Civilization: Detected

 gal_earth_moon_c

Captain’s Report, StarDate: -309230

31 measures ago our starship set out in search of the origins of a strange signal. We have been able to trace it back to an inhabited planet in Galaxy M24 of Quadrant 42. The planet has a single natural satellite and is third in the inner orbit of a single-star system of 12 planets in total, although our observations indicate that its inhabitants are unaware of 4 of the outer planets.

The dominant and unchallenged species on this planet are a form of bipedal, bilaterally symmetric beings, notably physically fragile for their harsh environment but capable of imagination , persuasive visualization [NSFW] and as a consequence, dreaming. Although our speculation is that they have been given a favourable evolutionary push at some point in their history, we have not been able to determine the genus responsible for this push, nor the motivation. Our landing party has observed behaviour that is quite unlike self-awareness that we are familiar with in other star systems, where the target organisms almost always unite in the singular purpose of discovering their origins and objectives. Although certain members of this species demonstrate the qualities of curiosity, the species as a whole seems to be ambivalent towards question of their place in the cosmos. The prevailing popular belief (although there are many interesting alternates) is a cyclical view of time that postulates that a massive null explosion as the origin of all creation. This is accompanied by a view biased in favour of liquid water and anthropomorphism regarding life elsewhere.

It is not clear whether the bulk of the knowledge on this planet has been lost, stolen, not yet discovered or simply misinterpreted and miscommunicated over generations. For example we have witnessed ancient megalithic structures (that form part of a disused free energy network) exhibiting symbols intended to communicate ideas, concepts and information. The same concept has been reinvented in the present time on portable personal communication devices, yet the species fails to see the connection between its past and its future. This inability to think combinatorially is also severely impacting their general progress and well-being, notably through severely damaging side effects of unsustainable technological advancements. The best example of this is a personal mechanized transportation apparatus that was invented more than 127 planet-years ago, when the estimated known population was less than 14.29% of present numbers. Yet it remains widely in use, despite having achieved an efficiency of only 30% (not taking into account the environmentally damaging effects of manufacturing, operation and disposal) and an average lifespan of 7 planet-years.

Our experts believe that the subconscious search for missing knowledge (and ultimately, its source) manifests itself in primal urges to be accepted and to establish a routine habitat as a dependable source of comfort. A specially appointed away team is currently in the process of discreetly investigating certain anomalies and encounters.

Members of this species mainly congregate in large groups in unhealthy and inefficient settlements, in which they  go through a strictly regimented process of education directed at conditioning them for aimless employment, coupled with mindless entertainment. A communally obligated schedule serves to keep their minds occupied over the short course of their lives, making them unwilling and incapable of sustained deep thought. Our observations further reveal that individuals are capable of exemplary willpower in overcoming great obstacles, yet readily succumb to a less meaningful life unless compelled by external circumstances.

Most noteworthy projects are inefficiently executed and poorly managed. We have noted a marked rise in intelligent, autonomous life forms to which they are willingly transferring critical responsibilities and decisions. This unmistakable bias towards being led [NSFW] as opposed to leading indicates that the species we have encountered was most likely created to serve as a mass workforce.

Since their limited understanding stipulates time as the ruling dimension (and therefore unalterable), they try to over-compensate for this through excessive spatial expansion. They have not yet discovered interstellar travel (although there are a number of documented theories), but have started systematically scanning their surroundings and have embarking on expeditions within their star system. Interestingly, although they have not yet fully discovered statistical theology or psycohistory, they are exploring the possibility of transcending their present condition. In general, their advancements in science are motivated by materialistic gain more than the pursuit of knowledge.

Territorial and ideological conflicts seem to be disproportionately high on this planet. Virtually all technological advancements have their origins in war and they are rapidly evolving into a warrior race. They appear to be more focused on amassing resources rather than improving the inefficiencies in their processes or seeking alternatives, as has been observed in intelligent lifeforms elsewhere. They have established large-scale production processes which are depleting their resources at an alarming rate, although this does not seem to concern them. Trade is carried out by exchanging of tokens of assurances for goods or services. Profits are made by exploiting scarcity and through other unsustainable instruments.

The majority collectively shares a largely unproven agreement that a higher power is responsible for the course of their lives. While on one hand this serves to maintain discipline, law & order (evidently only to a limited extent), on the other it is the single largest source of all conflict on the planet. Multiple variations exist, all of which preach essentially the same doctrine adapted to local customs and tastes. For example all of them are proponents of an hypothetical underworld which more accurately describes the existing state of the planet itself.

There exists a system in which a hierarchy of elected representatives serves to direct a predetermined percentage of a geographically concentrated population’s assets primarily towards the efficient and systematic execution of conflict. In its current form, this system inadvertently motivates the elected representatives to maximize personal gains over typically a 4 planet-year period. Evidence exists of a previous system that encouraged a ruling dynasty to genuinely protect their interests by virtue of being responsible for its progress and well-being for successive generations. In conjunction, social stratification ensured that limited resources were divided such that the needs of non-arbitrarily selected members of the population were fulfilled.

A last noteworthy institution is that in which two members of the species entering into a lifelong cohabitation arrangement. This is usually followed by a process of reproduction, even though it is evident that the available resources on the planet are incapable of supporting an ever-increasing population. Our hypothesis links this infinite replication to (a) vanity and (b) the perceived failure in leading a meaningful life, hence the desire to make improvements in a future iteration.

Despite advancements in health care and metacognition, and in part due to socially asymmetric growth, disease , food deprivation and other preventable causes of mortality are still widespread on the planet. Their definition of consciousness is limited to changes they can perceive over the course of their limited lifespan. For example they do not recognize the planet itself as a complex, living organism; they do not yet acknowledge collective consciousness; they consider changes that happen at a scale much larger than themselves to be chance events and are unaware of beings coexisting in a higher dimension than their own. Despite that fact that most of their own surroundings remain largely unexplored and not understood , virtually all other species on the planet (and its vicinity) face severe threat of extinction through actions of the dominant species. Clearly they have lost their way and knowledge of their rightful place as the Guardian Species of this planet.

If there are any civilizations out there that are aware of the true origins and purposes of life on this planet, please make yourself known.

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Projects

In this section I’ll write about some of my side projects, specifically the ones that I have managed to bring to completion (without getting distracted by other shiny things), or interesting ones that I’m currently working on.

Q: Whatever Happened to Virtual Reality? A: Augmented Reality

Let me kick off these sections on Augmented Reality & Technology Trends with a mention of Christopher Mims’ recent post over at [MIT] TechnologyReview.com:

So what was it, really, that kept us from getting to Virtual Reality?

For one thing, we moved the goal posts – now it’s all about augmented reality, in which the virtual is laid over the real. Now you have a whole new set of problems

It will be worth your time reading his entire analysis of the question. Meanwhile, interesting things have been happening in the Augmented Reality (AR) field. First, it was Pranav Mistry from the MIT Media Lab demonstrating a cheap, adaptable and wearable gestural interface, aptly called SixthSense. Watch the TED Video from November 2009 here.

Then in 2010, marketers started experimenting with adding AR layers into the real world, making use of software such as the Layar platform for mobile phones. You can watch a convincing demo here. I say convincing because mobile phones are the most likely candidate for widespread adoption of AR technologies. Because if they were not, we would have more devices like the Wrap 920AR from Vuzix, which are basically wraparound goggles that provide an immersive AR experience.

The Video Game industry is always quick to adopt new interfaces (and often invents them),  and AR is no exception. Motus from the University of Abertay Dundee uses a Sixense TrueMotion controller (I couldn’t find any relation to SixthSense) to manipulate a virtual camera in a virtual environment, with applications in gaming, animation and simulation. It was originally inspired by the Simul-Cam that finally enabled James Cameron’s 20-year old dream to come to life, in the form of the 2009 movie Avatar. Ironic, a movie about remotely controlled humanoids, filmed using AR cameras.

Speaking of Avatar, not only was the technology behind it futuristic, but so was the marketing, which used an i-TAG system that allowed the manipulation of an on-screen 3D model, using a Webcam that scanned interactions with a tag in the physical world. Also, the same idea of controlling remote representative agents is explored in a different form in the 2009 movie, Surrogates, which IMHO was more “epic” than Avatar.

So the next question is: When will we reach the point when we won’t be able to tell the difference between what is “augmented” and what is “real”? Or would we rather not be able to?

Next World

I haven’t done this in a while: Here’s a new section exploring what lies for humanity in the future. Original inspiration: Discovery’s TV show of the same name.

It will probably turn out to be quite closely related to Sanity Check.

The Paradox of Our Age

The Paradox of Our Age
by H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama

We have bigger houses but smaller families;
More conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
More knowledge, but less judgment;
More experts, but more problems;
More medicines, but less healthiness;
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We build more computers to hold more information to
produce more copies than ever but have less communication.
We have become long on quantity,
but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods but slow digestion;
Tall man but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It’s a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.

The Paradox of Our Age

by The Dalai Lama

We have bigger houses but smaller families;

More conveniences, but less time;

We have more degrees, but less sense;

More knowledge, but less judgment;

More experts, but more problems;

More medicines, but less healthiness;

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,

but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.

We build more computers to hold more information to

produce more copies than ever but have less communication.

We have become long on quantity,

but short on quality.

These are times of fast foods but slow digestion;

Tall man but short character;

Steep profits but shallow relationships.

It’s a time when there is much in the window,

but nothing in the room.

GUI, HCI, HFE, MMI

Interfaces, interfaces, interfaces. That’s what this section is all about. You may have access to the most powerful computer on Earth, but it is of little use if it doesn’t provide you an interface that lets you tell it what exactly you want it to do. In everyday life, we interact with many, many machines through user interfaces – not just computers and cellphones, but even alarm clocks, cars and microwave ovens.

User interfaces are as much of a psychology problem as a computer science problem, maybe even more.

I believe that user interfaces have an immense potential in the way we write computer programs. I’m talking about programs writing programs. We’ve come a long way since writing arcane commands on interpreter prompts but the more user-friendly programming interfaces become, the more people can translate their ideas into actions.

Finally, most computer interfaces today are 2-dimensional. In all probability, this is merely hereditary. Thinking “out of the box” requires a box, and boxes are 3-dimensional.

The following fields are closely interrelated:

  • GUI (Graphical User Interface)
  • HCI (Human-Computer Interaction, also referred to as CHI)
  • HFE (Human Factors Engineering)
  • MMI (Man-Machine Interface)

UPDATE: [2011-01-18] Rehashed this section and added:

Related:

References:

  • Handbook for Human Computer Interaction (2nd Edition), By Andrew Sears and Julie A. Jacko (CRC Press, 2007)

l33t

W1k1p3d1@ has a comprehensive 3n+ry on what l33t is all about. Its what separates the classes from the masses 😉