Future Fitness

Any particular brain admits but a subset of instincts and behaviors that might arise in the totality of brains. Some brains admit an instinct for killing rabbits by neck-snapping, others can learn to retrieve dead waterfowl, some can master trapping by reading books. Some human instincts, selected in environments that no longer obtain, are today of potentially dubious, even negative utility. After generations of supersession by novel instincts or learned behaviors, these detrimental ones will perhaps atrophy or even disappear. The abilities needed for future advances may depend on genetically embodied learning instincts affording origination, transfer, exploitation, and defense against memes, the molecules of cultural transmission.

Obviously, different brains are better or worse than others at different subjects. Consider the ability to manipulate quantum mechanics and/or general relativity, the current extremes of our ability to comprehend what appears to be basal reality. Facility with abstract conceptualization and imagination, aligned with analogical reasoning is presently what is needed to excel at these two learned behaviors. Various people hit abstraction ceilings at various levels, for various reasons, maxing out at, say, algebra, trig, calculus, programming, etc.

Although able to calculate abstruse physics results, our brains were originally selected for handling the apparent physics of the mundane world, utilizing neural networks to rapidly simulate differential equations and game theory (walking, throwing, evading). Alas, these networks do not provide an instinctive ability to do integration by parts or find roots of unity. One reason math and science are “so hard” is the difficulty in setting aside instinctual physics for Newtonian, then setting that aside when necessary to exploit QM and GR.

Imagine, then, a world in which people have been uplifted and educated to the point where all brains able to handle intellectual physics can be so trained. A world in which the educated mustn’t constantly roll their eyes at or waste their time with the pitiable failings of the populist unfortunate. A world in which the greatest proportion of people who can rise beyond the highest abstraction ceilings is available and eager to so rise. Here I am unavoidably US-centric: metaphorically this might be something akin to bestowing upon all, worldwide, the privileges that were available mainly to white male geeks of the baby boom generation. Potentially this think force would be able to marshal the cognitive power needed to advance civilization towards an ever-improving environment for ethical self-actualization.

In such a world, fantasies such as establishing off-world settlements would be much less burdensome to both the stayers and the goers. These expanding far-flung societies might even become self-sustaining eventually, perhaps subject to selection pressures imbuing their descendants’ brains with an instinctive physics more suited to their environment, after a hundred thousand years or so even displacing the innate “cartoon physics” of yesteryear (to them: to us, presentyear) with variants making it easier to conceptualize QM and GR at their parents’ knees rather than in grad school.

Such an advanced intellectual basis might promote transcendence of currently unimaginable abstraction ceilings, helping our descendants get even better at as-godness.

Go Placidly Amid Your Poison Waste

Ground means real estate, but what’s this sacred? If it involves the blessings of some mystical ([being]s) who [(listen)s] to us and/or cares what we want, the word can’t well be used non-ironically. Sacrality is a feature of material reality. Whether we agree on that or not, I think it possible that we can agree that if anything at all is sacred, one hallmark of its sacrality is its affordance to all the ability to self-actualize, to pursue humanitarian projects (those that are positive sum (i.e. win-win)), or even zero-sum, for all who are averse to the kind of positive sum social outcomes I, and for some we, envision.

One hallmark of the profane, then, is an engendering of the negative sum. Denial or withdrawal of the mentioned affordances. Deprivation of health, healthcare, wealth (hallmarks of non-profane wealth, sensu this post, yea, this blog (perhaps I should start an official glossary-like hallmark compendium), include a maximum, set at a vaguely upper-middle class level), or bodily autonomy (yes, I am talking non-misogyny here). These are thereby profane.

Profane. Sinful. Punishable. A popular sacrality is that of real estate: sacred ground. In my experience said sacrality is usually expressed in terms of mystical concepts, whether abstract or credulous. But considering the prequel, if any ground at all is sacred, then all ground is sacred. Not that pollution is wrong, but laxity in dealing with it is. Profane. Sinful. Punishable. Failure to corral pollution, wanton habitat destruction, deliberate fact denial (agricultural non-sustainability, global heating, rising fascist tendencies with substantial financial support), these are all profane. Sinful. Punishable. Ignoring them, denying them, minimizing them: profane, sinful, punishable.

The sacred requires paying what it takes to safeguard our nuclear and domestic etc. landfills, and all other endpoints of our activities of global living, our rivers, estuaries, reefs, gyres. The whole fucking atmosphere, you fucking fuckers! Fuck you! God fuck you! I am ashamed that I must emphasize that that last sentence was not non-ironic. How hard is it to stop shitting in our own living rooms? It is a shame that I must emphasize that that last sentence was a metaphor. Do you really want another sneering quip? Recycling as much as techno-economically possible, containing the remainder, minimizing pollution’s land use and leakage (solid, liquid, gas). Restoration of degraded land to higher ecological functioning. To maximize sacral land, one possible desideratum: preserve all waste, and maximize its odds for future utility or upgrading. Store ideally all your poison waste….

Some hymns have great chords and cadences, some organists present them awesomely. The ones that require you to sing the least to (or about) some god-person are the better ones. But I cannot sing even the best of them with a straight face (“That Cause Can Neither Be Lost Nor Stayed”, which has excellent chords, cadences, and melodies). In high school I could (I sang Händel and was in musicals), but I lost that ability perhaps the very minute I settled on urbanity as my milieu. On the other hand, I am not averse to the word sacred, as related above. In fact, to the extent that what I mean by the word and that what you mean by the word have a large cognitive intersection, I am totally happy with singing some kind of hymn with you. I am proud to say that that last sentence was metaphysical. Perhaps it is a bizarre elaboration to note that I am a baritone.

Versions of Space

I no longer stay up late or get up early to watch a Falcon 9 launch, not even of crew, although if launches are going to happen during more normal hours I generally make time. I do go to the extra effort for Falcon Heavy launches, and will be doing so for Starship launches of course. Other rockets I’m not so interested in, although if there’s anything especially exciting about them, I try to make time. For example, I simply couldn’t be bothered to stay up late enough to watch the recent SLS launch. I did set an alarm and it woke me up, but I was so sleepy, and that particular rocket such a boondoggle, I preferred to just go back to sleep. I felt kind of guilty, as if it had failed spectacularly I would have been very disappointed not to have watched it live. I don’t want it to blow up (I want it cancelled!), but if it did blow up I would at least enjoy some live-action Schadenfreude.

Anyway, my non-watching of Falcon 9 launches isn’t a lack of interest, it is rather a lack of angst. Earlier, if a Falcon 9 failed, it would’ve been a big deal, and I would’ve wanted to’ve “been there” when it happened. Landings were still a novelty (in fact, when I do watch a Falcon 9 these days, I’m really in it for the landing, unless the payload is special). Now, even if there is a failure, the rocket is a workhorse with a long track record, and any accident, while critical, won’t mean the end of the idea, although the fleet would probably be grounded for a while.

If I remember correctly, I have defined Space 2.0 to mean that we are starting to employ at least partially reusable launchers. Society is now in transition to Space 2.0, with everybody trying to do their own version of Falcon 9. Higher version numbers should come with full reuse, so perhaps I should declare Starship, when and if it succeeds, as the first iteration of Space 2.1, although that rocket feels so momentous I wonder if it should have a much higher fractional version, say 2.5, or even go up to 3.0. I have a vague memories of defining 2.x numbers differently in various blog posts or asocial media snippets, but am not motivated to track this down – the whole Space 2.x idea is an evolving concept, not an attempt to impose my opinions or achieve scientific levels of self-consistency.

Additional advances such as routine lightsail and/or nuclear thermal propulsion, would have higher fractional values if not bumping up a whole version number. As with my memories of software versions, I feel like reserving Space 3.x for more “complete” implementations of space transportation. Back in the olden days for example, Windows 3.11 was a sort of culmination of The Great Satan’s initial stab at GUI. PageMaker 3.0 was kind of the first version of that application that really felt “complete”. I have distinct, if possibly false, memories of other software “finally arriving” with version 3. With 1.0 you simply get your crap, any crap, out there before the competition, to start establishing market dominance. With 2.0 you back and fill with bug fixes and some of the features you had to cut to ship 1.0. With 3.0 you finish adding those cut features and a few that become obvious from customer use and competition. I do think my metaphor kind of breaks, because PageMaker really made some great leaps by the time it had reached 5.0, and Internet Explorer 5.0, for what it was when it came out, and compared to the competition, was possibly the high point for that app, although again IE 3.0 was really the first version that was relatively usable.

One of my fantasies is to live to be 106 (while retaining my faculties), to see what is happening 100 years after Apollo 11. Space 4.0 or higher by then, I hope.