Humbleness – a thin line

As a species one of our greater strengths and weakness is the fact that some of us simply want more out of any given situation. This can lead to progress, innovation, new knowledge, expansion of our horizons as well as to greed, war(s), injustice, unfair treatment towards others; depending on where we place the line between mindful sustainability and mindless expansion. It is in our nature to be curious, to want more, to seek knowledge and we don’t have to suppress any urge that points to that direction unless we cross some boundaries.

I will try to point out examples that clearly illustrate the absence of any humbleness, the lines we cross, and potential ways to remain within a mindful approach.

Environment

The epitome of human intervention into nature, a planet that has been carved according to our own image. Mines, cities, underwater oil drilling, futuristic cities on top of desert, igloos. It always amazes me that people have to quantify the impact of environmental hazards in order to decide pro or against certain investments. An interesting research was conducted in the US, as far as i remember it was presented in the Congress as well, regarding the financial loss if all bees were extinct. The cost was estimated at several billion US dollars due to lack of plant fertilization among other things. Seems that we have to quantify the obvious.

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A diver trying to seal the leak in Deepwater Horizon accident (credits: CNN)
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Dubai – the majestic Burj Khalifa, construction still ongoing in nearby buildings (author personal collection)

There are hard sci-fi books that talk about how (not) optimized our Universe is in terms of computational power [1]. Terms like Matrioshka brains have been invented; huge computerized structures that facilitate calculations, computation, AI and consciousness. In essence they talk about transformation of matter into a form that can think and getting the necessary power from nearby stars or more exotic forms of energy creation.

I am not sure where the future is going but i do not believe in utopian scenarios where the entire planet is being irradiated and such. At least not all of it.. The advent of AI will shape our future much faster and very unpredictably since information and consciousness move in completely different evolutionary speeds than the one we experience now. The so-called Singularity moment [2], whenever it happens since even experts disagree on when (but not if), will drastically alter the way we solve social problems, how we harvest energy, how we do science and essentially how we think.

The final environmental intervention (which is seriously discussed for Mars at least after finding out if there is any microbial life which might be affected) is terraforming. A large scale (planetary scale) environmental reshaping of a hostile environment to a life-friendly one, suitable for colonization.

Concluding, what we experience now either as a mindless environmental disaster caused by a blind attempt to increase a conglomerate’s profit due to an oil spill or, on the other hand, a city built on top of sand won’t possibly compare to what capabilities the future will bring to us as a species. Mindful and humble territorial expansion or the harvest energy resources will need to be redefined.

Physics

The success of physics theories and their applications into everyday life (microchips, energy creation, transportation, telecommunications) convinced physicists that the way they (we) approach things is an optimal one. This conviction led theoretical physicists into a path that in my humble opinion can be sometimes defined as hubris. To explain a bit: based on the mathematical way we formulate physical laws, we extrapolated into a domain where nothing can be tested. As explained in another article of this blog as well, this is philosophy, not physics. The healthy loop of theoretical prediction –> experimental testing –> theoretical refinement, has been broken. People from the theoretical physics community nowadays instead of trying to reduce the so-called “string theory landscape”  (a way to describe sets of physical laws) to a point where the physics laws are describing our universe only and not so many other potential ones, prefer to state that “the theory is right although untested” and multiverse fans start printing T-shirts to celebrate.

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Preferring the multiverse version from Rick and Morty (copyright: http://www.dhgate.com)

People sometimes cannot accept that, ok, we don’t know how to proceed, the technological means we currently have do not allow us to test our exotic (and attractive) theories as they supposed to test. Stigmatizing a generation of physicists. [3], [4]

There was a time (around 1890) where a simple addition of one term in one equation by James Clarke Maxwell, laid the ground for understanding the fundamentals of electromagnetic waves propagation into vacuum, in other words distant communication. As Carl Sagan states “Maxwell’s Equations have had a greater impact on human history than any ten presidents” [5].

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Even if someone ordered scientists of the time to invent a way to make people communicate in large distances without using cables (or birds), a simple curiosity and belief of how nature ought to behave led Maxwell to discover his equations. Nowadays people want to become the next “Maxwell” inventing entire domains based only on mathematical intuition which has fooled us so many times in the past. We tend to remember our successes not drawing a thin but red line between intuition and misguidance.

Relationships

Ok, juicy stuff. Literally we have many options now in our fingertips. Swiping left or right. Meeting people easier than ever through dating apps, social media, common friends. There is always someone more “perfect” than the one we currently date or being with.

Or not?

The illusion of multiple choices fuels the desire for something new. How can you compete with the elation of new? But you can. You always can. A step back to see the bigger picture always helps unless we are addicted to this kind of behavior.

There is no perfect man neither woman; but there can be perfect for each other. A fit like Pangea to quote our geology friends:

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Pangea 200 million years ago, a super-continent before breaking up into Asia, Africa, America and the rest. [copyright http://www.geology.com]

Geopolitics was next in line for the same treatment as the other domains but the article will be having an enormous size, deserves a future article by its own. Our species tendency towards protectionism, xenophobia, energy resources acquisition and above all, fear itself, is shaping our current state of civilization the most. Will elaborate soon.

:wq

[1] Life 3.0 – Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (Max Tegmark)
[2] Ray Kurzweil – almost all of his books.
[3] Not Even Wrong – Peter Woit
[4] The Trouble with Physics – Lee Smolin
[5] Demon haunted world – Carl Sagan (chapter: Maxwell and the nerds)

 

 

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One comment

  1. Very nice article about the human boundaries on how treat planet and ourselves. It explains how humbleness of “don’t do” is enormously better than “do” without thinking the consequences. Common sense provides us always safe guidelines in every aspect of life.

    Liked by 1 person

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