galaxy.
Even if we breed a successor species that spreads throughout the Cosmos, I fear we’ll pass on that particular nasty genocidal gene.
I pray we don’t.

Is Ufology a Religion?

I am not the first to ask this and certainly not the last. In fact over at Micah Hank’s Mysterious Universe blog, researcher and author Nick Redfern asks the very same question and entertains some very interesting thoughts:

A few days ago, I wrote a Top 10-themed post at my World of Whatever blog on what I personally see as some of the biggest faults of Ufology. It was a post with which many agreed, others found amusing, and some hated (the latter, probably, because they recognized dubious character traits and flaws that were too close to home, and, as a result, got all moody and defensive. Whatever.). But, regardless of what people thought of the article, it prompted one emailer to ask me: “What do you think of the future for Ufology?” Well, that’s a very good question. Here’s my thoughts…

First and foremost, I don’t fear, worry or care about Ufology not existing in – let’s say, hypothetically – 100 years from now. Or even 200 years. In some format, I think that as a movement, it will still exist. I guess my biggest concern is that nothing will have changed by then, aside from the field having become even more dinosaur-like and stuck in its ways than it is today, still filled with influential souls who loudly demand we adhere to the Extra-Terrestrial Hypothesis and nothing else, still droning on about Roswell, still obsessed with what might be going on at Area 51, still debating on what Kenneth Arnold saw, and still pondering on what really happened at Rendlesham.

Ufology’s biggest problem also happens to be what made the Ramones the greatest band that ever existed: never-changing. For the latter, it worked perfectly. If, like me, you liked the mop-topped, super-fast punks in the beginning, then you still like them when they disbanded in 1996. Throughout their career, they looked the same, sounded the same, and were the same. For them, it worked very well. For Ufology, not so well. Not at all.

The reality is that 65 years after our Holy Lord and Master (Sir Kenneth of Arnoldshire) saw whatever it was that he saw on that fateful June 24, 1947 day, Ufology has been static and unchanging. It has endorsed and firmly embraced the ETH not as the belief-system which it actually is, but as a likely fact. And Ufology insists on doing so in stubborn, mule-like fashion. In that sense, Ufology has become a religion. And organized religion is all about upholding unproved old belief-systems and presenting them as hard fact, despite deep, ongoing changes in society, trends and culture. Just like Ufology.

If Ufology is to play a meaningful role in the future, then it needs to focus far less on personal beliefs and wanting UFOs to be extraterrestrial, and far more on admitting that the ETH is just one theory of many – and, while not discarding the ETH, at least moving onwards, upwards and outwards. Can you imagine if the major UFO conference of the year in the United States had a group of speakers where the presentations were on alien-abductions and DMT; the Aleister Crowley-Lam controversy; Ufological synchronicities; and the UFO-occult connection? And Roswell, Area 51, and Flying Triangles weren’t even in sight at all?

Well, imagine is just about all you’ll be able to do, as it ain’t gonna happen anytime soon!

While such matters do, of course, occasionally get mentioned on the UFO-themed lecture circuit today, the fact is that mainstream Ufology (and specifically mainstream ufological organizations, where more time is spent on deciding what utterly ridiculous title everyone will have than on doing investigations) will largely not touch such matters, or even consider them ripe for debate at their conferences. Why? Simple: they want everything to be as it was in the “Good Old Days” of the past. Well, tough: the past is gone, and no-one has succeeded in proving the ETH. So, give the highly alternative theories – and theorists – a chance for a change.

“Nooooo!” cries the old brigade. For them, that won’t work at all, because they don’t want to see the ETH-themed domain that has been so carefully nurtured for decades infected and infiltrated by matters ignorantly perceived as being of a “Hocus Pocus” nature. What they do want is crashed UFOs; aliens taking soil samples; landing traces; abductions undertaken to steal our DNA, etc, etc, blah, blah. Or, as it is scientifically and technically called: Outdated Old School Shit. They don’t want talk of altered states; mind-expanding and entity-invoking drugs; conjured-up beings from other realms; or rites, rituals and manifested Tulpas.

What this stubborn attitude demonstrates is: (A) a fear of change; (B) a fear of having been on the wrong track for decades; and (C) a fear of the unknown. Yes: mainstream, old-time Ufology lives in fear. It should be living in a state of strength. And it should be a strength born of a willingness to address everything, not just the stuff that some conference organizer thinks will attract the biggest audience. But Ufology commits the biggest crime of all: being weak and unsure in the face of new concepts and making like an ostrich when it encounters sand. Actually, I’m wrong. Ufology commits an even bigger crime as it coasts aimlessly along like an empty ship on the ocean waves: it avoids the alternative theories knowingly and fully aware of the long-term, and potentially disastrous, consequences that a one-sided, biased approach may very well provoke for the field.

If Ufology is to move ahead,  find answers, and actually have some meaningful future, it needs to totally do away with belief systems and recognize that every belief is just a theory, an hypothesis, an idea. And that’s all. Ufologists need to embrace alternative ideas and paradigms, since many suggest far easier, and more successful, ways of understanding the various phenomena that comprise the UFO enigma than endlessly studying radar-blips, gun-camera footage, FOIA documentation, and blurry photos.

Should Ufology fail to seize the growing challenge it already faces, then will it die or fade away? Nope, it will still be here and here, popping up now and again. Not unlike a nasty, itchy rash picked up in the “private room” at the local strip-joint on a Friday night that never quite goes away. Probably even 100 or 200 years from now. But, it will be a Ufological Tyrannosaurus Rex: its sell-by date long gone, clinging on to an era also long gone, and perceived by the public of that era as we, today, perceive those nutcases who hold on to centuries-old beliefs that if you sail far enough you’ll fall off the edge of the planet. Or, the deluded souls who think the women on those terrible “Reality TV” shows that sit around arguing over lunch are really arguing.

I agree with some of Nick’s talking points in that UFO conventions often feature speakers who often talk of the “space brothers” and how they will save us and the Earth in spite  of ourselves.

That is just the money making crap and smacks of televangelism.

Paranormal events versus technical reasons for UFOs is the wrong tact however. I think there is a way to join the two, but would be very hard to test using the scientific method.

Maybe there is a way to test paranormal events in the future? I do believe a scientist has tried to do so, but it is proving very hard to confirm by testability.

Perhaps that is why new paradigms are difficult to break through. The old ones must pass away slowly into that sweet night?

The Future of Ufology

The future of ufology. ( The Daily Grail )

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