Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hawking and the Long Result

Hawking spoke at George Washington University on Monday, where the bulk of the audience may have found a two to five-hundred year time frame uncomfortable. After all, we're not used to thinking in such terms, and in an era that demands fast turn-arounds, wouldn’t it be grand to simply come up with a star drive tomorrow? Indeed, do we have the patience to embark on a project that might last five centuries, whose outcome will always remain in doubt, and whose funding will have to be continually extracted from reluctant governments or, more likely, drawn from the philanthropic donations of a small number of visionaries?

But there's an even more pressing question lurking in the subtext: Supposing we value the continuity of our species, do we really have a choice?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The choice, in this time, is not about developing some nebulous "stardrive" to escape the solar system and establish the human species elsewhere among the stars. That would be a terrible, misbegotten effort and penultimate mistake in judgement and priority. Not to mention likely doomed to failure. We do not have 200 to 500 years left to try and develop such technology, if we even could, of which I'm extremely dubious about, as nothing less than faster-than-light (FTL) propulsion would be adequate for intersteller transport, and we have no clue as yet whether the speed of light can even be exceeded, ever.

The real choice, today, is how and do we transform ourselves, and create the sustainable means to evolve here first, and now, for real, genuine continuity.

Nearly everything else is secondary, and should be dealt with later, after we try to make ourselves truly, benignly, wise and intelligent, if that's even possible.

Then, if we can "get smart," developing such exotic forms of FTL propulsion, and expending the immense resources required (for the forseeable future) to conduct manned exploration of the solar system and beyond would be relatively easier, more cost effective, and less urgent.

To me, directed human evolution to exponentially increase our native intelligence biogenetically, for survival and continuity purposes, should be the real transhumanist imperative.

And, if we don't try or can't do that, well, then all bets are off, anyway, so you can forget about even getting out of the solar system, let alone reaching another habitable planet among the stars.

This seems obvious to me--after all, there's no place to go within any kind of "reasonable" distance. I doubt very much whether there's a "second Earth" within 100 or even 1000 light years from here.

Increasingly, I find Hawking's philosophical musings, opinions, and futuristic prognostications to be based in wishful delusion and fantasy, not practical reality. His hubris is immense, misguided, and without rational foundation.

[As such, and having said what he did at NASA's 50th anniversary celebrations, about how only "cranks and weirdos" see ufos, he only exposes his ignorance and willingness to play to the audience, and thus has no credibility in commenting as he did. His broad brush only tarred himself, even given that, indeed, there are a great many cranks and weirdos in the ufo field itself, saying ufos are only seen by such is both retarded and blantantly, absurdly ignorant. He has no clue, and is merely spouting an all too common misconception when compared to history and the facts. Even his grand theories regarding black holes, his area of actual expertise, have, in some cases, been proven profoundly wrong. "Nothing can escape a black hole, not even light." Like hell. See: --guess he was wrong about that, too.]

[As such, in an amusingly recursive way, considering his recent comments about those who have witnessed ufos, he is on the verge himself of being seen as one of those "cranky weirdos" he so easily and unwisely dismisses.]

Until and unless we as a species can find the means to live within the limitations of this planet, and somehow overcome our self-destructive tendencies, there will not be and should not be any major effort to develop any interstellar capacity, or even manned interplanetary colonies.

There is not time enough for that, considering all the other threat factors now in play, let alone the funding or technology to achieve that. To consider Hawking's proposals seriously would be an avoidance of reality and the crises facing humanity right here and now.

I think there should be an uber-"Manhattan Project"-level effort to develop both safe nuclear power and even more critically, safe, "green" fusion power. And a biogenetic effort. Let's deal with first required priorities first. [Perhaps then, as a result, some form of extra-solar propulsion can be eventally derived, as a consequence of developing sustainable energy technologies beforehand.]

Otherwise, our species dependence on energy derived from combustibles, and all the attendent ecological destruction and pollution that has created will be, among many other primary reasons, the basis for elimination of even the possibility of species continuity.

Other habitable planets elsewhere in the galaxy or universe at large do not need a bunch of invasive, crazy monkeys with stardrives to destroy yet more planets than the one we already have. That would be so very wrong.