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Stuart Dobson (M)
Melbourne, AU
Immortal since Dec 1, 2008
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We all change. The future is emergent and dynamic, evolving with our minds and our society. Technology plays a fundamental part in this evolution, this evolution of complexity. So I ask, how does technology affect society? How does technology affect our minds and then society in turn? How does our economic and political system affect society and technology? What are the products of this evolution – and what are our goals?
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    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.


    George Dvorsky's article about How to Build a Dyson Sphere was absolutely fascinating and I feel the concept deserves much further exploration.

    "By enveloping the sun with a massive array of solar panels, humanity would graduate to a Type 2 Kardashev civilization capable of utilising nearly 100% of the sun's energy output. A Dyson sphere would provide us with more energy than we would ever know what to do with"

    Now, this is the kind of ridiculous, overambitious idea that that really captures my imagination. It would be a hyper structure, like the Hoover dam on steroids, where we would create unfathomable devastation, calling on the skills and labour of thousands, enduring the harshest that nature can throw at us in order to tame it - all in the name of energy. Where the Hoover dam transformed a country, this would transform our entire solar system. But it's not without cost. And that's what I want to discuss.

    In order to get the materials to build this monolith of human achievement, we're going to have to make some sacrifices. Namely, the planet Mercury.

    But what are the ethical implications of dismantling an entire planet for our own purposes?

    One might argue that it's an otherwise useless planet, a burning chunk of iron and rock with no desirable real estate or even aesthetic value. But does that make it Ok to take it apart for spares?

    What will future generations think about dismantling the planet Mercury? They will probably be a lot more conscious about the implications of such vast resource exploitation, given that they will be growing up in a world full of pollution and big empty holes where coal and precious metals used to be.

    In today's world, these kinds of concerns are rarely considered, or if they are, they are still ignored if there is money to be made or amenities are required. But the people of the future will have their say, either way. This will bring the debate into the the public arena, allowing countless others to raise topics and concerns that may never have been thought about - issues that could have untold implications on the project.

    Legalities

    Mercury of course raises another issue that may throw a spanner in the works, that of legal rights. Who owns Mercury? Does anyone? Even if someone did own it - this might not stop someone who has the facilities to get there from taking it from someone who can't.

    We could put it to a democratic vote, involving the whole world, but could you imagine the political nightmare a worldwide vote would be? Coordinating the political process across different cultures, legal systems, technology levels, ideologies, and population sizes would be a logistical task comparable to dismantling a planet.

    How Decisions are Made in the Real World

    At the end of the day whether or not something is ethical has very little bearing on whether it goes ahead. What matters is the decision making mechanism of the time.

    Right now, our decisions are based on finances. What is wrong or right is always superseded by the potential to make money, save money, or the liability to cost money. If it would be profitable to dismantle the planet Mercury, all it takes is someone with enough power to get the idea into their head and it will happen. I'm not sure that currently, there is any business or government in the world with enough money or resources to put this idea into practise yet, but that may change in the future.

    Perhaps by the time a Dyson sphere becomes feasible, society will be running on a different modus operandi. Perhaps there will be a different currency other than money, something else that holds value but is traded in a similar way. If this currency was directly related to the Dyson sphere, for example, if it was energy, then this might also drive the Dyson sphere's production and supersede any moral concerns about dismantling planets. If the currency was something else, such as art or community help, then production might not be pursued as the need for the Dyson sphere wouldn't be reconciled by the needs of the people. But the project will always remain a possibility as long as energy holds value, and it probably always will, the question would be how much.

    Practical Implications

    As well as the ethical and legal implications, we would also have to consider the practical ones, as these may also have ethical implications of their own. For example, what about the effect on the gravity of the whole solar system? If something went wrong, the Earth could end up falling into the sun or flying off into space - these are pretty serious ethical concerns! Of course there would need to be some extremely accurate calculations before we attempted to commence resource extraction of this scale.

    A Responsibility

    After all the negative ethical dilemmas brought about when deciding whether or not to dismantle Mercury, It could very well be argued that it is actually our responsibility to uplift humanity, to alleviate suffering. That it's humanity's purpose to advance our technology, our civilisation, our place in the universe. To do this, we need to use all the resources we have available to us. It would be unethical not to.

    The question would then be, what will be the return on this mother of all investments?
    Sat, Aug 11, 2012  Permanent link
    Categories: ETI
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    If we were to replace our bodies, one atom at a time, would we be the same person? One would think this would be the case. Every 10 years, every cell in our body will have been replaced at least once, with bone marrow taking the longest to renew. Most of the body renews every 7 years.

    Our bodies are an ecosystem not unlike any other. Take the sea – remove and replace it one atom at a time and no fish will notice. Replacing larger pieces will cause problems for its inhabitants, but it will soon renew itself. Replace a large proportion, and this will likely have huge implications for the entire ocean. As it is with humans, replacing one small section at a time would be easily accounted for and would not have any dramatic effect on the system as a whole.

    This is a dramatic realisation – for what are we if not our bodies?

    We are not single entities. We are systems, and we are made from smaller systems, which in turn are made from smaller systems. Cells take in matter from our food and convert these molecules to be part of us, replacing extinguished cells. We are not the matter that constitutes our body – we are its collection of systems.

    The brain, the place that for some reason is believed to house the “mind”, is almost certainly more than just a material structure. As yet we have failed to deconstruct it to any significant level, but we do know that its functionality relies to some extent on electrical configurations. However, the brain is not some simple electrical circuit which can be reverse engineered by simply following current paths and measuring voltages.

    Brain operations are less logical, hiding their true functionality in the encoding of patterns. It’s these patterns that are more of an accurate reflection of who we are.


    In fractals, an equation determines a configuration that is iterated. This type of pattern, known as self similarity, is an underlying mechanism of nature. Using fractal equations, we can now work out how many leaves and how much carbon dioxide a tree will create. It is the "DNA" of reality.

    We are all connected

    We should also remember that while we are made up of systems, we ourselves are composite parts of a larger system, the ecosystem of the universe. While we may not feel that we’re “connected” with the Earth or the Sun or the Andromeda Galaxy because we see no physical connection, we are connected in a scientific and logical way.

    All atoms are surrounded by orbiting electrons which by definition are negatively charged, meaning that every atom in the universe repels every other atom – in other words – you never actually touch anything. So, your body is not even connected to itself, yet it is, albeit by magnetic forces. Therefore, we are all just as connected to the entire planet – and each other, as we are our own arms.

    Through the vacuum of space, the magnetic forces continue but weakly, while gravity takes over to keep us connected to the rest of the universe. And every day we are learning more about how the universe is constructed, discovering phenomena such as dark matter that continue to reinforce our connected nature.

    As well as our scientific connection, from a logical perspective, we are also as much a part of the universe as it is of us. Our actions affect the universe around us, and we enjoy the benefits or suffer the consequences of these actions accordingly. We rely on our surroundings to survive. The only thing holding these implications away from us is time. While we may not see the implications of our actions personally, they echo into the universe, which we are part of. Karma, in essence, is real.

    Individuality

    So we could end it here on “we are all one”, but if that were the case, why do we all have minds that “feel” like they are separate? Is it an evolutionary accident or is there some divine purpose to our individual consciousnesses?

    Perhaps individuality is a deliberate outcome of evolution, a mechanism to bring about the most efficient thought system possible? There is no doubt that humans have the ability to take over from evolution now, increasing the “power” of our consciousness, our life spans, and the efficiency of our resource usage to drive our own destinies.

    Following this thought-train, we could provoke more questions than answers. Is consciousness determined by individuality? Could there be alien species that evolved without any concept of individuality? This would depend on what would be the best evolutionary advantage.

    The big question, is could this individuality be an illusion, created in our own minds? We are, after all, not one entity, but a collection of systems and a system within a larger system.

    This begs the question, is a brain the pre-requisite for consciousness, or could consciousness evolve from any collection of systems complex enough, for example, artificial software, a complex cell, or even a star? We are, after all, just different versions of the same kind of fractal patterns that make up all of nature.

    What if we are just the dreams of stars?
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    hubble

    What if we learn to read human brains down to the most intricate details?

    What if we learn to record, in detail, every action that occurs within the brain, every synapse firing, every cell interaction, every memory?

    What if if all of this data could then be stored on a computer and used to re-engineer a new, identical brain?

    What if this brain could then be put into a new body, thus creating a new version of us when we die?

    What if we knew for a fact that there was nothing after death?

    What if we gain the ability to live forever using this, or some other mind transfer technique?

    What if we then discover another civilization on another planet, who is still too primitive to save minds, and who still believes that death is natural and essential?

    What if we then engineer a situation, for example we send swarms of microscopic probes to their planet to monitor, transmit via microscopic satellites, and then record their minds on our computers?

    What if we can then use this data to re-engineer the brains of these people back on our planet so that when they die they can be resurrected?


    Would we?

    More to the point, is there a civilization already out there that is doing this?
    Sun, May 10, 2009  Permanent link
    Categories: life extension, ETI, mind upload
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