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The Global Brain
"It is not guilty pride but the ceaselessly reawakened instinct of the game which calls forth new worlds." (Heraclitus Reloaded)
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    Pin-Yin Shi Shi Zao Ying Xiong! (part 2)
    This is the second in a series of articles jointly written by Wildcat and Spaceweaver, summing our techno-optimistic view of 2008. In this part we shall focus on resources, climate change, our planet and beyond.

    The way towards unlimited energy seems to be promising. We are yet to get there; we are yet to turn this earth into an abundant paradise. Meanwhile we have become increasingly aware that the very possibility of realizing the brightest vision starts with our ability to responsibly and intelligently manage the precious and dwindling resources of humanity at present. Two examples we found most interesting and inspiring have to do with water. Although 5/6 of the surface of earth is covered with water, the drinking water resources of this planet are in a critical condition. Water resources hold the potential of becoming a cause for international bloody conflicts in the very near future. The map of "blue gold" (picture) is the result of nearly a decade of sometimes difficult talks between neighboring governments, mediated by UNESCO. The hope is that it will help pave the way to an international law to govern how water is shared around the world. This atlas of hidden water is a resource of knowledge that may help the nations of the world to collaborate in managing this life giving resource instead of pointlessly fighting over it.

    Another story of rapidly dwindling resources is the global collapse of fisheries due to over fishing. Many of the fish species that were abundant just a few years ago are now extinct, and the problem worsens rapidly. A new study reported in offers, perhaps for the first time a hint as to how we might prevent the collapse of fisheries which are a primary source of food for hundreds of millions: “The study published in the September 19 issue of Science shows that an innovative yet contentious fisheries management strategy called "catch shares" can reverse fisheries collapse. Where traditional "open access" fisheries have converted to catch shares, both fishermen and the oceans have benefited. The results of the study are striking: while nearly a third of open-access fisheries have collapsed, the number is only half that for fisheries managed under catch share systems. Furthermore, the authors show that catch shares reverse the overall downward trajectory for fisheries worldwide, and that this beneficial effect strengthens over time.”

    Economical growth, growing energy demands and the aggressive over usage of other natural resources have long term global effects first of which in magnitude and severity is man induced climate change. The evidence for climate change is as of today incontrovertible, and the concern that climate change represents a real existential risk to the whole of humanity, gains a growing consensus. The heated debate over climate change being human induced or naturally occurring is nevertheless still on, and the general motions towards reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses by industrialized nations is hesitant at best. More voices are heard nowadays saying that the process of climate change is well beyond its point of no return, and humanity is due to pay devastating prices within a century or less no matter how extreme are the measures we will be willing to take in the near future.

    In the light of such grim forecasts by many experts, few scientists have raised the fantastic possibility that the only way to avert the ill effects of climate change, is to embark on an ambitious project of global climate control. How can we possibly imagine we can control the weather? At October’s Global Catastrophic Risks Conference in Mountain View J. Storrs Hall gave a presentation entitled “The Weather Machine” on the potential for nano-enabled “Climate Control for the Earth” watch the video here. Moreover, this weather machine also happens to be the ultimate solar energy production machine making it our door towards a Kardashev type 1 and eventually even type 2 civilization.

    Probably we are not going to have a weather controlled earth anytime soon. The point is to highlight this kind of creative ‘Hutzpa’ in addressing the very serious problems that humanity is facing today. People like J. Storrs and C. Venter do not just give talks about weather machines, synthetic life forms, and cheap fusion reactors. They afterwards go to their labs and make it happen.

    No doubt, the entire planet earth is our most precious resource; yet, thinking about future resources, earth is definitely not the limit, certainly not in our dreams, and lately not in our scientific understanding and technological ambitions. In year 2008 the presence of water on Mars has become an established fact. (picture) Back in 2007, a first earth like planet was discovered by astronomers 20.5 light years away. Up to date about 300 exoplanets were discovered and new technologies to detect earth like planets are being vigorously pursued. At this point, if you ask yourself what a 20 light years far earth like planet has to do with out pressing resource problems, read NewScientist’s 2006 article “Take a leap into hyperspace”. As incredible as it might sound, some serious scientists do think that space travel beyond the solar system is possible. From the paper: “Every year, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics awards prizes for the best papers presented at its annual conference. Last year's winner in the nuclear and future flight category went to a paper calling for experimental tests of an astonishing new type of engine. According to the paper, this hyperdrive motor would propel a craft through another dimension at enormous speeds. It could leave Earth at lunchtime and get to the moon in time for dinner. There's just one catch: the idea relies on an obscure and largely unrecognized kind of physics. Can they possibly be serious? The AIAA is certainly not embarrassed. What's more, the US military has begun to cast its eyes over the hyperdrive concept, and a space propulsion researcher at the US Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories has said he would be interested in putting the idea to the test.”

    Meanwhile, exploring extremely hostile to life environments on earth is giving us new insights regarding life in general and the possibility of finding extraterrestrial life in particular. Life, as we discover, can find ways to proliferate in what we used to believe are extreme conditions. Watch this fascinating TED lecture by Penelope Boston on the prospects of life on other planets.

    A future exponentially expanding civilization will necessarily have an exponentially growing need for resources. Expanding into space seems to be the only long term option to fulfill such needs. Until we get there, however, we need to assume full responsibility to the only repository of resources in our hands: Spaceship Earth. How are we going to do that?

    In a fascinating interview Jonah Lehrer (author of one of the best books we have read in 2008- Proust was a neuroscientist) talks to Peter Ubel over at Scientific American Mind. The interview:” eBay and the Brain: What Psychology Teaches Us about the Economic Downturn” reflects to our mind the exact situation we are in at the end of 2008.

    “Lehrer: Your new book, Free Market Madness, argues that conventional economics, which assumes that humans are rational agents acting in their own self-interest, is deeply naive and scientifically unrealistic. Instead, you describe a brain brimming with biases and flaws. Do you think these flaws are responsible for the latest economic turmoil? If so, how?

    Ubel: Irrationality is responsible for the economic mess we find ourselves in right now. Irrationality plus greed, of course, and a substantial dose of ignorance.”

    In response we say: let us be rational dreamers, humble visionaries but above all let us forsake ignorance. On that, in the coming parts.


    To be continued in part 3

    Sat, Jan 3, 2009  Permanent link
    Categories: Futurism, Technology, Vision
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    Infinitas     Sun, Jan 4, 2009  Permanent link
    The future world that I like to envision is one without a monetary system, where humans are no longer enslaved to one of their own creations. Greed has found its way into every aspect of our lives and it's driving us into oblivion. WC and Spaceweaver, you have mentioned many things that are troubling this planet and human race, but I believe that in order for us to reach those new and significant goals we must do away with greed (and apathy/ignorance). Every person is equal and it's disheartening knowing that we take advantage of each other and our planet. For example, with the fishing industry, the big problem is that no one owns the large majority of the ocean and people must catch as much as they can because tomorrow there might be none left.

    There is one possible solution that I have been pondering over, but it is also one that goes against my beliefs of human freedom; I have really been struggling over this issue. What if there was a one-world government? All the issues about who can fish what, who owns what, ect. is no longer an issue. Though along with this comes a ton of gov't regulations and restrictions, which, I believe, greatly affect human free will and freedom. Whether or not you like this type of future world, it is one that is inevitable in human civilization, as long as we can prolong.

    You have mentioned climate change and climate control and the use of one to stop the other. As a student majoring in Environmental Science and Geography, I firmly believe that man-made climate change is not real. Some 30,000 scientists are actually trying to sue Gore. ( The green movement is necessary but I feel like Gore has forced the wrong reasonings into it. We should conserve and preserve for the sake of the Earth and because we can, not for the sake of saving ourselves from doom. In reading I have come to my personal conclusion that Earth's climate is almost solely affected by the Sun. There is no real need to change the climate, unless we really do find ourselves entering a life-threatening heat/ice age, of which cycles actually do exist naturally. But yes, the ability to control the climate will be a significant one, and something not to be toyed with.

    But in the end, we won't need to alter our natural environments much, if at all, if we had the energy. There is no reason whatsoever that any skyscrapers or buildings that are built from now on shouldn't be green, or somewhat green. I think developing something close to the final be-all, end-all of energy generators should be of top priority now. Because once we achieve something like that the whole world will be exponentially better. Recently I have been watching episodes of The Universe, which is on the History channel. In one episode they were discussing light and how it is the be-all end-all of everything. They were saying that one day we can use light as a data medium where information can be transmitted instantly over huge distancing in enormous amounts. But the trick is basically decoding light. I think that once we decode light we basically can do anything we can conceive.

    Well that's my two cents for now. I hope I can do my part for the world once I graduate and head (hopefully) into energy efficiency.