Thinking Ahead

There’s a BBC article where the writer describes his concerns for the future.

Richard Fisher started worrying about the fate of mankind only after the birth of his daughter some 5 years ago. He’s ahead of schedule for most people. I know of many older friends who only begin to think of the far future when their grandchildren appear, or when Death begins to knock on their door.

I’ve been thinking about the far future for over 4 decades now, and would like to help Richard on his quest. I like to think that I’ve made more progress than most in considering what the future holds. Since there’s little chance of my one common voice penetrating the din of public comments he’s likely to receive, I’m going to trust in this open letter.

Dear Mr. Fisher,

Your goal to understand the future is a noble one. However, I would like to note two things. The range of questions you ask are wide ranging. Also, your selection of contributing “experts” seems convenient at best. Please consider these humble suggestions for your next step.

  • Approach the overall problem using the established methods of science. All other approaches are opportunities for failure.
  • Rephrase your question in the form of a specific hypothesis. For instance, how many people will there be in 100 years? A thousand years?
  • Given that hypothesis, find the best established discipline that already encompases the time frame of your hypothesis.

These are only the very next steps of what can prove to be a very arduous journey. However, as one who has taken the same path, I can ensure you that the journey is well worth it. And the conclusion will probably surprise you. I encourage you with all the best intentions.

Sincerely, Steve.

Confessions of a Mad Man – part 2

It’s true.  I’m mad.  Still.  And again.

In part one, I confessed that I was mad because I believe in the human race.  Not many of us do, and certainly not anyone in public.  To do so usually gets us put into some kind of day care.  The kind of day care for 4 year olds.  Because they are usually the only people around who are so optimistic for the species.

This time I’m even madder than before.  Not angry, just madder.  I’m more mad because I have another strange belief, and as far as I can tell, it puts me into an even greater minority position than before.

I believe that there is a process of learning that is the best thing around.  This process is so wonderful that there is NO subject under the sun that can’t be learned.  Heck, even INCLUDING the sun.  This process is so cool and wonderful that there is no secret it can’t unravel.  Yet there are many people who actually fear this process and run away from it, shouting “evil, evil!”

Better yet, this process is FREE!  So not only do you get a process that lets you learn faster, better, and cheaper than anyone else, but the process itself is free!  No taxes, no maintenance fee, no upfront or unloading charges – FREE!  So what is this great process, and why haven’t I ever seen it advertised on late night TV?

You haven’t seen it advertised because you already know about it.  It’s called science.  Science isn’t a thing, like most talking heads would like you to believe; it’s a process of learning.  And it’s the best.  It took several hundred years to invent and get just right, but in the few hundred years after that it’s given us aviation, electronics, and pharmaceuticals.

Yes, I’m mad because I believe in science.  I’m mad because there are so few other people who feel the same way.  And I’m mad because there are no leaders who believe in science.

There.  I said it.  Can you convince me otherwise?  Or are you as mad as I?

 

Confessions of a Mad Man – part 1

It’s true.  I’m mad.

No, not angry.  There’s no one or no thing that bothers me for any reason.

I’m mad, crazy, a believer in things that no one can see.  I believe in things that no one else seems to believe in.

Aliens?  Large bowls of custard?  A long tunnel with a shining light at the other end?

No, none of those things.  The thing that I see that makes me crazy mad is that I believe in the human race.  You.  Me.  Us.  I have a deep belief that says “Our species is capable of greatness.”

It doesn’t sound too crazy at first, but I know I’m in the minority because our leaders, our pundits, our celebrities and our nay-sayers never admit this belief.  All of them are only interested in the here and now, saving their jobs, looking good.  Are they unable to dream, to conquer, to lead our civilization to greater glory?

Probably not.  Our system of choosing leaders is flawed, so that we end up with only those who are good a looking good and protecting themselves at the same time.

Yet I still believe that humanity is capable of great things.  Living among the stars.  Building great cities that blend into their natural surrounding.  A society that cares for the weak and unfortunate, yet offers a firm hand to those who refuse or are unable to assist the rest of us.

Yes, I’m mad.  But it’s the kind of madness that I couldn’t live without.  Would life be worth living if I didn’t believe that we were capable of so much more than what we have today?  Would I be able to go on if I thought that “this is it” and mankind is at its peak?  What’s the point of learning anything if I thought that there was nothing else of greatness left in us?  If I thought these things, then life wouldn’t be worth living.  What would be the point?

 

Lunar Comedy

There are a lot of people out there who believe that the future of the human species relies on getting us to live in places far, far away. Not just in Hawaii, but on the Moon, or Mars. Or even further away than than.

The Moon seems like a good place to start, though, because it’s so close. Close is relative. It’s not as close to me as Florida, but it’s the closest thing that is not Earth. So let’s pick on the Moon for now, as being the next best place for people to live.

What should we call people who live on the Moon for their entire lives? Mooners? Moonies? Lunars? Lunies? Lunarians? For now, I’ll call them Loonites. No reason, except that it sounds funny for now.

Funny. That’s a hot topic. Funny wasn’t always hot. There was a time, not so long ago, before television, where funny was something that people saw once in a blue moon. Only the richest people could afford live funny time, in the form of a court jester.

Being a court jester wasn’t an easy job, either. If you were a court jester, you had an incredibly tough audience of one person, the King. If the King liked you, you had a good night’s sleep on a full stomach. If you had a bad day and the King didn’t like you, there was a good chance you’d be dead!

Nowadays it’s not as tough to be a comedian, but sometimes it feels that way. The difference is that comedy is the King, and comedians have become Kings in their own right. The best of them can make millions of dollars a year. In many ways, we can consider today’s society a society of comedy.

Which brings us back to the Moon. Lunites are going to be very busy. They will be working hard to survive, mining minerals for the people on Earth, working solar energy farms sending electricity back to the home planet, and continually digging new tunnels in order to expand their cramped living conditions. What will the Lunites do for fun?

It’s a good question. We don’t know. We do know that there were people just like the Lunites, living in the Boston area a few hundred years ago. They didn’t do much for fun because they were busy trying to survive for many decades. The Pilgrims were a pretty “grim” people for quite a few years. If you read some of the things they considered funny, you probably wouldn’t even crack a smile.

My guess is that the Lunites are going to be even busier than the Pilgrims. They won’t have as much free time, let alone time to spend having fun. They will have to spend more years making sure they can survive, because of several things. First, they won’t have other natives to help them, like the native Indians helped the first Pilgrims. Second, their mother country isn’t a few thousand kilometers away to keep sending more people or food. The Lunites’s mother country will be almost half a million kilometers away. Thirdly, the Moon won’t be full of resources that the Lunites can harvest easily. Vital things like water and air are going to have to be pulled by force from the Lunar soil. The Pilgrims were able to easily breathe the air, find a nearby fresh-water stream, and hunt fish and birds for food.

So, what will the Lunites do for fun? I don’t think they will do very much. I think they will be known as a very boring and busy people for many generations. Earth people will make fun of them for being different, and this will start a process where the Lunites truly become a society different from Earth.

These are my thoughts. What are yours?

 

Tools of Love

You’re probably tired of me beating around the bush instead of going for the meat of this particular subject, and I don’t blame you. Impatience is part of our culture, it’s a part of our computerized age, and perhaps most importantly, it’s expected of your generation. So here’s a summary of the tools that will help you understand and capture the big ‘ell.’

The first tool is an understanding that the pursuit, capture, and life-long maintenance of a loving relationship has rules. These are not rules that allow for a winner among players. No, it’s a set of rules that should help remind you that you are a participant. More complexly, there are rules that always apply to you alone, rules that apply to both you and your partner, and rules that pit both of you against the world. You must be aware of where you are, where you’re going, what’s important, and what’s not. The rules can change quickly with unknowns hiding in a new place every day. But if you understand the rules and respond skillfully, the rewards include more pleasure and productivity in your life than you can achieve on your own.

The second and third tools involve knowing yourself, and should be familiar to anyone who undertakes any intensely serious endeavor. A related aspect of this is that you absolutely must collect a set of life goals. You won’t have to keep them if you don’t want them, but if you choose well, it’s likely that they will be your goals until death. And it’s important that you have them, because they represent yourself to the rest of the world.

One of the more critical aspects to understanding yourself is developing an appreciation of your own ability to be flexible, knowing it for what it really is, knowing your limits, and knowing how to use them. Or if necessary, knowing when to hold fast and influence others to flex instead. This tool is a two-edged sword, because as you become more knowledgable about your own flexibility and your ability to use it, the more you will realize others may not be as flexible and don’t know how to exercise self-control. One of the life-long tasks of lovers is to teach the other about your own flexibility, learn about theirs, and work together so that neither of you is taken beyond their comfort zone.

The fourth tool is almost the opposite of the second and third, and can appear counter-intuitive to many, so I’ll include a few more words about it here. Don’t worry about understanding or explaining your partner, for this is something that will be revealed to you over the years. Many of us try to fit other people into convenient molds for us to understand their actions. Men and women have been characterizing each other as opposites ever since we started paying attention to Love, and if any of these systems would have worked we would know. Divisions such as hunter versus gatherer, or Martian versus Venusian is easy to talk about, but make no sense. Working hard to create such an understanding, especially in the beginning of a relationship, only makes your work harder.

Not understanding someone does not mean that you should accept what they do with a blind eye. This is extremely important, and is one of the most visible mistakes young lovers make. One can be so taken with the other that anything they do is rationalized away. It won’t matter if these differences are political, ethical, or even minor inconveniences. Thinking that someone will change in ways to benefit you almost always prove wrong. That we all change is true, and it may be that your lover will change to your liking. But it’s also possible that they won’t, and unless your situation is so constrained that you must accept the risk, it’s better to say goodbye.

There is a large difference between trying to understand someone, and knowing what you can expect them to do in the future. What they do today they will probably do tomorrow. What their parents did at any particular age is probably what your lover will also do at that age. Accept this, and don’t expect it to change. Most importantly, and fundamental to this tool, don’t try to explain it. Accept it, and understanding will come in its own way.

The fifth tool has to do with looking at yourself in a new way, as a link in a chain. You and I, even as you read these words, exist in this moment. As some serious philosophers have argued, it may be that everything else is a dream – both past and future – while this moment alone has any meaning. This isn’t the place to worry about that, but the hard truth is that we are the culmination of a thousand thousand generations of fighting, survival, and loving. All that came before us can only be passed on in one way – through us. As a link in that chain, you can choose what you pass on to your lover, and eventually your children. Not everything that came before today was constructive, and you can choose whether or not your lover must be exposed to those things. Did your ancestors like to philander? Did they indulge in food and drink? Did they have fits of violence? Or did they practice subtle versions of domination, verbally and psychologically? Every family has skeletons in the closet; you can choose to close that door, forever. Your lover may never know it’s there, and that’s alright – if you can keep a secret. If you can’t, and your lover knows it’s there, that’s alright too. You must never let it out of the closet, for trying to live with your skeleton may be more harmful than anything you imagined. And the link moves forward. Choose to break the chain, create the Love you dream about, and leave your ancestor’s skeletons where they belong.

The sixth and final tool also has to do with looking at yourself in a new way. Instead of looking at yourself as a link in a chain, you must see yourself as a traveler in this world. Only you don’t walk on the ground alone, but also above the trees, among the clouds, and finally, floating above the planet. All of you are present all the time, walking through life together and separately even though you may not be aware of your other selves. This tool will help you recognize and understand your alter-egos so that you can appreciate and switch among them at any time. It’s this ability to move between different planes of existence that will help you navigate through life, and achieve Love.

Some of you may say that these don’t look like tools; after all, there’s nothing to buy and no website to visit, no catchy mnemonics, and nothing to play on the computer. When you think long and hard about everything around us that we call ‘tool,’ like a hammer or a car, they all come down to a different way of looking at the world. As long as you have the concept of ‘hammer’ in your head, you will never be without a hammer. It won’t matter if you didn’t buy one at the hardware store, because you can use a rock if necessary. The true tool is not material, it exists as a concept within your mind.

At the same time, your mind is much greater than what’s between your ears. It includes resources around you, the internet, your relatives, and possibly even this book. You don’t have to ‘remember’ all these things, you only have to know where to go to get the information you want. So don’t underestimate the usefulness of the tools we’re about to discuss. They may be better than a hammer.