Must freedom always come at the expense of something else?
If freedom continually comes at the expense of something else, then what is the net regressive impact on the system down the line?
Throughout the course of history, humans have tried many different variations, as in forms of governance. And there really is no ideal system of governance. Perhaps, it is a kind of system that has seen very little innovation in thousands of years.
Here my sense is, that, that which is important is sometimes forgotten and often overlooked.
It is also my sense that, collectively, we as a species focus too much on security and not enough on innovation.
What I am about to suggest, does not entail that we must now sacrifice security and defense, so that more innovation can be had. I am not asking for sacrificing objectivity.
But, we must think deeply and objectively about:
There really is no such thing as absolute security. In the words of a previous American president, Dwight D. Eisenhower:
"If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking... is freedom."
"We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security."
I think, we, as a species are making the grave mistake of thinking/believing and acting upon the notion that our collective existence begins and ends at being able to sustain civilization.
I think, that a core focus on security is coming at the expense of enabling the future. As this phenomenon continues, we will always think of security first and everything second. This will place severe limits on our growth prospects.
Growth cannot be had without innovation. And so if we are to safeguard our collective future, then we need to focus that much more on mechanisms by which more innovation can be had.
Source for image above: Research done by Geoffrey West link
If you have absolute security, then it is not something tangible that you can do with. If on the other end, you do not have any security, then you also cannot do anything.
But security is supposed to power a medium whereby all can come and play.
The need is to have more of our efforts, many more of our systems architected in such a way, so that more innovation can be had.
The need is pretty clear for many reasons.
Right now and according to some estimates:
So imagine the possibilities, the opportunities that lay hidden in the collection of and merger of different research in the 99% category.
I've been working on a blogpost, that is going to be a bit more detailed. In this blogpost, I will be focusing on the need for what I refer to as 'true innovation' and the pivotal role eco-systems will increasingly play (working as platforms). If anyone is interested, then I plan to post this blogpost by the mid of December 2015.
The conceptual designs for the O’Neill Colonies and the subject of Nanotechnology have always managed to capture my attention.
At least when it comes to the O'Neill colonies, often I find myself going back and observing the designs as envisioned by Gerard O'Neill. Also, I keep thinking and wondering about the enormous potential nanotechnology, in a developed form can offer for our species.
To cut to through the chase, large scale sustainable colonization of space is impossible, unless and until our species gets a much a better control over how to structure and positions atoms.
A thought related to this conceptual merger between space colonies and nanotechnology, led me to this very question.
So I started searching the web, and sure enough, my search soon led me to this very book called ‘The Visioneers’ written by a gentleman by the name of W. Patrick McCray.
I was very surprised to observe, that the entire book is a historical record when it comes to the developments related to the two concepts that I was thinking about, namely space colonies and nanotechnology!
As you might have noticed from the front cover (image above), this book is about “How a group of elite scientists pursued space colonies, nanotechnologies and a limitless future”.
Now, since the 60’s, a number scientists and visionaries have been trying to build a case for the colonization space. But, this vision has been met with a fair bit of resistance. Largely, due to the fact that the technology just wasn’t ready. And even if it was possible, then there has always been scare mongering that has been attached with these concepts (at the time) and how it had the (supposed) potential to destroy the world.
But in fits and starts, this movement has also gained encouragement from certain segments of society, academia and the Government. Namely, the United States Government and from what I can gather from this book. I’m sure that (since the 60’s) other governments have also invested in both nanotechnology and the colonization of space, but that is not in scope when it comes to the contents of this book.
The main characters:
Coming back to the book, most of the content revolves around the work performed by:
Gerard K. O’Neill: An American physicist, inventor and space activist. O’Neill tried to champion the cause of giant space settlements that could hypothetically be used for the colonization of space, using materials used from mining asteroids and the moon. O’Neill’s designs weren’t just an artistic rendition of what the conceptual models for the space colonies and manufacturing sites could look like. In fact, these designs were backed by a lot of research and what really distinguished them from science fiction was the meticulous amount of calculations that went into effect, in order to support the overall models.
Eric K. Drexler: The other amazing individual is Eric K. Drexler. An engineer from MIT (at the time), who in my opinion, is the rightful father of nanotechnology. Drexler, took the ideas as envisioned by Richard Feynmann for manipulating and controlling atoms and molecules and helped nurture and guide those ideas towards a path where they could eventually turn into a science.
Drexler’s book ‘Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology’ (published in 1986) is considered to be the first written record that hypothesizing the designs and details of machines that can be operated on a nanoscale. To quote from Wikipedia, Drexler envisioned a world where: “Molecular robots can be used for any purpose, from medicinal robots that can be guided for helping clear capillaries to environment scrubbers that can clear pollutant from air.” To even molecular robots that come together, in order to build lighter and stronger materials. Drexler worked closely with O’Neill, to see how the overall vision for the colonization of space could be supported with the aid of nanotechnology.
Obviously, there are other characters mentioned in this book as well. But like I said, most of the content focuses on the work performed by these gentlemen.
Meat and Potatoes
The overall narrative is really all about the dreams, the vision (backed by engineering designs) that these individuals continued to pursue, sometimes in the face of resistance and setbacks.
Also, after reading this book, I believe that the present day planning and activity when it relates to space exploration, colonization and mining can only trace it’s roots back to the work that individuals like O’Neill and Drexler helped envision and also champion.
Not only were these gentlemen the original dreamers, they were also the very first pioneers who dedicated a significant chunk (if not the entirety) of their lives when it comes to taking certain ideas and concepts from a fuzzy area and help bring them to a place where they could become very tangible in the foreseeable future. It is my wish that society will look back in time and always be indebted to individuals like O’Neill and Drexler and the fine work they did and sacrifices they made.
It’s also interesting to see how things are interconnected. Starting in the 60’s, from the origins of the L5 society and the whole world catalog and even individuals like Timothy Leary. To the emergence of social networks (in the absence of the internet) in the form of telephone networks e.t.c.
Or on the flip side, in a modern day context and to quote from the book “It’s impossible to ignore a certain homogeneity among this book’s characters. O’Neill, Drexler, Raymond Kurzweil, Peter Diamandis, Ted Nelson, Freeman Dyson, and even Richard Smalley: all men who graduated from elite schools with technical degrees.
This book is a great read for anyone who is interested in the following:
Also, there is a silver lining to the resistance that visionaries like O'Neill and Drexler had faced. As it can now serve as a lesson for new age visionaries. Namely:
It seems like a lot of things in life, kind of go back a full circle. Towards the beginning of this book, they were talking about this movement of sorts in the 60's where there was a lot of emphasis on 'Limits'. And supposedly, how limits had to be imposed on the continued advancement and development of society, if we were to continue living on this planet in a sustainable way. This was precisely the time when creative and intelligent engineers like like O'Neill and Drexler had decided to tackle these challenge head on. Their ideas and designs could help potentially help the human race leap frog these limits and such a movement could also (potentially and theoretically) help usher in a new age of abundance.
Now, some 50 ++ years later, the human race finds itself confronting a somewhat similar scenario. Where, among a host of other problems, we also have the looming threat of climate change. Luckily, for us, the debate this time around is not so much around the imposition of limits. There isn't much of a debate, the way I see it. But the one good movement I have noticed is the very nascent framework that is beginning to develop around space exploration, manufacturing and mining.
Hence, the vision as it was conceived by Gerard O'Neill and Eric K. Drexler, is still alive. It was dormant for a while and now it is slowly beginning to materialize. These individuals performed all this intelligent work decades ago, sometimes in the face of resistance, so that one day humanity could benefit from it. That era is getting closer with the passage of each day.
Overall, great read. Backed by a lot of research. Great work by Patrick McCray!
This blog-post has been sitting in my drafts folder for quite some time.
In 2012, I came across an interesting research paper by Nils J. Nilsson. The title of this research paper is ’Artificial Intelligence, Employment and Income‘. It appears that the actual research paper was published in the summer of 1984.
Nilsson has raised a couple of interesting points in this paper. Excerpt below:
Now I haven't even scraped the surface of AI, machine learning and mobile robotics in general. But, these technologies will mature very rapidly and when they do, then there will be some sort of an impact on jobs. And specifically routine based jobs.
Hence, I think I agree with the gist of what Professor Nilsson has mentioned in this paper.
The sentiment about generational wide changes is shared amongst one or two other individuals that I have spoken to as well. In particular, I recall my conversation with one of the CompSci Professor at Ryerson University and how they agreed with the statement being made in bullet # 2 above.
Civilization would have to make the necessary changes today, in order to be able to truly meet the impact, that the birth of true and real A.I is going to create in the future. Waiting for that moment to arrive is not an option.
Professor Nils J. Nilsson is not the first or the only scientist to have raised this issue in a reasonable, legible, rational way. Shedding light on this issue is important. Equally important is to do it in such a way that is rational. That does not have a luddite bias attached to it. Here, I use the term technology in the broader sense. One that encompasses advancement made in computing, AI and robotics. We need more investments and continued advancement in these areas as this is the only way of ensuring that we are able to provide for 7 billion people (and growing).
Also, in the near-term future state, the overall issue of employment requires a new vision and a new way of thinking. Hence, design-thinking becomes that much more important.