Space isn’t big enough for: Soft Science

You’d think that living in infinite space with only a few other people on the entire surface of the moon meant you could do whatever you wanted, believe whatever you wished, and have no restrictions because there’s nothing around.

The further we look, the more galaxies we find.Here’s the rub.  There’s no room for mistakes, no room for wishy washy, no room for fuzzy and no room for ambiguity.

Am I making myself clear?

So, for all you wannabee spacers, think about what you’re going to take up there in terms of knowledge.  Because you want to be useful, what?

What are the soft sciences?  Anything that has to do behavior.  Economics comes to mind.  Psychology, sociology, even law and religion.  Go ahead, you can name a few.

What? you say.  How can you make such crazy outlandish claim?

I’m not.  I’m repeating something Richard Feynman once said.  He was a truly smart guy who thought about a lot of things.

Here’s what he said about understanding living things.  He came to this conclusion after spending hours watching paramecia under the microscope.  He decided its behavior was far more complicated than anybody recognized.  How then can we ever hope to understand humans if we cant even understand the behavior of such a simple animal.

Here’s a quote from his book, “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman”

So my impression of these animals is that their behavior is much too simplified in the books. It is not so utterly mechanical or one-dimensional as they say.  They should describe the behavior of these simple animals correctly.  Until we see how many dimensions of behavior even a one-celled animal has, we wont be able to fully understand the behavior of more complicated animals.

So, if you plan to head for the great beyond, plan accordingly, pack light, and for heaven’s sake, take only hard science.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

 

Space isn’t big enough for: God

Yes, you heard it here first.  As infinite as outer space is, and as powerful and willfully teeny tiny any god can be, there is no room for it.  Or him.  Or her, as the case may be.

The further we look, the more galaxies we find.

Are you shocked?  Are you a true believer who also has dreams of seeing humanity colonize the big bang?

Then, consider this.

 

God, or gods, or powers that be, are fine and dandy when you need to explain the unexplainable to those who can’t handle much explaining.

God is great for kids.  God is great for people who don’t have time or energy for deep thoughts.  God is great for trying to keep families together, especially during times of crisis when everything seems to be going wrong.

On Earth, that works fine.  There is time for those kids to grow up and find their own answers.  On Earth, even if every last possible thing goes wrong for a family, they still have themselves, and at the very least they still have air.

Those don’t come free on the moon, or anywhere else in space.  There is no time for anyone to pray that a solar flare might miss.  The stakes are much much higher than they ever have been for the human species.  Anyone who thinks they can mitigate the risks by taking time out for prayer is fooling themselves.  And by association, increasing the risks for everyone else.

To be clear, if a Moonster (or Lunite?) wants to pray on their own time, and invoke a deity on the sly, that’s their business.  It’s not like god will be outlawed.

But anyone who is hoping that the almighty intervene in lieu of doing actual work to protect the colony, that’s what this is all about.

The colony is going to be filled with the smartest people this planet can collect.  And if they can’t make it on their own, then there isn’t a god on Earth who can make up the difference.

Strike me now if I’m not telling the truth.

Amen

 

Space isn’t big enough for: Big Sports

Imagine that you’re one of the first colonists on the moon.  Go ahead, enjoy the feeling.  Now, add in your love of big time sports.  What happens next?

The further we look, the more galaxies we find.

If you’re lucky, you might get to watch the big game beamed to the moon especially for you.

If you’re not lucky, no game.

Let’s get real.  The only way someone will send you the big game is if there is money in it for them.  After all, major league sports is no longer about the sport; it’s all about the commercials.

If the population of the moon is less than 100, or 1000, or 10 000, oh heck, if it’s less than a million, why should a sponsor send you the transmission?

Wait a minute!  That’s the wrong logic.

Even if there will a hundred million people on the moon, why would a sponsor want you to look at their commercials?

Because you would be buying their products.

Let’s face it.  There’s little chance you’ll find any Nestle products on your moon-shelves.

Now let’s look at sports in the other direction.

What are the chances that YOU will be playing those sports on the moon?  Or anyone else for that matter?

Pretty much zippo.  For one thing, you’re going to need room.  And as we’ve already covered, there isn’t going to be much room up in space.  I know, sounds crazy, but there it is.

For another thing, all the rules will have to change.  After all, gravity on the moon is less than on Earth.  A lot less.  Baseballs and golf balls will travel kilometers.  In a rugby scrum, a single player might be able to pick up the entire scrum and move forward.

So, what will you do up there on the moon?

There’s cards, maybe some chess.  Perhaps you can enjoy some virtual wrestling, or even real wrestling.  Finally, there’s going to be the most interesting sport of all.

Survival.

Go Team!

 

 

Tuning the Turing Test

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Let’s begin with the world’s greatest sci-fi movie: 2001.  This is from Piers Bizony‘s book on the making of 2001 A Space OdysseyIt's Eye-Conic.  Sorry.

Marvin Minsky had no problem understanding that the emptiness of 2001’s dialogue was intentional:

” … And after the momentous statement that the monolith must have been deliberately buried, one of the astronauts says, “Well, how about a little coffee?”  Kubrick’s idea is that the universe is too majestic for short sighted people.”

Trying to understand an “intelligence” that is much greater than our own is going to be a tough job.  Drinking a cup of java while pondering that gulf might be appropriate.

Which brings us to Alan Turing, the godfather of the modern computer.  He suggested a simple test to determine “intelligence.”  He didn’t define the term either, by the way.  What he said was put a person in a room and let them interact with a human, or machine, in a limited way (like through text only) and let them ask questions.

Today, this remains the best test we have of machine intelligence.

Here’s the problem.  What kind of person are you going to put in that room.  For instance, if you put my mother in law, she’s likely to think that the navigator voice in the GPS is already intelligent.  You should see the conversations they have while we drive along.

If you put some genius, like Doug Hofstadter or Doug Lenat in that room, chances are they can ask one question and game over.

So, next time you think of the Turing Test, also consider who you are going to put in that room.  If you’re scientifically oriented, then you want a “standard” human.  Good luck!

In the meantime, I’m going to get some coffee.

Space isn’t big enough for: 20%

There’s an ancient saying among managers: 80% of your problems will come from only 20% of the population.  It doesn’t matter if the population is springs that go boing, or people writing programs in your application department.

The further we look, the more galaxies we find.The latest FBI statistics I saw indicated that about 80% of the crimes were being committed by a regular 20% of the population.

In the movie Casablanca, the Chief of Police tells his captain to round up the usual suspects.  In truth, that’s not a bad strategy.  Those people might at least know something, even if not being guilty outright.

Here’s the deal.  Once you get enough people together, anywhere, there’s going to be a small number of “bad apples” who create a bunch of mischief for the “good apples.”

The key word here is — anywhere.

No matter what kind of great people we send to the moon, there will be a few who turn out to be troublemakers.  Why?  Because it’s human nature.

The problem is that the first moon colony isn’t going to have the resources to keep that person in line all the time.  There certainly won’t be someone free to watch them all the time, and if they do something naughty and have to be put away, where will that be?  There won’t be any room for a jail.

So what happens?

In short, there won’t be room for these people.  The early settlers are going to have to make some very tough choices.  Down here where the air is almost free and there’s room to spread out, the cost of taking care of a miscreant is relatively small.

But up there, where there is no air and you can hear every sound your neighbor makes in their sleep, the cost of keeping a nasty person in stir will be very high.

The solution?  Swift vigilante justice.  A community tribunal, and equally swift sentence.  The judge can say cuffs come off, rejoin your friends.  Or the judge can tell them to take a short walk outside the dome, without a suit.

Of course, after that short walk, someone will have to bring him back inside.  After all, in outer space, there isn’t going to be room for cemeteries either.  We’re going to need everybody for fertilizer.

After all, each body is about 80% water, and 20% fertilizer.

 

 

Space isn’t big enough for: iTunes

The concept of having YOUR music playing just for you goes back a few years.  Even before iTunes and other music services there were things called “walkman,” and before that there were portable radios.

The further we look, the more galaxies we find.Here’s the thing.  If you’re jammin to the tunes, and happily banging away on the steering wheel at the same time there’s a “thing” on the road, there’s a better chance that you will hit that thing.

That’s why lots of places are trying to cut down on the number of accidents by putting the brakes on distractions in the car.  Is it working?  Don’t know.

But I do know that distractions can kill.  Doctors who are distracted in the operating room can make mistakes on their patient.  Pilots distracted in the cockpit can make errors regarding their aircraft.  And lunar colonists who are distracted might leave the wrong door open, or close the wrong valve.

Here’s the real deal.  On the moon, a single error could kill everyone.  Putting in safeguards that prevent all stupid mistakes is very expensive.  And getting anything to the moon is going to be costly.  That means we have to choose.

We either make every move to avoid mistakes every way we can.

Or we accept the risk of total failure for the benefit of individual joy.

My suggestion?  Don’t take iTunes or earbuds to the moon.  Too expensive.

 

 

Space isn’t big enough for: Space

Would you buy a hectare of moon for a single credit?

How about a million hectares for the same price?

There’s a LOT of moon, and that means there could be a lot of moon to sell.

More importantly for our first colonists, however, is the cost of LIVABLE real estate.

You could own the whole moon, but you’re only going to live on a little bit of it.

And since you can’t sleep outside very long, you’re going to need a roof,

and walls,

vacuum seals,

oxygen generators,

carbon dioxide scrubbers,

and, well, you get the picture.  Living on the moon is going to be very expensive.  It’s going to be way more expensive than living in downtown Tokyo, Manhattan, and London combined.

Do you know anyone who lives in those places?  If so, then you know that they also live under the following conditions:

Small rooms, thin walls, annoying neighbors, and lots of rules of things that they can’t do.

So, imagine what we’ve figured out.  The moon, cheapest real estate in the universe, yet has the most expensive livable real estate in the universe.  You’ll live in space, where there is no horizon, yet you’ll be able to reach out and touch both of your walls.

Infinite space, yet no place for claustrophobia.

Who knew?

 

Space isn’t big enough for: Inches

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Long ago, back when caves were considered prime real estate, we measured things using our fingers and feet.

More recently, we started defining the best units to use for learning.  There’s this outfit that helps the whole world get its act together.  They work very slowly, and nothing they do is mandatory.  That’s too bad, because the world has a lot of crazy stuff going on.

The world’s largest economy still uses old measurements based on units that don’t convert easily.  Quick, how many inches in a rod?  How about in a mile?

Do the same thing using the metric system.  Badabing!  Easy peasy.

Guess what?  If you’re an American dreaming of living on the moon, you better pack your undies and your sun-tan lotion (SPF 500!), but leave your feet and inches behind.

There’s not enough room.

 

 

Space isn’t big enough for: French

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As I study French using this great app, I come to a fairly sad realization.

Il n’y a pas de place pour la langue.

Even though space is large, mind-bendingly large, our first colonies aren’t going to be big enough for more than one language.

Imagine there being some kind of emergency, like trying to find the jam in the fridge, and you have to call out without thinking.  What if you used the wrong language?

Alright, maybe looking for jam isn’t the best example.  What if your rocket malfunctions and you need to get help immediately?  Hadn’t everyone better be on the same frequency?  As in knowing how to talk?

Learning french is fun.  The way they organize their thoughts are a bit different from the way us American English people normally do it.  But that’s what makes life here on Earth fun.  If I go to France and order some bread and cheese, but end up with a duck and ketchup, it’s only a moment of embarrassment.

Do the same thing on the moon, and it’s many times worse.  Alright, the bread and cheese example is, cheesy, but you get the picture.  Mistakes on the moon are extremely costly, and speaking more than one language comes with a price.

Sacre bleu!

 

 

 

 

Space isn’t big enough for: Mistakes

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Know of anyone hanging a picture on the wall and puncturing their water pipes?

Or using the toilet and maybe having to yell for toilet paper?  Or maybe the plunger?

Being “only human” means that we know we’re going to make mistakes.

Making a mistake here on planetoid Earth is relatively cheap.  Need the plunger?  Go and get it, take your time.

Now take that toilet and put it on the moon.  Not easy, is it?  Costs quite a bit, doesn’t it?  Maybe there’s only one seat for a whole lot of people.  Better be careful!

Oh oh.  Maybe a bit too much pastrami.  Did I break it?

Better not.  There’s nothing else, nowhere else to go!  Lots of people lining up, and now there no happiness to be had.  What’s going to happen now?

 

That’s only the toilet.

Now, what if you hang that picture, but you put a hole where it shouldn’t be, and you lose your air?  Or if the door doesn’t open right, or if the whole roof is going to fall in?

The kind of little mishaps we shrug off as minor become major mashups when you get up there.  The moon may be smaller than the Earth, and the colony may only have a small number of people, but mistakes would be much more expensive.

So, if you think about moving to the moon sometime, make sure to pack your bandaids and duck tape.  But leave your mistakes behind.

Space isn’t big enough.