Every tenth posting or so, I take care of a pile of small/cool items. Here’s one you are sure to like: Scientific American interviews me in their Too Hard For Science? series. David Brin on – Raising Animals to Human Levels of Intelligence. If we cannot find aliens in the stars, we might create new “alien” intelligences on Earth. But it won’t be easy, technically, politically or ethically.
I confess to having a few visual fetishes. One of them is bridges.. I love bridges. Even “ugly” utilitarian ones have a kind of beauty, so long as they express the compelling elegance of physical equations and our ever improving materials. But some inspire and even leave one awestruck. Perhaps that is why bridges are among the things that human beings always create with panache and (almost) always with skill. (The other being weapons; we seem to be best at both connecting and separating from each other.) See some of the latest bridge concepts: Imagining bridges of the future.
Meanwhile…. We’re catching up to (or bypassing) the future — in sci fi movie timelines. Clockwork Orange was set in 1995, my post-apocalyptic novel The Postman in 2013, Soylent Green in 2022. Below that chart, a Trilogy Meter — rating 1st, 2nd & 3rd movies in famed SF series. I mostly agree in every case! He captures “2nd movie syndrome.” He’s too kind to Jedi, Trek3 (blech), Alien3 (beyond evil), & Khan was great! But generally right.
=== Predictions Registry Time? ===
Predictive hit in EARTH p164 “How about fighting the greenhouse effect by sending up dust to block sunlight like those volcanoes made the chill snap of ’09.” About this snippet-quotation, a fan writes: “Oh sure, new planets, the web, secrecy radicalism, your dead-on technology, but HOW did you know in ’89 that ’09 volcano dust’d do a cold snap in 2010?!”
Aw, that’s nuthin’ See p.206 of The Transparent Society! Far creepier! (More below.)
Oh, and now this: ”Researchers at the University of Arizona, analyzed grains that the Stardust probe scooped up from Comet Wild 2’s coma on a close flyby in 2004, sending the samples to Earth in a capsule two years later. After studying the comet dust using electron microscopy and X-ray analysis, the researchers found minerals that formed in the presence of liquid water.” Suggesting the comet’s nucleus underwent a period with liquid in its interior… as suggested in my novel HEART OF THE COMET. (Based on my doctoral thesis.) Melted in the early cloud by decaying Aluminum26. Trillions of such test tubes might have made… life?
Another Predictions Registry Item:In 2010 I said we’ll be sorry someday for investing too much in so-called Just In Time production and inventory methods. Now the entire world economy is suffering because events in Japan have rocked delicate “efficient” supply chains. See: “Disasters show flaws in just-in-time production, ‘Earliest impact will be felt with high-cost, low-weight products’.
Now add the fact that hundreds of thousands in the afflicted area had charged cell phones they could not use, when they needed them most, because of the lack of P2P text passing capability. (Some probably died because of it, trapped in buildings with their phones in their hands.) Another area I have been railing about since before 9/11, grabbing lapels ain Washington, Silicon Valley, with the most trivial fix that would make our civilization far more resilient and robust. Alas.
And don’t get me started about the need to re-start Yucca Mountain.
(Come see a wiki that has been set up by some meticulous fans, attempting to track my own near-future forecasts, ranking a success-failure rate, especially when it comes to my near-future novel EARTH (1989): new helpers are welcome to join in updating the site and keeping me honest!)
=== Perceptions! ===
Great commercial. Actually, it’s a mini movie!
And the survey says: 44% of Americans perceive natural disasters as signs of Biblical end times — acts of a vengeful God. (Or karma?) Worrisome! Though I take such surveys with salt. (In fact, many people can “think several impossible contradictions before breakfast.) Ask one way and they’ll say the Earth is billions of years old. Ask another and they will speak up for how dinosaurs JUST missed getting on the ark. Still moronic, but don’t dismiss your neighbors as SIMPLISTICALLY simpleminded.
— Heh. Revenge – in a literary contrivance – can be way fun. My colleague John Shirley goes overboard. Still, a cute concept in his novel, The Other End. “Veteran horror writer Shirley (Cellars) swaps gory for glory in this inventive if politically heavy-handed left-wing answer to Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’s evangelical Left Behind series. Child slavers, genocidal soldiers and corrupt statesmen have fourth-dimensional visions and abandon their wicked ways in the first part of the novel… but once the good guys ascend to a better place, most of the people left behind are Republicans, Scientologists, oil company CEOs and anyone “fundamentalist, hard-line, inflexible.” By dispensing justice along party lines, Shirley limits his audience to a choir that won’t mind 300 pages of very pretty preaching.”
Heh! Ever see the movie Dark Star, when the astronaut tries using phenomenology and Plato’s cave to talk a bomb out of detonating? Now see this from xkcd.
While we’re at it. Is humankind evolving into a superorganism? Australian scientist, environmentalist, author, and climate change activist Tim Flannery, in Here on Earth, argues that we are living in a immensely cooperative world, rather than in a survival-of-the-fittest, dog-eat-dog world. Alas, no mention of my own theme in EARTH.
=== Contacting Aliens (our kids and those other kinds) ===
Powerful electromagnets, it turns out, can do remarkable things to the brain — in this case, prevent a volunteer from reciting “Humpty Dumpty.” The carefully directed magnets temporarily disrupt the brain’s speech centers; the volunteer can still sing the rhyme using different areas of the brain, but simply can’t overcome a series of stammers when trying to merely recite it.
Who am I to argue with this study? Teens who spend more time reading were less likely to be depressed than those immersed in music, television or video games. (What…Spending hours staring at a screen shooting people doesn’t make you happy?) And what’s more upbeat than Science Fiction? Just don’t give them Sylvia Plath or Virginia Wolf…
Some of you will have heard of the “Bible Code” claiming that one can find all sorts of predictions about today’s events encoded in the Bible. A skip code is a code where one starts at a particular letter (for the Bible, in Hebrew), and then skip ahead a specific number of characters to read the next letter in the secret message, and then keep skipping ahead by the same number of characters. Critics, however, applied the same technique to modern novels and found very similar “hidden messages”. So, basically, in a rich enough body of text, you can find anything you want encoded there. For example, this link shows “predictions” of the assassination of various world leaders within the text of Moby Dick.
Read more about this at a site by this guy I know, wherein he goes on to hilariously show how his own “alien message” – written in the early nineties as a game, now has a cult following of people who not only call it a real alien message(!) but call him a hoaxter for claiming credit!
All of which is reminiscent of my own “message to aliens” – psychoanalyzing them for a dozen possible excuses for refusing to make contact. It gets pretty recursive when I suggest they sign into the Internet and discuss their issues, using their real names… since most people will just think they are humans pretending to be aliens! (Oh it goes round n’ round…. ooog.
== A Better Trend in Hollywood? ===
Why suddenly FOUR cool sci fi movies that intelligently mess with our heads rather than screaming at us with aliens or repeated remakes of dopey cliches? Four in just a year, and all successful!
=== SCIENCE! ===
Ultra modern super-toilet.
A DARPA study found that attaching a 9volt battery to your brain enhances your gaming ability. Passing a 2mAmp buzz through the skull doubles one’s gaming reflexes. (No, touching the 9v battery to your tongue won’t help…)
“Three parent” in vitro embryos? Scientists seek to implant embryos with material from three genetic parents — tiny bit seems to help prevent genetic defects. Of course it is still a long way from inserting a better mitochondria “battery” to actually replacing damaged chromosomes… and then to patching then reviving Neanderthal DNA….
That’ll do for now. Next time I give in to those who have been urging “David stop being so reticent and shy and tell us what you think about society and politics!”