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.
BRILLIANT ! My foxling is studying entropy right now, and we were discussing along this vein yesterday… consciousness arising from atoms… the need for a 3rd law of Thermodynamics to address emerging systems, and the fact that the sun most assuredly is becoming more disorganized even while we see organization at the local level… Great minds think alike, my friend ! =)
Of course, your addition of Doug Adams to the post simply put the icing on the cake for me !
Enjoy your adventure, Rob, and thanks for the thought-provoking words!
Thanks, and same to you, Tish – I just realized that humanity itself is an emerging system. 🙂
Totally ! =) Funny how little our blip in time is, yet the impact we are having is exponentially larger. I guess that is relative to the linear direction of time, and our pushing forward our own survival.
Wonder what it would be like if beetles were the apex species ?! =)
They’d probably be just like us – clicky. 😉
(sorry, it’s Punday)
OMG, that was so ridiculous ! =) Good one, did not see that coming for a second ! =) Proving once again that your coffee consumption is enough to suit your purposes… =) Going to grill some chicken and zucchini for dinner… it may be cold out, but I really can’t resist !
Sometimes you just have to hurry the season along. Debating an early Spring Mohawk, over here.
DO IT, DO IT !!!!!!! Attach photos, of course… =)
Oh trust me, if I do there will be photos. Of course, I’m no stranger to the hawk but this time the burns and ‘stache will be staying, which means I will be wearing a somewhat barbaric hairstyle. Very tempting to look like a Viking, even if there’s no shores to plunder anymore. 😉
Hahaha ! =) I can just see you storming the shores of some formidable outcrop, racing up the dunes with your battle axe ! =) Good morning, btw… =)
And good evening to you! 🙂
Any journey into quantum physics bears out your conclusions, Rob, and in addition indicates how very complex a system this universe is. Oh, to meet the engineer behind it.
How could you not pick that brain, am I right?
I have feared at times that I would have to turn in my Geek card because I just didn’t get Douglas Adams at all. I tried to get into “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. Watched the movie adaptation, had Cimmy read me the book, but nope. Totally left me cold.
Maybe it’s that British humo(u)r isn’t always on my wavelength. It’s a mixed bag.
re: the whole of creation, Adams– I’m not too surprised. I’m reminded of Carl Barks and his Donald Duck comic book series inspiring a number of things, particularly raising a ship with polystrene foam balls– and Barks somehow knowing this was made from methylene, 20 years before someone actually did it. (http://www.cracked.com/article_19021_5-amazing-things-invented-by-donald-duck-seriously.html — best source I could find)
That’s awesome, I’m going to read that. I’m not surprised that this happens because we hear about it from time to time as “Star Trek prophesied this and foretold that”, but hey – that’s Star Trek. Yet what surprises me is that this is a kid’s comic about a character in a modern (at the time) context, and they come up with a solution that nobody bothers to try for two decades? That’s impressive on both ends – the ingenuity and the ignorance (I mean that generally, not as negatively as it sounds).
But then that’s also like this pointer to life imitating art that imitates life, the creation feeding back into the identity of the creator, sending waves of data both upstream and downstream simultaneously – kind of like an Internet feed.
It’s really cool… and when I eventually found I had read a reprint of that story, yeah, I said “Whoa.” I really didn’t think much of it at the time, and I honestly didn’t know until I shared that link with you that the idea had been used in a real-world situation.
Okay, that article was seriously amazing. It actually makes me want to find and buy the comic that inspired Inception.