First of all, you have to love their sense of urgency. We’ve been told by scientific analysts far and wide that the sky is falling. At any time, we can be done in by a magnetic shift in the Earth’s poles (for which we are apparently overdue), an encroaching ice age (for which we are also apparently well overdue), a volcanic eruption in Yellowstone that can take out two thirds of the U.S. (you guessed it, overdue for that one also), an asteroid impact from space (already happened at least twice that we know of, wiping out life on the planet as we know it both times), a sun inconveniently going supernova a little too close for comfort (what are the odds in a sky full of them?) Then there’s the matter of our own sun coughing up a little too much debris our way by way of solar flares (last one wiped out much of the satellite grid for a while, next one could really fuck with your longevity.) Mind you, not that we need this or any of the hundred and one other surefire planet killers to go down as predicted. Mother Nature, as it turns out, is the least of our problems.
Stir man into the mix, and you get a much sharper focus on the “living on borrowed time” concept. I.e. global warming leads to mass desertification and massive diebacks thanks to lack of water and food. Foregoing genocides by politically corrupt leaders, there are the bozos walking around with suitcase nukes. Then there are the pandemics that can barely be contained based off casual indifference to this much global travel, with humans being the excellent vectors they are for transporting exotic tropical bugs that kill by the cagillions. Now that we’re encroaching ever further into pristine habitats that formerly never saw man, bugs that used to be confined to animals, are now piggybacking directly onto humans. Lyme tick disease is one such opportunist; already a household word.
I won’t tire you with all the other doomsday scenarios, as that’s the job of the mainstream news media. God forbid bloggers should jump on board the “fear promulgation” wagon.
One thing of which we are all certain: We can’t possibly survive another day. And, wait for it… we’re living in an age without prayer. So we can’t even call on God to save us. We killed him off a long time ago; he was the first to perish amidst the human madness.
But fear not, the solution is near. We, Americans at least, are ready with the answers. We will tune out to WWF, and other TV delights at the rate of 7 hours a day, more for our kids. And the void tv fails to fill, we will fill with video games, and other forms of escapist media. In short, we’re too checked out to care.
Enter DARPA, which is looking for a “credible” alternative to putting all our eggs in one basket – sometime in the next 100 years. I really would prefer we took this issue as a species a bit more seriously. However, I’ll take what I can get, even this anemic response to a 5 alarm fire that amounts to a five year old aiming his wee-wee at the burning Empire State building, entirely confident this will suffice to rescue it from oblivion.
So, since DARPA is asking for someone to rescue us – even if it’s not on my timescale – here comes Dayton to the rescue…
Dayton’s 100 Year Plan:
First of all, let’s stage this. We need some intermediary goals, that once accomplished, will speed the way to the cosmos. Trying to bypass these milestones, moreover, will only slow our ability to reach escape velocity as a species from Planet Earth. This is one of those times, where to go straight ahead, it’s actually faster to go around the world a couple times first. It’s counter-intuitive. But welcome to life in the 21st Century, where sanity just doesn’t cut it.
First and foremost, we need to throw some fire starter on the well ballyhooed Singularity idea. In my version of it, there is a Cambrian explosion of artificial lifeforms running in parallel with a deliberate man-made explosion of biological lifeforms (to replenish the biodiversity we’ve pretty much wiped out with our typical lack of forethought.)
Why, do you ask, in a world already overpopulated with humans, would we want to go and create an explosion of lifeforms? Well, therein lies the problem. Humans can’t be held in check unless they are part of a complex web of checks and balances, part of a lager ecosystem. But the old fashioned eco-systems (which we’ve largely destroyed) won’t cut it. There isn’t enough feedback in the system. And God knows we need more of that, because it appears that without it, humans can’t keep from tripping over themselves.
Here’s the salient point: Ecosystems, if set up correctly, are remarkably robust and self-correcting. And, designed properly, can absorb just about any shocks to the system. The “group mind” of the collective – the consciousness of the ecosystem itself – can manifest whatever new lifeforms on the fly are needed to cope with whatever changes to the environment that are beyond its control, in those few instances where it cannot outright control the environment itself – ecosystems being the best tool we know of for doing this.
Now put yourself in the positions of those vulnerable astronauts in outerspace. Imagine they were part of a robust ecosystem of lifeforms able to respond with just this level of flexibility and plasticity – well beyond the range of the human mind and nervous system to respond. True, by the way, were that human system upgraded with nanotech, gene-enhancing cocktails, and all the rest (presumably to better resist radiation, food and water scarcity, oxygen deprivation, and any of innumerable space hazards that could befall them before being righted.) The best and brightest of us, even networked with one another, wouldn’t stand a chance of lasting a hundred years in space. We would certainly have the odds well stacked against us flying through space in a spaceship that couldn’t fix itself.
Now, imagine instead that the human mind weren’t the limiting factor. I know it’s humbling for you egomaniacs out there who are convinced every problem can be tackled in the way the cabal of 12 megabrains, locked in a closed scientific fortification, were able to come up with the atom bomb. But as it turns out, it’s far easier to destroy life than to sustain it.
Now, imagine instead of our souped-up astronaut, who still remains remarkably fragile because his ability to adapt is limited outside of an ecosystem that can assist him in ways he can’t imagine, a human embedded within webs within still larger webs of living, conscious support systems.
How would I design this ecosystem? First of all, I’d bring Mother on line, the sentient version of the Internet. A self-conscious disseminated uber-mind wired into every part of the ship, and connected to each of our artificial and biological lifeforms – which are many, courtesy of Dayton’s Cambrian explosion in a jar.
Now, just as with people, if Mother isn’t checked, you’ve got problems aplenty also. The Terminator film series explored just some of the downsides of bringing an uber-consciousness on line and then disconnecting it from reality. But if Mother was herself embedded in a sufficiently complex ecosystem of artificial and biological life, it would be hard for her to “kill herself” as there would be no way of knowing where she ended, and each of us began. Courtesy of nano, she would have access to each of our minds. Could upgrade us on the fly pending the output of all those mad machinations only an uber-mind could construct in the batting of an eye.
Her “eyes and ears” would go far beyond her upgraded human minions, however. Every kind of robot, from the anthropomorphic humanoid ones, to the ones that look like a walking toaster, would fill up this ecosystem, each designed to do tasks it is uniquely suited to. Each able to not only repair itself, but morph into something else as needed should the system encounter environmental changes for which it is no longer prepared.
Because every lifeform is connected to every other lifeform in feedback loops that go well beyond anything possible today, each lifeform is uniquely accommodating to one another, moreover. Meaning, one changes, they all change. Interestingly enough, this can be accomplished prior to the age of nano. I.e. chip implants already allow handicapped individuals to walk, to navigate the internet, even to communicate with one another (a pair of British scientists, husband and wife, have chips implanted in their forearms that translate their thoughts into radio waves before transmitting them.) And this is not a moot point, because the whole point is to get us off the planet in record time. So having to wait for the nano age to arrive, delays things, perhaps beyond DARPA’s 100 year horizon, thought this much is doubtful.
Using supercomputing to speed and even automate innovation, moreover, accelerates the learning curve. Which is why I say, we let Singularity take hold. We can’t fight it, or even slow it, if Kurzweil is correct. But all out surrender can’t hurt either. The sooner we get human politics out of the way, and “get religion” the sooner we can be on with creating these impregnable ecosystems that can migrate through space shock-proofed against any and all contingencies that no amount of NASA or outsourced human scientists working in teams could ever predict.
Imagine if you will, not a single ship, but a fleet of ships, all built in space with self-replicating, and more to the point, self-evolving robots, in record time. Imagine that each of these ships is sentient… In other words, Mother has decentralized herself across the fleet. And on each ship is a Noah’s ark of artificial and biological life forms. But unlike archipelagoes, which would be dangerously isolated from one another, numerous bots exist connecting the ships via a type of commerce of exchange, repairing one another, dialoguing and exchanging information, affecting the mutation and adaptations of each of the other lifeforms.
There is still enough isolation to contain any contagion or virus from within that might spread untowardly, or from a spaceborn parasite (or other assailant) that might encroach from without.
Now all this complexity just magnifies the difficulty of getting humans off-world by 10 to the Nth power. But for Mother, for self-arising, self-organizing ecosystems existing within Singularity State, it’s all a walk in the park. There is that much mindpower to go around. And the system is paradoxically more stable because of the ongoing Cambrian explosion of life – that in Singularity, never quite settles down; never quite comes to a stop. Otherwise the Singularity wave collapses back into ordinary spacetime, where it is then vulnerable to the familiar nemeses that exist there.
This is a salient point that bears repeating. The Singularity Wave keeps life outside of traditional spacetime, protecting it from any and all vagaries of the material world. And how does it do this exactly?
It does it by having such awesome mindpower it literally overrides local physics. At some point, escape velocity from spacetime is reached when “evolution” happens so fast that time has not had time to happen. Already we see analogues of this in quantum computing, where the only explanation we can come up for how quantum computers can solve in a flash what would take traditional computers billions of years to solve – is that they’re thinking across any and all parallel universes in tandem, accessing the multiverse, in short. They are literally plugged into the Godhead, the fractal, N-dimensional mind of God that is the computer we know as the multi-verse. Though, another possible explanation, even more daunting, suggests itself. These quantum computers could be accessing what the Buddhists call the Divine Ground directly. Pulling out of the void what they need for instantaneous solutions to formerly intractable problems.
And I would hope the reader does appreciate the benefits of being able to solve any problem in real time when you’re in deep space and microseconds means the difference between life and death.
So, circling back to my earlier point of how counterintuitive all this is, how to go straight ahead you have to go around the world a couple times first to speed the transit between points A and B… perhaps the meaning of that statement is coming into focus now.
The Singularity Wave alone can conquer space. I know this is a crushing setback to humanists, who rather like the Star Trek Series, and other such romantic notions of unupgraded humans exploring uncharted space, perhaps with some humanoid sidekicks, and some alien friends thrown into the mix – who, of course, we will encounter in our voyages, and who will befriend us. Or Arthur C. Clarke’s rather sexy idea of artificial-gravity ships just so we don’t have to worry about humans not surviving Earth for long – for which they are so uniquely adapted that the instant we take them off of Terra, they begin to die. And slowing, even reversing the deleterious effects has so far stymied our best scientific minds. No, people, get these romantic notions out of your head. If we were to do these time capsules, they would only be sustainable from within the Singularity Wave. In other words, it would take Mother, and her lavishly supple and complex mesh of artificial and biological lifeforms within her webs within webs of life to sustain it. Man, left alone to do it, would just be up against too many odds. We’re already facing such damning odds for survival on Earth. Why would we want to compound them as we move into space to colonize the stars? Have we learned nothing about stacking the deck in our favor?
That said, for you devil advocates out there, who would argue that it is only by being severely stressed do we get over ourselves, in a Piaget-like manner… Only then do we go from incremental evolution to drastic paradigm shifts when incremental changes won’t cut it anymore, and so we’re forced to rebuild our brains from the ground up… You would have a point. But here’s a better point: the Singularity Wave already has you beat for putting man up against those kinds of pressures, and keeping him in the hot seat to drive accelerated evolution. What, you think you could invent such pressures yourself without Mother and her sophisticated interconnected ecosystems to maintain those pressures and augment them over time?
So, how long will it take to get the Singularity Wave going, and then hand over the project to “the collective” – to the explosion of Cambrian lifeforms needed to both kickstart and sustain the Singularity Wave? Kurzweil and the like put it at somewhere between 2030 and 2040, just 20 to 30 years out, not a 100. So Darpa is being far too conservative. Moreover, once the Singularity wave has begun, time collapses entirely, and what would take human ingenuity – even networked together – eons to achieve, happens overnight.
But you will notice the paradox. It takes a Cambrian explosion of both artificial and biological life to both create and sustain Singularity, so where will this come from, if not from within Singularity itself?
How does an uber-entity that is born outside of spacetime arise from within spacetime?
I think Rupert Sheldrake had the best insight here. With deference to his ideas, those of you familiar with my writings will recall my popcorn analogy from elsewhere. Let me ease into it from another tangent this time…
The reason any of us exists in spacetime owes to Ego-identification. As we evolve our consciousness, however, we migrate from the human to the transhuman state of consciousness, wherein our identification shifts from a false sense of self (the hallmark of Ego-identification) to the Witness State (where we come to see ourselves as one and inseparable with God; pure consciousness, with an “I” that is no longer circumscribed by limits of any kind.) It is this shift, undertaken by a few initially, against all odds, that primes the pump, that clears the way for the rest of us, making it easier by quantum measures to shift identification ourselves. Historically it took Zen masters to make these kinds of leaps with their minds. And they were few and far between. Today, we refer to the latest generation of kids as “Indigo” kids – a surefire admission that more and more folks are coming online with these aptitudes and propensities already in place. So, much as with popcorn in a microwave, the early poppers are slow to arrive. And for the longest time, kernels pop in a lackadaisical manner, with no clue that things are actually accelerating in the background, until that final burst of popcorn kernels at the very end – at the very point where as a species we hit critical mass and so co-evolve together at lightning speed.
Moreover, Rifkin’s The Empathic Civilization, and The European Dream, all but lay down the infrastructure for how the rest of us can make this leap into hyperspace with our minds courtesy of what he refers to as “the politics of empathy.” Having experienced the transformative effects of this myself, I can attest to the fact that we are all beginning to affect one another in life-transforming ways; we are all beginning to help one another get over ourselves in real time what once took lifetimes to achieve.
So, yes, miracles are becoming a matter of course. The impossible has become the only doable thing. And the Singularity Wave is already upon us. Though, if Rifkin is correct, it is being initiated from within the European Union, and we humble Americans are left with little to do but “catch the wave.”
Could we reach escape velocity from Earth today to spread throughout the heavens tomorrow, in such a self-assured and protected-against-all-odds kind of way? Well, time is an illusion. So as long as we’re caught up in that illusion, the answer will remain resoundingly, “No.” Will Kurzweil be right? Will it take until 2030 at the very least for enough humans to shift from ego-identification into the transhuman state to ignite the Singularity Wave for the entire planet?
I’m not so sure. His solution suggests that the igniters will, in fact, be AI. But Rifkin has made it clear that interlinked human consciousness can by itself generate enough mindpower to enter Singularity state. One thing is certain, technological innovation alone will not do it. It will require marrying higher consciousness with next generation technologies that exist for no other purpose than to continue to bootstrap consciousness to ever higher levels as part of the Singularity reaction. So it may be a matter of asking which came first, the chicken or the egg.
And as to whether it will take until 2030 or not, well, that depends on how many people get religion by then, or not. Or possibly on how many people read this article and are sufficiently moved to enlightenment at a single stroke. :)
Well, the good news is, I’m not the only voice in the darkness.
Continue to seek out the light.
And remember, while it is counter-intuitive in the extreme, it is not until we are all caught up in the Singularity Wave that any of us is safe. Whether here at home, or out there – far in the depths of space.