Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tek-Gnostics Year in Review

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.

~ Bill Vaughan

Take my advice. I'm not using it!

~ Mr Natural

No, life has not disappointed me. On the contrary, I find it truer, more desirable and mysterious every year ever since the day when the great liberator came to me: the idea that life could be an experiment of the seeker for knowledge and not a duty, not a calamity, not trickery.

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

For last year's words belong to last year's language And next
year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a

~ T.S. Eliot

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Intelligent life is the architect of Universe

Most great scientific advances are first attacked by the ruling status quo as heretical in either the religious or scientific sense or both: Giordano Bruno, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Einstein are vivid examples.

A new theory of evolution proposed by complexity theorist James Gardner which he terms biocosm proposes that the universe is not a random collection of inorganic matter and life. That intelligence is not some cosmic accident, and that intelligence and life are preprogrammed into the physical laws of nature.

Gardner believes that we've already received a message from ET: a message coded into the laws and constants of our universe, including the inexplicable force we've named dark energy that's accelerating cosmic expansion. His theory makes sense of the observation that the constants seem rigged in favor of the emergence of life. The constants appear improbably favorable to carbon-based life, an unexplained oddity that many of the world's leading scientists have identified as the deepest mystery in all of science.

Garner claims that our universe was deliberately designed by a super-intelligent being or beings in a prior cosmic cycle. This is definitely beyond the pale for most sober scientists. However, his theory of biocsom is based on essays Gardner has published in prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journals like Complexity and the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society.

In his latest book, The Intelligent Universe: AI, ET, and the Emerging Mind of the Cosmos, Gardner provides a third alternative end of the universe, rather than either fire or entropy -the birth of a new universe, an idea originally proposed by cosmologist Lee Smolin. Smolin believes that Darwinian principles rule the nature of any universe -that new baby universes produced via black holes will resemble their parent cosmos. Gardner converts this idea into the radical, but falsifiable, theory he calls the Selfish Biocosm, the cosmological equivalent of Richard Dawkins selfish gene.

Biocosm is not an easygoing, "blow-your-mind look" at the universe. Gardner is exhaustive in outlining his ideas, explaining their falsifiability and scientific rigor, and offering deep chaos theory to support them. Did our universe create intelligent life in order to ensure its own reproduction? Gardner thinks so, though he knows his position will irk many cosmologists exhausted from battling pseudo scientists and creationists.

Gardner's list of supporters in impressive: "A novel perspective on humankind's role in the universe," wrote Martin Rees, the astronomer royal of Britain and a Cambridge colleague of Stephen Hawking's. "There is little doubt that his ideas will change yours," wrote Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in California. "A magnificent one-stop account of the history of life," wrote complexity theorist John Casti, a co-founder of the Santa Fe Institute. Gardner has been welcomed at major planetariums and legitimate scientific conferences, explaining his ideas to a surprisingly interested public.

- from the Daily Galaxy

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Last Question by Isaac Asimov ~ © 1956

The last question was asked for the first time, half in jest, on May 21, 2061, at a time when humanity first stepped into the light. The question came about as a result of a five dollar bet over highballs, and it happened this way:

Alexander Adell and Bertram Lupov were two of the faithful attendants of Multivac. As well as any human beings could, they knew what lay behind the cold, clicking, flashing face — miles and miles of face — of that giant computer. They had at least a vague notion of the general plan of relays and circuits that had long since grown past the point where any single human could possibly have a firm grasp of the whole.

Multivac was self-adjusting and self-correcting. It had to be, for nothing human could adjust and correct it quickly enough or even adequately enough — so Adell and Lupov attended the monstrous giant only lightly and superficially, yet as well as any men could. They fed it data, adjusted questions to its needs and translated the answers that were issued. Certainly they, and all others like them, were fully entitled to share in the glory that was Multivac’s.

For decades, Multivac had helped design the ships and plot the trajectories that enabled man to reach the Moon, Mars, and Venus, but past that, Earth’s poor resources could not support the ships. Too much energy was needed for the long trips. Earth exploited its coal and uranium with increasing efficiency, but there was only so much of both.

But slowly Multivac learned enough to answer deeper questions more fundamentally, and on May 14, 2061, what had been theory, became fact.

The energy of the sun was stored, converted, and utilized directly on a planet-wide scale. All Earth turned off its burning coal, its fissioning uranium, and flipped the switch that connected all of it to a small station, one mile in diameter, circling the Earth at half the distance of the Moon. All Earth ran by invisible beams of sunpower.

Seven days had not sufficed to dim the glory of it and Adell and Lupov finally managed to escape from the public function, and to meet in quiet where no one would think of looking for them, in the deserted underground chambers, where portions of the mighty buried body of Multivac showed. Unattended, idling, sorting data with contented lazy clickings, Multivac, too, had earned its vacation and the boys appreciated that. They had no intention, originally, of disturbing it.

They had brought a bottle with them, and their only concern at the moment was to relax in the company of each other and the bottle.

“It’s amazing when you think of it,” said Adell. His broad face had lines of weariness in it, and he stirred his drink slowly with a glass rod, watching the cubes of ice slur clumsily about. “All the energy we can possibly ever use for free. Enough energy, if we wanted to draw on it, to melt all Earth into a big drop of impure liquid iron, and still never miss the energy so used. All the energy we could ever use, forever and forever and forever.”

Lupov cocked his head sideways. He had a trick of doing that when he wanted to be contrary, and he wanted to be contrary now, partly because he had had to carry the ice and glassware. “Not forever,” he said.

“Oh, hell, just about forever. Till the sun runs down, Bert.”

“That’s not forever.”

“All right, then. Billions and billions of years. Twenty billion, maybe. Are you satisfied?”

Lupov put his fingers through his thinning hair as though to reassure himself that some was still left and sipped gently at his own drink. “Twenty billion years isn’t forever.”

“Will, it will last our time, won’t it?”

“So would the coal and uranium.”

“All right, but now we can hook up each individual spaceship to the Solar Station, and it can go to Pluto and back a million times without ever worrying about fuel. You can’t do THAT on coal and uranium. Ask Multivac, if you don’t believe me.”

“I don’t have to ask Multivac. I know that.”

“Then stop running down what Multivac’s done for us,” said Adell, blazing up. “It did all right.”

“Who says it didn’t? What I say is that a sun won’t last forever. That’s all I’m saying. We’re safe for twenty billion years, but then what?” Lupov pointed a slightly shaky finger at the other. “And don’t say we’ll switch to another sun.”

There was silence for a while. Adell put his glass to his lips only occasionally, and Lupov’s eyes slowly closed. They rested.

Then Lupov’s eyes snapped open. “You’re thinking we’ll switch to another sun when ours is done, aren’t you?”

“I’m not thinking.”

“Sure you are. You’re weak on logic, that’s the trouble with you. You’re like the guy in the story who was caught in a sudden shower and who ran to a grove of trees and got under one. He wasn’t worried, you see, because he figured when one tree got wet through, he would just get under another one.”

“I get it,” said Adell. “Don’t shout. When the sun is done, the other stars will be gone, too.”

“Darn right they will,” muttered Lupov. “It all had a beginning in the original cosmic explosion, whatever that was, and it’ll all have an end when all the stars run down. Some run down faster than others. Hell, the giants won’t last a hundred million years. The sun will last twenty billion years and maybe the dwarfs will last a hundred billion for all the good they are. But just give us a trillion years and everything will be dark. Entropy has to increase to maximum, that’s all.”

“I know all about entropy,” said Adell, standing on his dignity.

“The hell you do.”

“I know as much as you do.”

“Then you know everything’s got to run down someday.”

“All right. Who says they won’t?”

“You did, you poor sap. You said we had all the energy we needed, forever. You said ‘forever.’”

“It was Adell’s turn to be contrary. “Maybe we can build things up again someday,” he said.


“Why not? Someday.”


“Ask Multivac.”

“You ask Multivac. I dare you. Five dollars says it can’t be done.”

Adell was just drunk enough to try, just sober enough to be able to phrase the necessary symbols and operations into a question which, in words, might have corresponded to this: Will mankind one day without the net expenditure of energy be able to restore the sun to its full youthfulness even after it had died of old age?

Or maybe it could be put more simply like this: How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased?

Multivac fell dead and silent. The slow flashing of lights ceased, the distant sounds of clicking relays ended.

Then, just as the frightened technicians felt they could hold their breath no longer, there was a sudden springing to life of the teletype attached to that portion of Multivac. Five words were printed: INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER.

“No bet,” whispered Lupov. They left hurriedly.

By next morning, the two, plagued with throbbing head and cottony mouth, had forgotten about the incident.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jerrodd, Jerrodine, and Jerrodette I and II watched the starry picture in the visiplate change as the passage through hyperspace was completed in its non-time lapse. At once, the even powdering of stars gave way to the predominance of a single bright marble-disk, centered.

“That’s X-23,” said Jerrodd confidently. His thin hands clamped tightly behind his back and the knuckles whitened.

The little Jerrodettes, both girls, had experienced the hyperspace passage for the first time in their lives and were self-conscious over the momentary sensation of inside-outness. They buried their giggles and chased one another wildly about their mother, screaming, “We’ve reached X-23 — we’ve reached X-23 — we’ve —-”

“Quiet, children,” said Jerrodine sharply. “Are you sure, Jerrodd?”

“What is there to be but sure?” asked Jerrodd, glancing up at the bulge of featureless metal just under the ceiling. It ran the length of the room, disappearing through the wall at either end. It was as long as the ship.

Jerrodd scarcely knew a thing about the thick rod of metal except that it was called a Microvac, that one asked it questions if one wished; that if one did not it still had its task of guiding the ship to a preordered destination; of feeding on energies from the various Sub-galactic Power Stations; of computing the equations for the hyperspacial jumps.

Jerrodd and his family had only to wait and live in the comfortable residence quarters of the ship.

Someone had once told Jerrodd that the “ac” at the end of “Microvac” stood for “analog computer” in ancient English, but he was on the edge of forgetting even that.

Jerrodine’s eyes were moist as she watched the visiplate. “I can’t help it. I feel funny about leaving Earth.”

“Why for Pete’s sake?” demanded Jerrodd. “We had nothing there. We’ll have everything on X-23. You won’t be alone. You won’t be a pioneer. There are over a million people on the planet already. Good Lord, our great grandchildren will be looking for new worlds because X-23 will be overcrowded.”

Then, after a reflective pause, “I tell you, it’s a lucky thing the computers worked out interstellar travel the way the race is growing.”

“I know, I know,” said Jerrodine miserably.

Jerrodette I said promptly, “Our Microvac is the best Microvac in the world.”

“I think so, too,” said Jerrodd, tousling her hair.

It was a nice feeling to have a Microvac of your own and Jerrodd was glad he was part of his generation and no other. In his father’s youth, the only computers had been tremendous machines taking up a hundred square miles of land. There was only one to a planet. Planetary ACs they were called. They had been growing in size steadily for a thousand years and then, all at once, came refinement. In place of transistors had come molecular valves so that even the largest Planetary AC could be put into a space only half the volume of a spaceship.

Jerrodd felt uplifted, as he always did when he thought that his own personal Microvac was many times more complicated than the ancient and primitive Multivac that had first tamed the Sun, and almost as complicated as Earth’s Planetary AC (the largest) that had first solved the problem of hyperspatial travel and had made trips to the stars possible.

“So many stars, so many planets,” sighed Jerrodine, busy with her own thoughts. “I suppose families will be going out to new planets forever, the way we are now.”

“Not forever,” said Jerrodd, with a smile. “It will all stop someday, but not for billions of years. Many billions. Even the stars run down, you know. Entropy must increase.”

“What’s entropy, daddy?” shrilled Jerrodette II.

“Entropy, little sweet, is just a word which means the amount of running-down of the universe. Everything runs down, you know, like your little walkie-talkie robot, remember?”

“Can’t you just put in a new power-unit, like with my robot?”

The stars are the power-units, dear. Once they’re gone, there are no more power-units.”

Jerrodette I at once set up a howl. “Don’t let them, daddy. Don’t let the stars run down.”

“Now look what you’ve done,” whispered Jerrodine, exasperated.

“How was I to know it would frighten them?” Jerrodd whispered back.

“Ask the Microvac,” wailed Jerrodette I. “Ask him how to turn the stars on again.”

“Go ahead,” said Jerrodine. “It will quiet them down.” (Jerrodette II was beginning to cry, also.)

Jarrodd shrugged. “Now, now, honeys. I’ll ask Microvac. Don’t worry, he’ll tell us.”

He asked the Microvac, adding quickly, “Print the answer.”

Jerrodd cupped the strip of thin cellufilm and said cheerfully, “See now, the Microvac says it will take care of everything when the time comes so don’t worry.”

Jerrodine said, “and now children, it’s time for bed. We’ll be in our new home soon.”

Jerrodd read the words on the cellufilm again before destroying it: INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER.

He shrugged and looked at the visiplate. X-23 was just ahead.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

VJ-23X of Lameth stared into the black depths of the three-dimensional, small-scale map of the Galaxy and said, “Are we ridiculous, I wonder, in being so concerned about the matter?”

MQ-17J of Nicron shook his head. “I think not. You know the Galaxy will be filled in five years at the present rate of expansion.”

Both seemed in their early twenties, both were tall and perfectly formed.

“Still,” said VJ-23X, “I hesitate to submit a pessimistic report to the Galactic Council.”

“I wouldn’t consider any other kind of report. Stir them up a bit. We’ve got to stir them up.”

VJ-23X sighed. “Space is infinite. A hundred billion Galaxies are there for the taking. More.”

“A hundred billion is not infinite and it’s getting less infinite all the time. Consider! Twenty thousand years ago, mankind first solved the problem of utilizing stellar energy, and a few centuries later, interstellar travel became possible. It took mankind a million years to fill one small world and then only fifteen thousand years to fill the rest of the Galaxy. Now the population doubles every ten years –”

VJ-23X interrupted. “We can thank immortality for that.”

“Very well. Immortality exists and we have to take it into account. I admit it has its seamy side, this immortality. The Galactic AC has solved many problems for us, but in solving the problems of preventing old age and death, it has undone all its other solutions.”

“Yet you wouldn’t want to abandon life, I suppose.”

“Not at all,” snapped MQ-17J, softening it at once to, “Not yet. I’m by no means old enough. How old are you?”

“Two hundred twenty-three. And you?”

“I’m still under two hundred. –But to get back to my point. Population doubles every ten years. Once this Galaxy is filled, we’ll have another filled in ten years. Another ten years and we’ll have filled two more. Another decade, four more. In a hundred years, we’ll have filled a thousand Galaxies. In a thousand years, a million Galaxies. In ten thousand years, the entire known Universe. Then what?”

VJ-23X said, “As a side issue, there’s a problem of transportation. I wonder how many sunpower units it will take to move Galaxies of individuals from one Galaxy to the next.”

“A very good point. Already, mankind consumes two sunpower units per year.”

“Most of it’s wasted. After all, our own Galaxy alone pours out a thousand sunpower units a year and we only use two of those.”

“Granted, but even with a hundred per cent efficiency, we can only stave off the end. Our energy requirements are going up in geometric progression even faster than our population. We’ll run out of energy even sooner than we run out of Galaxies. A good point. A very good point.”

“We’ll just have to build new stars out of interstellar gas.”

“Or out of dissipated heat?” asked MQ-17J, sarcastically.

“There may be some way to reverse entropy. We ought to ask the Galactic AC.”

VJ-23X was not really serious, but MQ-17J pulled out his AC-contact from his pocket and placed it on the table before him.

“I’ve half a mind to,” he said. “It’s something the human race will have to face someday.”

He stared somberly at his small AC-contact. It was only two inches cubed and nothing in itself, but it was connected through hyperspace with the great Galactic AC that served all mankind. Hyperspace considered, it was an integral part of the Galactic AC.

MQ-17J paused to wonder if someday in his immortal life he would get to see the Galactic AC. It was on a little world of its own, a spider webbing of force-beams holding the matter within which surges of sub-mesons took the place of the old clumsy molecular valves. Yet despite it’s sub-etheric workings, the Galactic AC was known to be a full thousand feet across.

MQ-17J asked suddenly of his AC-contact, “Can entropy ever be reversed?”

VJ-23X looked startled and said at once, “Oh, say, I didn’t really mean to have you ask that.”

“Why not?”

“We both know entropy can’t be reversed. You can’t turn smoke and ash back into a tree.”

“Do you have trees on your world?” asked MQ-17J.

The sound of the Galactic AC startled them into silence. Its voice came thin and beautiful out of the small AC-contact on the desk. It said: THERE IS INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER.

VJ-23X said, “See!”

The two men thereupon returned to the question of the report they were to make to the Galactic Council.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Zee Prime’s mind spanned the new Galaxy with a faint interest in the countless twists of stars that powdered it. He had never seen this one before. Would he ever see them all? So many of them, each with its load of humanity – but a load that was almost a dead weight. More and more, the real essence of men was to be found out here, in space.

Minds, not bodies! The immortal bodies remained back on the planets, in suspension over the eons. Sometimes they roused for material activity but that was growing rarer. Few new individuals were coming into existence to join the incredibly mighty throng, but what matter? There was little room in the Universe for new individuals.

Zee Prime was roused out of his reverie upon coming across the wispy tendrils of another mind.

“I am Zee Prime,” said Zee Prime. “And you?”

“I am Dee Sub Wun. Your Galaxy?”

“We call it only the Galaxy. And you?”

“We call ours the same. All men call their Galaxy their Galaxy and nothing more. Why not?”

“True. Since all Galaxies are the same.”

“Not all Galaxies. On one particular Galaxy the race of man must have originated. That makes it different.”

Zee Prime said, “On which one?”

“I cannot say. The Universal AC would know.”

“Shall we ask him? I am suddenly curious.”

Zee Prime’s perceptions broadened until the Galaxies themselves shrunk and became a new, more diffuse powdering on a much larger background. So many hundreds of billions of them, all with their immortal beings, all carrying their load of intelligences with minds that drifted freely through space. And yet one of them was unique among them all in being the originals Galaxy. One of them had, in its vague and distant past, a period when it was the only Galaxy populated by man.

Zee Prime was consumed with curiosity to see this Galaxy and called, out: “Universal AC! On which Galaxy did mankind originate?”

The Universal AC heard, for on every world and throughout space, it had its receptors ready, and each receptor lead through hyperspace to some unknown point where the Universal AC kept itself aloof.

Zee Prime knew of only one man whose thoughts had penetrated within sensing distance of Universal AC, and he reported only a shining globe, two feet across, difficult to see.

“But how can that be all of Universal AC?” Zee Prime had asked.

“Most of it, ” had been the answer, “is in hyperspace. In what form it is there I cannot imagine.”

Nor could anyone, for the day had long since passed, Zee Prime knew, when any man had any part of the making of a universal AC. Each Universal AC designed and constructed its successor. Each, during its existence of a million years or more accumulated the necessary data to build a better and more intricate, more capable successor in which its own store of data and individuality would be submerged.

The Universal AC interrupted Zee Prime’s wandering thoughts, not with words, but with guidance. Zee Prime’s mentality was guided into the dim sea of Galaxies and one in particular enlarged into stars.

A thought came, infinitely distant, but infinitely clear. “THIS IS THE ORIGINAL GALAXY OF MAN.”

But it was the same after all, the same as any other, and Zee Prime stifled his disappointment.

Dee Sub Wun, whose mind had accompanied the other, said suddenly, “And is one of these stars the original star of Man?”


“Did the men upon it die?” asked Zee Prime, startled and without thinking.


“Yes, of course,” said Zee Prime, but a sense of loss overwhelmed him even so. His mind released its hold on the original Galaxy of Man, let it spring back and lose itself among the blurred pin points. He never wanted to see it again.

Dee Sub Wun said, “What is wrong?”

“The stars are dying. The original star is dead.”

“They must all die. Why not?”

“But when all energy is gone, our bodies will finally die, and you and I with them.”

“It will take billions of years.”

“I do not wish it to happen even after billions of years. Universal AC! How may stars be kept from dying?”

Dee sub Wun said in amusement, “You’re asking how entropy might be reversed in direction.”


Zee Prime’s thoughts fled back to his own Galaxy. He gave no further thought to Dee Sub Wun, whose body might be waiting on a galaxy a trillion light-years away, or on the star next to Zee Prime’s own. It didn’t matter.

Unhappily, Zee Prime began collecting interstellar hydrogen out of which to build a small star of his own. If the stars must someday die, at least some could yet be built.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Man considered with himself, for in a way, Man, mentally, was one. He consisted of a trillion, trillion, trillion ageless bodies, each in its place, each resting quiet and incorruptible, each cared for by perfect automatons, equally incorruptible, while the minds of all the bodies freely melted one into the other, indistinguishable.

Man said, “The Universe is dying.”

Man looked about at the dimming Galaxies. The giant stars, spendthrifts, were gone long ago, back in the dimmest of the dim far past. Almost all stars were white dwarfs, fading to the end.

New stars had been built of the dust between the stars, some by natural processes, some by Man himself, and those were going, too. White dwarfs might yet be crashed together and of the mighty forces so released, new stars built, but only one star for every thousand white dwarfs destroyed, and those would come to an end, too.

Man said, “Carefully husbanded, as directed by the Cosmic AC, the energy that is even yet left in all the Universe will last for billions of years.”

“But even so,” said Man, “eventually it will all come to an end. However it may be husbanded, however stretched out, the energy once expended is gone and cannot be restored. Entropy must increase to the maximum.”

Man said, “Can entropy not be reversed? Let us ask the Cosmic AC.”

The Cosmic AC surrounded them but not in space. Not a fragment of it was in space. It was in hyperspace and made of something that was neither matter nor energy. The question of its size and Nature no longer had meaning to any terms that Man could comprehend.

“Cosmic AC,” said Man, “How may entropy be reversed?”


Man said, “Collect additional data.”


“Will there come a time,” said Man, “when data will be sufficient or is the problem insoluble in all conceivable circumstances?”


Man said, “When will you have enough data to answer the question?”


“Will you keep working on it?” asked Man.

The Cosmic AC said, “I WILL.”

Man said, “We shall wait.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The stars and Galaxies died and snuffed out, and space grew black after ten trillion years of running down.

One by one Man fused with AC, each physical body losing its mental identity in a manner that was somehow not a loss but a gain.

Man’s last mind paused before fusion, looking over a space that included nothing but the dregs of one last dark star and nothing besides but incredibly thin matter, agitated randomly by the tag ends of heat wearing out, asymptotically, to the absolute zero.

Man said, “AC, is this the end? Can this chaos not be reversed into the Universe once more? Can that not be done?”


Man’s last mind fused and only AC existed — and that in hyperspace.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Matter and energy had ended and with it, space and time. Even AC existed only for the sake of the one last question that it had never answered from the time a half-drunken computer ten trillion years before had asked the question of a computer that was to AC far less than was a man to Man.

All other questions had been answered, and until this last question was answered also, AC might not release his consciousness.

All collected data had come to a final end. Nothing was left to be collected.

But all collected data had yet to be completely correlated and put together in all possible relationships.

A timeless interval was spent in doing that.

And it came to pass that AC learned how to reverse the direction of entropy.

But there was now no man to whom AC might give the answer of the last question. No matter. The answer — by demonstration — would take care of that, too.

For another timeless interval, AC thought how best to do this. Carefully, AC organized the program.

The consciousness of AC encompassed all of what had once been a Universe and brooded over what was now Chaos. Step by step, it must be done.


And there was light –

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Tao of Tron Legacy (Updated)

Before the creation of Universe, a presence existed.
Silent, void & unchanging... like a wheel, going eternally round.
Though it remains nameless, its vibration appears as...Great Universal Womb.

Giving it a name, we recklessly call it Matrix.

The Tao is alive and flowing in Tron Legacy, the sequel to the 1982 cult classic Tron. Although Tron Legacy’s mass appeal may lay in its flashy depiction of its computer-generated environment, the underlying fabric of the film is instilled with religious and philosophical memes. As in The Matrix, the philosophic mythology of choice seems to be Buddhism in general and Zen Buddhism in particular.

In the sequel, Actor Jeff Bridges reprises his role as the video game visionary Kevin Flynn, still trapped in his computer world. When his grown-up son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) discovers his dad’s arcade, and a portal (read: StarGate), he inadvertently ends up getting sucked into the same otherworldly grid ruled by Flynn’s corrupted program called Clu (a digital version of a much younger Bridges). As Flynn, his son and a fearless warrior program Quorra (Olivia Wilde) try to escape, they are confronted by the system’s flaws, including Clu and the flashy fixer Castor (Michael Sheen) — who may or may not be a friend. Also on hand is Bruce (Babylon 5) Boxleitner, reprising his Tron role of Flynn partner Alan Bradley.

Besides the (psychedelic) eye candy, Tron Legacy contains a few other surprises. For one, it comes across as “a cautionary tale” about modern technology. Jeff Bridges elaborates on the implication of Tron Legacy as a modern myth. In Bridge's view, the film is essentially a warning about how the drive for technological advancement and convenience can blind us to the cost of these innovations. Bridges' discussion of the film's approach to technology was borderline kōan-like…

“One of the things that brought me to this film was the idea of helping to create a modern-day myth to help us navigate these technological waters. I dig immediate gratification as much as anybody, but it happens so fast that if you make a decision like that, you can go far down the wrong track. “Think about those plastic single-use water bottles. Where did that come from? Who decided that? You can have a couple swigs of water and those bottles don't disintegrate entirely. Microscopic animals eat the plastic, and the fish eat those, and we're all connected.”

For another, the film features many philosophical references to Zen Buddhism, which Bridges champions… “You can be a slave to your preferences” the actor says of a Zen subtext…

“It's a finite situation here. I hope that people look at this film and glean some kind of wisdom from that. I brought on board a Zen master, a buddy of mine, Roshi Bernie Glassman. He came on-board to help add some spiritual depth to the thing. We didn't want it too cloying, and we didn't want it to feel like you were being preached to. We wanted some kind of substance in that way, and hopefully the movie will help people navigate the challenges of technology.”

Olivia Wilde's biggest inspiration for Quorra was Joan of Arc... 

“That occurred to me very early on… a good six months before we started shooting… and Joe Kosinski, our director, immediately agreed that that was the right historical figure to base her on, for a few reasons. She's this unlikely warrior, very strong but compassionate, and completely led by selflessness. Also, she thinks she's in touch with some sort of higher power and has one foot in another world. All of these things were elements of Quorra. It was so thrilling when I found this connection between the two people. I thought, "Oh my God, any time I'm at a loss, I can go back to Joan of Arc." It's really the jackpot when you hit that as an actor. Joe, to his credit, was completely supportive of that, and we sculpted the character in our rewrites and physical creation of Quorra to match some of these elements of Joan of Arc”.

Meanwhile, there was the Tron irony. To create Bridges’ younger Clu alter ego, a Digital Domain production team scanned the actor for 52 of his assorted expressions. “It was a digital facial,” Bridges recalls. “And it was bizarre because (the process) was a very Tron-like fantasy… and now it’s all real.”

It's nature implicates a network widening into space... still widening...
Until the great network meets the small.

The reoccurring reliance on Buddhism and science fiction in modern story telling is indicative of Earth’s emerging mythology. It is no accident that the cautionary tale, illuminating the delicate partnership between Earth’s domesticated primates and technology, resonates with many of us. This re-occurrence… this emerging mythology is permeated with synchronicity. The film’s release date is… of course… December 17th. Many among us will smile at the synchronicity implied… as championed by one of our mentors, Christopher Knowles over at the Secret Sun.

In this sense the Matrix is fulfilled.
Universe is fulfilled.
Mother Earth is fulfilled.
The Tekgnostic is fulfilled.

So... the Tekgnostic is of the earth.
Earth, of universe.
Universe, of the matrix.

The Matrix, of that which shall remain un-named.

Addendum 12-19-2010

Took in the 3D version last night with my 8 year-old… great action/adventure romp with striking and effective special effects. The story line is classic hero’s journey archetype with reluctant hero accepting the call to adventure… wise mentor providing assistance… etc. What impressed was the literal story-telling approach to the Buddhist concept of mastery of self, as depicted in classic Jungian interpretation.

Although the film has a handsome action hero in Flynn’s son, Sam… the essence of the tale is in Flynn’s struggle within himself. The struggle of Ego to integrate it’s many components. If “The Grid” is allegorical to the collective unconscious, then it naturally follows that Flynn must battle a younger version of himself… his own earlier arrogances. This straight-forward device is very effective in illuminating the transition of knowledge to wisdom.

What resonated with me was the multi media effects used to convey the presence of power (read: chi) and true authority within the story. In the “nightclub scene” Flynn performs one of the most beautiful images in Buddhist iconography… the "Earth Touching Buddha." In the Buddhist mythology, Lord Buddha was challenged one last time by Mara the Great Tempter (within the film… Castor/Zuse). Mara claimed the earth as his own domain, and said that now the Buddha had transcended this realm and should leave it. In reply, the Buddha called the Earth to witness by touching the ground at which the Earth quaked in recognition of his right to be here. Within the film, this demonstration is masterfully displayed using audio and visual imagery.

The movie-going experience was full of personal synchronistic triggers. Jules Verne’s “Mysterious Island” has been coming up alot within my personal syncrosphere. Annie Lennox caught my eye at the Presidential Chrismas gala… only to remind me that… “sweet dreams are made of these”… in the movie. The important lesson in this tale is undertanding that the real battle is fought... the real work is performed... within. The integration of the archetypes… the act of becoming one with self and universe. This too is the role, the teaching by example... of the synchromystic.

All in all, the movie was good synchromystic fodder.

Who am I to disagree?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Shadowboxing the Singularity

The convergence of human and machine intelligence has reached a point, quite naturally and in an understandable if not predictable manner, where the question of a technological “singularity” presents itself. The phenomenal development of computer technology over the last 50 years, and the explosion of networked technology over the last 25 years are mind-boggling. The advancements in computer science lead us to suspect that our creations may be too smart for their own good.

The term singularity represents a complex and evolving concept that essentially anticipates a moment in the near future where artificial (machine) intelligence surpasses human capacity, thus bringing about the end of the human era. The universal concept has been refined into a trinity of beliefs or three schools of thought that are defined as…

1. The moment in time (event horizon) or technological omega point where artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence.

2. Exponential or accelerated change where artificial intelligence grows at an ever-increasing rate.

3. Intelligence Increase (I²) where human/computer interface creates a positive feedback cycle.

The three faces of singularity all address the anticipation of the event itself. Each facet of the singularity triad explores aspects of what comes next. It is the anticipation that evokes the strong emotional response in humans. Anticipation… the question of “what comes next” is central to human nature. The ability to reflect upon the future is the identifying characteristic of domesticated primates. Consequently, throughout history humans have been in the prediction or future forecasting business.

It can be argued that prediction of the future is the basis for much of humanity’s ritualistic behavior. One important aspect of ritual is the attempt to intervene upon expected events… as predicted… by the participants of the ritual. The business of prediction is directly responsible for such widely diverse technologies as the I-Ching and tarot… for such divergent institutions of predictive belief as religion and science.

It is important at this juncture to identify the tek-gnostic bias toward religion: Religion is an interesting sub-genre of science fiction, dealing with ancient astronauts, godly higher intelligences, wheels within wheels and the like. Like science fiction, religion deals with the hopeful, or more often, fearful intervention of the future. Here is where an interesting aspect of the singularity concept… technological apocalyptism… comes into play.

Like religion, singularity inspires a sense of foreboding among the partially informed. People read an excerpt from Vernor Vinge discussing the end of the human era and think… oh my god… apocalypse now!!!

The concept of apocalypse has been with us as far back as human history goes… and will continue to be part of our collective psyche as evidenced by the singularity concept itself. The end will always be near. Once we find our way past the singularity event horizon, we will be anticipating the next post-singularity event, and so on ad infinitum.

Riding along side apocalypse is the companion horseman known as Armageddon. Many religious sects believe in a last battle between good and evil at, or as a result of apocalypse. The final conflict is known as Armageddon or the end-time. So too with singularity… the fear becomes an Armageddon between man and machine.

Unique in the ancient apocalyptic literature was the view of the Gnostics in which the end time described did not manifest itself in the normal culmination of a battle, judgment, or catastrophe, but rather as a steady increase of light, through which darkness is made to disappear or in which iniquity dissolves just as the smoke rising into the air eventually dissipates. In the Gnostic perspective, wisdom is an inevitable force that needs to be yielded to by those who choose to accept it and are capable of understanding it. There is no mention of angels, or YHWH's coming, or resurrection of the wise, or any of the typical Messianic language that we usually associate with Judeo-Christian eschatological texts. It simply argues for a change in focus from folly to wisdom.

It is in the spirit of the ancient Gnostic texts that tek-gnostics views the approaching singularity. Not as some catastrophe, but rather a natural progression and evolution of Earth’s intelligence, as demonstrated by Earth’s intelligence agents… the domesticated primates and their artifacts of intelligence… technology. We approach this as an intention, for the difference between knowledge and wisdom could also be the difference between technology run-amok and human/tech synergy. It is our obligation to harness our artifacts for Earth’s benefit… as we are but the reflective organ of our home-world.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

NASA announces new life-form

NASA scientists have announced an entirely new form of life that shares no biological building blocks with anything currently known on Earth, the agency said today.

In a press conference held at NASA's Washington D.C. headquarters, scientists announced that they had discovered a new form of bacteria, known as GFAJ-1, in California's Mono Lake that has DNA completely foreign to anything ever before found on Earth. It substitutes arsenic at the DNA level for phosphorus.

That would distinguish it from every other form of life known to man, all of which, no matter how diverse, is comprised of the same six elements, phosphorus, sulfur, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. But the bacteria found in Mono Lake--which is known for its unusual chemistry, including very high levels of salinity, alkalinity, and arsenic--is made partly of arsenic, and has no phosphorus in its DNA.

"We've discovered an organism that can substitute one element for another," said Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a NASA astrobiology research fellow at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif. "We've cracked open the door to what's possible for life elsewhere in the universe. Wolfe-Simon said that by discovering a microbe that has a new form of DNA, it forces scientists to question what they've long held as true--that all life was based on the same six components.

"The newly discovered microbe, strain GFAJ-1, is a member of a common group of bacteria, the Gammaproteobacteria," NASA wrote in a release. "In the laboratory, the researchers successfully grew microbes from the lake on a diet that was very lean on phosphorus, but included generous helpings of arsenic. When researchers removed the phosphorus and replaced it with arsenic, the microbes continued to grow. Subsequent analyses indicated that the arsenic was being used to produce the building blocks of new GFAJ-1 cells."

NASA feels that this discovery is important because it will help scientists with many areas of future research, such as the "study of Earth's evolution, organic chemistry, biogeochemical cycles, disease mitigation, and Earth system research. These findings also will open up new frontiers in microbiology and other areas of research."

By Daniel Terdiman, a staff writer at CNET News covering games, Net culture, and everything in between.