30 MAY 2016 by ideonexus

 The Universe is a Dark Forest for Civilization

The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization is an armed hunter stalking through the trees like a ghost, gently pushing aside branches that block the path and trying to tread without sound. Even breathing is done with care. The hunter has to be careful, because everywhere in the forest are stealthy hunters like him. If he finds other life—another hunter, an angel or a demon, a delicate infant or a tottering old man, a fairy or a demigod—there’s only one thing he can do: open fire a...
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15 NOV 2013 by ideonexus

 How Do You Find Emergent Intelligence on the Internet?

How would we know if there was an autonomous conscious superorganism? We would need a Turing Test for a global AI. But the Turing Test is flawed for this search because it is meant to detect human-like intelligence, and if a consciousness emerged at the scale of a global megacomputer, its intelligence would unlikely to be anything human-like. We might need to turn to SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), for guidance. By definition, it is a test for non-human intelligence...
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How would you communicate with it? How would it reveal itself?

26 SEP 2013 by ideonexus

 Scientists Must Evangelize

My professors’ generation could respond to silliness like creationism with head-scratching bemusement. My students cannot afford that luxury. Instead they must become fierce champions of science in the marketplace of ideas. During my undergraduate studies I was shocked at the low opinion some of my professors had of the astronomer Carl Sagan. For me his efforts to popularize science were an inspiration, but for them such “outreach” was a diversion. That view makes no sense today. The ...
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It is no longer acceptable for scientists to sit on the sidelines and immerse themselves in their work. They must engage the public.

01 JAN 2012 by ideonexus

 Sagan's Positive View of Advance Alien Civilizations

It is at this point that the ultimate significance of dolphins in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence emerges. It is not a question of whether we are emotionally prepared in the long run to confront a message from the stars. It is whether we can develop a sense that beings with quite different evolutionary histories, beings who may look far different from us, even "monstrous," may, nevertheless, be worthy of friendship and reverence, brotherhood and trust. We have far to go; while th...
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We need to understand animal minds as practice for understanding alien ones.

04 JUN 2011 by ideonexus

 Carl Sagan on Science Fiction

When I was little, starting about eight, nine, 10, science fiction held enormous fascination. I couldn't read textbooks, or atleast I didn't have access to textbooks that I could read, but there was a lot of science in science fiction and it was rippling with the sense of wonder. But as I got older, and could learn some science, I found the science to be more subtle, more complex, more challenging, more full of wonder and having the additional, not inconsiderable, virtue of being true. To wha...
Folksonomies: science science fiction
Folksonomies: science science fiction
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It holds the sense of wonder, but science is more subtle and sophisticated and therefore took over his attention.

01 JUN 2011 by ideonexus

 Carl Sagan's Insights from Smoking Marijuana

I find that most of the insights I achieve when high are into social issues, an area of creative scholarship very different from the one I am generally known for. I can remember one occasion, taking a shower with my wife while high, in which I had an idea on the origins and invalidities of racism in terms of gaussian distribution curves. It was a point obvious in a way, but rarely talked about. I drew the curves in soap on the shower wall, and went to write the idea down. One idea led to anot...
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It is difficult to record the insights in such a way as to have them appeal to the sober mind, but Sagan, with much effort, got 11 essays out of an insight found while high.