I’m a big fan of the work of the genius inventor and author Ray Kurzweil.
If you’re not familiar with his work, Mr. Kurzweil is a proponent of the idea of a technological “singularity.” What he proposes, is that technology is increasing at an exponentially expanding pace that will eventually lead to some sort of convergence between human and artificial intelligence. Each technological innovation is building on the next, and one day it’s going to lead to computers so powerful that they’ll be able to recreate and even surpass the power of the human mind and eventually we’re going to figure out how to download consciousness directly onto these machines and we’ll “live” forever.
Pretty trippy shit when you think about it, but really, where else could all this technology stuff lead? I’ve always wondered what the human thirst for innovation is really all about.
I think the original desire stemmed from a need to improve the quality of life, create tools, get more food, etc., but it’s moved way, way past that now. It almost seems to have a destiny of it’s own today.
While people suffer all over the world from poverty and starvation some of the most complex and expensive scientific projects have nothing to do with fixing any of that shit.
No, the “great work” of the scientific community – the single project that is the most exciting and incredible technological undertaking humans have ever taken part in has nothing to do with improving the quality of life for people in trouble right now. It’s an immense and amazing machine called the Large Hadron Collider.
If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a $10,000,000,000.00 project involving 10,000 scientists from over 100 countries where they’ve built this monstrous 27-kilometer long machine designed to send particles flying around this loop just a cunt hair slower than the speed of light, slamming them into each other to try to recreate the conditions milliseconds after the big bang. What they’re looking for is a theoretical particle called the “Higgs Boson,” otherwise known as the “God Particle.” The only possible side effect of this fantastically complicated experiment is the ever-so-slight chance that it might produce a black hole that eats its way through the earth.
Don’t worry about black holes or any other space-time ripping complications and side effects though, because there’s no way the half-insane, socially detached super-geniuses operating that thing would ever let that happen, right? If they thought it was possible for everything to go horribly wrong and destroy the world they would certainly shut the whole project down. Right? I mean, forget about the fact that they’ve invested an enormous chunk of their finite lives designing, constructing and completing this thing, if they thought for a second that it might possibly cause harm they would shut it all down and walk away willingly, right? Right?
I’m not so sure that those motherfuckers might not just roll the dice and take a chance.
It’s a little known fact that before the detonation of the very first nuclear bomb there was a very real concern amongst some scientists that the explosion might create a chain reaction that would destroy the entire Earth’s atmosphere. No one had ever caused a nuclear explosion before, so no one really knew exactly what was going happen.
So what did they do? They said, “Fuck it… Let’s see.”
Now, there are people that will say that those scientists with concerns back then were just misinformed, and that the destruction of the Earth was never a real concern, but that’s real easy to say today.
Truth is, they really didn’t know exactly what the fuck was going to happen, and there was a lot of trial and error involved with the effects of spitting atoms. Anyone that disagrees with that need only look at the old videos of soldiers willingly running directly towards a nuclear blast as a part of a military drill. Obviously that shit is frowned upon today, and if you tried to get a U.S. soldier to do that in 2010 they might fucking shoot you.
Why do we have this constant thirst for technological innovation? You can chalk it off as simple human curiosity - the very reason we evolved from the lower apes in the first place - but I have a feeling there might be a lot more to it than that.
As time goes on and I spend more and more time in the isolation tank under the magical trance of the sacred plant contemplating the mystery of life – I’m increasingly leaning towards the notion that it’s not all that cut and dry.
The idea I’ve been bouncing around in my head over the last couple years is that life, the planet we live on, the universe it resides in and everything that takes place in the entire dimension is really just a gigantic, impossibly complicated mathematical program moving towards a predetermined outcome. That everything; from subatomic particles, to hyenas, to the blow jobs, to solar flares – everything that exists in the entire universe is really just a part of an infinitely complex program totally beyond our comprehension that is moving towards a very certain goal.
In “nature” we see natural patterns in all life forms; the alpha male wolf forces the weaker beta out of the pack because life as a wolf is hard as fuck, and the only way for the species to survive is if only the strongest of males are allowed to breed. The powerful genetics of the Alpha are passed down creating robust offspring to insure that hunts will be successful, keeping the wild game population in check and maintaining the survival of the species and the balance of nature.
Their behavior makes sense to us, and we deem it “natural.”
We see bees pollinating plants and building their fascinatingly complex hives, and we just write it off their “natural behavior.” They’re doing what they’ve been put here to do, but how many people apply this type of thinking to the human race as a whole?
It’s kind of a funny thing about people; we don’t really like to think of our own behavior and purpose here as natural.
Since we’re conscious we like to believe that we have control over our path and purpose.
We generally concede that there are certainly some unavoidable human tendencies; sexual desire, jealousy, anger, etc. But we like to think that these “instincts” can all be brought under control in a “civilized” world, and that we have control over our outcome as a species.
I’m not entirely sure about that.
I wonder if that notion is just a matter of us not looking at ourselves as deeply and objectively as possible. I wonder if it’s not the same arrogance that we display when we classify all of these other living things as animals, but not ourselves. We’re “humans,” a completely different distinction.
I’ve been called an animal- both as a compliment and an insult - but that designation is always to imply that somehow you’ve crossed the line of normal behavior or performance and entered into a place where people are not supposed to go.
I wonder if that lack of objectivity in viewing ourselves is a part of a system that nature has set up for us to make sure that we stay on track to achieve our collective goal. With the tool of conscious self-awareness comes the puzzling spectacle of infinite questions and possibilities. To manage this chaos, we’re given a pattern to follow. We almost universally don’t consider ourselves as animals. We’re above that, and because we’re above that, we don’t even consider the possibility that every single aspect of our behavior, from laziness, to ambition, to curiosity, to violence might just be a part of an insanely gigantic living, progressing program set in place to move us towards a predetermined outcome.
We think we’re lusting after a new car or a bigger TV is because of a foolish desire to keep up with the Jones’, but what if that compulsion is really just because our need for the newest, coolest shit is really something programmed inside of us to insure that we consume and continue to support innovation and the creation of new technology by spending our money on the latest, greatest shit. Our need for “newer, bigger, better, faster” is really just a progression we’re instilled with that’s no different than a bee’s instinct to produce honey and pollinate trees.
What we see and think of as “blind” instincts all over nature might naturally exist in the most complicated species in the most complicated way. Our entire, infinitely complex world we live in might actually be formulated exactly for the purpose of a single goal, and we might exist to facilitate that very thing. That might very well be why we’re here, we’re just a little too arrogant to consider it.
We see this pattern all over the natural world where there are levels of complexity; amebas are simple compared to worms, and worms ain’t shit compared to monkeys, and monkeys ain’t shit compared to us - but what life form trumps the mighty human? I think it might be technology.
We don’t like to think about it this way, but technology might very well be a life form of it’s own, but since we create it, and since it’s nothing like us and doesn’t have a heart or a nervous system, we just think of it as some shit we make.
I have a feeling it might be more complicated than that.
If you were an alien, objectively looking at life on this planet you might very well look at technology as a type of life form.
In nature we see many patterns of parasites infecting a host and causing the host to destroy itself so that the parasite may be born. There’s a aquatic worm that grows inside of a grasshopper, and once it’s developed sufficiently to live outside the host it programs the grasshopper’s brain to head towards water, jump in and drown while the worm burrows out of it’s body and hatches into the water.
The superior organism has lead the inferior one willingly to it’s own destruction so that it can reach the next stage in it’s development.
I think that very well may be what’s happening to us.
Technology; a thing that we think of as something lifeless that we create might actually be a life form that’s living in a symbiotic or even parasitic relationship with human beings. Just like other life forms the old models die off and are replaced by the new ones with a constantly flowing pattern of improvement and adaptation.
Just like you can search the fossil record and find the ancient hominid ancestors of man you can look in my garage and there’s a box of old cell phones and computers that eventually lead to the iphone.
Maybe it’s not the Large Hadron Collider that blows a hole through eternity and becomes the end of everything and the beginning of a completely new cycle, but maybe it’s a new invention created from the lessons learned from firing the collider up that does the trick. It’s not like we’re going to complete the experiments with the collider and stop there.
No one is going to say, “OK, we’ve made black holes, now lets stop making newer, even crazier shit and turn our attention to feeding the poor.”
Not a fucking chance. It’s going to keep moving… and where’s the end? What’s the finish line? A portal to unseen dimensions? Time travel? What if it’s the creation of the next phase of the universe itself? One of the greatest mysteries in all of science is the “birth” of the universe. Because of our own biological limitations we’ve imposed the concept of a “birth” and “death” on the very universe itself. They’ve even come up with an incredible theory of the entire infinite vastness of space emanating from an impossibly small, infinitely dense point and exploding in milliseconds to become everything that we know of today - The Big Bang.
The thought that I’ve been tossing around over the last few years - is what if it’s the human race itself that creates this moment. I mean, if the most sophisticated and complicated experiment human beings have ever undertaken – the very culmination of our technological mastery – is a machine that’s designed to recreate the moments right after the big bang, do you really think we’re going to stop there?
Not a fucking chance. It’s going to keep going. It’s going to keep moving forward despite the protests and concerns of those paying attention. It’s going to be buried deep in the back of your list of priorities when it comes to things to pay attention to. Between sex, and sleep, and work and play, and love and hate, and John and Kate you’ll barely even know it’s going on. You’re going to be sitting at home smoking a joint, drinking a beer watching celebrity rehab, and some half-mad, obsessed genius that sleeps 5 hours a night and pounds redbulls all day is going to come to a point where he’s not exactly sure what’s going to happen if he takes his life’s work to the next level. He’s going to stand there, looking at the button, not exactly sure what to do. Then he’s going to take a deep breath, and say, “Fuck it… Let’s see.”
BIG BANG, and the Universe starts again from scratch, this time doing everything a little bit better and a little bit faster, until it’s time to say, “Fuck it…” again. This process will go on for infinity, every time getting further, more complex, more advanced, but never finished. You and your life and me and mine are just a part of a cycle that’s been around forever. There was no beginning, and there will be no end.
Happy New Year, bitches. We’re just getting started.