Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bananas . . . In Space

Are you ready for bananas? I said, are you ready for bananas?! The Singularity. In a book I’m reading called The Singularity is Near, I’m discovering a topic that has kept my eyes open and staring long after I’ve turned out the lights for bed, a topic that is being taken seriously by some seriously rich people (e.g., the U.S. government, via its proxy the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the billionaire co-founders of Google and PayPal).

The Singularity theorizes the next phase in human evolution as a technological one, where nanotechnology (molecular machines) will seamlessly integrate with human biology, ending illness, aging, and even death. The implications of such a thing are forehead-smackingly profound. Not only will people be able to shed their mortal . . . obligations, such as eating, sleeping, jump kicking, and pooping, but technology could eliminate the need for our very eyes. Sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, sensation, could become unrecognizable as we understand it and a universe of perception that humanity cannot even begin to conceive of yet could flower for our transcendental insight.

The whole theory is grounded in the advent of artificial intelligence (predicted by some around mid-century and something that Google appears to be silently working on as the rumored “Google Brain”), whose process computation, which exceeds what the limited connections human neurons are capable of by trillions of times, will be complemented by reason. If AIs don’t go terminator on us, we’ll need them to “think” through the potential dangers of nanotech, such as the immediate cancer that nano particles have caused in lab animals. At best, we’ll integrate our biology with the AIs’ exponentially advancing technology and impress human intelligence at a molecular level to all matter and energy until it permeates the entire universe. Biological humanity will be over and we and/or our progeny will reign as a new and immortal . . . entity, moving freely throughout the universe and eventually between theorized multi-dimensions to escape even the eventual end of the universe. Fascinating. I’m simplifying, of course, and the worst case (barring annihilation by a superior intelligence or the self-replicating “grey goo” of nanobots sliming over all matter on Earth and beyond) is based on our current model of society: the rich have and the poor have not. If the Singularity is inaccessible to regular folk, there will be a small class of immortal gods and then the rest of us mortal apes who won’t have a hope in the world of understanding them before we die out, but I suppose humans will, at least, have realized their egomaniacal dream of ubiquity and as a species, we will have survived. I’m banking on people being less douchy after achieving enlightenment.

All this may sound wildly spacey but that’s ‘cause you’re probably looking at the future from a linear perspective, based on what may be perceived as slow progression. But from a logarithmic view, a sight my brain is almost completely blind to, humanity’s current technological pace has been exponential as it nears the event horizon where advancement will have accelerated with such momentum and autonomy that we won’t even be controlling it any longer. Whether the timeframe author Ray Kurzweil has predicted is accurate or not (he expects to be living for another 1000 years or so (he also intends to resurrect his dead father based on the information stored in the author’s DNA, the information stored in his own brain, as well as the information stored in a garage full of his father’s personal possessions (and yes, he nearly lost a little credibility for me with his weird daddy issues))), this is the future of humanity, should we live long enough to see it happen.

I haven’t quite figured out the implications of what consequence distributed and immortal intelligences will be for what I’ve come to consider plausible reincarnation, but I’m thinking on it.

In closing, I recognize that I sound like a space cadet and would like to point out that crazy people do not realize that they are out of touch, so I’m good. Anyway, it beats the shit out of television.


Thought on it, and if I hadn’t already lost you, here’s where I likely will. After describing the topic of The Singularity is Near to a coworker, he slowly walked away in deep thought only to slowly return hours later with that same far-away look. The very basic question he presented was one I had considered as well but without a need for accountability (and for fear of a brain vessel popping in my head) had conveniently put it aside: With an unfathomable amount of habitable planets in the universe, wouldn’t a civilization have already reached a singularity of its own? Yes, and this is where that line of thinking awakened me this morning. If a civilization in this long history of the universe had reached ubiquitous and (excuse the seeming redundancy) universal intelligence, it seems to me that we, their probable direct or indirect creation, would be encoded with the DNA potential of unlocking the pearly gates of their perfection and joining them in omniscience. Still, I haven’t factored in reincarnation because while it seems related, I don’t know how it fits. Perhaps the proverbial soul is simply that permeating intelligence that our Singularity is pulling toward and reincarnation is a mere willingness to rejoin the flesh for the very Buddhist-Bodhisattva purpose of helping others reach Nirvana. It’s all connected, people.

Second-to-lastly, I assure you that my recent completion of the series Battlestar Galactica is entirely coincidental to this techno-mysticism I’ve clearly become interested in.

Lastly, I wonder if you made it through this entire post.

For reals lastly, here’s the Wiki article on nanotechnology if you’re interested and here’s the New York Times piece that first introduced me to the subject of the Singularity. It’s long but it’s a good read.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Police the Police, Protest the Protest

It was hot. It was cold. The swell of bodies heated the sloping hill of California Street as their crush ambled back toward the Financial District with their fists in the air and their voices ringing through the high-rise corridors of concrete and glass, “We are the 99 percent!” Gawkers sat in office and apartment windows several stories up, pressing their heads against the glass. Some stayed inconspicuously at the margins of their portals, holding their elbows and keeping from total visibility. Others leaned out, sleeves rolled and ties flapping in the cold and misty breeze as they waved and shouted in solidarity. A man on a megaphone cried out a complicated rhyme that the crowd mumbled before abandoning. Police on motorcycles and dirt bikes met the protestors at every predetermined intersection, blocking traffic so the crowd of several hundred people could pass without incident. It was very ordered, rehearsed.

ack at the Federal Reserve building of San Francisco, I set off in the direction of my apartment, conflicted by the thoughts and emotions wrestling for governance over my head and heart. On one hand, I was overjoyed to have seen so many people marching and shouting in common discontent. Despondency is a lonely tower and to see dozens of furrowed brows and frowning roars was ironic medicine for my proverbial soul. On the other hand, I was unsatisfied with the complacency of the event. Isn’t a protest a time to rouse the rabble? It’s time for the barbarism of fire hoses, batons, and snarling dogs. “You went down there looking for trouble,” a coworker declared as I voiced my frustration the next day. I suppose I did. Mind you, hurting person or property is not what I hope for, but respectfully moving ten feet off the property of the Federal Reserve Bank in order to appease city ordinance is not my idea of civil disobedience.

There’s a peacefully aggressive mindset of these protests across the country that I am clearly and unfortunately not a part of, however fascinated. I don’t understand this compliant form of dissent that requires patience and resiliency without swinging fists. My hot-headedness blinds me to the larger prize and I want confrontation NOW! I want the police to police, police, police so that the public will see how when questioned, authority adjusts its helmet and taps its bludgeon on its steel-toed boots in defense of not law or order but money; and not just in New York City, where JP Morgan Chase donated over four million dollars to the NYPD as the police force commandeered city buses and arrested over 700 peaceful protestors for unlawfully marching on the Brooklyn bridge (after being diverted there by the police), but on the West Coast, too. The SFPD didn’t disappoint. In fact, their actions later that night proved just as calculating as their New York City counterparts. There was no disorderly conduct at 12:45am when riot police returned and dismantled the protestors’ makeshift camp then blocked off and guarded the sidewalk in front of the Federal Reserve so they couldn’t return.

Who were they defending? Those cops go home and watch the same shitty reality TV as half the plebeians of the day’s march, yet when called to action, they rush to the aid, compelled by profession or ideology, of their invisible oppressors and become biting teeth for the greediest humans in the world.

I read that several of the San Francisco police officers openly wept as they followed their orders. Perhaps that’s a start. Perhaps once the police are on our side, we can take their goddamned guns away and redirect their attention to the real criminals, whose weight we carry around as though they are living gods, for tiny laws are in place to arrest every single one of them in much the same way such laws were invoked to disassemble and demoralize a peaceful protest still in its infancy.

I don’t have an answer to any of this, but at least I set down my coffee, snapped my laptop closed, and pocketed my phone for a few hours to see what I could see. Today, I’m returning to the bedside of this discontent to once again feel the weak pulse of our feeble democracy before it slips away.

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