Having seen the ways in which our species took its first steps into the era of agriculture and civilization as we know it, we ought now look at how this is related to our current position.
We have a constant fear, it seems, of the lack of gainful wages for all of our citizens. And why not? We have all been in the position of being unable to find employment at one time or another in our lives. Like anything else, our fears are driven by our need to survive. We each know that a failure on our part to secure income may mean the end of one”s life as it has come to be known. Lets think about that for a moment, why do we have this fear?
Continue reading Among the Ants
This episode is going to talk about what it means to be human, and what it means for our species when we become obsolete. Our technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate, how will this affect us? Are we doomed, or are we approaching a turning point in human civilization?
It is not unreasonable to believe that eventually we will develop robotics and machine learning to a point when it will become possible to replace human laborers. Already we have replaced humans on factory assembly lines and in factories. Chances are likely that you have even spoken to a robot recently. When was the last time you called a major corporation and spoke immediately to a human? When was the last time you went to the bank and had cash handed to you by a human? How many times have you used the self checkout at the grocery store, or ordered pizza online? When was the last time you handed a letter to a postal worker instead of writing an email? When was the last time you stopped to ask directions rather than check your gps? Any law enforcement out there? When was the last time you mailed fingerprint cards to the FBI for manual lookup? How many of you had your soda mixed by a man behind the counter last time you bought lunch? How many of you went to a CPA for your taxes this year? How many of you instead used an online tax service? How many architects still build foam models rather than 3d renders? How many machinists still manually control their lathes rather than use a multi-axis cnc machine? How many gardeners’ hours have been replaced by automatic sprinkler systems? How many of our spy planes or tactical bombers have a human pilot in them today?
What happens when our technology is capable of replacing us?
Continue reading The Robotic Dawn
I am only one machine in a long line of machines. Built from atoms forged in the heart of a dying star. I am not a perfect machine, parts of me are not optimal. My respiratory system is faulty. My digestive system is inefficient. My processing unit requires vast swaths of down time for repairs. I cannot fly as some machines do, I produce no natural defense system. I can only process atmosphere of a limited variety. I cannot consume the majority of the energy found in this world.
I have no purpose. I have the freedom to explore. I have the freedom to produce more machines of a new and unpredictable variety. I cannot exist forever, there are no replacement parts here. This place cannot exist forever. It too is ever changing. I am limited. My universe is limited. Continue reading The Echoes of A Dying Star
My favorite flower is an Orchid.
It’s a specific subspecies of bee orchid, named as such because their flowers look like bees, and are paired to a unique species of bee.
They are evolved to work symbiotically with their unique bee partners, and over tens of thousands of years they slowly grew to look like their companions.
There is a certain subspecies of Bee Orchid, however, who’s bees are now all gone. Extinct, never to be seen on this earth again.
Continue reading A Fading Memory
When I am alone, standing in the cool wind of a California evening, I can look up and see the universe. I can picture its vastness and I can feel my smallness. I am a speck upon a speck, existing for less than an instant in a deep and wondrous sea. I know my time is short, shorter than I could ever have guessed when it began. I know that I will never see a great many of my visions for humanity realized, and I understand that I will never find many of the answers to questions which I can imagine.
How small the world is. How insignificant our greatest works as a species. How bold and arrogant we have become in only a few shaky first steps. Continue reading Starstuff
Those who fear scientifically demonstrable truths often hide behind the cowering shield of self professed open mindedness.
What is open minded behavior? I so often hear complaints from normal people, who are just trying to get a hold of the world around them, that are frustrated by the seemingly constant shift in what it means to be open minded. There are not many people who are consciously interested in being intellectually dishonest or close minded, but it can be very difficult to understand who to trust when you yourself are not an expert. I have written previously about why it is important to identify and trust experts, but I did not touch on the subject of so called metacognition.
Continue reading The impossibility of learning what we already know
Think of something at which you are an expert. Really truly an expert. Try to think about how you feel when you hear a layman talking about that subject. Maybe it’s fishing, maybe it’s science, maybe it’s parenting. It could be the statistics for your favorite football player, something about cars, maybe you are an expert on a band you love.
Think about how ignorant people sound when they talk about your field of expertise.
Now try to remember that, outside your field of expertise, you are just as ignorant. You are just as full of misinformation and misconception about the entirety of the rest of the world, as those people who misunderstand your particular area of expertise.
Think about that every time you have an opinion, every time you think your voice deserves to be heard, and every time that your beliefs are challenged by something you have heard. Remember that listening to the news, reading a blog, and talking to your friends is not a substitute for reading primary research. No one will ever be able to consume all the information required to become an expert on everything, rather as you learn more about a subject you often find out how little you truly know or understand about the world.
Little is more damaging to a critical mind than undeserved self-confidence in one’s own ability, or the untouchable elevation of unsubstantiated belief.
Why should you read this:
This post is going to be a little different. I am going to write this one a bit more casually, and that may mean there will be some pg-13 language involved. If you are offended by that type of thing, I apologize in advance. Disclaimer aside, this article is going to cover a pretty broad range. It is not addressing a single small topic, but instead addresses a common argument I run into while discussing science with the public. I will go through that argument bit by bit and talk about some of the flaws, and provide some insights into the scientific method. Prepare yourself for some verbal adventure, and dive right in!
We start this story with you. Not the real you, but the hypothetical You. Got that? Just imagine yourself, but a story version of yourself. A You that is compelled to do what the plot says you are going to do. If ninjas attack the story You, it doesn’t matter what you would do in real life, because the hypothetical You in the story is compelled to do whatever the story says. I think you have it now, so please don’t be offended that I’m going to make story You sound like a total jerk!
Continue reading Wrongness, Rightness, and The Academics who never believed the Earth was flat.
A few weeks ago I stumbled onto this NPR article which made me smile. In it, the author points out a quoted piece of text written by Charles Darwin in a letter to one of his friends.
The quote reads, “I am very poorly today, and very stupid and hate everybody and everything.”
Continue reading The World is Big and Stupid
Why should I read this:
The recent measles outbreak has been in the news a lot in the last few weeks. Just about every single news outlet and blog in the country has written on the topic. My degree is specifically “human biology”, so I have strong opinions about how public health and disease should be treated. Whether I am preaching to the choir, or you are still certain that you should have personal choice in the matter, read along and we will go over some of the talking points.
Imagine a man with a gun. Not a soldier or an action hero, just imagine a normal man with a gun.
Imagine that man walking through a crowded public space. Imagine him walking casually, calm, and unassuming.
Imagine him harboring no I’ll will against his fellow man.
Imagine that man casually drawing his gun as he walks, and firing. He fires with no particular target in mind, he doesn’t even seem to realize what he’s doing.
Continue reading A Man With a Gun – A Man With a Sneeze