Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category

These are a couple of short parables (and a true stories) depicting a brief history of the nature of religion(s)

Homeless God(s)

When early man first conceived of God he saw him in the beasts and the trees and the rocks.

But soon man learned to make hammers break open the rocks, weapons and tools to hunt and carve the flesh of the beasts and still other tools to harvest the plants and trees for food, fuel and building materials.
He found no gods inside them.

So man decided that the Gods must obviously be in the distant lands and across vast the oceans.

But as man spread out he learned to build ships to cross wide the oceans and vehicles to travel to the distant lands.
And again he found no gods there.

So man stated that the Gods must therefore be under the seas and exist in the skies and even out in the heavens among the stars.

But again, man learned to devise capsules to venture under the seas and built machines to soar the skies and eventually made devices to peer into the heavens to see the distant stars and even rockets to visit the nearby planets.
And still he found no gods.

Now man has evicted his god(s) to a place outside of all reality itself, to a supernatural realm where no one can ever go unless the god(s) let them in. An imagined place in an alleged mystical realm outside of all that we know to exist.

I can’t help but wonder when we finally realize there is in fact nothing outside of reality, where we will send poor God to next?

The Religion that is Subjectivism

Way back at the dawn of man, some men who were older, perceived as wiser and smart enough to sound important would wander off into a mountain somewhere to think to themselves. They would ponder long and dream up many great sounding ideas then come back and speak to the masses in big sounding words and spew out complex theories about man and creation and the nature of the universe. And all the common folk who were too busy trying to please their slave drivers and maintain their meager lives to ponder such things would bow down to them saying ‘oh oh great wise one, tell us how to think, tell us how to behave, tell us more of the truths you have received through revelation!

Yet more amazing still is that 4000 or so years later, similar men who are older, perceived as wiser and smart enough to sound important now go off into the ivory towers of their universities to think to themselves. They also ponder long and dream up many great sounding ideas then come into the public and speak to the masses in big sounding words and spew out complex theories about man and creation and the nature of the universe. And the common folk who are too busy trying to please their employers and maintain their meager lives to ponder such things still bow down to them saying “oh oh great wise ones …..

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We are so anthropomorphically biased.  We think we are just so damned special and important – perhaps we should, as no one else will.  But in comparison to the universe as a whole, we are but a small spec in both time and space.

Science fiction allows our fantasies to imagine fantastic futures for us as well as carrying it’s own fair share of apocryphal results of our own advancement.  But do these prophetic glances forward maintain integrity when it comes to common sense and reason?

I still don’t buy into the singularity argument as some people put it forth, but if by singularity you mean we – as talented monkeys – will become less and less relevant compared to our creations, then yeah.  I don’t foresee any machine matching the complexity of man any time soon.  At least not any ‘one’ machine.  Machines are already taking the place of man and making  his own abilities irrelevant.  Thus far, the machines are created by men, for men and they are given  no capacity to consider any other course for themselves.  Whether by design or our own inability to make them any more than that, they serve mankind willingly and without any sense of doing otherwise.  But as our requirements for the things we build increases, the necessity of them being able to include their own decision making increases as well.

Mars Rover robot

Comparatively speaking, It’s humans that expire in a short window of a productive lifespan. It’s humans that are bound to a given pressure and temperature range. It’s humans that are bound to the ground and can only exist in air within 1 mile of the surface of same. It’s humans that are prone to toxins and biological intruders, genetic ailments, types of radiation, extremes of heat and pressure, etc.

To exist outside our extremely limited requirements we have to create extravagant contraptions carrying little bubbles of atmosphere and both human and machine fuel. Even with us on board, we miss stuff, misinterpret stuff and misrepresent stuff that happens around us.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve done a lot for a bunch of talented monkeys. Some things well worthy of praise. But the best thing we can do – both presently as individuals and collectively as a species – is to try to see to it that our ‘children‘ are better for all we have managed to survive through.

The machines will be the children of mankind, they can and will (potentially) not be limited by gravity, atmosphere, lifespan or limited senses. We should no more fear them coming or hate their nature and existence than a mother and father should despise their own children. It is our technology that will live among the stars – I just hope we can keep from killing each other long enough for those kids to get their chance!

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branded space mirrors

Before they had to close down due to lack of funds, Jackson Community College had one of the better space museums in the country. A couple of the Mercury and Apollo astronauts came from Jackson, MI and a number of donations and acquisitions led to them having a nice collection of authentic capsules, satellites and other space program memorabilia.

I was fortunate enough to go there while watching my grandparent’s house and got to tour the museum just a few years before it ended it’s mission. One of the things they had on the wall was a prognosis that itself appeared decades old, but that spoke of a future possibility of huge mylar space mirrors that could be used to reflect sunlight onto the night side of the earth to provide day-like illumination.

Not too long after this, Art Bell caught wind of it when some Russian scientists were discussing it as a possibility to light areas of Siberia that had prolonged nights due to their arctic proximity. Art brought it up off and on for over a year as a result.

When I first saw the Jackson museum placard, I first thought of the commercialization of space and imagined a scenario similar to the one above. Huge Mylar mirrors used to light stadiums – branded with commercial logos of their corporate sponsors. Of course, if the mirror was shining on the stadium, you wouldn’t actually see the logos. It would instead look like a miniature sun. But if you were able to see the mirror when it wasn’t pointing directly at you, you would be able to make out any logos emblazoned on their surface.

Just imagine looking up any time of the day or night and seeing ‘Google’ or Amoco floating up in the sky!

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The ObjectOpus

Be sure to check out this and my other works of fiction on the new multi-contributor objectivist fiction showcase:
The ObjectOpus

Anaheim – A new software company aims to slow the spread of ‘urban legend’ spam emails with a new anti-ware offering. ‘NopersWare’ announced their new line of software this afternoon at a press conference in Anaheim stating the offering will hit store shelves and popular internet download sites by mid April of next year.

The new software, marketed as anti-dumbass™ software seeks to compete with long standing debunking websites such as Snopes and TruthorFiction as a means for users to sort through true viral content and false urban myths and legends.

“We conceived of the company when looking at the market of anti-virus software. We saw that market as highly saturated with competitors already,” said company CEO Walter Ames. “If you consider what a virus is, it is something that exploits existing systems to reproduce and flourish. In a manner of speaking, urban legends behave very much like a biological or computer virus, but with the dumbass being the carrier and retransmitter of the virus. And the market was virtually untapped from a software perspective!”

Initial market surveys look hopeful and the company is already receiving considerable pre-order requests. “The problem with existing methods such as the anti-debunking websites is that it requires an action on the part of the user. But idiots would rather just hit the forward button than look up the facts,” says well known PC commentator and pundit Leroy Miller. “A program like anti-dumbass™ is long overdue. I see this as the next potential ‘killer app’.”

Dumbass on computer

Typical mail forwarding dumbass

The company claims that the new software will not only work like existing spyware, malware and anti-virus software in that it will contain ‘known’ signatures or patterns of pre-existing hoaxes, but will also included what they proudly refer to as their ABSAIT or Anti-Bull Shit Artificial Intelligence technology.

“The purpose of the ABSAIT is to simply look for outrageous and ridiculous content to stop urban legends at their source before they begin. The algorithm actually resulted from a Cal Tech psychology research project on political speech.” Ames states that among the triggers the software looks for will include known lists of loaded or negatively connotated words or phrases, forms of common ad hominem sentence structures and certain types of outrageous claims typical to many known myths. This will allow the software to create a BSS or bull-shit-scale rating from 1 to 10 for the user whenever an email containing potentially mythical or nonsensical content is received.

One controversial feature of this new program is what Nopers marketing dubs as ‘pro-active’ protection. A feature which allows outgoing mail to also be filtered is included with the software and has met some complaints from the more savvy and skeptical computing community due to the fact Nopers developers considered it a crucial option to have enabled ‘out-of-the-box’.

“The more intelligent users of our software should have no problem finding and disabling the feature. They may be complaining now, but I think when they see the reduction in their own spam in-boxes they will approve of our decision,” said Ames.

Originally posted to The ObjectOpus – Objectivist Writers’ Showcase

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The ObjectOpus

Be sure to check out this and my other works of fiction on the new multi-contributor objectivist fiction showcase:
The ObjectOpus

During the late 1980’s, researchers were hard at work on a couple of medications involving vasodilation (opening of blood vessels). In some cases, testing of these medications will result in various side effects. At that time, one such medication was found to increase mental ability and memory recall. Yet another was found to give men an erection. Of course, we have all since heard of the latter (Sildenafil, marketed under the brand Viagra) but very few have availed the benefits of the former.

This is similar to the story of our subject today, the miracle drug Cogitalus™. Seeking a cure for migraines, scientists testing the medication quickly found a number of beneficial side effects. Upon providing the material to test subjects, it was found the capacity for critical thinking in these individuals increased as much as 300%.

Learning from the history of  prior medications, the makers of Cogitalus™ immediately sought to launch an aggressive marketing campaign for their new pill.  Initial attempts lacked sorely in producing the desired results, so the company enlisted the efforts of a handful of pop-marketing firms to increase their sales.

“Our goal was to not only increase our profit share, but we fully suspected that there would be government opposition to our product’s popularity for obvious reasons.” said a company spokesperson, Lydia Wainsworth.  “We ultimately prepared our big marketing push to coincide with the months proceeding the presidential campaign cycle.  Our thinking was that once the product had sufficiently gained in prominence and users, any political opposition would be met with considerable protest.”


Thus the makers of Cogitalus™ took a creative approach to marketing their new medicine by way of corporate partnerships.  Known simply as the “Black and White” pill, sales soon began to skyrocket.

“It was the beer partnerships that really gave us the necessary push,” said company CEO, Ryan Smith.  “The idea was to market the medication as a cure to ‘beer goggles’ and it worked.”  Launching this partnership with large scale beer manufacturers immediately led to Cogitalus™ surpassing even the initial sales of Viagra.  “What can I say, sex sells!” added Smith.

Of course there were side effects to this campaign.  Shortly after launching the beer additive, it was found that sports like professional wrestling and Nascar lost a great deal of their viewership.  WWE even claims their bankruptcy early the next year was a direct result of the Cogitalus™ marketing scheme.

The effects of the drug weren’t to be left just to entertainment, however.  As expected, political opposition to the medication came swift and fast.  But as predicted, takers of the medicine weren’t to be outdone.

“Sweeping changes in both the US House and Senate took place the November season of our big push,” said Wainsworth.  “And as you may recall, that election marked the first time in decades that a third party candidate won the presidential election.”

Among some of the other effects following wide scale use of Cogitalus™ included declining ratings on the major television networks during prime time, the mass failures of tabloid magazine publishers and the rapid rise of what is now dubed ‘Cogital TV’ or CTV for short.  Programming that actually has intelligent content.

“It quickly became obvious that the same old bullcrap wasn’t going to cut it,” claims interim CFO of ABC networks Paul McKramer.  “Investors immediately levied their proxies to liquidate the former management as profits began to plummet.  This pattern necessarily repeated itself in all of the major entertainment networks.  It was simply logical.”

And logical it was in more ways than one.  Many such stockholder meetings created what are now referred to as CERs – Cogitalus Equivalency Requirements.  These CERs require that, if the programming is not created by takers of the pill, that the company practices should at least adhere to similar standards of reason as those that do.

Some of the consequences of the brand’s popularity were not as easily predicted.  “The sudden spike in divorce rates among our customers was quite unexpected,” claims CEO Smith.  “But early figures indicate that the divorce rate amongst our consumers that married after already taking the pill is more than 400% lower than the population at large.  We also show that the unwanted pregnancy rate, especially amongst teens prescribed the medication, are at an all time low.  Same too with venereal diseases across similar groups.”

Many organizations such as the Cogitalus™ Consumers’ Quality Advocates emerged lobbying government and corporate industry.  “It is not our desire to assign anyone the requirement to take any medication if they do not choose to,” said a CCQA representative.  “Rather, we just wish to collectively express our desires for more logical ways of doing business and representing products to CCQA customers.”

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The ObjectOpus

Be sure to check out this and my other works of fiction on the new multi-contributor objectivist fiction showcase:
The ObjectOpus

I imagine a man of little influence and above average intelligence sitting on his viranda in 3000bc. He is enjoying the setting of the sun after a long days of labors in his fields. His wife has placed out on his table some fruits along with his evening meal and among these fruits is a melon.
The man, now reserved from his day-long toils is pondering ideas of greater consequence. He looks out at the landscape, apparently flat laying out before him and ponders the nature of his world. The popular notion of the day is in fact that the world is flat and that the sun driven by the gods across the sky every day, and so on and so forth.
He looks across to the other horizon and sees off to one side the moon rising with a partial crescent of darkness on one side. A seemingly flat circle on the face of the heavens. He ponders this too a moment and reaches for his wine but has to turn his head momentarily as the melon amongst the fruit is obstructing his reach.
Upon observing the melon he can see the light of the setting sun bathing the one side and a partial dark crescent of the shade behind it. Epiphany!
He looks back up to the seemingly flat moon and again to the half-lighted melon. Again to the moon and again back to the melon. He calls to one of his boys to bring him a sheet of papyrus and a piece of charcoal. He stands up from the table and walks around the melon, drawing what he observes, then looks up to the moon and again draws what he sees.
Over the following weeks he observes the moon every night and again draws his observations and is now reasonably certain that not only is the moon round, but it too seems to be varying in position in relation to both his reference point and that of the sun.
As a man of little consequence, his ideas have no influence on the science of the day, but by way of objective observation and a  healthy dose of reason he has managed to deduce a fundamental fact about his universe.

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I know, talking about aliens?  What???  But I just finished watching the “Fourth Kind” the other day (and thought it was such a pile of BS) and it got me considering something.

I’ve never been a big fan of science fiction or even pseudo-science scenarios that anthropomorphize the behavior and motivations of theoretical  ‘alien’ civilizations.  There tends to be two major themes: a malevolent alien or a beneficent alien.  The notions of alien visitation revolve around either a race that wants to destroy us, rape our planet, eat us, take over our brains or some other heinous abuse or it’s some compassionate race of benevolent beings looking over us like guardian angels.  And both scenarios are highly egocentric – to assume that our planet or our civilization would be of significant interest to any advanced civilized race to be worthy of exploitation or admirable enough for philantropy.

It got me to considering what would make us ‘worthy’ of a visitation or first contact.  Those with knowledge of the vastness of the universe often hypothesize that even if the chances are rare, the sheer number of stars with potential planets with potential life with potential intelligent life is reasonably good based on just how big the universe is.  And based on how old the universe is, if there was an intelligent life out there, they may well have one hell of a headstart on us – like possibly by millions if not billions of years.  This got me to pondering (something I’ve already done from time to time) as to the nature of such an intelligent life.

Obviously the kind of intelligence that would fit with a ‘visit to earth’ would likely have to be one that had the ability to span the distances between the stars if not entire galaxies.  With a couple mellinia to work out the details, who knows.  If nothing else, a being that could live that long could span the distances without even having a need to ‘bend’ space or use other ‘super’ means to do so.  Either way, it would be a considerable expense of resources, even for an advanced race with access to many resources, to just ‘pay a visit’.

Another consideration, any such race that had been around a long time would likely have colonized or otherwise spread out to some extent.  Without anthropomorphizing the nature of their society itself, it’s not a leap to assume that the maintenance of any technologies to span space would likely require at least some level of organization that a societal/colonial structure would provide to advance the technologies, harvest the resources and create/maintain/support the means to travel the stars.

Now, here’s the twist I realized.  The typical scenarios mentioned above deal with either exploiters or helpers.  My assertion has always been that any such advanced race would be indifferent to us on either of those grounds.  So what would interest such an advanced race in meeting others?  What would interest such an advanced race in going anywhere outside their colonies?

Again without anthropomorphizing, one can look at the basic behaviors of life in general.  Living things span out to get 1) more places to live, 2) more resources on which to survive, and in the case of intelligent life 3) to learn new things.

So what does our corner of the milky way provide?  Is our planet particularly big as a place to live?  Relative to other planets just in our own solar system, no – but depending on the conditions of life, maybe.  But it’s already occupied!  And there aren’t any other planets like it in our solar system.  I’d have to imagine there might be many many many other better alternatives out there on which to colonize for new places to live.  So scratch #1

Are there a large number of resources here?  Water may be of interest, but again, compared to other places in the universe do we have a lot of it?  It seems like a lot to us, but would it seem that way to an expansive race when our’s is the sole planet with a lot of liquid water in a teeny little 8 planet solar system?
What about other resources such as minerals?  We’ve seen some huge planets surrounding other stars, many more than we have here, planets larger than Jupiter.  Even our sun is small in comparison to other stars out there. And yeah, many of them are gas-giants but there are also a lot of random rocks out there (including ice rocks) that aren’t stuck down in the bottom of an already occupied gravity well.  So scratch #2

Would we know more than a race that had been around for much longer than us and is able to span the stars themselves?  Scratch #3

This got me to thinking of what was going on when Columbus set sail.  This theory does fall under a bit of anthropomorphic interpretation, but not really.  It wouldn’t require a ‘capitalist’ like society to assume that an intelligent race might be interested in new contacts for the purposes of ‘trade’.  If for nothing else than having the ability to exchange things they already have for things they might need without the necessity of gathering it and processing it themselves.  But extend a little man-like motive to that and you might also consider such a race, if it did have any capitalist tendencies might also be looking for a ‘market’ for their own goods.

When you are talking about the possibilities of an intelligent, colonial, entrepreneurial race that has been around a lot longer than us, we ain’t big enough yet!  6 billion people seems like a lot to us, but to such a elder race, our planets population would likely be akin to a ‘small village’ to us.
If we span out across our own solar system and colonize space itself with orbiting habitations, gain the ability to mine the asteroid belts and harvest energies directly from the sun – now we are starting to at least get a little bit more appealing.  The last step is the ability to actually deliver goods – the ability to span the distances of space itself.

So my suggestion to all those looking to the stars for life out there, promote the space program, promote space stations, promote trips to mars, promote space industry.  With a  thousand years to ten-thousand more years of that we might become a big enough market to be worthy of a stop-over!

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