Some people believe there is a coming "singularity," i.e. a sudden push-forward event, in the evolution of humanity. (Watch the first 45 seconds of the first X-Men movie again, and you'll get it. Trust me.) They even have a date on this crazy concept. Sometime between 2012 and 2015. Not far away at all is it? Do I believe in any of this stuff myself you ask? Heavens no! It's all a lot of crazy science fiction thinking. On the other hand, some people think that science fiction thinking is what brought us the internet...

I took a class two semesters ago on Sci-Fi film. And then I took a group tutorial this past semester on Sci-Fi literature. All in all a good year. But more importantly, it has left me with a great deal to think about. Will humanity evolve further and, if so, how? Why do we seem to feel a need to make a big deal about something only to then domesticate it to the point that something else becomes needed to stave off the boredom? (See: television; see: the iPhone) What is science fiction? How is it that both "1984" and The Fantastic Four are sci-fi? I'm an academic at heart.

Perhaps the answers are actually forthcoming. Well for the first question anyway. The last one is destined to never be resolved. I am sure of it.

At the conclusion of the second of these two gloriously geeky classes, our esteemed professor displayed an image from Wikipedia of the heliosheath, i.e. the edge of the heliosphere, i.e. the bubble of radiation created by the Sun that envelopes our solar system. Scientists apparently have no idea what is out there, beyond the heliosheath. No idea. Our cognitive abilities can only really determine things about life within the heliosphere because all our lives and all our instruments and thus all our observations have been made from within. But soon this need not be true any longer! For the Voyager 1, our true scientific/solar system baby, has crossed into the heliosheath and will be passing out and into the wider universe outside of the heliosphere sometime around (you guessed it) 2015.

I have also recently come across this article: "Gin, Television, and Social Surplus," which essentially argues that we stand on a cusp of discovering the uses of the great cognitive capacity of all of humanity banded together. The author holds up Wikipedia itself as what is clearly the greatest acheivement so far of this working cognitive surplus. An encyclopedia including the widest range of topics and perhaps deepest detail of knowledge ever encompassed in one place by humankind. Clay Shirky, the author, points out that this is what can be accomplished when we get our butts up and off the couch and into the computer chair, it may still be media, and it may still be digital light being projected at you, but goddammit it's interactive. If you become a Wikipedia editor, as I have, (and I don't mean to toot my horn on the subject-- I'm not a very good or proliferative Wikipedia editor) at least you're putting something back onto that screen as you get stuff out of it. He also talks about the difficulty of building new structures for this new world. He speaks about the frontier of technological development as a jungle in which "you hope that everybody who fails fails informatively so that you can at least find a skull on a pikestaff near where you're going." Yikes.

I found this article through another article, (the internet is the Eighth Wonder and you know it) a very thorough article on that problem that plagues the comic-book industry just as it plagues the motion picture industry and the recording industry: internet piracy. This article, "Ready or not…" by Dirk Deppey on what is probably my new favorite blog about comics: Journalista, the Comics Journal Weblog, includes much about the concept of media interaction, which is why it links to Clay Shirky's article. The "ready or not..." of the title refers to the digitalization of comic-books, but it could just as easily be talking about the coming singularity.

Yeah, so leap forward in human evolution. It's probably gonna happen. YAWN!

Plus wasn't there some clap-trap a few years ago about the world ending in 2012? Of course, one so sophisticated as myself would never believe such superstitious bullshit. Never in a million years.


Anonymous said...

Jon! Thank you for increasing my scientific knowledge. I had not heard of the heliosphere or that Voyager would be passing through it. As for the 2012 incident, some of it stems from the way that the Mayan calendar is set up (it basically re-boots itself at this point) and another is an astronomical event that will happen and not be repeated for thousands of years. Some have argued this to be signs of apocalypse (or alternatively a leap forward for humanity in some sense). I, however, fall squarely with you. Claptrap!

-Monsieur Webber

Post a Comment