Sunday, December 8, 2019

Why Electric Cars and Autonomous Vehicles are Gonna be Badass. A vision from the Year 2040.

Okay, close your eyes.

No dont do that. But go ahead and imagine this:

20 years from now, AI and Electric vehicles come into their own. 


Battery technology has advanced to the point where they superceded the specific energy of fossil fuels. Fusion has hit past break-even and is slowly but surely becoming widespread. Until dissemination has occurred with Fusion, renewables like solar and wind as well as the intermediary nuclear tech - Thorium Molten Salt Reactors - pick up the slack and provide more energy than anyone can possibly imagine. Electricity is cents on the US Dollar or less. Decentralized infrastructure and economies of scale allowed by renewables and technological advance has made energy production on both small and large scale something amazing to behold. 


Quantum Computing has advanced considerably. It is nothing now for a large firm to have a few thousand qubits for large scale cloud computing. Google is the main player in the field with their main Quantum Computer pushing 100,000 Qubits. Everything from error correction to isolation have found reasonable solutions.

Consumer tech isnt quite ready for quantum, since the infrastructure to maintain it is comparable to the days of ENIAC, but on a different level. It's okay though; advances in network technology have made quantum cloud computing a common technology that several people and companies have taken advantage of in many different aspects of life.

In any case, advances in microprocessor technology has allowed us to continue increasing the power of classical computers, since engineers discovered a way to make quantum tunneling, which plagued older processors, into an asset instead of a liability. Things are cheaper to build. Shit is FAST. Computing has entered its second golden age, according to TIME Magazine.

AI researchers have taken advantage of this boon in computer technology, and have created software the likes of which has never been seen. Great leaps in machine vision, problem solving, learning and so on has made a bunch of different tangential technological leaps in medicine, science, materials engineering, etc. Singulartarians are shitting themselves. It's a much bigger movement than it was in the early 2010s - 2020s. They think general AI is tantalizingly close, and with it the Singularity. Serious minded computer scientists scoff at the idea, citing that while they can create extremely complex AI now, general AI is still a ways off, and theres no guarantee that a Singularity scenario is even possible. However, there are many researchers who carry their Singulatarian cards, and are also shitting their pants in anticipation.

Phones are thin. Stupid thin. And powerful. And sturdy. Broken screens are more or less an issue grandpa dealt with. Literally billions of transistors can fit on a thin film the size of your thumbnail. You could run Crysis on it. At this point, people dont give a shit about Crysis. They're too busy with their incredible, increasingly immersive VR games. RealDolls are fucking amazing. As a result, the paltry birth rate in the United States and other developed countries rival Japan. Yeah social things are a lot different with convincingly complex AI, powered by powerful quantum cloud computing. Androids are like, shit, about one third of what Data from TNG was. And furthermore, TECHNICALLY FEASIBLE.

They casually play with the more comfortable end of the Uncanny Valley. And Boston Dynamics robots KICK ASS now. No seriously, they kick some serious ass, being deployed all over the world in small numbers alongside their human counterparts by the United States Military.

Needless to say, automation became a big ass issue. Andrew Yang was right. Fortunately, we elected him (I know, I know, just roll with it if you're not YangGang like me) and he served his two terms admirably. Starting in 2024 (He was the hero we needed, but not what we were ready for.) This was a great time for America. People who became job displaced by the AI and computer revolution found their way and were successful, by and large. Big thanks to the Freedom Dividend. Capitalism took a great turn for The People.

Okay moving right along.


With the rise of clean, cheap energy and strong AI, 20 years from now Autonomous electric vehicles have transformed the way we travel. Tesla, Chevy and some new players dominate the space. Tesla is mby far the largest. They were ready for this.

Tesla, of course have charger stations in every city. You cant travel more than 5 miles without seeing one. But, the big thing you see just as often are Tesla Hubs. These are places that hold and maintain a veritable army of Autonomous vehicles that are readily called upon by consumers for their everyday transportation needs.

And now for our final scenario.

You're at your house. You log off from your Employee Portal where you provide drafting services for various land  surveying companies. AI hasn't quite caught up with the with that yet.

You need to go to the grocery store. Shit. You're outta bread and some other stuff. You could go ahead use Walmart's Auto Fulfillment services and have the groceries taken to you, but you could stand to get out if the house and pick the stuff yourself.

You're old fashioned like that.

You pull out your iPhone 23XL, and open the UBERXTesla transport services app. You order a vehicle and within five minutes a Tesla model Z7 pulls up. As you approach the door, it rolls up. It doesnt OPEN. It fricken rolls up INTO THE CAR.

As you get in, the door rolls down and a cool female voice chimes,

"Good evening Mr. Smith, where can we take you today?"

You're a mumbler, but you respond, "take me tothe walmrt in gainesville".

"Walmart in Gainesville, Texas, correct Mr. Smith?" The car says.

"Yes" you say nonchalantly.

The seatbelt comfortably passes over your midsection, the car backs out of your driveway, and you're on your way.

After your shopping is done, you ping the car on your app andthe car comes to the front door, ascertaining your location via advanced network triangulation.

You get in, and you get home.

"1.50 USD Coin has been debited from your exchange wallet. Thank you for choosing UBERXTesla. Have a productive day."

Okay, so maybe I took a little liscence with some of this. But this could reflect the future we will find ourselves in. One where automation and convenience had brought forth game changers.

Keep thinking.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Why Asteroid Mining is Gonna Be Epic.

If you think space is awesome, and you think mining asteroids for precious minerals is freaking amazing, you're not amazed enough.

Right now, there are estimates that suggest that an asteroid mining operation could cost upwards of 2.5 billion dollars. However, when compared to the costs of doing it here on Earth, the prices are not as far off as expected.

Dont believe me? Read this:

Anyway, you're not amazed enough. Why? Because theres one thing you're not thinking about. Well, maybe you are thinking about it.

Imagine with me for a moment. It is the Year 2050. Several asteroid mining companies in the past 30 years have not only demonstrated the feasibility of mining asteroids, but they have also put in the time, energy and research that made the relevant economies of scale possible.

They're not only mining asteroids of gold, platinum and other minerals. They are doing it cheaply and effectively. They've been doing it for years.

As a result, they have flooded the marketplace with an abundance of resources. Theres so much gold that Midas himself has penis envy.

That's the future. It is a future where going to the store and buying a reel of plastic coated pure gold wire for your electronics project will cost you twenty bucks. All of those applications in science for gold and platinum? Not only is it cheap and available, these materials are the superior replacements for traditionally utilized materials.

It is a future where proposing to your girlfriend/boyfriend/partner with a 12 dollar pure gold wedding band might not only be possible, but make you look cheap. Gold is a great conductor, sure. But Rhodium is forever. That metal is probably running the same price as gold does today, but it's also hella hard to work with and requires jewelers with some serious equipment to get that shit shaped into a wedding ring. Jesus, hypothetical "proposer", get your shit together.

What I'm saying is that as we move forward with quantum computing,  AI, digital currencies, medicine and a slew of other emerging technologies, we will find that mining in space will have a pretty interesting effect on how we percieve the values of resources traditionally considered precious. 

One might consider it one possible facet of a larger possible phenomenon: Post-Scarcity.

As a tangential aside to this little blog post, I wanna go on record to say that overcoming scarcity at a global level might be naive. After all, every resource is limited, and that it is simply our ability to access large amounts of a resource cheaply that does in fact make it easier for it to feel the economic effects of deflating value.

I think a better way to put it would be The Asymptotic Approach to Negligible Scarcity Via Increasingly Financial Efficaciousness of Resource Acquisition.

To be honest... Post-Scarcity is easier to tote about in everyday conversation.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Timothy's Break, Or the Modern Thanatos

If you have read any of my other posts, you might be surpised to learn that I am in fact an aspiring author. So, I bring you something I hope you will enjoy.

Mind the errors. I did this shotgun style. This is subject to further editing, but I just couldn't wait to get it out there:

Hear me, O Death, whose empire unconfin'd
extends to mortal tribes of ev'ry kind.
On thee, the portion of our time depends,
whose absence lengthens life, whose presence ends.

The nightmares still haunt me, nearly three hundred years after I took it too far. Three hundred years. Yes, I wrote that correctly. You might be surprised to learn that I, above and beyond all of the geniuses of science, found a way to live forever. Well, not necessarily forever. The universe will eventually run down and become a lifeless and cold husk of its former self, strewn with black dwarfs and black holes. At that time, I will still exist, but will likely be floating through the endless void of space, unaware of anything, in perfect stasis. Thermodynamics be damned. But I digress. I needn’t worry about that eventual fate for oh, probably several trillion years or more. In other words, I have time. Whether I like it or not.

As I’m sitting now, I’m looking across the tarnished landscape that my height affords me. Mount Rainier is the third highest mountain in the United States. Well, in the land formerly known as the United States. The elevation and wind patterns here keep me from feeling the effects of the fallout.

I anticipate your questions, esteemed reader. Wait a minute, Why would I try and avoid the fallout if I’m effectively immortal? Despite my immutable form, I am still subject to experiencing the maladies of the average human. Radiation can still make me sick. Incapacitated life is not a life to live, unfortunately. On the bright side, I am much hardier to temperature and pressure changes. You wouldn’t believe how much experimentation it took to figure that out.

Right, far too much information without some proper context. My name is Timothy Mcbride. Born and raised in a little area known as Texas. Science, both fact and fiction captivated me as a child. I remember watching Star Trek with my uncle, my childhood inundated with fantasies of space travel and aliens. I did exceptionally well in school, and eventually pursued a degree in biochemistry at UT Austin. Above and beyond all other disciplines, I found my calling in the subtle and seamless orchestra of chemical interactions in our organs, our cells, and our DNA. Somewhere deep within the fundamental pieces of our universe, life emerged as a result of these small bits and pieces. Furthermore, these interactions made us what we are. Our minds, our bodies. Our longevity. Do you see it now? The key to continuing upon the mortal coil of human existence was in the chemistry. That seamless orchestra.

I studied with the fervor of a madman. My peers and my professors were in awe at my understanding of metabolic pathways, protein formation, the processes of telomere shortening and lengthening. By my fourth year of undergraduate education, I had participated in the publishing of no less than fifteen papers on these subjects. I was a shining star and a promising graduate career was inevitable.

Alas, fate, the universe or whatever enigmatic powers that be had other plans. And it began the second year into my PhD program. Her name was Camilla. What an odd name when I think of it. You don’t hear it very often. She was unique, a woman that despite my aloof nature and busy schedule had somehow decided to pursue me. I would later learn that this was unusual behavior; I never quite caught on the the subtleties of other people. She would catch up with me while I walked between classrooms. She would friend me on social media and send me messages asking how my day was. She was persistent, but not in a bad way like some might think. It surprises me in hindsight that I didn’t perceive her a stalker. She was endearingly beautiful, and that likely helped to assuage any fears of being the subject of an unhealthy obsession. Despite my dedication to the discipline, I am not an alien or some sort of emotionless monster. I found quickly that I wanted her for my own, something that I could classify in my life as “normal”. One day, while Camilla walked with me to my office, I stopped in my tracks, and looked ahead. I was about to do something I never had the audacity to do before.

Timmy, are you alright?” she asked.

I gulped, feeling nervous while simultaneously annoyed. I hated it, but I tolerated that infernal nickname only from her. I had never actually asked a woman out before. Against my better nature, I failed to research the issue in time. However, I knew if I kept staring forward any longer, She would likely become distressed. Maybe confused.

I slowly turned and looked into her wide, blue eyes. Her face was round, and well shaped. That sounds ridiculous as I write it. But that’s the only way I know how to express it. Her face was something that ineffably attracted me.

Her lips turned up into a great toothy smile. “What’s up with you today?” she asked.

I opened my mouth, then closed it. I forced my lips to form words through my paralyzing anxiety.

Camilla… I uh… like you a lot…”

She smiled even brighter and took a step closer. “Oh really?”

Her positive response steeled me. At the time, the relative uncertainty of the situation had me nearly shaking. A thousand doubts and few encouragements coursed through my mind in an instant. I decided to be bold and took a step closer to her.

I assume, judging on your behavior the past two months… you feel the same.”

Her countenance glowed with affection. “What possibly gave you that idea?”

I’m not sure really. Sorry I brought it up-”

Yes.” Camilla said, “I return your feelings.”

Right. Sarcasm. Thank God, I thought. I hadn’t made a fool of myself by committing some obscure social faux pas.

I felt an odd shift in my mind as the anxiety of rejection turned into the less excruciating but equally terrifying anxiety of getting close to somebody. I slowly placed a hand on her shoulder. Her smaller frame gave slightly to my touch, and I could see her breathe ever so slightly faster.

Then maybe you’d like to go out-”

She leaned in fast and pressed her lips to mine with a fervor I had never expected anyone to feel toward me. My mind melted in lockstep with my body into hers, feeling a euphoria I had never experienced in my life. For the slightest amount of time, I forgot about my life’s work. I forgot about my clandestine goals. I stopped completely and felt the cool winter air upon my face, warmed by her immediate presence. This woman meant everything to me.

We carried on, going to movies, and dinners. We shared each other’s lamentations as well as our triumphs in life. We finally became intimate, and I grew more attached to her than I could possibly imagine. Just as I felt better than I ever have in my life, things took a completely unexpected course.

I had worked long and hard on a research path that I was certain would open up a world of results and applications. I was almost certainly on the precipice of a breakthrough! The machinery of life, like everything else was subject to entropy, and the ultimate goal was to prevent that specter of Death from affecting those crucial intricacies. It’s far more complicated than that, mind, but suffice it to say this serves as a proficient explanation. But it was wrong somehow. The numbers didn’t add up, though they most certainly should have. All experiments performed on the mice test subjects gave a null result or thoroughly ended them. How? Why? I had no idea.

My fascination with the project slowly evolved into a morbid obsession. I approached it from every angle and ran every possible computer simulation. I worked long hours into the early morning on most nights, forgetting about sleep and making calls home to Camilla. The chalk boards were nearly white with calculations and chemical pathways. Some of the research led me into the foundations of quantum interactions between molecules and their net effect. My mind reeled, and one night, due to exhaustion I passed out. I awoke in what felt like an instant, bleary eyed and with a pounding headache.

Through my blurry vision I saw someone standing over me. It was a man. I couldn’t make out his features, but I could tell he was wearing all black. He was a living shadow in stark contrast to the bright fluorescent lighting of my office.

Timothy, I’m quite impressed with your work.”

I rubbed my eyes frantically, pulling myself from the floor. My vision cleared and focused upon the face of my guest. His eyes were sunken, his cheekbones visible through thin pale skin that made him look nearly skeletal. His jet black hair was parted fashionably, complemented by an immaculate three piece suit that - as my blurry vision earlier suggested - was all black.

He watched me patiently as I composed myself. “Who… are you?”

The man chuckled slightly, and turned to look at my blackboard. “Oh, just an admirer of your your research. Engineered negligible senescence is your specialty, correct? The field is… tangentially related to my industry.”

And what is it that you do?”

He continued inspecting the blackboard, ignoring my question. “My favorite uh, ‘term of art’ in your published works is how you refer to entropy. It really is the Specter of Death, isn’t it?”

I stretched my neck slightly, working out a crick that worked its way in during my time on the floor. “Out of order comes disorder. All of aging is reducible to that, but it’s nothing more than a metaphor.” I said.

The man laughed heavily, in an almost undignified manner. “Of course it is Timothy! Artistic, nonetheless. What if I told you I had a very personal interest in your work, and that I am a man that has the capability to generously finance your endeavors?”

That last part caught my attention. Money had been the largest roadblock to realizing some of my more ambitious experiments. Despite all the prestige I had garnered for myself, getting my research paid for was the thorn in my side. There was so much red tape, grant proposals, and rubbing shoulders with troglodytes who only had an interest in anything that would inflate their egos. If their name wasn’t on a building or a plaque, they cared little for it.

I had thought the prospect of life extension would be more appealing. However, my research until that point was nothing more than long term goals, things that would take time to see real results. The ironic thing is, those who hold the power to get things done often have a foresight that ends at the tip of their nose.

I studied the man closely for a moment, considering. “You have my attention, clearly. What do you stand to gain from it? Well, besides the obvious?”

The dark suited man looked hard at me. “Death has for all of human history, been a part of life. The cycle continues generation after generation. It is the works of humanity that have finally come close to seeing that the cycle is broken! Your ideas are severely overlooked and I believe that is in no small part to your… asocial proclivities.”

I would have felt indignant if I what he said wasn’t true. “Well, those who have the money lack the vision. It is difficult to explain to them.”

The man smiled. “That is where I differ, young man. I want to be a part of something revolutionary, even if I’m merely the man behind the curtain! I have searched long and hard for someone like you Timothy.”

His demeanor was strangely disarming. Despite my inquisitive and often skeptical nature, I found myself falling for it.

What do I have to do?”

The man walked toward me and offered his hand. “I hear in Texas, custom dictates that two folks seal a deal with a handshake. I’ll take care of the funds, you won’t go hungry and you’ll have every scientific device needed at your disposal.”

This was a deal of a lifetime. I took his hand in mine. His grip was cold, and strong. That should have been my first warning.

He released my hand and walked towards my office door. As he opened it, I heard him say, “See you on the other side, Timmy.”

What did you-”

My eyes turned away for an instant, and he was gone. I thought for a moment that I had dreamed the whole thing up. I thought I must have been hallucinating. It is very much a rare thing to see

Over the next several months, I saw that my mysterious benefactor was indeed more than some exhaustion inspired figment of my imagination. My bank account was replenished weekly with twice my normal salary. How he got my information was beyond me, but in my astonishment, I failed to question such minutiae. It seemed every month, he somehow anticipated my needs. A new Raman Spectroscopy device, test tubes and other fine accoutrements necessary for a functioning lab.

Despite having the best equipment a scientist could ask for, I found that my researched twisted and turned and inevitably found its way back to a dead end. It was as if I was climbing a mountain, and just as I pulled myself over the edge to flat ground, another mountain was placed before me. It almost seemed like things were going in circles. My mind reeled at the the effort, and desperation transformed into anger. One night, after a particularly arduous direction led nowhere, I swept across desk in an uncharacteristic rage, breaking glass and shattering samples.

Then there was a knock at the door, then Camilla’s sweet face showed from outside. My anger was quenched in an instant.

Timmy, is this a bad time? I was worried for you.”

I’m fine my love,” I lied, “just slipped. What are you doing at the lab so late?”

She looked unconvinced. “Just wanted to see if you were hungry, maybe we could go out?”

As my heartbeat settled, I realized that I actually hadn’t eaten in a day or two.

I looked around my lab and then smiled at Camilla. “Of course, dear. I’m sorry, I have neglected you for far too long. We can get dinner, but I have an idea. Why don’t I take a week off so we take a small trip someplace?”

I scarcely believed that my benefactor would be upset if I took some time off. In hindsight, I think that’s exactly what he wanted.

Camilla and I took a flight to Cozumel. She wanted to go there for a long time, and her eyes lit up when I told her. Warm beaches, water as far as the eye could see. Even a workaholic like myself felt solace in the bright Mexican sun.

A couple days into our trip, I took Camilla to a bazaar in a nearby village, not far from the city. She had pleaded with me to go there and as per the usual, I’d never imagine telling my love no. In the village, Trinkets of every type lined the main thoroughfare. Sombreros, little guitars and other tourist related wares were peddled by the locals. It was definitely different; the cornucopia of colors and sounds stood in stark contrast to my customary artificial lighting and chalk dust. I felt relaxed for the first time in what must have been years. As we walked to the village square, a small booth caught my eye. There was an old Mestizo woman sitting in front of a table. Marionettes of human skeletons rested on either side, crafted in appearance of the iconic art seen during the yearly Dias de las Muertos festivals. Among other items rested a thick weathered book.

Naturally I picked it up and immediately noticed that is felt heavy in my hands, far beyond that which it should have been. It was bound in a dark leather, and the cover had nothing upon it except what looked like a structural formula for some organic compound. I did a double take. That was definitely the formula for…

Adenosine Triphosphate” My mouth said. The molecule of energy used in cells.

I opened the book, and was met with gibberish. Someone had scribbled various things that on the surface looked like metabolic pathways, but it was nothing I had ever seen before. I flipped through the pages and was met with things vaguely resembling religious iconography, pentagrams, and symbols that looked like nordic runes. My interest nearly faded and as I moved to set the book on the table, my eyes caught something.

Equations for the very fundamental quantum interactions I was researching.

I froze. Somewhere in the back of my mind I felt a sickening affinity for this book. It was something I wanted. Something I needed.

What did you find?” Camilla asked.

I snapped the book shut. I felt paranoid. I knew that she should not know what this is.

Ah, it looks like an old university textbook for organic chemistry. Pretty cool! Can’t read the Spanish but I think I’ll buy it for my collection.”

Camilla smiled warmly. “A thousand miles from home and you still find a science book!”

I returned her smile. “You know me love, it’s always in the background.”

Satisfied, her attention caught something on an adjacent table and I turned to the old lady. I rifled through the files of my mind and returned with some seldom used Spanish.

Uh… Cuanto Cuesta?”

She looked up at me with scarred, milky eyes. “Take it. He will compensate me.”

Startled, I stepped back, nearly knocking over a table behind me.

Ex..Excuse me?” I asked.

The frail woman struggled to stand with her cane, turned her back to me and walked into the shack directly behind her. Unnerved, but grateful to have my book, I caught up with Camilla and wrapped my arm around her..

As we came home and life again returned us to its banal routines, I spared every waking moment I could reading through the text. I couldn’t get enough of it. Though my scientific mind saw nothing but nonsense, I felt the wisdom that this book exuded. Every page was a cavalcade of realization. I saw where I had gone wrong the entire time! The physical science was merely a tiny facet of the problem at large. Beyond my quant little equations was a world of profound understanding that my closed mind never tried to grasp.

Camilla had become increasingly worried. I ate little, and slept even less. I spent far too much time at the lab. I went days without saying anything to her beyond “Good morning” as I poured through the enigmatic words. I became thinner than I was usually accustomed to, and my skin turned lighter as my sun deprived body changed.

In a gleaming moment it all made sense.

I heard a shrill female voice and blinding lights engulfed my vision. “TIMOTHY!”

Startled, I looked up from my book. I was on the floor in the corner of the lab. Camilla was standing at the entrance of the lab, looking around in disgust and in sheer terror.

My love-”

What the hell is happening to you?” She pointed to one of the walls. There was a mess of symbols that I recognized as something… alchemical? It made no sense in that moment. My attention was squarely on her. “What is all of this?”

She was nearly to tears. I had to do something. I knew she wouldn’t understand. I had to do something. I pulled myself up from the floor and came toward her. I was telling her about how what we call supernatural and natural are but two sides of the same coin, something about how energy could never be created or destroyed. All transforms, and all transformations required sacrifice. She looked increasingly terrified as I approached her. She would never understand what I needed to do. In order transcend that dreaded Specter of Death, there had to be sacrifice.

I don’t remember much after that. When I sleep - if what I do can be called “sleep” - I see flashes of memory. My hands around her tiny throat. Blood painted on the walls. On my hands. On my face.

It must have been hours later when I finally clearly beheld the horror I had committed. There she was, her round beautiful face, neck contorted in an unnatural position. Her naked body had a waxy pallor, her midsection eviscerated. Symbols upon symbols drawn in caked blood surrounded her lifeless body.

I think I cried, or maybe I was simply too numb from the experience to have any outward show of emotion. I didn’t want to live without her. For all the time I spent striving towards preserving human life, I no longer wanted any part of it. I ran to the roof of the building where my lab was housed. Five stories high, I wagered that it would be enough. This was the atonement for my crimes. I stepped onto the ledge and looked down. The vertigo and involuntary survival response filled my veins with a cold adrenaline. Ignoring it, I closed my eyes and let myself fall.

If you are still with me at this point. I have a question for you. Ever been under anesthesia? It deadens the mind so much that even unconscious awareness is dulled to the point that our ability to keep track of time is shut down. With a snap of a finger, you fall asleep and awaken with hours passed, asking if the surgeons have started yet. It makes me think that if I were to truly die, the trillions of years until the universe ran through its motions would pass within an instantaneous moment, were I fated to awaken once again. In some fashion, my ultimate fate could be something like that, when whatever eldritch machinations that steer the cosmos to its inevitable ends makes conditions such that I can finally resume consciousness. Honestly, I think eternal oblivion would be the better option.

My first memories after falling was cold. Bitter, deep cold that I have never felt before. I heard the sound of metal screeched in my ears and light came to my vision as I was pulled forward. Someone was standing over me.

Congratulations, Timmy. You’ve made it.”

I tried to sit up but a thin hand kept me down.

Not so fast, you’ve been through one hell of an ordeal.”

My eyes resolved and I saw the man. My benefactor. He smiled at me wider than I thought possible. That neatly parted hair. That perfect black suit.

Wha… Camilla…”

The man laughed. “A very unfortunate loss on your part. But to meet your goal, it was necessary.”

For a split second I thought it was a dream. My loss bubbled up from me and I felt tears stream down my face. I sobbed wretchedly. He ignored it.

I didn’t lie to you when I said I was interested in your work, but not in the way you thought. It would have kept me from mine and I can’t have that.”


Ah yes, I never told you my name. Through your flowery language that I so loved, you know me as Entropy.”

I was far too delirious to understand what he meant. He continued on.

You see, Your fervent goals would have kept me from mine. I couldn’t have that, Timmy,” He tsked a few times, “Not at all.”

I shifted my weight on the cold steel. “Bastard…”

A mock frown played about his face. “Oh come now, after all I did for you? You’re free! My presence shall no longer be a thorn in your side.”

Go… to hell…”

The Specter of Death laughed. “Oh if only I could. Then again, looking at you right now, I think that place is probably closer than you think!”

My breathing became less labored, and I coughed several times, bringing oxygen and warmth to my extremities.

I’m running out of time, and I have another great adventure to attend, so let me tell you about yours. You will live. You will not die. All in accordance to your grand plan. And all it took was for you to sacrifice everything.”

Why are you doing… this?” I said.

Because I hold open the door for others. And you tried to kick my foot out of the way. Your hubris really pissed me off, Timmy.”

I tried to say something, but I couldn’t. He leaned over me, applying more pressure to my chest. His face leaned in,  inches from mine.

Good Luck. And you might want to get out of this morgue before somebody sees you. But give it time and they probably won’t matter anymore. I looked ahead and whew! Things look bad. I have a lot of work ahead of me.”

The pressure on my chest vanished and I was alone.

I never saw Death again. And never will.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Is Morality Objective? Any Other Ambiguous Questions?

Okay, for the sake of my own fun exploration, I'm going to delve into the mechanics of moral thought. No, I'm not going to talk about what is moral or immoral, simply by virtue of the fact that doing this lacks perspective of depth. Yes, talking about moral particulars is in fact focusing on the trees in spite of the forest. No. It's more like focusing on the Chlorophyll in the leaves of that tree, in spite of everything above the Chlorophyll. In fact, if you're wanting to advocate for anti-abortion legislation, talk about promiscuity, or how the gays are bad, you're already missing the point. In order to get this, you need to check your shit at the door. Check it, put it in a bag, leave it with security, get patted down and then enter. Because your shit should be left at the door. Point made.

We are going to describe a model that will more or less describe what morality is, and what we mean by "objective" or "subjective". Big things. Very Big things.

Let's get started:

1.) Thinking minds exist.

That's right baby, we are getting down to the basics. Thinking minds exist. Hands, legs, penises, hunger and sex as well as thousands of other things are extensions of this mind and how it interacts with the world. This also means that we are for the benefit of discussion going to assume that Hard Solipsism isn't true. Yes, reader. My mind exists and so do others. We are not a fancy construction of your own mind. I can't prove it because its necessarily impossible to prove. However, I think this is fairly uncontroversial. If you're not a sociopath.

2.) These minds have needs and desires. By virtue of those two things, value emerges.

This is plain and simple and goes back to the beginning of time. People need and want things. Things are scarce. As a result these things are sought after and ultimately held in high regard for their utility. We could be taking anything from food and water to your daughter's virginity and/or lack of pregnancy. Don't get any ideas, kids.  Value is the subjective property that emerges from (1) needs and wants, and (2) scarcity of those needs and wants. You might even say that economics as a whole was pretty much inevitable; Without those things you don't have supply or demand. How dismal.

3.) Thinking minds with value placements interact with other thinking minds with value placements. The interactions between two or more thinking minds with value placements are called Moral Actions. The thinking minds with value placements - for the sake of brevity - I will define as stakeholders.

This one isn't too complicated. Since people share space on the planet, country, tribe, toilet, etc., people must interact. People - by virtue of being thinking minds with value placements - often have something to lose or gain in the outcome of those interactions. Value placements play a big role in how these interactions are carried out. It would seem that by and large (exceptions notwithstanding) the behavior of people tends to be driven by their thoughts, and by natural extension of our aforementioned assumptions, value placements. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that all potential human interactions that take place with some value placement in mind is a moral action. This isn't to say that all interactions are moral actions. Some things take place between two people that isn't based on value placements. For example, two people accidentally bump into each other on a busy crosswalk isn't necessarily informed by value placements. However, saying "pardon me sir" in response to it is in fact a moral action, because two stakeholders interact with each other with value placements (specifically politeness and/or respect).

4.) The moral actions between two or more stakeholders is either positive or negative. If the value placements of two stakeholders match in the moral action, it is positive. If not, it is negative.

Essentially, All I'm saying here is people will either agree or disagree on the outcome of a particular moral action. I am hesitant on defining "positive" and "negative" as "moral" and "immoral" respectively, mostly because the latter two terms are wholly conditional on the value placements of each stakeholder. However, this is something that will help to define those two terms in just a bit.

5.) Moral action by definition cannot take place without the existence of stakeholders.

I see this as more of a point to orient those who have probably not met me halfway yet. Morality is not a thing independent of people. It isn't a list of pronouncements scribbled into the margins of the cosmos to be later discovered. It is very much only contingent upon the interactions of stakeholders.

6.) When a moral action is positive, then the associated stakeholders agree on its morality.

Simply put, when the values match with the interaction, the two stakeholders can agree on whether the interaction is moral or immoral.

Now that we have that out of the way, we can start talking about objective and subjective.

7.) When a set of X stakeholders compare their value placements and observe that the resultant moral actions are positive, then it can be said that these values are common among all in the set and are in fact objective with respect to the set of stakeholders.

Despite what people think, Objectivity doesn't mean absolute or based on physical reality. Objectivity is based on scope. For example, Consider the rules of say, Candyland. There are established rules by the creators of the game, and within the context of the game, it is objectively true that if you draw a card with two red spaces on it, you can move two red spaces. Within the same context, it is also objectively false that you may move your piece directly to the end of the board. Constructions where people agree upon the rules are objective constructions. In a similar way, the stakeholders of potential moral actions - wherein all stakeholders agree on the associated value placements - is objective.

So, let's ask the banal, beaten to death and overly annoying question: is morality objective? Well...

8.) The term Objective Morality will be defined the specific set of positive moral actions in an objective set of stakeholders.

And Finally:

9.) If two sets A and B of objective moral stakeholders have negative moral actions between them, then the set of stakeholders A (AND) B is subjective. This is a Subjective Morality.

Thinking gets so muddled sometimes when instead of thinking about how morality works and what it is, we instead ask ourselves what is immoral and moral. Don't get me wrong, those are important questions. However, in order to understand where all this comes from, we really need to understand whats going on in terms of actions and people. It very clearly goes into other things, such as the power or influence one set of stakeholders has over another. For example, if there is a God and the God sets down morality, We run into some problems. First, is God a stakeholder? If so, why does his value placements hold higher than mine or anyone else's? If God created everything and is maximally powerful, how could it be that such a being could value anything? What kind of being who knows everything, - such as the origin of desires and needs in lesser, limited thinking minds - could do anything, be anywhere, and have anything would be able to be a moral stakeholder? Holding stake implies some sort of inability or lack of power simply because to hold stake means to risk losing something. To be able to lose something means to not be maximally powerful.

Such a thing leaves us with some conclusions: (1) The morality between God and all stakeholders is subjective. (2) God doesn't exist and couldn't as a result of particular accepted premises aforementioned. (3) Morality of God doesn't matter, he is not a stakeholder and has nothing to lose.

But I digress.

You might be wondering what this selection has to do with either magic or lasers. Nothing really. Well, maybe you could consider it an exercise in thinking about stuff so you can create your own morals in your own mind-forged world.

Thanks for reading. If you like what you read you can follow me on Twitter and soon enough, I'll be posting videos related to the content you see here on YouTube.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Artemis By Andy Weir: A Review

I love hard science fiction. I grew up with Clarke and Bova. Hard science fiction has this really good blend of real science pushed to the limit, with enough wiggle room to speculate just a bit further to get the plot where it needs to go. In recent memory, nobody really made the subgenre more amazing than Andy Weir.

I read The Martian a few years ago. Okay, I saw the movie with Matt Damon first, then I heard about this guy named Andy Weir. The movie was beyond badass, and it had to be the best science fiction I had seen since well... a long time. Think of it this way: Remember that movie Mission to Mars with Gary Sinese and Don Cheadle? My childhood brain loved the shit out of this movie, but my adult mind didn't warm up to it as much. For those of you that remember, Don Cheadle's Character gets stranded on mars for a long ass time because they woke up some ancient alien thing. Whatever, the plot sucked.

Credit: Touchstone Pictures/Spyglass Entertainment
Used for noncommercial purposes under Fair Use

Okay, imagine instead of the borderline-goofy plot that Mission to Mars gave us, we focused on what the hell Cheadle (I really don't remember his character name) had to do to survive basically not dying on a big ball of lifeless rust. Add in a bunch of really awesome scientific details, more realistic botany, and BOOM, you have the Martian. I love this book, Mark Watney was funny as hell, and by extension, Weir has a direct link to my funny bone. Humor, science, speculation, and space travel. Wow.

But that's not what this is about.

Weir's second book, Artemis takes us closer to home. There's a kick ass moon colony called Artemis, and its shaped exactly like you would expect a moon base to be shaped; a bunch of domes. Awesome. We are introduced to the beautiful scoundrel with a heart of Gold, Jasmine "Jazz" Bashara. She's got a temper, she is a smuggler, and she makes bad choices. Holy crap, she's a moonbase Han Solo. That's right, she is a hot female Han Solo. No doubt about it. Did I mention shes a genius? A genius that doesn't live up to her potential. And don't you dare tell her about it.

In any case, her aspiration is to be rich. She wants to be able to move out of her Coffin shaped home (yes they are called coffins) and live extravagantly! Her own shower, a nice cozy bed, and hell maybe even a kitchen! Remember, this is the moon. Space is limited. She also wants to pay off a ridiculous amount of debt and right some wrongs in her past. Her dad's a welder, and she wants to become an EVA master. How does the book begin? With her failing an EVA test. Damn.

So we have an underdog story. She gets caught up in a plot with one of her smuggling customers named Landvik, and if she's successful she will be able to pay off the debt and then some.

But then the shit hits the fan. I won't go into the spoilers, but it involves taking control of an industry, and something called ZAFO. What the hell is ZAFO? You have to read it to find out.

In the end, you see a great character arc with Jazz and some really satisfying resolution. The climax of the story will have you on the edge of your seat like very few novels I could tell you about. The level of detail and realism Weir brings to Artemis is on par with The Martian, if not more so. He goes into several details that are plausible for a real moonbase scenario. How is oxygen replenished? What do they eat? What kind of people go to Artemis? He even goes into economics and social hierarchy. And of course, there's no shortage of that signature Andy Weir/Watney humor that we loved from his debut.

One thing... and it was slightly off putting in terms of suspension of disbelief. This novel is a written in first person past tense, with a dash of epistolary mixed in. What exactly are we reading? Her memoir? Her memories? A retelling of her story a zillion years later? There's no actual explanation of this. To contrast, in The Martian, we are following Mark Watney through his personal logs. Third person limited is used for the the NASA/Earth scenes, and it really all makes sense exactly what is going on. We don't get the same for Artemis. I believe it to be a nitpick, but something that I consider enough of a problem to mention.

I give Artemis a super solid 8 out of 10. It's an amazing piece of hard sci fi. I bought the hard copy and it will be cherished on my shelf forever. Thanks Andy, please write more!

Thanks for reading. If you like what you read you can follow me on Twitter and soon enough, I'll be posting videos related to the content you see here on YouTube.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Science is a Method, Not a Test Tube.

Unless you lived under a rock, you probably know that all of us do not have some super-awesome fundamental connection to the goings-on and nature of the Universe. We are a part of the universe, and ever since science became a thing, we have been trying to figure it out. It's like waking up out of a coma, and asking, "What in the hell happened?"

Fortunately, we do have some methods by which we can determine fact from fiction, and make sure that the ideas which pop up in our head somehow add up to the outside word. It all stems from properly basic ideas of logic. And apple cannot be a non-apple. If all apples are red, and we see an apple, it's deductively certain (but not inductively) that the apple we see is red.

Physics is probably the purest, if not most basic form of science in all of the sciences. It wants to explain not only why things happen in a certain way, but how. It's not enough to say the apple falls to the ground from the tree because of gravity. We want to know how the apple can accelerate constantly due to gravity until it is acted upon by the ground and decelerated to rest with respect to the ground. Science, like Richard Feynman, (who was scientist) is the Great Explainer of reality.

All of this sounds a little esoteric, and believe me when I say that I am at fault if your eyes have glazed over at this point. It happens. In fact, I'd argue the absolute hardest thing a human can do is to map the ideas in one's head to the reality of the things outside of one's head. There's so many things that can go wrong in between the two, so many processes that give false positives. We are conscious meat encased in calcified tissue. We have biases and inherent pattern recognizing mechanisms and there's so much that we need to do in order to rigorously divest ourselves from these pitfalls to safely deliver us to the shores of what is in fact true.

So, without any further obfuscation. How in the name of the Gods does this happen?

You are in a room. You are in this room alone and you see on the other side of the room a pot full of flowers.

Credit: Albert Marquet
Wikimedia Commons

 As far as you can tell, you can see it clearly. You get closer and you can feel the petals of the flowers. You can smell the scent. As far as you are capable of being certain, you are certain that this pot of flowers is in front of you.

But what if it isn't, you think to yourself. What if this pot of flowers is nothing more than a complex delusion orchestrated by some outside force hitherto unseen? You couldn't possibly know for sure. You study the pot of flowers for two weeks, every day going up to the plant and feeling, smelling, visually observing it. You write down what you observe every day without fail. After the two week period is up, you look at your data and compare each day's observations to the others.

With the exception of slight, but otherwise unremarkable changes (the flower smelled slightly different on the first Tuesday than the other days) You notice that your daily data seems to be roughly consistent. In fact, you would say it is about 95% consistent. What have you determined?

You could say that the observations are in fact reflective of the reality of the situation. You are observing a pot of flowers. But you pause for a moment. It is certainly possible that while this may be the case (and all evidence for it up to this point seems to confirm it), but the specter of the "outside obfuscator" still haunts you. Maybe its the case that the obfuscating force is simply capable of ensuring that the observations are consistent. If that's not the case, the reliability of senses to this point seem to be confirmed by the slight unremarkable changes in observation, and the more or less similar observations.

Your confidence is higher than it was before. However, despite it all, it's still possible for there to be some trick being played, no matter how much more confidence you might have. How else might I determine if what I observe is actually what I observe? The answer is third party verification.

You're no longer the only person in the box. Two other people have come forward to help you in your observations. They do the exact same observations in the exact same way as you (as far as they are able to adequately replicate.) As a result, they too get small deviations in their observations, but nothing earth shattering. They match with yours, for the most part. As a result, the consensus among the observer ( after poring over the data) is that their observations confirmed yours. At least 95 percent of the time.

What is this little narrative all about? At its fundamental core, past all the popsci articles and controversies, beakers, test tubes and lab coats is science. Science isn't a discipline. It's a method that seem to be the single most consistently reliable way to determine what is true, and determine what is false.

Above all else, that method of science can be aptly summed up like this:

What do we think we know, and how do we think we know it? How do we answer this question in such a way that we believe as many verifiably true things as possible, and disbelieve as many false things as possible?

Consider that ultimate question next time you read an article on a miracle cure for cancer, or someone denouncing vaccines as poison.

Thanks for reading. If you like what you read you can follow me on Twitter and soon enough, I'll be posting videos related to the content you see here on YouTube.