Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wagers On Magical Creatures

I wish, now, that I had devoted more of my time in college to academic pursuits. At least I come by it honestly. In Bloomington, Indiana there is an off campus area on 5th street which was filled with bars and taverns. I don't know what is there today. My father recounts that, during his time at IU right after WWII, on the day when the GI Bill checks arrived, the gutters on that street would be jam packed with passed out veterans the following morning. And he was one of them.

Alcohol was never my particular weakness, although there is the usual Northern European genetic tendency towards that addiction floating around in my somatic consortium.  The more "hep" recreational drugs were my abuse of choice, and I regularly entertained that weakness. I now wish I had spent less time smoking dope and playing video games, but such regret is useless. Better to use the time I have now in worthwhile pursuits. I know that they say "Youth is wasted on the wrong people", but I also think that  youth is there to be wasted.  It's a period when we are invulnerable, infallible, and immortal, and so why not waste the time?

Besides, it's not like we can go back in time and change the past, right?

No, actually. No, I'm not.

Although the time travel thing reminds me of some thoughts I had on what it is we can and cannot know.
If you want a word for that, it's called epistemology.

I've always gone with the principle that all of our knowledge is provisional. Our facts are conditional, contextual, and contingent. This does not mean I subscribe to some kind of Leftist butthead postmodern relativism. Rather I will weight my facts on a gambling basis. Some facts that I will stand behind, and bet a billion gajillion dollars on. If I were to put odds on things, or as a percentage, I'd say anything beyond fifty percent I'd put a wager on, considering how many coin flip moments my extremely tenuous grasp on reality turns on.

So, like what?

Well, I'll bet that life exists somewhere else out there in the universe. I'll bet that it is fairly plentiful - at a bacterial level. Given that, I'll bet that intelligent life exists out there. Given that, I'll bet it's pretty sparse. I'll bet, utilizing the Fermi Paradox, that we are the only intelligent life in this galaxy. I'll bet that our nearest inteligent neighbors are at least 100 million light years away. I'll bet that it is unlikely we are even remotely close technologically speaking. I'll bet that most intelligent life is millions, or even billions of years ahead of us. I'll bet that we really don't want them knowing about us, in the same way that mildew really shouldn't make it's presence known in your bathroom. I'll bet that there are immense and powerful forces out there that it is just as well they don't know about us.

On the other hand, I'll bet that we share this planet with another intelligent species. I'll bet that none of the obvious candidates (dolphins, whales, elephants, etc. ) are one of these species. In fact, it is a favored creepy fantasy of mine that we are, in some kind of vampiric parasite manner, preyed upon by an unseen species. (But without the actual vampirism, more like elves or pixies stealing stuff). Why would I entertain this notion? Well, it's fun. It's a fun intellectual exercise, and it is sufficiently creepy. And, courtesy of Richard Hamming, it goes like this:  

"Just as there are odors that dogs can smell and we cannot, as well as sounds that dogs can hear and we cannot, so too there are wavelengths of light we cannot see and flavors we cannot taste. Why then, given our brains wired the way they are, does the remark "Perhaps there are thoughts we cannot think," surprise you? Evolution, so far, may possibly have blocked us from being able to think in some directions; there could be unthinkable thoughts." 

And since these are, in a sense, blind spots, or holes in our minds, it seems only reasonable that evolution would come up with creatures that exploit the holes in our minds. There could be creatures on this planet that exist, but since it impossible for us to think about them, they are, in a very real sense, invisible to us. So, I'll bet they exist, but since there is no empirical way for us to prove that, I'll not wager to much on them. There are accidental ways to find out, but in a sense, this could be anecdotal, in a magical sense. Regardless, like I said, it's just fun.

What else? Well, like, I'm 99% sure that I (me, my personality, my mind) will cease to exist when I die. I base this on the assumption of Landauer's Princicple: All Information is Material. (In other words, my definition of material, regardless of its esoterity, is that it exists). So, the only things that will remain of me will be fond memories of my friends and loved ones, the malicious glee of my rivals and enemies (if I have any, probably not, so then, maybe just a fleeting good riddance from those I have annoyed), and the other slightly more "substantial", less ephemeral, artifacts that remain, such as my art works, writings, stupid jokey songs.

And, oh my, if it turns out the Internet is forever, or as forever as the universe allows, then, Far, Far Future, I sincerely apologize for wasting so much energy on my crap. But you know they say, youth is wasted on the young.


  1. Cookin with gas brotha, cookin with gas....,

    Have you ever read Bob and the Oxygen Wars by Connector Waves Forest?

    I tried to find active version of the links on the waaayback machine, but it appears they've taken them down or put them behind a subscription wall.

  2. I have not, Nulan San, but I have found it, and shall read it. I'll letcha know...