MirrorEmbed from Getty Images
at finite speed — like a wave —
data filters up.
Though this haiku was inspired by the image, it brought me to the reflection that perhaps man-made information processing systems (computers) are more indicative of our own natures than we realize; we are created in the likeness of the Creator, being creators ourselves, and our crowning achievement thus far has been the creation of machines in our own likeness: thinkers and data processors.
Consider it: quantum particles behave a specific way. That behavior is considered to be data of a sort, because it informs the behavior and nature of larger particles – subatomic particles that may or may not comprise a given particle which acts upon it. These particles’ behaviors then inform the nature and behavior of atoms which may or may not comprise them. Atoms then chain together into molecules, passing further data into the nature and behavior of the molecule, which informs the material it comprises. Some of those materials are proteins and cell structures that pass data into organic systems, that pass data into animals and plants. But does it stop there? Maybe; maybe not. I’m not actually a scientist, or as well-versed on this matter as I would like to be. I know we are doing a number on our ecosystems as we strip away “undesirable” flora and fauna; I’m fairly confident that our actions have helped to change weather patterns, but how will that play out?
Hey – I digressed – from a digression, even. The Earth is composed of materials, and is informed by them, just as it informs our star (Solar) system – passing data in the form of its gravitational pull (among other traits, I’m sure,) which feeds into the overall gravitational balance of the system as a whole. The Solar system‘s data feeds into the data of our galaxy (the Milky Way,) even though we’re on the outer fringe of the galaxy. The Milky Way passes this data into the structure of the Universe itself, whether through some massive substructure or not is not my bailiwick and so I can’t say!
So in this way we see that Douglas Adams had his finger on something, and I’m sure he knew it, as was implied in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe: that the whole of Creation (not just the Earth,) which undoubtedly comprises the Universe and possibly other structures, is a massive data-processing structure at its very core. In this way, humanity is a data array composed of humans, who are subsets of data that move here and there – doing things, affecting other things . . . changing data according to their whims and the dictations of necessity. But a large part of building the advanced civilization that we live in has been in keeping our own data, the forests of paper that threatened to collapse humanity under its weight.
Our crowning achievement, then, is no longer the establishment of civilization, but the offloading of the burden of the data processing and number-crunching work onto computers and digital data processing and storage systems, in the presumption that it frees us up to be more creative in our endeavors – and perhaps it has. Because the next big issue to tackle is how to keep the Earth sustainable; even if we are approaching a population plateau, will the planet be sustainable under the weight of humanity a hundred years from now? Five hundred?
The Earth may be a viable home until the time comes when the Sun is very close to winking out for good – that is, if we don’t find a way to live without the sun and begin harvesting its energy with a Dyson sphere first. The Sun’s extinguishing day is about five billion years away. If I am right, and we have achieved the early stage of a “technological escape velocity”, then we have to figure out where we can migrate to, splitting off the human civilization – whether by making our neighboring planets viable, or by finding habitable extrasolar planets and devising ways to get there.
That’s a tough problem. It’s going to take a lot of creativity to get there; furthermore, we have to become better stewards to the Earth before we’ll ever get a chance to be stewards of another planet. In order to be that creative we have to offload the calculations onto the computers, our creations – creations in our own likeness as data processors, that further create answers, which are creations of the computers in their own likeness – because those computers are the answer to our own survival as long as humanity thrives. So what if, in likeness of our own creations, humanity proves to be the answer to the Universe – is it a huge problem of lifelessness, or is it a delusion to have this mission to understand and master as much of it as possible before our existence as a race comes to an end?
Will our race even have an end? This is what I mean by “technological escape velocity”; over time, will we really outgrow the need for the Earth as our sole home when we manage to colonize extraterrestrial places? Then where’s the limit? We’ll outgrow the need for the Solar system, then the Milky Way, then the Universe itself as it either stretches out to nothing or collapses back in on itself – our increasing creativity and technological savvy will allow us to move beyond the inherent dangers of the structures we currently depend upon.
But what the heck exists beyond the Universe? Will we finally find whatever is feeding the inputs and analyzing the outputs of the most massive computer imaginable?
Here’s a question: what if the answers generated by our computers manage to seek us out of their own volition?
These are some of the things I think about as I live my daily adventure.
Now it’s time to go live yours – may it be ever more creative and frustration-free thanks to your ingenuity.