The most important activity in acquiring knowledge is to ask questions. Only when we are asking questions can we get answers. So my friend, don't be afraid to ask “stupid” questions. There are no stupid questions.
“We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that it is not crazy enough.” Niels Bohr
What is the question?
These questions will not leave me alone.
Why are we here? What is intelligence? What is life?
Are we humans really that smart? In comparison to whom? How do we know? We haven't seen any other intelligent species.
Why haven't we seen any “aliens”? Are we alone in the universe? How can we know?
When I am far away from the city I look in awe at the night sky, bright and mysterious.
And I wonder if at the same time there any others on far away planets looking at the sky, wondering.
Are they asking the same questions? How do they look?
Or maybe we are missing each other on crossroads of time and some civilizations are already gone while others are just starting to look up at the sky.
Civilizations, species rise and fall. Just memories and ruins remain.
Are all civilizations destined to perish eventually, dissolved by an indifferent time?
I think there is a threshold. A star travel barrier. The energy needed to power star ships can destroy life on the planet if the species are too aggressive and lacking qualities to resolve their problems in a peaceful manner. Natural selection in a more general sense applies to civilizations too.
So hopefully some intelligent species survive and cross the star travel barrier. But not many.
So hopefully there are sparks of intelligence that will not be extinguished. Will our civilization survive the threshold? It seems less and less likely.
What is life?
I look up to the sky seeing myriads of stars and I feel lonely, lost in this vastness.
Our lives, our existence is just a fleeting moment, a spark in the universe. Is there a purpose for humanity, for our lives?
Is our universe really a final frontier?
There is just emptiness and energy interaction and flickering sparks of consciousness. Intelligence is like fireflies at night, fleeting and fragile.
What is life, consciousness, the mind? Are there other forms of life? Are they totally different?
Why do we think that only animals, carbon-based organisms can receive the gift of intelligence and self awareness?
I hope, I believe that there is a mind far greater than ours...a mind where the galaxies are neurons and all the beautiful and terrifying events and cataclysms we see are the results of the consciousness of a great mind.
Hardwired to wonder.
Why is it we humans cannot resist the quest for more knowledge? We love mystery, the unknown. We are hardwired this way. I think there is a purpose in this. It is not an accident. The consciousness, the intelligence are not an accident. http://www.yalescientific.org/2014/07/origins-of-life-a-means-to-a-thermodynamically-favorable-end/
I cannot help wondering. Will we ever meet an alien civilization? I am not sure. We humans have a high opinion of ourselves but we are still too primitive in the grand scheme of cosmic play to be of interest to an advanced civilization that may be millions of years ahead of us. And considering that a million years is just a blink of an eye, a fleeting moment in the universe's time, alien contact is doubtful. But if I am right and only peaceful civilizations survive the star travel barrier, we should not be afraid to meet them...I hope.
I want it to be true, I believe that there is a reason for us being here, a purpose. We may be a part, a miniscule part of a great mind who's intelligence we will never be able to comprehend. But we humans will keep trying, we cannot help it. We are hardwired this way.
New questions are coming up in my mind. If this great consciousness, this universal intelligence exists, how did it come in to being? Might it be just a part of an even greater conscious mind? Seems like a dead end in this reasoning.
Big and small
Or maybe not. The size and scale of our reality is also a mystery. It is relative. Our planet seems big to us but it is just a speck of dust on the galactic scale and our galaxy is infinitely small in our Universe's scale. So the size is actually loosing the meaning. A beam of light crosses our universe in an instant by time measured by the light beam.
So is our universe big or small? Well it is a matter of opinion.
Each one of us contains a universe within us. A universe full of life, movement and cataclysms. We don't know how our mind works but inside there is light and explosions and violent storms just like in our universe, full of stars, galaxies and voids.
What are the questions? Will we ever know the extent of our ignorance? Will we ever know the truth of our existence?
The perpetual force of our curiosity is driving us and probably many other intelligent species.
We humans love mysteries.
- Sharing goods and services
It is the most prominent example of a huge new “sharing economy”, in which people rent beds, cars, boats and other assets directly from each other, co-ordinated via the internet.
- Eliminating text books for students.
I remember my kids shlepping to school heavy backpacks filled with textbooks. Why are these textbooks so heavy? I am sure many of these kids would have back problems because of this.
So instead of 50 books per student we will have 1 tablet. Domino effect follows: no trees cutting, transporting and processing. No paper making, no printing and books binding. No books sales in store and so on.
A national push to get a computer into each student's hands will upend the way American children are taught. http://time.com/3483905/the-paperless-classroom-is-coming/
Possible negative effects of changing economy.
Jobs and labor
Unemployment due to automation, decentralization, sharing economy, reduced manufacturing sector.
Let's imagine the future not so distant.
Your house gets energy from the micro nuclear generator buried in the backyard.
Or you will have solar sell roof. By the way solar cell efficiency is improving rapidly and solar sells are getting cheaper. And there are batteries available now that will store the energy for night time and rainy days.
“Solar energy sources are erratic—but by storing their energy and then releasing it when required, batteries could solve that problem..” https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/will-tesla-s-battery-for-homes-change-the-energy-market/
You buy food at the local farm or you grow your own at the cooperative farm(no junk food is being produced anymore)
Having a 3D printer you can print household goods using software you buy online. So you buy just a program for your printer to make tools, dishes, furniture...(By the way if you need a new computer just print it.)
Reusable materials for 3D printers.
“A few academics and garage-bound inventors are trying to take on the problem of 3D printing with metals on their own terms, and on budgets that make sense for hobbyists and makers, while startups like MatterFab are confronting the problem as well. http://3dprint.com/29944/diy-metal-printing-garage/
No cables. If you need to connect to a friend on the other continent you call a smart dust swarm and it forms a dish that gets signal from a satellite.
If you need a car to visit family you just pick up a shared car or a bike on the street.
There still will be big factories and research centers. But very little mass production manufacturing. Even cars will be produced by 3D printing. And so will be the 3D printers.
As I mentioned before it is impossible to predict the future just because many things are not being invented yet and many events will happen that we cannot predict.
But one thing is certain. If we will not change our ways voluntarily the Universe will force humanity to do so in a way much more painful.
Nothing is forever and grows and consumption based economy will be a thing of the past.
Nassim Taleb: “What we call here a Black Swan is an event with the following three attributes.
First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.
I stop and summarize the triplet: rarity, extreme impact, and retrospective (though not prospective) predictability. A small number of Black Swans explain almost everything in our world, from the success of ideas and religions, to the dynamics of historical events, to elements of our own personal lives. Ever since we left the Pleistocene, some ten millennia ago, the effect of these Black Swans has been increasing. It started accelerating during the industrial revolution, as the world started getting more complicated, while ordinary events, the ones we study and discuss and try to predict from reading the newspapers, have become increasingly inconsequential.” http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/22/books/chapters/0422-1st-tale.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
What will the next Black Swan bring?
Possible solutions and cause for optimism.
For many reasons our habits and the way we use our resources are changing to the better, slowly. Below are some promising trends:
- Decentralization of our Western economy
- Power distribution - Getting rid of the grid.
- Renewable power sources: solar, wind, etc.
Germany generated over half its electricity demand from solar power for the first time ever on 9 June, and the UK, basking in the sunniest weather of summer during the longest days of the year, nearly doubled its 2013 peak solar power output at the solstice weekend.
France, Italy, Denmark and other countries are also believed to have generated record amounts in June. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jun/23/uk-and-germany-break-solar- power-records
- Prefabricated houses that are self sufficient. http://www.gizmag.com/archiblox-archi-plus-carbon-positive-house/36283/? utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=768f1f3c48-UA-2235360- 4&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-768f1f3c48-90360674
- Fusion reactors.The world has been working on controlled nuclear fusion for over 60 years. https://www.iter.org/
It is just a matter of time before the fusion reactor will become a reality. But again the predictions are hard. But I have no doubt that new energy sources will be discovered and implemented.
- Micro-power generators. “The Big Potential of Micro-Nukes" Downsized, simplified reactors are poised to revive nuclear energy and bring carbon-free power to where it is needed most. http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jun/05-the-big-promise-of-micro- nukes
- Food distribution and decline of supermarkets.
One observation about the abundance of products in supermarkets. When we just immigrated to the US from the Soviet Union in 1979 we were shocked and overwhelmed with American stores – these huge rooms full of all kinds of food products. Shocked in a good way. We had never seen it before. There were always problems with food shortages in Russia...basic foods. But here we still don't know a good number of products on shelves in these supermarkets.
Now my attitude has changed...a lot. Now I know that all these countless boxes and jars and bottles are a giant waste of Earth's precious resources. Absolutely unneeded and not even good for our health.
- Eliminating losses due to distribution and warehousing. Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year - approximately 1.3 billion tons - gets lost or wasted. http://www.unep.org/wed/2013/quickfacts/
“Reducing food losses by only 15 percent would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans each year. But supermarket food is marketed with an eye toward bulk, convincing shoppers to take home more than they can use.” http://modernfarmer.com/2013/09/next-food-revolution-youre-eating/
- Eliminating processed food. Processed food...cookies, crackers, cereal, even yogurt, crammed with various chemicals that will let it sit on the shelf for a good long time, all the while containing enough sugar and salt to make it taste good. Processed foods are, plus or minus, 70 percent of what most of us eat. http://www.marketplace.org/topics/life/big-book/processed- foods-make-70-percent-us-diet
- Impact of technology.
“Smart dust” micro-computers suspended in the air. “Smart Dust actually describes microelectromechanical (MEMS) devices that include sensors, computational ability and more. They can be as tiny as dust particles and can spread throughout buildings and into the atmosphere to collect and monitor data.” http://chaione.com/smart-dust-communication- systems-and-the-future-world/
No rigid infrastructure will be necessary. The clouds of smart dust will move and change functions depending on instructions. It will be much more robust than cables, towers and antennas. But humans are usually trying to adapt new technology to kill each other. So the smart dust undoubtedly will be used as a weapon.
- Solar energy generators in space.
As space-borne energy-harvesting schemes go, this one seems faintly possible - an array of curved mirrors directing sunlight toward solar cells, their energy production microwaved down to Earth. It's so realistic, actually, that NASA is providing funding for a proof-of- concept study.
- Local goods production using 3D printers.
Applying 3D printing concepts to nanotechnology could bring similar advantages to nanofabrication – speed, less waste, economic viability – than it is expected to bring to manufacturing technologies.
Read more: Nanotechnology and 3D-printing
3D printing is still in it's infancy. “A self-replicating 3D printer that spawns new, improved versions of itself is in development at the University of Bath in the UK."
The "self-replicating rapid prototyper" or RepRap could vastly reduce the cost of 3D printers, paving the way for a future where broken objects and spare parts are simply "re- printed" at home. New and unique objects could also be created.” http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn7165-3d-printer-to-churn-out-copies-of- itself.html#.VRN35_nF9Kc
In order not to tire readers with too many details and explanations I will be short. But whatever technologies I will mention in this article are existing technologies in different stages of maturity.
Disclaimer: predictions are difficult, especially about the future.
Below are my attempts to figure out where the existing trends and technologies will lead humanity.
Some experts predict gloom and doom while others are full of optimism. Who is right? Maybe both. It depends on how you look at life, civilization and progress. And what is “progress”?
Is the end of dinosaurs and rise of mammals progress? Not from the dinosaur's point of view! Is the beginning of the industrial revolution progress? Not for our planet.
So what is progress?
Is growth and consumption-based economy progress?
Is global climate change caused by humans progress?
Science, our understanding of the universe, our technological advancements are impressive.
But what about weapons of war? Nuclear and thermonuclear weapons of mass distraction? Is that progress?
So when I predict a major crisis of Western civilization, is this progress? I guess it depends on your point of view. So you be the judge.
The major crisis of our civilization.
- Consumption and growth-based economy is nearing a crisis.
Our economy in my opinion is unsustainable.
“If the present growth trends in world population, industrialization, pollution, food production and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years. The most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/02/limits-to-growth-was-right-new-research-shows- were-nearing-collapse
- Hamster cage economic model.
Here is the question: Productivity keeps increasing for a hundred years and yet we are busier than ever! Please think about it. Where did the results of our high productivity go if we have to work harder and produce more? Is it because we consume more and more stuff and services?
Following this logic what is the logical conclusion? The more we produce, the more we consume and we have to work even harder so we will be able to consume more to “grow our economy”.
- The water crisis is the #1 global risk based on its impact to society (as a measure of devastation) and the # 8 global risk based on likelihood (likelihood of occurring within 10 years) as announced by the World Economic Forum, January 2015. http://water.org/water- crisis/water-facts/water/
- Food shortages.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The world is less than 40 years away from a food shortage that will have serious implications for people and governments, according to a top scientist at the U.S. Agency for International development. http://today.agrilife.org/2014/04/18/food-shortages-could-be-most-critical-world-issue-by-mid- century/
- Global shortage of raw materials is an increasingly pressing issue leading to instability in the world and wars. http://www.tudelft.nl/en/current/latest-news/article/detail/wereldwijde-schaarste-aan-materialen- steeds-nijpender-kwestie/
- Russia and China are gearing for global war for natural resources. And so is the US.
“The world is facing an unprecedented crisis of resource depletion—a crisis that goes beyond “peak oil” to encompass shortages of coal and uranium, copper and lithium, water and arable land.” The global pursuit of vital natural resources has long shaped human history, providing the impetus for campaigns of exploration and conquest across the millennia. http://www.globalforesightbooks.org/Book-of-the-Month/michael-t-klare-the-race-for-whats-left.html
- Effects of global warming.
Floods will affect the crops and destroy human habitats.
Droughts affect the food supply and will force human migrations.
Wars for natural resources, caused by human migration.
"..powerful evidence backing up the Pentagon and intelligence community’s assessments that climate change is likely to play the role of a “threat multiplier” in coming decades, pushing countries that are already vulnerable to upheaval over the edge and into open conflict.” http://mashable.com/2015/03/02/global-warming-syria-civil-war/
- Mass extinction of life:
Warming temperatures of water bodies, decertification and deforestation can all contribute to the irreversible impact on our natural habitat and thus threaten endangerment and even extinction of plant and animal life. http://listdose.com/top-10-effects-global-warming/
- Fragility of globalization.
"The presence of globalization can thus create a domino effect which means that if a country is affected , several other countries are bound to get affected too even if they might be on the other side of the globe." http://listdose.com/top-10-effects-global-warming/
- Population growth and a centralized economy model.
Waste and overhead due to centralized global infrastructure: huge expenses and losses to warehouse and deliver products to the stores.
- Industrial agriculture. Mono agriculture may cause global crops sickness.
Large, homogeneous crops enable parasites -- bacteria, viruses, fungi and insects --- to specialize on one specific host, increasing the chance they will mutate into a more pathogenic form. http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=6882
- Genetically engineered crops and it's side effects. Super weeds and super bugs.
The ecological, economic and agronomic disaster accompanying herbicide-tolerant transgenic crops is by now well known:
- over 10 million acres of super-weeds resistant to Monsanto’s weedkiller, RoundUp;
- farm machinery breaking on RoundUp-resistant pig-weed thick as a baseball bat; - - Monsanto paying farmers to spray their fields with competitors’ herbicides;
- a new generation of transgenic crops in the pipeline engineered to withstand older and more dangerous chemicals like 2,4-D. http://www.panna.org/blog/monsantos-superweeds-superbugs
- Fragility of the centralized infrastructure.
Domino effect. Just by hacking into a grid, one can create a catastrophic failure of the grid. Not just a power grid. Any grid.
Air traffic, computerized Walmart logistics, cell phone grids and so on.
Global financial system is vulnerable. The so called Cloud: “the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.”
- Cyber war is coming.
Another aspect of the decentralization issue is a cyber war. The most lethal weapon is not a bomb. It is a cyber attack on the country infrastructure. A country “smart” power grid can be disabled not with bombs, but much easier and cheaper - by hacking into a grid and disabling the power distribution in the country. That will end civilization as we know it.
“We’re not prepared. If the nightmare scenario becomes suddenly real. If hackers shut down much of the electrical grid and the rest of the critical infrastructure goes with it. If we are plunged into chaos and suffer more physical destruction than 50 monster hurricanes and economic damage that dwarfs the Great Depression.” http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/21/u-s-not-ready-for-cyber-war-hostile-hackers- could-launch.html
UN Claims Israel is World’s Worst Violator of Women’s Rights
At least that is the view of the UN’s top women’s rights body, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). CSW ends its annual meeting on Friday, March 20 by condemning only one of the 193 UN member states for violating women’s rights –Israel. So who is calling the shots at the Council? A closer look at its members reveals human rights luminaries like Qatar – that bankrolls the terrorist organization Hamas – along with China, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia. http://www.algemeiner.com/2015/03/20/un-claims-israel-is-worlds-worst-violator-of-womens-rights/
Worst abusers according to women's right organizations:
Congo, Iraq, Nepal, Sudan, Guatemala, Mali, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia. Afghanistan. http://www.feministezine.com/feminist/international/Ten-Worst-Countries-for-Women.html
"If anyone had any doubt that there was demonization of Israel at the United Nations, here is the entire truth before our eyes," said Israel's ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor. "There are 193 member states in the UN, and they include countries that butcher men and women, jail both male and female journalists, execute female oppositionists and legislate laws against women." http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/UN-womens-rights-panel-singles-out-Israel-in-one-sided-resolution-394590
"Heritage Foundation scholar Brett Schaefer has pointed out, countries that together pay less than 1.3 percent of the total are able, under U.N. voting rules, to pass the budget over the objections of countries that contribute a combined 98 percent." http://cnsnews.com/news/article/us-taxpayers-will-continue-pay-more-one-fifth-un-budget As of the end of November 2010, the United States owed $1.182 billion, accounting for just over a quarter of all the money due the world body. Washington paid nearly half a billion dollars of what it owed for peacekeeping, the regular U.N. budget and other items.
I really have nothing to add. My conclusion: DIVEST THE UN!
I know the future
I know what awaits them.
While watching old movies
I am cursed with knowledge.
I know what lies ahead
And the cold sadness of this knowledge envelops me
Makes it hard to watch
I know what awaits them
I know the future.
I don't want this knowledge
People in old movies
They laugh and cry, they love and hate
And that is how it should be
I don't like watching old movies
Old movies forcing me to know the future
By knowing the past
The human history
Short breaks of happiness
Between long dark stretches of tragedies and despair
The human history
Full of violence, death and destruction
I don't like watching old movies
I know what awaits them
Misery, violence and death
But the thought comes to me
What the future holds?
I know it is wrong
I should not ask this
We should not, we cannot know
So we can live
And yet I wonder
I know the past
Just live in the moment we are told
The past is gone
And the future unknown
But the past lives in me
The past is talking to me
About the future
All human suffering
The inhumane brutality and hatred
With a short respite of peace
And how quickly people forget
To live in the moment
Maybe that is how we humans survive
We want so much to be happy
But humanity gets reckless
And suffering returns again
As if punishing us for forgetting
It is so painful to remember
And yet we should not forget
We have to remember the past
In order to have the future
I watch old movies.
How to end the world's dependence on America.
Some are arguing that the US should get more involved in world affairs and be more active in keeping the peace around the world. And I totally agree. To a point.
US should not be the policemen of the world. That creates an unhealthy dependency.
This US dependence should be reduced and eventually phased out.
The world population is growing and getting richer and should and can assume the cost and responsibility for international affairs.
There is a difference between being a leader and being an enforcer.
GDP (current US$) - $16.66 trillion 2012
Population (Total) - $505.6 million 2012
It is very convenient for the EU to rely on the US. It saves money and lives...less headaches and if something goes wrong you can blame America.
Here is an indicator of a totally inept European response: “On May 8, Russia's only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, passed through the Netherlands' exclusive economic zone. Although the Dutch Navy had spotted the Kuznetsov days earlier, it was unable to provide an escort for the Russian warship as it passed through their
This failure of the Dutch to escort a Russian ship through its own territory underscores a wider failing within Europe to maintain a state of military readiness. NATO members are meant to budget at least 2% of their GDP every year on defense spending, although only four member states reached that goal in 2013.
The average defense spending of European NATO members fell from 2.5% of GDP between 1990 to 1994 to only 1.6% of GDP by 2013.
In comparison, the U.S.' defense spending remains over the NATO minimum at 4.1% of GDP.
Short-term profit over long-term security.
The recent crisis in Ukraine is a good example. European businesses do not want a confrontation with Russia because it may affect the bottom line.
So the Europeans let Putin do whatever he pleases right under their noses.
“The head of one of the biggest German engineering companies, Siemens, went to Moscow the week after the annexation of Crimea and met with Putin assuring him that they would continue a long term relationship with Russia. And that was a signal to me that the German business community is clearly concerned about maintaining its investments and even broadening them in the future.
Time to share the responsibility.
“The former Solidarity leader(Lech Walesa) said that when he meets Obama in Warsaw, he wants to tell him that the U.S. should inspire and encourage the world into positive action.
"The point is not in having the States fix problems for us or fight somewhere, no," Walesa said. "The States should organize us, encourage us and offer programs, while we, the world, should do the rest. This kind of leadership is needed."
The U.S. military alliance with Japan no longer serves the best interests of either country. Washington subsidizes Japan's defense at the expense of the American taxpayers. That subsidy, which has amounted to approximately $900 billion (in 1995 dollars) since the early 1950s, is a powerful incentive for the Japanese to continue their free ride on this U.S. security guarantee. And Japan's much-touted host-nation support of $5 billion a year actually pays only a small fraction of the total cost of the U.S. security commitmen
There is another consideration. USA superiority on the seas is based in large part on the aircraft carriers. Only a few countries in the world can afford this type of vessel. But there is a high probability of the air carriers becoming obsolete.
So smaller faster ships with advanced weapons will be much more effective and much cheaper so America's allies will be able to afford them.
I am not advocating a new arms race. But countries do need their own defense capabilities that will serve as a deterrent and more responsible relations between neighbors.
The US will remain the preeminent military force for now, but it is getting increasingly difficult and costly for the US to bear responsibility for the world.
Diplomacy in close cooperation with it's allies and rapidly coordinated military deployment and action capability should replace
dependence on the only superpower.
Besides, a smaller US defense budget will improve the economical situation in the country. That will free resources for a peaceful influence around the globe.
It is kind of hard to apply pressure on China when we owe China a trillion dollars.
Speak softly and carry a big stick? Well it is true. But as a team, not a lone giant.