Humankind and the hive mind- Our collective future?

The largest ant colony on planet Earth was found in Hokkaido Japan, in 2009. The estimated population of the colony was a whopping 306 million ants, all existing in total harmony and working towards the same goal: the continued survival of the colony.

The current human population of planet Earth is 7.3 billion individuals. Each of these individuals has their own sociological imperative, their own wants and desires and they all pursue different aims in very different ways. Everyone is trying to have it all, regardless of their community and the planet around them.

But what if they didn’t, what if every person worked towards the same goal, the ultimate benefit of the colony/planet as a whole?

What would that entail and would it benefit mankind to sacrifice individualism in pursuit of something better, the success of the species?

The sceptics among you would argue that we already sacrifice individualism for a collective set of aims and ideas when we turn on our electronic devices, our phones and televisions and indeed our computers. I would be inclined to agree with this scepticism having seen so many people become addicted to their computers and so many phone zombies on the streets in the mornings on my way to work.

Although there is a perceived collectivism, there is a crucial distinction as we can choose to ignore these distractions when we are proceeding on our individual set of goals. Collective ideas and thoughts explored in media may influence our thinking to varied degrees but they do not motivate us.

One could argue that this media could be used to make this collectivism a reality, through the use of manipulation both conscious and subconscious. Is the internet a first step in this journey?

When thinking about it, we all connect to it and it does determine what many people do, is it a collective intelligence by another name? Or is it just a method of communication.

The logical progression to this would be a centralised system which humanity could plug into to receive its objectives and plans for the day/month/year in the same way that the ant receives its own biological imperatives through its genes. Ants are grouped and perform tasks based on their biological disposition. Soldier ants are geared differently to worker ants and so on.

Humans, while not possessing the clear biological distinctiveness of Ants could be split into groups based on things like their location, their age and their natural attributes. Those intellectually gifted individuals could be tasked with improving the earth as whole while those predisposed to physical labour could be tasked with commensurate tasks to their abilities.

Individuals unable to work or too old to do so would not have to work as their imperatives could be tailored to their situation, they could be tasked with recording and documenting the collective history of the species. This would avoid the ostracising of these individuals which exists in our independent society, in so much as everyone would have a purpose.

In the same way as ants follow a queen, humans could follow a technological queen. That is to say a computer system which could devise and impart imperatives to every member of the species. It is crucial to ensure that this computer is not corrupted or co-opted by an individual/group of individuals and used to further their own ends.

The base for this collective consciousness exists already and would only need to be augmented by new technologies which would need to both integrate into our bodies and likewise integrate into our minds.

Physical technological integration would involve a similar set up to the human nervous system, with various parts transmitting and receiving data to a central hub in the same way that the brain currently does.

Technological integration from a mind based standpoint would most likely involve the integration of a device into the cognitive areas of the brain. This device could impart the imperatives of the greater human colony as a whole and given time/technological expansion could send and receive messages in a way far more efficient than any other current human method of communication.

Additionally, greater pooled intelligence would lead to quicker achievement of technological advances because one person tackling a problem takes time to solve it but 7.3 billion people solving one problem at the same time will solve the problem far sooner.

Biological advances gained from collectivising human consciousness could be used to breed generations of humans which can be of greater service to the colony as a whole. The problem is that increased manipulation may result in aberrations in the species and could also result in a kind of genetically lead society.

Sociological structures, groups and pastimes may survive but under a collective banner. The pastimes and entertainments of the few could become the collective entertainments and pastimes of all. They would provide the populous with an outlet while also enabling the collective to reinforce their collective consciousness or imperatives, which could be of great benefit to both.

Also the possibilities of species expansion to other planets are greatly increased due to the collective pooling of both intellectual and physical labour. Greater exploration and expansion of our own presence on this world could be beneficial to the indigenous animals but it may not. The collective consciousness imperative to preserve the colony could potentially slant towards a conservation imperative and with the absence of independent thought many species which are being hunted could be left alone to eventually thrive.

The problem is the one thing that defines us as individuals, our own free will. It is the greatest evolutionary gift we have and it has enabled us to achieve so much as individuals, but does free will hinder us from achieving our true potential as a species?

This question cannot be answered without diverging from the purpose of this blog which is to establish if humankind would benefit from a collective consciousness….

Would a human being be able or willing to suborn their own free will in order to have a greater purpose or be happy?

For many people, having a sense of purpose and being happy are things that remain elusive despite all their efforts to achieve them. Discontent with individual situations can often cause emotional disorders like depression or a desire to escape from reality which in turn can lead to bad habits/addictions. Being happy becomes an entire life’s pursuit, a pursuit which can often lead to naught.

But if these individuals were willing to suborn their free will in order to achieve this sense of purpose and happiness then theoretically they would achieve it. Their new purpose would be the collective purpose or whatever duties they are assigned to under this collective consciousness. The achieving of their tasks would be supported by the collective and ultimately their happiness could be drawn from the collective purpose.

They would be happy because they wouldn’t know any better as the free will to choose another vocation or be stimulated by other pursuits would not exist. The grass wouldn’t be greener on the other side because there would be no grass other than the collective grass.

Those who are already happy and have a purpose would undoubtedly rail against this attempt to collectivise the human species. Those that have it all will fight the hardest to keep it. But would they succeed against a newly collectivised humanity? Maybe, Maybe not.

Currently a collective will can topple governments and impart great change to structures both political and sociological, so one could argue the fight against a collective will would be a losing one.

Other casualties of collectivising human consciousness would be many of the world’s religions which would flounder due to the absence of free will and the absence of individuals to participate in worship. The potential side effect of this could be the growth of a neophyte religion within the collective consciousness. The collective will and imperative could become the religion for the newly collectivised populous.

The nation state with all its trappings may lead to the growth of independent colonies in the guise of states but as humanity collectivises itself the nation state could become irrelevant. Distances and borders are already to some degree irrelevant and greater sharing of information/consciousness would only serve to exacerbate this.

In any transaction involving a group of individuals there are winners and losers. Whether the losers outnumber the winners will play a significant part in whether the collective consciousness is implemented.

The question that needs to be asked is if the human race does implement this collective consciousness does it become something other than the human race. Would it simply be the human collective and could it be considered as one rather than a number. As we continue to evolve we may naturally develop a collective consciousness as a biological imperative and the collectivisation of humanity may occur anyway.

At the moment the human species is so split and discordant that the implementation of a collective consciousness becomes a virtual impossibility but it is possible to see a time in the future of our species where a collective consciousness could become both appealing and potentially implementable.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

What are the practicalities and politics of preserving the Status Quo?

The world is an ever changing place; more and more people and society as a whole exist in a state of flux. Yet amidst this constant state of change, there is the constancy of the world itself. This world is not a new one and has steadily evolved over the centuries to become the society in which we live.

It will continue to evolve, but as it does it relies on one main thing: The maintenance of the status quo.

By status quo, I mean the steadiness of human society both political and sociological. This steadiness is not a naturally occurring phenomenon and is supported and maintained by the social and political institutions we have created for ourselves over the centuries.

How does this control manifest itself practically?

Firstly in a population which aspires to be more than it currently is, which is in turn far less likely to rebel and cause societal change. By aspiring to be more than we are, we remain caught up in our own personal spheres of influence and are ignorant of what is going on around us.

The idea that we can achieve more than we currently do is supported primarily by our consumerist society. A society which consumes goods in a self perpetuating cycle has the effect of reducing its own net worth while increasing the wealth of those pulling the strings. Goods are purchased then consumed by the society and then the society is forced to create new goods to sustain itself further, distracting them from dissention and societal action.

The secondary mechanism of support is exposing that society to a better way of life. This can be through exposure to celebrity culture/ the more affluent individuals or the promise of a different way of life (for example through a lottery or competition). The exposure to this often leads to a practical desire for members of the society to become these individuals. Like any lottery, the chances of an individual achieving this are remote. The society itself can manifest a mechanism to reduce the chances of an individual advancing, either through sociological impediments like the class system or monetary impediments like lack of affluence. Both of which can stop an individual from achieving their full potential.

And yet, individuals do achieve these feats but only after conforming to the societal model, this could be through the acquisition of personal wealth or greater status. Both of which rely on the consent of the society and the preservation of the status quo.

This can be achieved by the placation of the social group via monetary or increase in status. As long as the individuals involved are placated the method can be anything. They should also have the opportunity to better the lives of those who are less fortunate than they are, when the actual chances of bettering these individuals’ lives are small. This method also serves to placate the less well off on the societal pecking order by making them value their lives and status, however small it is.

Malcontents, or those who choose not to accept the status quo can be ostracised by the societies pre-existing mechanisms, reducing their status to the point where these individuals can no longer affect the status quo in any way. This pushes the individuals out and preserves the status of those who are willing to accept it.

Societal status quo, relies on placing the right people or social groups into the right place for them at the right time.

Governmental status quo is very similar and can be maintained indefinitely by refreshing the various branches of government regularly with new individuals from the same sorts of social groups. This has a double beneficial effect because it maintains the status quo on an ongoing basis and gives the people the idea that they have determined who would be in control of their country, despite the fact that they did not.

Any changes made to the fundamental structure of the government, for example a popular uprising or dictatorial changes would obviously result in some disruption of the status quo, but ultimately the underlying political world would remain the same.

Potentially damaging changes to the status quo resulting from international schisms can be avoided by greater co-operation between international governments. Into this mix of peoples there will always be rogue elements, but as long as a consensus prevails the rogues can be ostracised, their politics ignored and their political status reduced to its lowest amount.

The threat of an unseen enemy, or war allows the government to add new dimensions to its status quo preservation mechanism and gives them carte blanche to do whatever they want. As long as there is a danger, any sort of restrictive or unhealthy policy can be masqueraded by the government as being a security matter and in the national interest.

Additionally the government can employ external agents, in the guise of individuals acting alone or as part of a cell to produce acts of terror, which have the effect of swaying the populations of their respective countries. As long as the involvement of the government remains a secret, they cannot be found out.

Human beings are at their heart agents of change. This change manifests itself both in how we act and how we conduct ourselves in the world, it is this change which has enabled us to rise from apes to humans and will eventually lead beyond. When this necessary change meets something which is immutable, (i.e. the status quo) the most likely result will be the destruction of one or the other. It can be suggested that the continued maintenance of the status quo at the present time is stopping us from changing both ourselves and the world around us. It is stopping us from evolving.

Although evidence for this change cannot be perceived immediately it will eventually be discovered, what we do at this point is up to us. Do we change our world or do we choose to accept it?

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

Would a super powered individual be able to exist in today’s society?

The popular culture that existed in the late twentieth century spawned an explosion of expression, this in tandem with scientific advances spurred our imagination as we looked to achieve ever greater feats. Media provided a fundamental outlet where this expression could find its voice, through books, magazines and television. It provided us with heroes and villains, trials and tribulations and now I’d like to examine what would happen if one of these individuals existed in our society for real.

A super powered individual entering society would face two challenges, the first being the revelation of his/her powers to the society in which they reside. Far from being a grandiose gesture, this would most likely encompass them making contact with their government to declare their abilities. These abilities would then be measured and documented, with the predisposition of the government determining what happens to that individual, whether they be dissected, studied or used by the government. Groups of politicians at the highest levels, utilising the uttermost secrecy would discuss the individual’s potential role within society.

The governmental dilemma that would exist on the revelation of an individual with super powered abilities would be overshadowed by a larger dilemma, the determination of whether this individual with these powers is still classifiable as human. The inclusion of these powers would ostensibly remove them from the human condition, because those classified as human could not undertake the things that this individual could. This status ambiguity could result in a removal of their basic human rights, since they no longer conform to the standard definition of human.

An opportunistic government could use this ambiguity to its advantage, legislating for the dissection of the individual on the grounds that they have no right to exist under human law. The reaction of the human species as a whole to this new species may be the same as the Cro-Magnon to the Neanderthal, except that now the Neanderthal kills the Cro-Magnon. That being said without more of this new species being born the species itself remains a mutation rather than an evolutionary change.

Such a being would undoubtedly create a lot of debate in the scientific community and the world at large.

Human beings by their nature desire community and a super powered individual would be no different. An individual manifesting super powered abilities either through a unique accident or circumstances would still be present in a community for an extended period of time either prior to their manifestation or as a result of their upbringing in that community. During this time, that individual would have/make affiliations with other individuals in the community, individuals whose status would be under threat once this individual had revealed themselves to their respective government. The individual could make one of the conditions of their revelation that these individuals are kept safe by the sponsoring government. This would in all likelihood result in a sort of witness protection programme for the affected. The psychological effects of this upheaval on the individual could be quite damaging.

The second of these challenges would involve the practical application of their powers, would they use them to further their own agenda or work as a subordinate to another’s agenda. With either approach you are faced with one very specific problem, what if that agenda changes? A government may follow a more hard-line approach which would bring the individuals affiliation with them into question and likewise the individuals ethical codes may change to the extent where their politics differ from those of the sponsoring government. This estrangement could lead to dire consequences for both the super powered individual and the government to which he or she is affiliated.

How the individual uses their powers in the societal sphere depends on the character of the individual. Not everyone may want to manifest their powers in an obvious way, some may prefer to remain behind the scenes influencing and changing things without necessarily being visible to the public at large. The preconceived notion that an individual who gains superpowers would put on tights and prepare to fight injustice is a construct of the pop culture of the last 50 years and may bear no resemblance to reality.

Heroes and villains in comic books often do not fight larger battles than against their antagonists. Usually the greater injustices go unanswered, as they are beyond the scope of the medium to which the story is being told. An individual with super powers could use their abilities to greatly change the world.

He or she could use their powers to greatly enhance the knowledge of humanity through use of their super powered abilities, they could travel the universe using means that normal humans would not have access to. The abilities that they possess could be used to enhance all aspects of human life.

The individual could inspire humanity to reach new heights, behave in a way that they would ideally like to behave. The actions of one individual could prompt the revelation of others with super powered abilities, who could take their place in human society.

Yet amidst this garden of roses, there are thorns. The reaction of the human species to this individual could result in a scenario where humanity becomes complacent. By complacency, I mean that humans could look to depend on the super powered individual to run their lives, sacrificing their free will and their futures to them.

There could also be a backlash where this powered individual would be ostracised from their community due to their abilities causing jealousy or negativity. In the same way that some are envious of footballers, there could be those who are envious of super powered individuals.

The individual could rule humanity as a despot, enslaving them under a dictatorship.

The revelation and subsequent reaction to an individual with superpowers is a scenario that could both prove of benefit and detriment to mankind. The course of this will largely be determined by both the individual with the powers and the world into which they exist.

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

What would happen if a government or political party decided to tell the whole truth?

In today’s political arena, the truth is often the first casualty in the rush to sway popular opinion. The rise of spin has worked in tandem with a very old practice, the practice of rhetoric.

Rhetoric was in itself a product of the Ancient Greeks who used it as a way of increasing status in the community while persuading the populous to come around to your point of view.

It was taught in Athens and many of the Greek islands and gradually passed on to the Roman Empire and after the dark ages where it was used by the fledgling politicians and statesman of the Middle Ages.

Following the enlightenment, the growth of political thought and expression defined itself in the English Civil War, The French Revolution and The American War of Independence.

In our modern age, rhetoric has never been more popular as a tool, but the use of rhetoric is more and more becoming a way of distracting the general populous from the real truth of political action.

The competing superpowers of the USA and Russia used rhetoric and spin to turn their political standpoints against each other, spreading lies and disinformation to undermine their respective enemies.

It may have been perceived that the end of the cold war would have brought an end to this practice, but as the walls came down the tactics became more clandestine. Controversial governmental policies pushed the need for spin and rhetoric to the fore as governments attempted to justify their actions.

In some cases, the truths they are attempting to justify are so politically damaging, that they have to be cloaked in lies and spin to be explained to the public. The more terrifying truths are merely not expressed; instead they are classified as being in the national interest and promptly buried.

It also remains a prominent force in the practice of electioneering where increasingly it has been used by political parties to make light of the weaknesses in their opponents policies and political record.

Current affairs shows are full of politicians using spin and rhetoric to confirm /deny their actions, make beneficial coincidences seem like part of their plans and to distinguish themselves as being different from other political parties.

Politics is primarily the art of discourse, the reasoned debate that exists within a community of individuals. The rise of modern political society has supplanted this in favour of a defacto schoolyard game of one-upmanship, where one party blames another for the failings of the country.

The pursuit of controversial policies like the Iraq war, the War on Terror and austerity has made the public very sceptical, a climate which has not been favourable to politics in Britain as a whole.

Amidst this malaise of spin, the understanding and faith in the political parties shown by the general public has never been lower. Voting turnouts at elections have never been lower, entire sections of society have become estranged from politics as distrust of politicians has grown. This estrangement can only grow as time goes on and as it does, more extreme political standpoints may become more palatable to the unhappy populous.

The practices used have created this climate, but what if these practices were abandoned in favour of a new practice: telling the public the unequivocal complete truth.

We talk of truth, but what does that mean in a political sphere?

In a political sphere we are talking about the full disclosure of those things which could be beneficial or detrimental to the government of a country. No distinction would be made, all truths would be told and it would be the responsibility of the voting populous to determine if those truths make the incumbent party not worthy of voting for.

This need not be limited to things happening in the present, past acts undertaken by previous governments could be fully disclosed and not disclosed after a certain period of time as currently practiced.

That being said, a certain level of truth telling exists in modern government anyway you just have to move past the spin to find it. The truths of statistics, budgets and expenditure are not easily recoverable but they are there, it is a question of what is done with those truths (for example the recent parliamentary expenses scandal). Politicians recognise the need for truth in all spheres of politics however their policies do not go far enough.

The level of detriment of the truth would decide the path of the political party, nay the political system of the country. Alliances with other world powers could be shown to be alliances of convenience rather than actual friendship. The behind the scenes practices of government could be revealed, relationships between parties, companies and fundamental truths about how the country is run could be exposed.

The effect on that countries status in international politics is more of a hit and miss scenario. Some countries may welcome the chance to deal with a country which tells the absolute truth, whereas other more restrictive governments would actively shy away from dealing with this country. This aversion to telling the truth may in turn lead to their own populations asking why?

A tremendous amount of initial damage would undoubtedly be done to the political system of that particular country, however after the dust settles this culture of truth telling might actually find its way into the political systems. Fundamental changes would be made to the way a political party conducts itself both internally and externally. Election politics would never be the same, as parties would move away from the current schoolyard fight to reasoned engagement with the voting individuals of the country.

The truth would result in a clearer understanding of what each party does and how that could affect the determination of the country they are attempting to win the right to run. This could reenergise the voting population’s interest in the political process, lead to greater voter turnout at elections and greater faith in the systems of the respective governments.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

What are the practicalities and consequences of definitive proof of the existence of God?

The Question of the existence of God is the fundamental question that has occupied the thoughts of scholars, theologians and philosophers since the beginning of human knowledge. Religions have been founded on the various schools of thought, wars have been waged in the name of God and entire civilizations have risen and fallen directly or indirectly as a result of this question.

Recent scientific experimentation has sought to prove the existence of God by proving the existence of his actions. We have looked to show the handiwork of an intelligent designer in the fabric of the universe. While the discovery of the Higgs-Boson the so called God particle, science has gone some way to prove the existence of an external deity but there are still so many unanswered questions.

But what if the questions were suddenly answered?

The establishment of a definitive way to effectively prove the existence of god will most likely result in the creation of a new scientific branch and new technologies. This could range from scientific classification of the entity to practical measurement of its abilities. The possibility of proving the existence of a false god may also necessitate a divinity test to which the entity would be subject. In the same way that we would prove if a life form is sentient we would need to prove this. Although this would be seen predominantly as a religious matter, the act of faith can only definitively prove so much, science will inevitably take over. There will be uproar from the main religions, who will feel that they are somehow being supplanted by the scientists and this in turn could cause a further schism between science and faith. Whether this schism is a spiritual or physical is up for debate, however a physical schism would in all likelihood result in profound sociological change.

Taking a step back, the fundamental question which all subsequent contact would be based is: Can the human mind truly comprehend God? True comprehension may involve the use of artificial technology to augment the human brain, or genetic engineering to bring our evolution forward to the point where we can effectively comprehend higher levels of being/thought. Both of these methods will have far reaching consequences, both in terms of the desired objective and humanities interaction with the world as a whole. A change made too early may cause irreparable harm.

In a world where the existence of god has been proven and confirmed the need to create a stable framework for communication is prevalent. This would be much the same as communicating with another country or species. The only difference being that the embassies for this diplomacy already exist, albeit in the form of churches. Ambiguity and uncertainty about the message of God would give way to absolute clarity as the entity would be forced to confirm its policies within a pre-existing diplomatic framework. The greatest casualty of contact with God and the resulting clarity of message may be the religions he has inspired, holy texts may be proved to be inaccurate, clerics may be denounced and entire ways of worshipping may be deemed unacceptable to the entity.

Dialogue with an omniscient entity would doubtless bring a flood of scientific questions as the mysteries of the universe would be up for grabs. We could find out how the universe was created, what it takes to make worlds, harness infinite energy and create life. Fundamentally speaking however, this would depend on the entities willingness to volunteer that information. If he or she would not what could we do to change their mind?

Religiously speaking: Can God disclose the existence of heaven and hell? Would he want to? An unknown god cannot be held accountable for his own actions. A known God can.

The entity known as God may prove to be one of a race of entities which occupy and even larger universe. We may be the smallest iota of the smallest atom in an infinite reality. The previously arcane polytheistic religions could reassert themselves in religious thinking. If they are a race of omniscient entities, what is to stop another entity from contacting us and setting itself up as a potential competitor to our God?

Acceptance of the entity may not be forthcoming, in fact many individuals may reject the input of this unseen interloper in their lives. Interference once deemed as destiny or “God working in mysterious ways” could be ignored as we finally have an entity to blame of our own shortcomings. A revolution of spirit could result in an active desire to eliminate God from our lives, practically and spiritually. Blaming God leads to culpability and the potential to create a world where God is subject to the laws of man and is limited by what he can say and do.

The practice of Atheism may enjoy a sudden resurgence, a resurgence born of the proof of the existence of God as a legally and sociologically culpable entity in our lives. The paradox being that proof kills religion but creates a religion with no God.

Another assertion is that God is beyond good and evil and would therefore only work in humanities best interests. Entities which are part of a race rather than a singular may be subject to the same fundamental laws and emotional states as humanity. Not all of these states are good, if we meet a pissed off entity with godlike powers the consequences for humanity could be disastrous. We could become playthings for a more powerful race, like ants under a magnifying glass.

Proving the existence of God, though a worthwhile pursuit may prove costly to the spiritual and psychological health of humanity. We must as a species shake our preconceived notions of what God is, what he can do and what role the entity plays in our lives. We have to understand what the destination is and what it entails before we proceed on the journey. Only then can we truly be ready to discover God.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

Would a world ultimately free of choice be a better one?

On a daily basis, a person existing in the world makes thousands of choices. If every person in the world made the same number of choices then the numbers would be infinite. These choices determine everything from what sort of coffee they have in the morning to larger choices, should I change my chosen career?

Every choice has a result which spawns a myriad of new choices and the cycle perpetuates itself onwards. Choices themselves can sometimes be obstacles rather than avenues, but what would happen if there was no choice? What if choice never existed or was supplanted by some other entity?

The absence of choice, if undertaken by humans themselves can resemble a totalitarian regime. Choice would not exist because the government of the affected nation would not allow it to exist. That being said, the removal of choice using this means does not necessarily mean that it does not exist, merely it has been withdrawn from acceptable usage by the society.

The trains would run on time, people would display satisfaction in the work and in their lives for fear of the consequences. The government enforcing this would most likely be hard line government, pursuing a philosophy of suppression by political and sociological means.

A society which employs this method of choice removal may seem to be okay on the surface, but discontented elements would ultimately surface primarily due to the presence of one natural phenomenon: Free Will.

Free Will would be the splinter in the foot of the totalitarian regime and could likely lead to its overthrow. True absence of choice could only be accomplished if free will did not exist.

Artificial choice or free will removal could take two potential forms: The disassociation of humankind from the sphere of decision making or the removal of the in-built human ability to perceive choice.

Under the disassociation method, an entity or medium is required to take up the burden of choosing on mankind’s behalf. In today’s scientifically advanced age, the most fool proof way of doing this would be to create a supercomputer, ostensibly to balance and weigh all of the choices available for mankind. Other more localised disassociation methods would rely on individuals and individuals may not choose to proceed with the result of the external choice maker once made.

A supercomputer created to make choices for humanity would require a level of technology un-paralleled in human history and would undoubtedly involve the creation of advanced artificial intelligence. Choices exist outside of the world of black and white and it would take an artificial intelligence to truly appreciate the scope of the choice. This AI would learn from each choice and would take on a degree of omniscience typically associated with a god like entity.

That being said, this choice making computer could be used/manipulated for ends contrary to its intention, it could be used to manipulate a society into submission. On the flip side of the coin, humanity may be reluctant to apportion its free choice to a machine and could rebel against it. The need to be objective about this sort of development would necessitate its response.

The second method, the removal or suppression of the inbuilt ability of Mankind to perceive choice and act on it could be far more effective and far more attainable. Genetic engineering or pharmaceuticals could be used to negate the human ability to perceive choice or act on it much in the same way as an anti-depressant would. Great care needs to be taken with this method to ensure that the negation of choice by pharmaceutical means does not result in an inactive society which does not evolve or progress.

The pharmaceutical method would need to work in tandem with a strong government which pushes its individuals to interact with society. The individuals in charge of this government may need to be free of the need to medicate themselves to direct the medicated populous. In this society of divides, the medicated would essentially become a slave populous and the previously mentioned rebellion against this authority would occur.

The natural absence of choice is a virtual impossibility as the natural world is founded on the principle of choice. Evolution of a species occurs as a result of choice, natural selection occurs as a result of choice and so on. The only way that a natural absence of choice could work is if it only applied to humankind at this time. Other species would simply die out without the ability to choose.

Practically, the absence of choice from the human sphere of perception can be a great levelling force. Many people have so much choice that this forces them into procrastination, or the feeling that their current way of life is in some way not the correct one. A world free of choice would remove the possibility of changing your life to make you happier. Would an individual removed of choice be happier? Maybe, choices can cause uncertainty and without choice the uncertainty would not occur.

As explained previously, this absence of choice may have a potentially detrimental effect on mankind, humanity may simply stop doing things or inversely they may do the same thing over and over again until the species simply exhausts itself. Also the absence of choice doesn’t allow us to anticipate external events, for example a person would not dodge an oncoming car because they could not choose to. If you play this scenario out to its natural conclusion, the human race would be unable to prevent its own extinction simply because it would not be able to choose to.

Under this forced or unenforced absence of choice, humanity would struggle to exist. It is the desire to change, to improve to strive further and further that allows us to become the best of ourselves. A world which exists in this way is most likely to implode, leading to the extinction of mankind via external means or internally through inaction. A better world would not exist.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

What are the practicalities and consequences of time travel?

The discovery of the ability to successfully travel through time has drawn the imagination of many a science fiction writer and blockbuster film maker over the years. Visionaries like H.G. Wells and Steven Spielberg have imagined worlds where time is conquered and can be travelled in a way much like travelling to another country.

Aside from the fantastical qualities of discovering the ability to navigate a human being successfully from one period of time to another and back again, the practical implications of time travel are both astounding and frankly quite frightening.

The time travel discovery would undoubtedly begin with a scientist or mathematician adding a missing element or making a leap forward in an equation that either already exists or is in the process of being theorised. A prominent example of this in recent history would be Professor Stephen Hawking’s publication of A Brief History of Time, which used the pre-existing theories of Albert Einstein to augment Hawking’s hypothesis. This book, like Einstein’s earlier work was ahead of its time in terms of the theories proposed by its author.

This individual would then publish their equation in a scientific journal or independently, which would open it up to scrutiny by other scientists. As it’s just an equation at this stage, it still cannot be proven until the technology exists to prove it.

The possession of such knowledge would have to be tightly controlled.  Although the scientific community exists without borders, co-operation between individual scientists relies as it does currently on co-operation between governments.

Explanations would have to be made and a consensus established between the governments of the world to establish the practicalities to prove such a theory and to manage its eventual use.

It is there that you would most likely run into the first problem, how to ensure that this equation does not fall into the hands of a hostile government who would develop and then misuse the technology for its own ends.

A possible solution that presents itself in the co-operation between governments could be the dissolution of the various elements of the equation throughout the co-operating governments. This would mean that no government would possess the equation in its entirety and would have to co-operate with its international partners to facilitate its successful exploration.

This solution would in all likelihood work when the technology to undertake the journey was invented. Each government could possess part of the device required to travel through time and a consensus would be required to use the technology in any given sphere.

While the potential management of such a far reaching discovery presents us with unknown challenges, the perils of engaging in such an endeavour without sufficient preparation or groundwork speak for themselves. A single government, hostile or otherwise could use this discovery to change the history of itself and/or the other countries of the world.

Minor changes made, such as a change in budgetary direction or a change in employment law made in advance of a recession event could result in the changed country becoming stronger and more financially secure. This would have an ultimately beneficial effect on the country without causing the type of exposure of technology which did not exist in the period effected.

More obvious changes could be made, armies could be sent into battles which the changing country has lost to unduly influence the battles course. Advanced technology could be sent into the past to enhance the industry of the country being changed and so on. The examples of how this technology could be misused are numerous, all with staggering implications. The ultimate escalation of this would be the extermination of the first thing that crawled out of the sea, thus destroying all future generations of mankind.

The ethical dilemma that humanity will undoubtedly face is whether time-travel or temporal manipulation is contrary to the natural order of things. Will time be reduced to a child’s plaything? Or should we treat it with the same respect that we did before the discovery was made. Our decision in this respect will be the determining factor in how the technology is used and exploited for the benefit or detriment of humanity.

A backlash against this technological advance may follow, primarily motivated by religious groups, who have the most to lose from the exploitation of such a discovery. Indeed the discovery of time travel could be the nail in the coffin for many religions as they could now be disproved and shown for what they really are, sociological organisations of control.

Figureheads of religions could be scrutinised in the past, their miracles examined by science and their religious texts proved to be the work of sensationalist contemporaries, rather than their actual words. Religious opposition would be vehement in its desire to limit this discoveries use. However, this opposition will be overwhelmed in the face of humanities desire to explore the past, present and future.

Proceeding with the exploitation of time travel would have to be handled carefully from both a political and a diplomatic standpoint. New treaties governing initial co-operation between governments and ongoing relationships would have to be created.

To successfully limit time travel via diplomatic means, the greater definition of what time travel is and what is involved would have to be achieved. This may involve the creation of a scientific council on time travel, a body which could over time become a central governing body for the technology.

This body, independent of central government could effectively manage the use and abuse of time travel by humanity. Ideally it would be both created and staffed by scientists, but eventually as the technology grows so must the mechanisms to effectively govern it and people without a background in science may become involved. The agents, could administer the temporal treaties which are created in the various time periods in which they are abused.

This independence has a double usage, limiting who has access to time travel devices and could inspect countries to ensure that the technology is not being misused. They would have a similar job to the U.N weapon inspectors of today, albeit with probably greater funding and autonomy.

The recognition of the political rights of time periods is an inevitable consequence of the increase of usage in time travel technology. In concert with this increase would be an increase in black marketeering, which would have to be extremely well monitored.

Entire time periods would become off limits and free of manipulation, but obviously a few motivated individuals would slip through the net. New and dangerous words may enter the human vocabulary, temporal terrorism for example, maybe even a temporal war between opposing nations. The need for limits and checks to this power is never more needed at this point.

But maybe we are leaping forward in time when we talk about things like temporal war and terrorism. Let’s look at more of the practicalities.

A piercing of the time barrier is likely to be a very expensive and grand endeavour, both in financial cost and manpower used. That is also not to mention the likely huge amounts of energy utilised to produce the necessary conditions. The current, fuel inefficient society of the planet earth would not be able to sustain such energy usage for a long period of time.

But once the experiment succeeds, the danger commences.

Any incursion into another time period conducted in the strictest of scientific conditions is likely to leave a mark on the time period visited despite rigorous control methods.  Like ripples in a pond, the effect on the future could change the timeline significantly.  The only way to truly limit our effect on a time period is to create a force field that would keep us out of sync with the time period being visited. Then we could explore at our leisure, secure in the fact that there would be no trace of them when they explored.

Once the technology and our effect on the time periods visited can be fully controlled, the debate would begin about where to go in history.

The reflex action would be to go back in time and eliminate the evil individuals that have shaped history, like Hitler, Stalin and Napoleon. This would seem like the right thing to do, as it would save millions of lives and avert wars which cause humankind untold harm.  There is however no guarantee that this would work, eliminating one evil despot may create one that is even worse. The stopping of pre-existing wars may lead to more destructive conflicts. Evil individuals and horrific events that change history have to occur so that positive advances in humanities journey can occur. Without the Second World War, there would be no space program, no advanced technology no vaccines to stop diseases.  Despots need to exist to spring humanity into positive action.

Even the stopping of natural disasters would prove ultimately more costly, as disasters need to occur to increase our readiness to deal with them. Without greater knowledge of why these things occur the stopping of these occurrences is virtually meaningless.

If the stopping of world changing events is off limits to us another potential avenue of usage and one which may have less of a historical impact would be the stopping of manmade accidents. Accidents such as plane crashes, car accidents, and nuclear accidents would all be realistically stoppable in advance. Natural disasters would be harder to counter as we know so little about the causes of them, although an attempt could be made to curtail massive loss of life. The inevitable issue with this is how to decide what accidents to stop and in the case of disasters who to save. Is one life more valid than another because he/she dies in a plane crash rather than an automobile accident? By the same token, a person saved from a car accident could eventually become the worst dictator in human history or the other individual who was not saved may have cured cancer if they had lived.

 

If we want to greater anticipate the effects of changing history on a timeline we must have access to all the potential timelines. We must be able to view the multiverse as a whole. Only then would we be definitively sure that any intervention we make would not turn into something worse or better. But in our rush to understand time it could be suggested that we are attempting to play god and meddle in forces we have no business meddling in. Omnipotence gained too quickly could result in our destruction as we advance too fast before we are ready.

Not all areas of temporal incursion are off limits to humanity, but a non-interventionist ideology must prevail if we are to manage our timeline and prevent its contamination/change.

The greatest area of potential gain for humanity in its use of time exploration would be the expansion of knowledge of the past, present and future. We could travel back to the beginning of time and see the dawn of creation, prove evolution as a theory and gain knowledge about the formation of our planet. Exploration of human history alone could prove immensely valuable and complete the missing parts of our history. Myths and legends could be proven to be actual historical events, lost civilizations and continents such as Atlantis and the Mayans could finally be observed and understood. Combining the technologies of space travel with time travel, we could journey to neighbouring planets at different stages in their histories: We could see a fertile and green Mars, a thousand suns which have gone nova and the younger universe as a whole. We could also go forward in time and see how the story of the universe ends.

We could make contact with species in the past that existed on planets before our own was born and with knowledge of the end of our solar system and the universe, we could forestall the end of our own civilization. The temptation would be to save these species from extinction but again we are presented with the same ethical dilemmas’ which face us in the saving of our own species.  Why should they be saved and are we playing God?

Aside from knowledge gain, the industrial applications of time travel technology are limitless, trains could run better than on time, post could arrive before it is sent and diseases could be stopped in advance.

A humanity which becomes over dependent on this technology loses something, as there would be no place in this Swiss Clock universe for randomness and coincidence two of the great mysteries of life.

Following this through to its natural conclusion, greater understanding of time using the medium of time travel could result in us creating a world that exists outside of linear time. In such a world, would we become immortal? If time is not there to kill us, then we could truly live forever.

Such knowledge of the past, present and future would in due time enable us to usurp God.  Would we evolve from our new omnipotence, or would we remain the same flawed humankind which emerged from the trees those many millennia ago.  As with everything, only time will tell.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

What is the answer to Life’s problems?

For many individuals, finding that one panacea answer to life’s problems becomes a central part of in their esoteric experience of life. Humanity manifests many answers to this problem, do this 5 times a day and your life will be better, purchase this item and your life will be improved significantly. All of them offer happiness and the solution but most of the time they only offer a temporary happiness that dulls over time.

What if we take this one step further, What if there is one universal panacea which would solve all of the problems of the world? The magic pill, the ultimate problem solver.

The problems of the world are numerous, from poverty to disease to war and beyond. Yet for all this seemingly insurmountable accumulation, there are still people in the world who hope against hope for a better world. Some would call them delusional; some would call them dreamers but what if their prayers were answered? What if there was a way to solve them all?

The answer implies a positive agent of change, but something can be negative and have a positive outcome can’t it?

The Second World War was one of the most horrific conflicts in human history resulting in a shocking 85 million deaths. It is not the place of this writer to call it a positive event because it is not, however it has resulted in the greatest acceleration of technology since the industrial revolution. Billions of individuals now benefit from technology inversely created as a result of the Second World War. Our knowledge of illnesses and the human body has been enhanced by experimentation on individuals detained in concentration camps despite the absolute evilness of the act itself.

Would a similar war result in a similar explosion of technological advancement? Undoubtedly, war for all its numerous faults accelerates technological change. In tandem, this technological change would be mirrored by a sociological change, populations migrate away from conflict zones, are reduced by use of weaponry and other social groups profit from this change. The reduction in population results in an increase in available resources, resources which if not taken up by the respective war efforts could enhance the lives of those remaining.

The destruction caused by a war could reduce humankind from a highly technological to an agrarian civilization, free from the trappings of technology and arguably its pitfalls. The people in this society could ultimately be happier and lead more productive lives than their forebears.

The scale of this destruction will be the determining factor in what sort of society arises from the war, indeed if any society as a nuclear war would be most likely an extinction level event. The movement of the world’s governments away from this strategy does not mean that they will not use it. The temporary problems which occur in our lives would be rendered obsolete in favour of new challenges, challenges which we may not be equipped to face in the long term.

A shared experience which brings humanity closer together need not only occur by war, there are peaceful methods by which the political and sociological world changes leading to positive results for all of the world’s many people.

One such manifestation of this could be through a massed religious experience.

Many individuals engaged in religious and spiritual services have felt the effects of being involved in a shared experience with others. You need only look at the evangelical churches for evidence of this positivity manifesting itself. Yet religion itself remains a very subjective experience on the part of the individual. But what if everybody in the world had the same experience?

Practicalities aside, a mass religious event where everyone had the same experience of it would result in a lot of common ground. Separate individuals would have something to talk about and it is possible, although a stretch to assume that this discourse would open the door to other avenues such as the ending of old religious differences and international enmity.

Whether it would reshape the human existence and determine our future happiness and stability, no man can really say. There is no doubt that it would cause a moment of significant pause for humanity and could result in introspection where the individuals affected revaluate their lives.

We cannot ignore the subjective nature of religion, no matter how hard we would like to believe that we all have a similar experience of it. The diversity of the religious experience and its effect on people is the greatest barrier to it having a positive effect on solving the planets problems. Some may gain a solution to their problems from it, some may not.

The additional question occurs: What if that shared religious experience is not a positive one?

A negative experience, initiated by an external omnipotent entity might screw us up so bad that we are forever changed by it negatively. It could result in a degradation of the human spirit, as we question ourselves and our purpose in the world.

The same principles that govern a mass religious experience would likely be the same in the event of humanity making contact with an extra-terrestrial species.

The initial euphoria of finding out we are not alone would subconsciously render us united as a species. National borders would become unnecessary as we would have to unite to have dealings with the species, which would itself be unified due to its advanced nature.

The doors would be open for technological and cultural cross pollination, which in turn could offer new perspectives and technological advances that we would not have thought of. These new things could vicariously solve many of our existing problems like world hunger and inequality.

But on the other side of the coin, if the species that humanity makes contact with is hostile our problems on Earth could be exacerbated, we could even be conquered or subjugated by the hostile species.

For lots of people, the pursuit of money is a constant struggle. The poorest in the world struggle to make ends meet while the rich are often just as unhappy as their poorer counterparts.

The elimination of money would seem to be a logical step to ending a lot of the world’s problems, but this could result in the exact opposite. We have been locked into using money for so long, that it would be a hard habit to shake. An economic collapse would likely follow money’s elimination as goods and services produced would have no value.

There would be no means of determining the value of these items, so consequently no one would be under any financial obligation to do or produce anything. Despite humanities lofty aspirations, the notion that humanity would simply continue without it would not become reality. People are by their nature greedy, the most likely result of the elimination of money would be the implementation of a barter system which would ultimately become a poor cousin of the money that was eliminated.

Elimination of money from the human experience would not necessarily result in humanity being happier or its problems being lessened or solved.

Likewise, making everyone equal in status would not result in a solving of humanities problems. If everyone is equal in what they want, there will always be someone who wants more. The defining principle of human nature, which has been reinforced by centuries of exposure to consumerism, is to want what we don’t have. Increased exposure to a consumer culture will only exacerbate this habit in our spirit. We could stop the consumerist culture exerting such an influence on humanity by outlawing it; this could be dovetailed by a medical method of eliminating our need to be consumers.

However in the removal of want we might lose something of ourselves.

It is entirely possible that human technological, philosophical and sociological advances will be achieved without the need for an external entity or motivating force. Current human society has achieved many advances without such agents.

Technology could render all desires unnecessary, as nothing would be outside of our reach. There are already signs that we are becoming lazier as a species and technological advances could continue this disturbing trend. Humans could become apathetic individuals with no goals, no dreams, nothing to strive for.

The problem is if we advance too far too fast we could lose sight of our original objectives, which should always be the betterment of human life.

The rescinding of national borders to ensure global peace and harmony is a noble idea and there is an obvious benefit to this in so much as we would be a united people for the first time in our history.

Logistically, this dissolution presents us with two very pressing issues, firstly the reduction and elimination of armies and weaponry from the human sphere of influence. Secondly the ending of enmity between nations.

The ending of armies and weapons would need to be a united experience engaged in by all the governments of the world at the same time, if one nation chose to hold back its dissolution it could use its armies and weaponry against the others who would now be powerless to defend themselves.

The current disposition of hostile nations on this planet would prohibit such an endeavour from taking place. Not everyone may agree with the course of action being raised, some may even object in stronger terms.

Sociologically, it would be hard to replace generations of hostility existing between nations with feelings of peace and brotherhood. Hostility runs deep, from governments down to families to individuals themselves.

In addition this presents concerns in respect of immigration and removals of trade borders, concerns which cannot be easily addressed. There is no guarantee that the problems of the world would be solved by pursuing this course.

Much has been made of the role that humanity would play in addressing its own issues, but what if nature conspired by acting to solve the problems of this planet.

A sudden change in global climate, a reversal of global warming or a viral pandemic? Any one of these world shattering events could happen or a combination of several.

All of which could be hugely detrimental to the human population of earth, populations could be reduced, large areas of the planet could become uninhabitable and humanity could be faced with extinction.

Human beings define themselves as being adaptable to most circumstances but any change like this would ultimately present certain challenges. If humanity met these challenges, would the practical result be a solving of the problems of the world?

If so, a potentially disastrous event could produce a positive outcome. Areas of the planet which were previously arid deserts could become fertile again and likewise populations which suffered with starvation and bad harvests could find themselves with abundant levels of food. Indeed the change in global climate could render those who currently have everything with nothing.

A viral epidemic could also result in a paradigm shift in population disposition as it would be more likely to affect populist areas than those areas with less people. These individuals now free of others intervention in their local affairs could lead happier more productive lives, lives augmented by the knowledge that they survived when others didn’t.

Both events are extremely uncertain, there is more than a significant chance that either could render humanity extinct. Again there are no guarantees.

To solve the world’s problems from a practical perspective, a “perfect storm” of external circumstances must occur. By this I mean a series of circumstances which push humanity towards a state of nirvana but without reducing or devaluing the human condition. These circumstances would need to ensure sustainability of humanity for the current and future generations of the world.

The human spirit has defined itself as triumph over adversity. Nature stood against us, we have subjugated it, science perplexed us, we understood it (with the intention of bending it to our will), the universe frightens us but we have begun to explain it. Remove adversity from the mix and we would not have left the trees, we would not have invented the wheel, we would not be capable of travelling to other planets.

Human beings constantly strive for new things and are not easily satisfied. With all of these problem solving events and circumstances care must be taken to not completely sate this primordial instinct to strive for more. If this indeed sated, there is a risk we would become complacent and this complacency could lead to our extinction.

Our primordial instincts, although sometimes problematic have enabled us to become the dominant species of this planet and if maintained will enable us to proceed further on our journey.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

What are the political and sociological consequences of extended space travel on mankind?

The exploration of space represents an investment in the future of mankind, the likely course of which will determine whether we survive as a species and our place in the cosmos.

But aside from speculating about the grand destiny that scientists often lay out for us amongst the stars, what are the practicalities of its pursuit? What do we have to do to become the interstellar species that we undoubtedly have to be?

I’m not talking in the limited terms of space probes and manned missions, I’m talking about humanity as a whole reaching into other galaxies.

The grandness of the future is matched by the scope of the question, but let’s keep it simple restricting those ideas to earthly concerns.

Extended space travel is likely to be an extremely expensive endeavour, if the current cost of the manned missions and unmanned probes is anything to go by. The budget of the US space agency NASA from 1958 to 2011 amounts to $526.18 billion, an average of $9,928 billion per year. While the budgets of other international space agencies are not as large they are substantial, it is a substantial expenditure which is only likely to increase if the extension of space travel extends.

Economies are likely to be stretched, with new sources of revenue required and governments are going to find it a struggle. The desire to explore other worlds will in its initial stages most likely be financed by the mining and exploitation of newly discovered planets. This is by no means a certain pursuit as we cannot definitively prove that these resources exist on other planets. Colonisation may become a short term experiment until these resources can be found and sustained.

As we do contact other species in the universe, there is the possibility of long term trade agreements with these species which would have the effect of enhancing the economies of the effected countries. There may be another side effect to this as the alien species may treat humanity as a whole and could struggle with the concept of nationhood. Trade between alien species and individual governments may result in disagreements and boycotts.

Additionally with space travel becoming such an expensive pursuit, there is the danger that space travel will become the domain of the rich exclusively. The poor may not be able to leave Earth due to financial restrictions. The possibility of the poor remaining on earth could reduce the base economy of the earth exponentially, but inversely it could create a more stable economy with everyone on an even keel.

As our colonisation of the galaxy increases, new methods of calculating time need to be devised to cope. We cannot afford to remain restricted to a 24 hour day, a 7 day week or a 365 day year. A standardised method of keeping time will need to be devised in the same way as it was devised to deal with the rise of the railways on earth.

Different nations may meet this in different ways, or an international effort could be mounted to meet this problem. New ways of mapping space would need to be devised in the wake of this change to ensure that travel methods adhere to the new time method.

As travel to other stars currently would take centuries rather than realistic numbers of years, the need to speed space travel up becomes more obvious. Longer term missions are far less cost effective than shorter term ones, but technology takes time to develop and longer term missions may be the only immediate way to proceed.

The chief sacrifice in our pursuit of extended space exploration maybe the nation state. The economics of space travel will necessitate greater financial co-operation between the nations of Earth and it is possible over time that the relevance of the nation state may decline to the point where it becomes unnecessary. Space agencies from different nations may amalgamate to deal with this co-operation and increased financial expenditure.

International institutions will be created to deal with this, with one particular organisation being ideally suited to deal with international co-operation in space exploration. The United Nations, largely toothless at present, could enjoy a political resurgence.

Contact with other species, central to the future of extended human space exploration would ideally be conducted by this centralised organisation. Individual nations can make mistakes, diplomatic negotiations can be mishandled opening the way for interstellar incidents. The UN could employ its existing arms to first contact scenarios with alien species.

Non centralisation of this authority could lead to diplomatic issues between nation states as they colonise space individually. Diplomatic issues could potentially lead to military conflicts in space across colonised worlds, with nation fighting nation over claims to other worlds. Vicariously, the growth in colonies increases the likelihood of those colonies seeking independence from central government. There would be a political question of representation for these colonies in the respective parliaments of the colonising power and this would most likely lead to a colonial government. The building blocks of the centralised authority could encompass independent colonies, in the same way that it encompasses individual countries on earth.

With the probable slow progress of space travel in its initial phases, it is likely that we will have to deal with problem of political change during extended travel in space. For example, a group of people travelling in a cryogenically induced sleep would not experience the political change of its mother country. They would arrive at their destination likely unaware that their previous regime had changed, which could cause a political schism and in all likelihood could result in a similar war of independence from the mother country.

The traversing of interstellar space also prompts speculation about what would happen those political and sociological institutions which remained on planet Earth. Diminished populations mean more abundant resources on Earth, although the pressure to export these resources to the burgeoning colonies in space could result in shortages on Earth. This could result in a socio-political backlash against the demands of the colonies.

Greater space exploration could result in a paradigm shift in opinion about the whole subject of exploration of space. The Earth could turn inward upon itself and become isolationist, shunning contact with other races. This isolationism could naturally progress into a form of fascism, predicated on the belief that humanity is superior to inferior alien races.

The implementation of a human first ideology could manifest itself in the terraforming process used to colonise other planets. It could be used harmfully where life exists in a different form, with the intention of exterminating the inferior species to make way for man.

Space exploration brings with it contact with other species and increased knowledge about the universe. Our knowledge of the Earth and the universe as a whole could become so changeable, so fluid that it becomes impossible to teach this to any human. Systems of learning could be devised, augmented with technological advances which would make it possible for a human to have a base level working knowledge of the universe from birth. This would aid humans as they colonise other planets, with potential applications in contacting and conversing with other species. There will always be knowledge gaps and areas where cultures across space do not understand each other, but the use of diplomatic and political institutions can support humanity to overcome these obstacles and build bridges.

If it is possible that this new knowledge could subjugate existing knowledge, then no area will more keenly feel this than the area of Religion. Most organised religions rely on us being born in the image of God, which is a concept wholly negated by the existence of other races in the universe.

The knowledge of this variety would undoubtedly reduce the relevance of humanity in its dealings with God. Encountering other species with religions similar to ours would relegate our religions to provincial belief systems and if those belief systems we encounter are more advanced and more readily provable, ours could be seen as arcane even primordial in its outlook.

On the other hand, exploration and encounters with other species could magnify the role of religion as those humans travelling to other galaxies look to anchor themselves to something earthbound.

Other species, whose form does not conform to the classical ideas of what alien species could be present ethical and legal concerns. Human law is written to preserve the rights of humans, it does not encompass alien species and their various cultures and customs. The human law can be easily applied to human colonies but it stops at alien worlds.

Likewise, the infringement of the rights of other species by humans in their desire to colonize space could increase to the point where we brazenly explore the stars with no moral compass to guide us.

An example of this ethical conflict could be a human terraforming project on a colonised world which encounters an indigenous species. Whereas on Earth, exploring countries have ignored the human rights of indigenous peoples, the indigenous species rights could be preserved in the laws of other races. The humans, unknowing of these laws would undoubtedly encounter conflict when trying to remove the indigenous species. Not knowing they were there is no defence in such an incident.

The moral and ethical virtues of travelling in space for an extended time could be supplanted by the physical and psychological effects of extended space travel. By physical, I mean the effects of travelling in zero gravity for years rather than months. This would have a detrimental effect on human bone structure and muscle tone, which is why you do not currently see obese astronauts. Long term travellers in space may not be able to return to their mother planet as gravity would not allow them to do so.

The psychological effects of space travel could be more difficult to spot. Space travel currently is a very dangerous occupation, which can provoke emotional responses which trigger psychological upheaval. Also there is the effect of longer term space travel on those individuals undertaking the mission. A long time in an enclosed space with the same people often leads to friction and outright manifestations of anger. Likewise the absence of people, coupled with no changes in scenery or environment could breed severe psychological problems which could manifest themselves during the mission or after. Extended time in suspended animation could lead to psychological disorders upon re-entry into the physical world. The current space programmes of earth ensure that their prospective astronauts undergo rigorous psychological and physiological testing before they can go into space. These programmes could continue with longer term space exploration but would need to adapt to suit colonisation as astronauts are not made of the same stuff as colonists.

Considering these issues, we have to also consider the other side of the coin. What if we get out there and there’s nothing? No species to interact with, just an empty universe with no species in it other than our own. This could have a highly detrimental effect on the psychological state of the human race or it could lead to us placing a higher value on human life than we do currently.

The effect this absence would have a hugely influential effect on the continuance of earth bound religions as it would add weight to the belief that we are the chosen of God and we should go forth into the universe.

Also the prospect of endless habitable worlds with no indigenous species would allow us to spread out into the cosmos, potentially just as nation states rather than a centralised power. Population expansion would not be such an issue as there would be any number of potential planets where the surplus population could be housed.

The human race is by its very nature adaptable and we have used that adaptation to become masters of Earth. It is likely that this adaptability will allow us to spread further and further into the cosmos as we grow. The practicalities of this long term travel would be a challenge, but it would be a necessary challenge as the human race cannot afford not to escape its Earthly confines.

Overpopulation, food shortages, the problem of war all will only get worse if we do not do this. To survive as a species, we must explore the stars.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

Is a Third World War inevitable?

A former history teacher of mine used to say that something is only inevitable after it has happened. History is a hard teacher and its lessons are some of the most difficult to learn. The more humanity progresses the greater the need to learn from the mistakes of the past as the spectre of extinction appears over us all.

But is it certain to happen?

Since the Second World War, the population of Earth has exploded from 2 billion people to over 7 billion. It is expected to rise exponentially over the next century to 8 billion by 2030, rising as high as 9 billion by 2050. A larger population will require greater room, particularly in the more affluent Western Hemisphere.

Smaller countries could simply be annexed in the rush to house countries growing populations. A consequent increase in tension between neighbouring countries could lead to military conflict.

Nation states could merely cease to exist under the clamour of increased populations. Larger countries could become overpopulated and may need to war to survive.

A population increase such as the one stated above has been countered to some degree by a decrease in global fertility rates across both the developed and developing world. The average number of children a woman is predicted to have has decreased from an average of 5 in 1950 to 2 in 2010 and it is expected to stabilise over the next 40 years.

Population increases run in tandem with the means to destroy, the proliferation of nuclear weapons by some countries has led to arms races between nations as they look to defend themselves. It began with the first great nuclear power, the USA which today has over 7000 nuclear weapons at its disposal. Not to be outdone, the Russian federation has over 8000 nuclear weapons. Countries which used to face the prospect of war with the former Soviet Union like France and Britain have slowed down their nuclear weapon production.

Newer countries like India and Pakistan, engaged in their own arms race have developed nuclear weapons fairly recently and other countries such as Iran and North Korea have moved to acquire or develop nuclear weaponry. The rise of these rogue states (states which ignore international conventions when they want to) has increased the likelihood of brushfire wars, which could lead to wider conflicts.

It would be remiss of me at this stage not to mention the international black market for nuclear weapons, which sprang up mostly because of the demise of the former Soviet Union. The machinery for making Nuclear weapons, fissionable material and other items which could be used to develop untraceable nuclear weapons. Well financed terrorist groups such as IS and Al Qaeda could use these weapons to provoke international tensions to breaking point.

The concept of mutually assured destruction has led many of the nations of the world to move away from nuclear weapons and back to conventional warfare. Although the concept of a winnable nuclear war continues to occupy the world’s top military strategists, the move towards nuclear disarmament cannot be ignored. The only burr in the saddle of this horse is the possibility of a nuclear war with no destruction via the supposedly safe Neutron bomb.

While the political world can fluctuate as often the weather, one thing political nations have always relied on is the availability of natural resources. But what if these disappeared? Of the resources we have we have almost 1000 million tonnes of coal, 1120 billion barrels of oil and 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. As a species we consume 18 million tonnes of coal a day, 84 million barrels of oil and 104 billion cubic feet of gas. Without doing the sums any layman can see that we consume more than too much. Escalation in things like the price of oil or gas could bankrupt entire countries, leading to internal strife which could be exploited by an external power. There is also the possibility of countries being held to ransom by the oil producing nations of the Middle East.

The dependent countries of the world, however have not sat idly on their hands while their supplies have decreased. Investment in sustainable renewable energy sources like wind farms, solar farms and hydroelectric power has grown exponentially over the last half century. Nuclear power, once demonised by the environmentalists has enjoyed something of a recent resurgence even in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear plant accident. Fracking, although a highly controversial environmental issue could provide a patch until more productive renewable energy resources are discovered.

A globalised ecosystem, such as the one we have on this planet can manifest newer and more unpredictable organisms, none so fierce as the virus. The usage of mass transit systems and technological advances means that a virus moves a thousand times quicker than it could 100 years previously.

Pandemics such as Bird Flu, Sars and the recent Ebola viral outbreak in West Africa while perceived as isolated incidents could have escalated into full blown worldwide disasters. The World Health Organisation is getting better at identifying and containing these pandemic outbreaks but with the increase in the usage of genetic engineering and the possible development of chemical weapons by terrorist groups, how long will it be before something comes along which cannot be managed or countered?

Governments dealing with this new pandemic would struggle under the strain of having to deal with it and maintain the rights of its citizens. The resultant restrictions could breed anarchy, which may allow more extreme factions to take over democratic countries.

As the world becomes more globalised, nations become less and less able to control the influx of economic and social migrants. The concept of the nation state will inevitably become a more redundant concept. Or will it?

Nationhood may enjoy a resurgence in this newly globalised world, as the indigenous populations of those countries most greatly afflicted by immigration express their dissatisfaction with the influx. A desire to return to the “good old days” of national pride will provide fuel to those fires and marginalised groups which extol a more extreme view of democracy could gain a foothold. Religious intolerance and segregation, used by these nationalist parties as their main tools could exacerbate the situation even further.

On the other hand the concept of the nation state may die a quiet death, as the world moves forward in a more integrated phase. Globalisation could unite the world in a more far reaching way than any war could. Borders would become unnecessary, as would the concept of individual nation state armies.

We must at this stage consider the role of the individual in the global system because even an individual can cause massive global change by one single act. As long as acts like this can be thought of they will continue to be perpetrated.  Individuals like Mohammed Atta, Timothy McVeigh and latterly Edward Snowden have changed the world with such acts.

Gavrilo Princip changed the world forever with a grenade and a couple of well placed bullets. An individual such as this, assassinating a key individual such as the President of the United States could start a chain reaction of events that would lead inexorably to war. If the individual perpetrating the act was Russian for the purposes of this example, then already strained relationships may break. All it takes is one man with an idea.

Likewise, a man with an idea could change the world more positively. Gandhi changed the destiny of one billion people with his ideas of non violent action. Imagine what a similarly minded individual could do to the destiny of a planet.

So, coming back to our initial question: Is a Third World War inevitable?

To say that this is inevitable is ultimately a fallacy and ignores the motivations and prejudices of the peoples of the world. In the final analysis, there are as much catalysts for change as there are participants. It all comes down to one simple thing: Are we prepared to let it occur?

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© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.