Category: Technology

Dead Earth: Click on the image for more information.

At this time, on this planet, Earth, the environment and climate change naysayers constantly dispute the proven fact that humankind is directly contributing to the decline of life. The dispute is based on the belief that whatever is happening is in no way humankind’s fault and that much of the purported dangers are fraudulently conceived to empower liberal politics. This is tragic and even more tragic is the possibility that none of this is unique. It is possible that these sames kinds of disputes and ongoing abuse of the environment and life systems has occurred and is occurring throughout the Cosmos.
Yes, there is what we could call competitive evolution in which one life form in its evolution may threaten the existence of one or more other life forms, but all of this seems to follow a rather random but orderly pattern that appears to be a part of the thrive of planetary life systems (at least on this planet). The evolution of humankind as, for now, the top life-form, introduces a species that does not necessarily follow any orderly pattern and generally threatens a large segment of all life on the planet. At the same time, some segments of the human species is mindful of this threat to other life and seeks to alter human behavior to reduce that damage and also enhance the endurance and progress of all life on the planet. Therein resides the cause for the dispute mentioned above. The net effect right now is that life on Earth is imperiled.
Have we carried Darwin’s theory of “natural selection” too far? Are we convinced that we are the ultimate species and that there is little or no interdependence of life within our environment? Science says it is otherwise. Based on current scientific research and analyses there is a very high probability that life inhabits other planetary bodies (exoplanets) throughout the universe.  It is also possible that some forms of human life exists on some of those exoplanets. Can we also assume that some or all of those human-like lives have evolved and in a manner similar to ours? In my opinion, that answer should be yes. The next question could be, are those humans abusing their environments just as we are or are they like our Native American bretheran who still believe and practice a respectful interrelationship with planet Earth? The intriguing and entrancing scifi movie “Avatar” clearly illustrates this diversity of attitudes toward the environment.
What if it is true, that human life, in whatever form and wherever, is abusing their planetary environments much as we are? Even though life in some form will most likely continue to generate and regenerate throughout the Cosmos, there is also the possibility that there could be a gigantic collapse of life throughout the Cosmos due to widespread abuse of life supporting environments. If this should all come to pass within an envelope of time, it is highly possible that we could have a silent Cosmos. By silent, I mean without life in any form and its evolutionary processes. This is avoidable, and for Earthlings, though a cosmic consciousness is desirable, the key concentration must be on planet Earth. We have the power, the technology, the science, and the economic drive that should enable us to both progress and preserve and protect our environment. On the other hand, if we submit to greed and addiction to power we could quickly accelerate the total extinction of all life on Earth. Capitalistically, that is a lousy investment. Environmentally it is stupid. Sociologically it is suicidal.
Lastly, as mentioned above we are learning and beginning to respect the interdependence of all life here on Earth and to envision that concept prevailing throughout the Cosmos. That is a purely glorious and stimulating realization. We are not alone. We have immense linkages across the universe, and with that we have the power to progress and enrich all that surrounds us. In a cosmic sense, to me at least, this is our ultimate mission and reason for our presence.  Yes, life has a reason, and we should neither neglect nor abuse it.
Like the Na’vi of Pandora we must prevail and in prevailing we could be the incentive that ensures that the Cosmos will never go silent.

WHIMSYIt has existed since humankind began, but it didn’t acquire its name and general definition until around 1605.  Some are inclined to call it brain spooling, but that includes more than just whimsy. It is the position of this blog article that whimsy is the root source for imagination, creative ideation, simple silly thoughts, and more. The above image maps out that inter-connective influence of whimsy.
Yes, the definition Meisters indicate that whimsy is akin to fanciful, silly, giddy, and more (see the image above for more examples). We see it as a state of mind where the brain is essentially allowed to spool on its own and at its own pace and direction. No, it is not night-dreaming. It could be day-dreaming. It could also be essentially sub-conscious in that we are generally unaware.  In most cases it is very relaxing and can lead to drowsiness and sleep or it can ease us into awareness as fanciful thoughts dance around and suddenly grab our attention.
Review of the literature essentially places the products of whimsy in the arts; in either the forms of art, music or literature. Well, what about science; no whimsy? We think it is there too, but being able to separate it from the very orderly and precise concepts that characterize scientific ideas is difficult. For example, when Einstein, as a very young man was musing about light and light rays he considered what it would be like to be at the extreme forward end of a beam of light. Hmm,  could this have started as a whimsical thought that grew quickly into a serious question and  then a serious scientific theory? In our view, we tend to credit whimsy as the possible spark that eventually gave us E=MC^2.
In the very popular modern movie, “Avatar” there is definitely a large supply of whimsy, but no viewer can watch the entire movie and come away with only an awareness of some fanciful fiction without any appreciation for the social messages hammered home in the movie. Here whimsy is both obvious and dominant, but we believe that for most viewers that whimsy fires off an array of ideas, reactions, and emotions. Our minds are fuller on exit than when we began watching. Depending on our particular philosophies, experiences, and social concepts “Avatar” and its solid dose of whimsy stimulates our thinking in a host of different ways and often for a prolonged period of time. Moreover, comments from some viewers indicate that the Avatar whimsies induced a whole, related set of their own whimsical thoughts. This, of course, is exactly what the author, producer and director wanted to have happen.
Would it be ridiculous to consider the Cosmos in a whimsical way? We think not. In fact if you carefully listen to those wonderful commentaries by the scientist Carl Sagan you cannot help but sense a subtle application of whimsy. It does not detract from his messages. It gently and almost surreptitiously pulls you into his explanations of  the Cosmos. “We are stardust people” is both lovely whimsy and solid science.
The human brain is so versatile, so astoundingly powerful and its abilities to integrate and assimilate definitely produces the seeds of whimsy. Unfortunately some of the more reality-driven tend to downplay, even cruelly mock evidences of whimsy even in the arts. This should be avoided at all costs. If nothing other than moments of delight, imaginative escapes or delirious excursions into a fantasy world are all that we experience, they are moments of respite for our minds, our emotions and even our spirituality. With a little practice and an increased appreciation for whimsy we may find we have gained a powerful stimulus for our own creative output.

IMAGE CREDIT: The whimsy diagram image is from:

In the composite image above, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay are at a pinnacle of mutual accomplishment. Alongside those two great achievers are astronauts Bill McCarthur and Valery Tokarev the Commander and Engineer, respectively, of the International Space Station (Expedition: 12 ) They too, are at a pinnacle of mutual achievement. Most importantly neither of these great moments occurred without the full support of each partner for the other.  Furthermore, in each case all of the team members are from different nations. Global success was a fact and not an impossible dream for both of those great moments in history.

Ego is good.  If by that we mean we are stable in both our self awareness and self confidence. We all possess it in varying levels of healthiness. When we say ego is bad are we really talking about ego or are we talking about how it is being misapplied? Following the preceding explanation we would suspect misapplication is the dominant reason.

As parents, friends, employers, in fact all society, declare we are expected to excel. This is good and healthy too. Here again, if we mature, with a balanced awareness between excelling and compassionate fairness to others we should be leaders. Unfortunately there are others who place excelling, by any means, as vital and at the usual expense of others. History records that many of these types become leaders. History also records the ongoing endless and often violent power struggles between these ego-abusive leaders. In these settings, humankind is held hostage, and any progress is more by accident than design.

In the “dynamic duos” depicted above. ego is definitely present and strong. Yes, there are even momentary clashes, but these are modulated by that sense of compassionate fairness that is actively present. So, we should not attempt to stamp out ego in an effort to achieve more peaceful and cooperative global unity. We should both honor it, and strengthen those compassionate elements by giving those who possess and practice them leadership responsibilities. Right now, in a very limited, but successful way, we are doing  just this with our space programs such as the International Space Station.

No, no, there is no way to legislate this type of global relationship. We must work to help it evolve. Our international efforts with the space station, with the Hubble and other space telescopes are exactly the ideal environment. We focus ourselves and our egos on working together toward common goals. We mutually and joyfully share the GLORY of our successes! The host nations beam with pride and welcome compatriots from other nations with honor.

Well, how many disadvantaged, oppressed and hungry will any of this directly affect? Directly, none. Indirectly, many and over time possibly all. How? We do it by boosting global pride (call it ego) and by expanding each nation’s involvement in some level of the exploration of space. This, in turn, can begin to create a national atmosphere that enables changes in governance and care for all its citizens. Yes, individual nations will lose their unique moments of glory, but will greatly enjoy shared progress. Now we know this can happen, it has in the past, high upon Everest and continues today, up there in Low Earth Orbit. It also grows through the multi-national eyes of our powerful space telescopes. Next, way before Mars, we should be jointly establishing another great International Space Station; this time on fair Luna. Luna belongs to all of us, and an international Moon Base will achieve a new, and exciting unity that again can lead to newer and stronger steps toward world peace.

This concentration on mutuality and shared glory could also impart flacid egos. This is definitely a possibility, but it can be avoided by preserving the focus of our international missions and goals. Demand is constant and insistent. Resting on one’s laurels presumes we have all the answers when actually what we have accomplished is a multitude of new questions. Our focus on mutual goals is enlivened and sharpened. We remain motivated.

Well, just how sure-fire successful would all of this be?  We will not know for certain unless we continue what we have started. Nations will begin to change because their citizens now enjoy a real and expanded ego boost as opposed to the vicarious boosts from flawed egos they have regretfully elected to lead them. They will look for new leaders who have those compassionate elements and the desire to share in humankind’s progress. Above all else, those of us who are currently enjoying this progressive status must do all we can together to promote and strengthen it, globally. International efforts for space exploration are very positive ways to put ego in its proper place and humankind back on a progressive path.

Those days of glorious, courageous single nation moments in space history are. past. From this point forward we must go forth again, but jointly, joyously, heroically and for the betterment of all humankind. No longer is space exploration a unique expedition, it is forever now a global obligation.


Image on Mount Everest of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay: Courtesy of “A Continuous Lean”

Image of astronauts McCarthur and Tokarev Courtesy of

Human Compatibility with Robomatics: A New Enduring Consciousness

*Ossification: a tendency toward or state of being molded into a rigid, conventional, sterile, or unimaginative condition.

Two of my recent blog articles, Nurturing Nature, and An All Digital, Deep Space Voyage have included concerns and commentary about the rise in the use of automation and robotics. This is not meant to imply that either automation or robotics are a threat or bad for humankind. What is of both concern and importance is how humankind manages those developments to its best advantage.

We have already seen evidence of situations where humans have been lulled into dulled attentiveness within an automated or robotically controlled environment. Yes, a good bit of it has been in the form of science-fiction which tends to promote fear and not reason. In reality, though, we have also learned of situations where failed or malfunctioning systems have led to catastrophic events including the loss of human life. Emergency detection and warning systems that fail are one example, another are automated control systems that suddenly fail.

In many instances of these failures serious damages or loss of life are avoided due to the alert and rapid intervention by humans. What happens if there are no humans around; only robots monitoring robots? The risks, if any, would all depend upon the particular automated environment. The higher the risk of a chained failure the more important it is to have immediate and alert human monitoring and intervention. If the environment requires human presence then we must address the real problem of decreasing alertness. Do we depend solely on robotics to alert the human to problems?

Interactive compatibility: The critical challenge: By interactive compatibility we are referring to the increasing high-tech relationships between humans and robomatic (automation + robotics) systems. The word active has always been a critical element. We find it is both expensive and hazardous to take a casual or even indifferent view of our duties in monitoring and adjusting robomatic systems. Compatibility relates directly to the fitness of the human counterpart for these responsibilities. In our view the ongoing, successful interactive compatibility between NASA’s scientists/engineers/technicians and the many robomatic systems they have launched and continue to monitor exists as a key role model for the future.

Compatibility also embraces the engineering design of the various spacecraft that NASA/JPL has created. These spacecraft are not simply pre-programmed systems, they are, in essence, alive and maintain contact with their human counterparts. This is most remarkably illustrated by the very alive and far away Voyager craft, the gleeful explorer-craft Cassini, and, of course, the Mars rovers. Yes, there are many more in the list. The foregoing are just newsbreaker examples. The future with its rapid growth of robomatic systems on Earth and in space will demand entirely new perspectives in areas of scientific and high-tech education/training. This will be especially critical when those relationships between robomatic systems and humans span centuries. Contact with deep space systems will, of necessity, become trans-generational.

Transgenerational interactivity with deep, deep space robomatic systems will introduce an entirely new array of sci-tech skills that become a culture. Yes, a highly scientifically oriented culture is essential for humankind’s growing interrelationship with the Cosmos and with all the exploratory craft we both send and command into that awesome arena. Great grandfather, grandfather, father, son, and so forth will be an uninterruptable and contiguous chain of scientific and technical competence that will carry humankind safely into distant galactic environments and worlds. There will be no room in this culture for regressive or unimaginative thinking. In fact, it will not even exist.

A scary future? For some of us now, it could very well be. This is because our education and with it the encouragement to think creatively has generally been underdeveloped. For others this could appear as a defiance of spirituality whereas in reality it will be an entirely new and highly consoling spirituality. Finally there are no longer any doubts about our status as people in what will become an immense cosmic reality. We feel welcome. We are made whole by this awareness and become joyfully at peace. The power and glory of the cosmos is within us and we are welcome participants in the discovery of all that it is. Lastly, we will finally achieve that great meet-up with other life-forms and fully rejoice that it is certain we are not and will never be alone.

The following video of a talk by Arthur C. Clarke in the 20th century predicting our future in this century is highly relevant because of the accuracy of his predictions. The forward evolution of humankind he predicts is and will continue to progress. So, unleash your minds and let them begin to explore all that surrounds us. You will be warmly welcomed.

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