Who comes to mind when you think of the greatest engineers of science fiction? I give it a 90% chance that you probably said ‘Scotty’ or ‘Dr. Who’. Both good choices to be sure. But we often forget the other guys. Who can fix a time machine using a can of peaches and a wad of bubble gum? That’s right – Bill and Ted baby. Be excellent to each other! But wait … I think this adorable creature might have them beat. He built an interstellar communications device using a coat hanger, an umbrella and a speak and spell. Nobody is badder than E.T. Phooooone Hooome.
In a recent conference sponsored by DARPA titled “100 Year Starship Symposium” a number of interesting topics were broached. One of these was around religious views and how discovery of intelligent aliens would affect religion. Or as one scientist put it, “Did Jesus die for Klingons too?” Interesting!
Well .. lots of viewpoints were discussed. Some a bit out there, some a little more rational. If you take the typical Christian viewpoint, God performed an infinite atonement. What is infinite if not everything, including Klingons? It becomes much more clear in the added books of Moses, where God says “worlds without number have I created.” If God created them, it stands to reason there are people on them (maybe Klingons although if man is created in God’s image, the Klingons probably look like us) and that they commit sin and need to be saved too. So sure – i’ll bet he accounted for the Klingons.
Did He go there personally like here? Did He send His Son personally like He did here? “only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you.” Guess we’ll have to wait to find out on that one. Or I suppose if we run into any Klingons we can ask them. Personally i don’t think it will shatter any belief systems. Some may have to adjust, but truth is truth and religion is supposed to be about truth. People often think it’s only about faith, but it encompasses everything, including scientific truths. And Klingons.
Do Star Wars, Star Trek, Buck Rogers, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate, Babylon 5, Red Dwarf, V, and even War of the Worlds have it all wrong? If we or other aliens were to travel into space and go to other worlds, would we really be living inside of spaceships that attempt to mimic our native environment?
The following article (provocatively titled ‘Biological Intelligence is Only a Transitory Phenomenon’) suggests that the answer is no. And not just no, but “hell no, that’s just stupid, what are you thinking?” Here are some quotes from the article to give you a flavor of what they’re talking about:
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 … If we ever encounter extraterrestrial intelligence, I believe it is overwhelmingly likely to be post-biological in nature.
The two scientists compared that approach [i.e. spacesuits and space ships] 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,
So, are they right? Is it a silly idea to think that we want to go somewhere (let’s say Mars for arguments sake) that we aren’t adapted to, without changing outselves? Suppose we could alter our physical selves with gene thereapy, cyborg implents, etc.. so that we could live on Mars without a big bubble and/or terraforming the planet. Is that a better way to go? Or should we build the portable fish tank to take with us as we explore the cosmos? I can see arguments on both sides.
Pro fish tank: We aren’t ourselves anymore if we change. How can we be human and want what humans want if we’re part robot, part martian?
Pro fish tank: We can share all the cool things we have here with those elsewhere (be they aliens or other human visitors). You won’t be able to experience that if you haven’t brought along the right environment.
Pro post-biological: When in Rome …
Pro post-biological: If you change the place you’re going to, you might destroy whatever it was you were going there for in the first place. Disrupt the habitat, kill off the locals (intentional/unintentional), etc..
Pro post-biological: If you adapt to live in the environment you inhabit, you can experience it as it is, not via some proxy.
Pro post-biological: You don’t have to worry about the bubble cracking and all your air leaking away. You also don’t have to worrya bout too much or too little gravity or light, etc..
Pro fish tank: Space ships are cool. So are shelds, lasers, photon torpedos and cloaking devices.
Pro post-biological: Space suits are not comfortable or easy to wear, and they simply will never ever be fashionable.
Full article can be found here.
“Yesterday’s posthumanism is today’s boring quotidian [everyday/commonplace].”
In reading an interesting blog post about posthumanism, the author makes several good points. First off, people seem to think of being post human as something where whoever survives the apocalypse will be turned into machine zombies or something. If you stop to think about it, “post human” is something that you can really apply to us today, if viewed from the eyes of people even a century or two ago. I mean, we’ve got these little devices that fit in our pockets that connect us to the sum total of the worlds information at the click of a button. We can travel from one end of the earth to the other in hours. And we can communicate with anyone anywhere instantly (unless you’re on AT&T, then you might drop the call, but hey…) If you’re hard of hearing or have bad eyesight? No problem. Just get a hearing aid or some glasses. If your heart is bad – we can replace that. Lose a leg? Get a new one. Can’t have a baby? Grow one “in vitro”.
Do these things mean we’re no longer human? Should you go without glasses and see the world in a ball of fuzz just so you’re more “pure” somehow? Of course not. And as time moves forward, more and more things will change, and we’ll change along with them, and we’ll still be human. Or, as Jamais Cascio puts it in his article:
We will never be posthuman, because we have always been posthuman.
“Posthuman” is a term with more weight than meaning; it’s used variously to describe people with altered genomes, people with implanted machinery, people with lifespans measured in millennia, and a whole host of descriptors that ultimately boil down to “not us, not now.”
But as augmentations move from the pages of a science fiction story to the pages of a catalog, something interesting happens: they lose their power to disturb. They’re no longer the advance forces of the techpocalypse, they’re the latest manifestation of the fashionable, the ubiquitous, and the banal. They’re normal. They’re human.
technologies that we now celebrate or decry as leading to our posthuman future … the technologies of human augmentation will lead to the collapse of society … [but] the spread of the Internet and easy communication will mean that most of us will have heard about these technologies as they develop. By the time they arrive, they’ll already be boring.
Posthumanity, from this perspective, will always be just over the horizon. Always in The Future. When the systems and augmentations we now consider to be posthuman hit the real world, they will have become simply human in scale.
That’s because augmentation – the development of systems and technologies to allow us to do and to be more than what our natural biology would allow – is intrinsic to what it means to be human. Thrown weapons expanded the range of our strength; control of fire allowed us to see in the dark; written words expanded the duration of our memories. If these all sound utterly primitive and unworthy of comment, try to imagine what it would have been like to be without them – and to find yourself competing against others equipped with them. The last hundred thousand years has been the slow history of the process of augmentation.
For the people living in a future surrounded by altered genomes, implanted machinery, and vastly extended lifespans, it will all be boringly normal. Unworthy of comment. And very, very human.
I’ve seen it multiple times and have several more showings lined up. Each time i’ve gone in looking at it from a different angle, trying to spot different things. And each time i’ve come away quite satisfied. From the very first scene where the bad guys come through the rift in a ship that just looks like evil incarnate, and Kirk sr. saves his wife and newborn child (Kirk) by sacrificing himself and his ship, you just know the movie is gonna be good.
This is definitely a series “reboot”. The essence of the original show is there – you’ve got all the main characters and the setting of a futuristic world with a federation of planets. You’ve got Vulcans and Romulans. There’s time travel, humor, tragedy, love, explosions, technobabble, and even a red-shirt. How do you reboot a franchise that has 40 years of television shows, movies, multiple series, and a rabid fanbase? You create an alternate timeline! That way, even though it’s still Star Trek, you’re not bound by all that canon. You have creative freedom to take the story and characters in new directions. And i, as an avid fan, think this is wonderful. I’m excited to see what happens next. More movies? Another television series that starts up where the movie[s] left off? Bring it on! Just don’t forget to explain what happens to the admirals dog. That’s all i ask
Now granted, many of the major events that occurred in the original timeline can be avoided now. For example, who’s to say we’ll ever meet Khan? I mean, the Enterprise just randomly bumped into him in the original series. The universe if different, the timing is different. It’s almost certain that Khan will just continue to float in space forever until the life pods eventually give out. Khan will never get stranded on seti-alpha five, Spock won’t have to die saving the ship, and Kirk and crew won’t have to go rogue to get him back (which may or may not work anyway since Vulcan is npw destroyed and who knows if they even still have the ability to reuinite body and spirit?).
But there are two events that i think are still going to happen, regardless. Things that were set in motion long before the timeline was altered, and would be completely unaffected by the changes to the timeline. One: VGER. Yes, everyone’s favorite probe that got sucked into a black hole and emerged on the far side of the galaxy. It’s still slowly traveling back to earth, assimilating all the knowledge it can. Eventually the big spoiled brat arrive looking for the creator, and if the Enterprise isn’t there to greet it .. who knows what might happen? Two: The wales are still extinct. The super whale ship from deep space is still gonna come knocking on earth’s door looking to find out what happened. And someone’s gonna still have to go back in time to save the wales. Right? Right? Of course, those events are still 30 years in the future from where we’re at now in the reboot, so there’s plenty of time to think about how to resolve them.
I can’t wait to see it again. I can’t wait to see the next movie. I can’t wait for a television series. My trek geek is alive and well once more. Bravo to all involved.
Now that Star Trek has been out long enough for anyone to see it who cares to, i thought i’d write some of my thoughts and impressions. Let me just start off by saying that the movie was amazing in every respect. The storyline, the acting, the visual effects, the music. All top notch. Whether you’re a Star Trek fan or not, this is a great show.
Wow … must.resist.buing.this.book. … ok, i just can’t imagine how horribly crazy insane and probably really cool (in a trainwreck kind of way) this book has got to be: Shatnerquake.
after a failed terrorist attack by Campbellians, a crazy terrorist cult that worships Bruce Campbell, all of the characters ever played by William Shatner are suddenly sucked into our world. Their mission: hunt down and destroy the real William Shatner.
Am i awesome, or is it really sad (and maybe a little creepy) that i immediately knew just about every single one of these references … ?
78 things we love about Leonard Nimoy
An article on Space.com discusses some new ways in which warp drive might be achieved: “two physicists suggest that a future spaceship could fold a space-time bubble around itself to travel faster than the speed of light.”
Wow, I read a really great blog entry today. You know it’s going to be a good entry when it starts out mentioning star trek! But then to actually use that as a lead-in to a reflection of ones past, relive life-changing events, and draw strength from them is really great.Unfortunately for most of the rest of the world this is a private blog. It’s probably the most consistently well-written and profound blog that i read (and i read a lot of blogs). It’s a shame that i can’t get an rss feed for it, because i only sporadically check it. I really need to do better and go there more often. I hope that one day my writing is half so good. Until then, i will continue to read, be inspired, and try to find my flute.
What do Dr. Who, E.T., Scotty, and Bill & Ted have in common? They’re some of the “Greatest MacGyvers of Science Fiction”.Click Here for the full list.