The Coming Singularity

Have you noticed how rapidly technology is advancing? Five years ago, very few of the general population gave any thought to tablet computing. And today, the iPad and many other tablets are the preferred method of access to the Web. The web itself is just over twenty years old, and the PC revolution started in the early seventies. And shortly after that, cell phones burst on the scene. Can you imagine not having these devices? The dark ages for sure. How would we stay in touch with our friends and family? How could we look things up? How could we even live?

Look at not just the technological advances in and of themselves, but look at the space between these milestones. They get shorter and shorter.

In the last two years, amazing breakthroughs have been made in advancing technology and cybernetics. Powered exo-skeletons for people with physical disabilities or for military personnel; thought controlled devices that allow paraplegics the ability to control a mouse with their brains. Hell, they even make rabbit ears that you wear and wiggle with your mind. The Japanese are the furthest ahead in robotics, having released some very interesting devices.

Even more recently, they have managed to allow one animal to control the movements and decisions of another. Organic transistors have been produced and a certain type of organic chip is being worked on for implanting in the human brain. There is talk of boosting human intellect and merging the human mind with computers. Theories of direct mind to mind human communications have also been posited and are being worked on as we speak.

But what does this all mean for us? In his seminal paper, The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era http://www.aleph.se/Trans/Global/Singularity/sing.html

Vinge describes such an accelerated evolution of technology in which advances happen so fast and furiously, we will hit a point where we will become Post-Human as he terms it. Beings with unlimited intelligence, merged AI and human intellects, even upload of human consciousness to computers so we would be aware for all eternity. He calls this post-human point the Singularity; the place where all previous understanding breaks down and things would be incomprehensible to the average person today.

It is coming. Many are in agreement that it will happen mid-twenty-first century or a few years before. Not much time at all. Ask yourself, should it be stopped? My answer to this is a resounding NO! This is part of the natural evolution of intelligence. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, A French Philosopher and Jesuit Priest held forth the belief that Man was evolving to become One with God. The Hindu philosophies express succinctly that we are on the Wheel of Life to learn lessons, grow, and ultimately return to the Godhead from which we sprang.

But look at the state of the world and the human species these days. Loss of freedom, incredible displays of violence and genocide, governments and businesses ignoring the welfare of nature and the common man in a rapacious campaign for material riches. Children starving and lacking the ability to educate themselves while a few miles away gated communities house the wealthy and educated. The rich get richer and the poor grow poorer and increase in number.

Is this the kind of mentality we wish to have as the template for the Post-Human future? I don’t know about you, but hell no on my part. When the Singularity hits the prevalent mentality will prevail. So what can be done?

Its time to take sides; time to touch on the spiritual side of things. Not the dogmatic religions that are in the media, but the philosophies of the Buddha, the actual teachings of the Christ and many eastern religions.

In opposition to this mentality, there are a few thousand people who could be considered enlightened. And they spread the teachings of love and compassion, tolerance and acceptance, to their students. And this is passed on to anyone who will heed their words. But the work is slow.

The future is coming. Join me. Let’s make it a beautiful one!

Chaos

Many people speak of Chaos without truly understanding it’s meaning. For example, there is a branch of Mathematics called Chaos Theory. In it’s simplest terms, it can describe something like the behavior of a weather system. It’s not an exact science, hence why the weather reports are often inaccurate.

The important thing to understand about Chaos Theory, is that it is based on what is happening at the start of whatever is being analyzed. Any unexpected change can invalidate the current analysis.

But there is another use for the word Chaos. It denotes randomness, disorder or confusion. When you throw a pair of dice, Chaos come into play. You have no idea how they will land, what numbers will come up. That’s what makes gambling so exciting.

And as for randomness and disorder, just look in your kids room and you’ll understand. :)

Chaos is all around us. It touches us daily. The action of random elements of life, the so called “Murphy Effect”. For some of us, it is a constant companion. Nothing ever seems to go right, no matter how hard we try. And we don’t understand why. We say it’s just “bad luck” or “karma” or “fate”.

But those of us with a visceral understanding of Chaos, we see something else. In order to deal with the oncoming storm, you need awareness. Awareness of everything you think, do and say, and the possible outcomes from it. That funny feeling that raises the hair on the back of your neck. It makes you crazy having to look at everything, but it does help.

Relationships are the worst, because each individual is a set of chaotic emotional responses. If you study someone long enough, you can even start to see how they will respond under certain stimuli.

Now as a person with a dominant and sometimes overbearing personality, I love to poke people and see their reactions. Yes, I do it on purpose. When they react, I compare it to a list of predicted behavior and see which one was chosen. But beware, the unexpected happens a lot. Every time i poke or prod someone, I expect them to explode in uncertain ways. In an instance of “Don’t try this at home”, a friend of mine tried it with someone, to very unexpected and somewhat unpleasant results. When she complained, I told her she was poking at  live bomb. What did she expect?

In many different cultures, Chaos is embodied by an archetype. The god Loki, and Prometheus, are examples. My own personal favorite is the Native American Archetype of Coyote. The Trickster God, he is depicted as a hero, but always with an edge. It is said he brought fire to the Tribes, but also the concept of death.

Coyote is a teacher of lessons, a creature of chaos and laughter. He fights hard and refuses to give up.

Some if us who believe in Chaos, see it as a Primal force, see it as the underpinning of creation. From this Chaos sprang what we call reality. In science, some who study Quantum Physics see the nature of what lies beneath what we see.

Some of us see a correlation between what the scientists see and the chaos we experience in our everyday life. Chaos can be tasted, felt and on very rare occasions, avoided or channeled. It all comes down to awareness and expecting the unexpected.

Embrace Chaos. Expect the unexpected. Become more aware of yourself and those around you.  I sometimes call myself Brother to Coyote. I feel his hand on my life, and I am aware of what can happen. It’s lots of fun, actually! Especially poking people that are SO entrenched in their modes of belief. They blow up real good! :)

Dedicated to my good friend Raven

Taking Innocence…

“Death reaps the beauty of the world

Bundles old crops to hasten anew,

Be still, heart:

Hold peace

Growing is better than decay:
I hear the blade, which severs life from life.
Be still, peace:
Hold heart.

Death is passing on—
The making way of life and time for life.
Hate dying and killing, not death.
Be still, heart:
Make no expostulation.
Hold peace and grief
And be still.”

- Lord Mhoram (Stephen R. Donaldson)

The taking of any life is heinous. But taking the life of an innocent child is an act beyond imagination to me. There are no words in my mouth or head that can describe how I feel. I live in that town and have for many years. I live only a short distance from that school. So this one hits close to home.

Sandy Hook is a part of Newtown, a very quiet town. Boring in fact. Everyone is friendly, everyone wears a smile. And its’ not a forced one. We like each other. New England living at its’ finest.
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But today that peace was shattered in a hail of bullets. Children taken away from their families and loved ones. The future changed in an instant. Who knows how those young lives could have enriched humanity. Ills cured, peace ennobled. But now we will never know. All we will know is aught but grief and to wonder why…

What has happened to us? When did we become so inured to the sacredness of life? What thoughts ran through his head? What kind of rage makes one kill a child? What manner of beast have we become? I have no answers only tears.

“…Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;…”

” And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

William Butler Yeats

Time Travel Happens!

Time travel is one of the most fascinating ideas springing from the human mind. A very popular trope for science fiction fans; it has been developing a following among the scientific community. There is a conflict among scientists as to whether or not Time Travel is possible. Luminaries such as Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Robert L. Forward and Frank Tipler have given explanations as to why it can’t happen or how to possibly do it.

Dr. Hawking asks that if time travel into the past were possible why we don’t see tourists from the future all over the place (sort of a temporal version of Fermi’s Paradox). He also wrote the Chronology Protection Conjecture which states that any time machine would immediately be destroyed if it was used. Only transfers of information on the quantum level would be permissible.

Dr. Sagan said that travelers from the future would disguise themselves so we wouldn’t know they were there.

Dr. Forward posits a time machine made up of a single atomic nucleus under conditions where it might be possible to send information but not matter back in time.

Dr. Tipler developed a theory that a rotating cylinder of infinite length and density would allow travel back to the point of the construction of the cylinder.

With the advancements being made in the field of Quantum Physics and the related study of Quantum Gravity, time travel is now seen as something that can be done at a quntum level. The missing piece of the puzzle is using the theory Quantum Gravity to tie Quantum Physics to Classical Physics. One place I find a lot of information is the site arvix.org; a free website that publishes scientific papers of all sorts. I use it a lot, but the math makes my brain bleed sometimes. Who knows what will happen in the next hundred years of study?

As both a writer and voracious reader of science fiction, I find these types of stories my absolute favorite (along with the variation of alternate timelines and parallel universes – yes, there is a group of scientists working on proving these things exists). From H.G Wells through Isaac Asimov, James P. Hogan, Stephen Baxter, Joe Haldeman and Jack McDevitt these stories always grabbed my attention. From Star Trek to Babylon5, I have hung on every word of time travel in the scripts. And don’t EVEN get me started on Dr. Who! I’ve been watching that show since the Jon Pertwee. I consider myself somewhat of an armchair expert on paradoxes, etc… But the latest Star Trek movie got me thinking even more about time travel. I’ve heard comments about how drastically different things were presented. Not just the destruction of Vulcan, but all of the things that seemed to make up the past were changed. Now, combining my love of science fiction, time travel and Quantum Physics I think I have a handle on this time travel thing. Remember, almost everything from this point forward is a conjecture.

Time travel has happened and is happening as we speak. What I think is being missed is the fact that when you travel in time you are not just affecting yourself, but you affect everything down to the level of quantum flux (not to be confused with the Flux Capacitor from Back to the Future). When you get down to the level of what is called Planck Length (1.616252(81) ×10−35) you are in the arena of quantum foam where everything is in flux. Now, time travel would have to be a high-energy event no matter how you did it. Be it a wormhole, a silver cage, a crystal or a Wayback Machine it will require massive amounts of energy to power the transfer; unless you discover a way to do it with magic, and then all bets are off!

When you travel back in time, the energy you expend to get there has to go somewhere. Otherwise you will probably be instantly vaporized, along with half the galaxy. When this energy dissipates, it will interact with the Universe on the Planck-Level. When you add energy to anything it will change. This change would manifest itself as apparent changes in reality. There are always choices and decisions being made every nano-second; and I’m not talking necessarily conscious, human-made ones. Subatomic particles have their own path to follow and things can change randomly. One energetic particle hitting just right can change the entire timeline by causing a cascade of changes.

And when you appear in the past, you are now embedded again in the timeline; all of your quantum entanglements reestablish themselves and you are now an “Observer”. This means that just by existing you influence reality. Look up the double slit experiment if you want see this in a real world situation of changing the outcome of something merely by observing it. And dealing with high-energy on the quantum level might mean that the energy you release might continue traveling back in time like a bow wave!

So, when the effects of your high-energy arrival in the past you won’t be able to make a killing on the stock market or sports events. Your very existence has changed the course of history, probably for the entire Universe. Maybe because of you,Americalost WWII, or the Revolution. Maybe the changes rippled back so far we’re still pond scum! Hopefully, it won’t come to that!

Even small changes will happen that nobody will ever realize (except maybe you) because everything leading up to the change is consistent with what is accepted as reality after the change. So if you make it back to see people you know they may have entirely different personalities, jobs, families, who knows? Maybe you were never born in this timeline.

The key to this whole discussion is time travel can change things and we will never know, because of the self-consistency of the timeline. Someone in another galaxy could be time traveling right now, and things would change here on Earth without our knowing anything is different. So learn to live with it!

Crowd Sourcing Your Edits

Several months ago, I was reading about a flame war going on between an Author and her Readers. They were complaining about the quality of the book, both the typos and content. She didn’t react really well and stated hat they had downloaded the “wrong” version of the book, and that they should download go back to the online retailer and download the correct version.

I don’t think many people did that because of the way they were treated and castigated.

I just read an article the other day about a major, and I mean major, publishing house that had outsourced it’s e-book creation and editing to company in India. Apparently nobody in the company bothered to check the work very closely, because the editing was horrible.

These two stories gave me an idea: Crowd Source your editing! It worked for Linux, why couldn’t it work for me?

How about this: I put my novel up for free, and tell people right upfront it is a work in progress and I am looking for what I am doing wrong. Now, I’ll get a ton of messages that I’ll have to sift through to find the special gems. But at least I will get a general idea of where I am going wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I think a critique group is the best way to go. But with the changing landscape of publishing, who knows what will or won’t work until it is tried. Besides, I figure I can build a heck of a fan base that way! :-)

Writing the "Other"

         One of the most difficult tasks in writing is creating believable characters outside of your own gender, race or species. Regardless of the type of fiction you write, the “Other” can be a daunting task for anyone, be they a beginner or a seasoned veteran.
Quite a bit of the “Other” I have encountered in reading Science Fiction and Fantasy works are one-dimensional and even stereotypical at times. The alien race of “noble savages” or of “enlightened beings” has been done to death and beyond. These races are projected as being a mono-culture; either everybody is a savage or everybody is an angel. AS an example, you don’t see or hear about any Klingon fishermen do you? Or of them drinking anything but blood wine? Do Cardassians drink anything other than kanar? Do they get drunk and beat their wives on Corusant? There is rarely room for diversity. Granted, there isn’t much time for diversity in short stories, but what’s the excuse for novella’s and novels, movies and TV shows?  One show, Alien Nation, did an excellent job of fleshing out the day to day lives of aliens living on Earth.
Let’s take a look at the roots of the concept of the “Other”. If you go back in time to when we were living in caves and spent most of our lives foraging for food and water, we learned to wary of those outside of our immediate tribe or family. They were either competition for resources or out right hostile and out to hurt us; they were different. As we became more civilized, establishing communities, these ideas of the “Other” being different stayed with us.
When you meet someone for the first time, you automatically classify them by what strikes you as the most different aspects from yourself.
The two primary physical characteristics we use for identifying criteria are race and gender. This allows us to immediately judge whether or not the person could be construed as a threat to us in anyway. That’s the way the human race has evolved socially. Everybody does it, even the most enlightened people will do the initial knee-jerk analysis, just to put the person in a box where the can try to relate to them. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as it does not stop there. Otherwise, interaction between the two individuals has the potential to be inaccurate, even tragic.
How many centuries were Africans enslaved and mistreated, just because they were of a different skin color and did not partake of the predominant European culture of the time? Even today, African-Americans, along with Hispanics, Native Americans and people of various Asian decent are treated with suspicion and hatred by many white people because they think of them as the “Other”. Stereotypical representations in the media over the past six decades only exacerbated this. And a lot of them feel the same way about Caucasians. It cuts both ways.
In writing, staying at the surface will generate characters with little depth or breadth, and lead to a loss of interest or even outrage from your readers. Think about your own immediate family. Everyone has a different personality, likes and dislikes. Now, look at your extended family; cousins, aunts, uncles and so on. Their personalities seem different than yours, don’t they? And the look different from you. They are the “Other”, even though you are related to them. When you write about a different gender, culture or race, do you spend time world building? Or do you just grab bits and pieces out of thin air and hope for the best?
Draw on your own life experiences, especially if you grew up in an area with very diverse cultures. Pay attention to the news; see what is happening across the country and the world. Just because you write about aliens with tentacles and twelve eyes doesn’t mean they don’t have priests, cops, fisherbeings or even schizophrenics in their society.
Do research; Wikipedia is great for finding facts about other cultures. Ask your friends; they all come from different backgrounds and I am sure would be more than willing to answer your questions.
Writing about another race or gender is really writing your own experiences into the story. Whether the characters you write about are a different color, gender or from another dimension, they all have been influenced by a wide variety of circumstances growing up.
Take advantage of it; don’t fall into stereotypes and clichés. Allow your characters to express who they really are. Your stories will be enriched by them.

Market Timing

In the quest to become a successful writer, there are things you need to know. One of them is how to hit the market when a particular subject is hot.

After many years of Ann Rice dominating the vampire scene (starting with Interview With A Vampire in 1976), and L.K. Hamilton joining the fray with her series Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series in 1993, along comes Twilight in 2005 and a feeding frenzy ensued. Now everywhere you look someone is coming out with a vampire novel. Now, I won’t comment on the quality of these novels because I don’t care for vampire novels in general (Remember the cover of Rolling Stone? UGH!). But I have to believe a lot of them are from authors and publishers trying to cash in on the next big thing.
Sounds like the right time to start writing that vampire novel to get in on the cash, right? Nope. By the time you get your novel to an agent or publisher the trend will probably have passed.
So how do you make it happen? Simple. Diversify your writing. You have a favorite genre’ you love to write in, say Science Fiction. But there are many different sub-genre’s that you can write in. Hard SF, Space Opera, Steampunk, Dystopian, etc… You could write Fantasy, Horror or even (gasp) Literary Fiction!
Try your hand at writing different types of novels and submit them. Now, many of the old guard will cringe at this and say “But wait! Common knowledge says you should only write one type of novel! Publishers and Readers will never accept that!” Common knowledge for millennia was that the Earth was flat. It took a while, but people finally figured out that wasn’t the case.
What sells are good stories with great plots and interesting characters. Disregard the trends and write one of almost everything you are comfortable with. That way you are ready for almost anything. In the end, you might be the one to start the new trend and make the big bucks. But only if you are committed to your art and are willing to work at it. So get out there and write!