Well, crap! Super crap! I just accidentally trashed about 500-600 words complete with links and pictures and so on. So here we go again.
Where were we, Oh Yea, bad choices have bad consequences.
Anyway, Bill Whittle uses flying for many of his examples and metaphors, especially about the “web of civilization” discussions. I prefer to use the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence project as an example because it doesn’t require pilot training to really understand how important the web of trust is. If you are not a flyer at heart you will never get the pilot metaphor in your gut. I think SETI and especially SETI@home is easier for folks to understand and relate to. Since this post is really about what helps the web of trust (ie. makes life good) and what hinders the web of trust (ie. makes life bad)
I will try to stick closer to the point as I proceed. I know, I know, Bill, your example shows how life depends on the web of trust and failure anywhere in the web kills people – they fly into the side of a mountain, etc, etc. But mine shows it too. Web of Trust = SETI. No web of Trust = ISIL or ISIS or whatever they are calling it today. Pretty simple stuff.
Remember, in all of this blogging I present my take on what I read, watch and observe in real life and what I think about all that stuff. I also often poke fun at or even ridicule what I perceive as “other points of view” on the same items and topics. One has to understand that differences of opinion are OK and even welcome, but to be taken seriously they need some sort of logical, fact based, demonstration of viability or probability or even possibility to be included in a “good” discussion.
Alternatively, one can sum it up as”Yelling “BULLSHIT!” about what I just wrote doesn’t constitute a good defense of your point of view.” I just had the edifying experience of a responder who basically cut and pasted my post and inserted “BULLSHIT!” at every point he disagreed with. Just that, nothing else. On the upside he wasn’t calling me a “Racist Nazi” so things are looking up from where I sit. If I am pissing someone off whose best response is “BULLSHIT!” I must be on to something. I believe Someone Important once said: “If I have spoken evil, give testimony of the evil; but if well, why strikest thou me?”
Everything which doesn’t include such demonstrations is fair game for ridicule and satire, and downright mockery. A good graphic illustrating this requirement is Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreement” which looks like this:
My target when writing what I do is to at least reach the “green” level of “Contradiction”. I confess to often slipping down into the yellow, orange and pink levels, perhaps I slip more often than perhaps I should. But I believe that at least as often as I slip down I climb up into the blue, purple and grey levels.
Hmmm … I never noticed before but the colors in the graphic ironically reflect the observed courage and social views of the folks who most use these common techniques of debate. Funny thing that. Just noticing that probably makes me an “A _ _ H _ _ E!”, or maybe even a “Racist Nazi”. Hmmmm. This pic is the “Grey Tribe – Pink Tribe” metaphor/allegory writ large … This site has a good interesting read about a BRACING REALISTIC world view, IF you have the BALLS to read it through and think about it. It was written just after Hurricane Katrina visited New Orleans. Ha! Another useful descriptor of reality on the ground. I came to that site through this site: http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/ The Roadkill Diaries. “If your culture forces women into faceless bags, your culture needs to stay in Yemen.”
Here’s a couple of paragraphs, from the “Pink Tribe/ Grey Tribe” article, a short teaser: “The Pink Tribe is all about feeling good: feeling good about yourself! Sexually, emotionally, artistically – nothing is off limits, nothing is forbidden, convention is fossilized insanity and everybody gets to do their own thing without regard to consequences, reality, or natural law. We all have our own reality – one small personal reality is called “science,” say – and we Make Our Own Luck and we Visualize Good Things and There Are No Coincidences and Everything Happens for a Reason and You Can Be Whatever You Want to Be and we all have Special Psychic Powers and if something Bad should happen it’s because Someone Bad Made It Happen. A Spell, perhaps. The Pink Tribe motto, in fact, is the ultimate Zen Koan, the sound of one hand clapping: EVERYBODY IS SPECIAL.
Then, in the other corner, there is the Grey Tribe – the grey of reinforced concrete. This is a Tribe where emotion is repressed because Emotion Clouds Judgment. This is the world of Quadratic Equations and Stress Risers and Loads Torsional, Compressive and Tensile, a place where Reality Can Ruin Your Best Day, the place where Murphy mercilessly picks off the Weak and the Incompetent, where the Speed Limit is 186,282.36 miles per second, where every bridge has a Failure Load and levees come in 50 year, 100 year and 1000 Year Flood Flavors. The Grey Tribe motto is, near as I can tell, THINGS BREAK SOMETIMES AND PLEASE DON’T LET IT BE MY BRIDGE.” Go there! Read it! It just might save your life!
So back to the web of trust. I specifically like the illustrative example of SETI@home because I have been involved with it in one way or another almost since it’s inception in 1999, back when I was running a home brew Pentium II PC with 128 Mb of RAM and ATI video with dual boot Linux and Win98. Remember those days?
I like SETI because it is an easy to understand example rooted in hard science, of the cooperation implicit in the web of trust observations I am making about how the web gives us “The Good Life”. So, last plug, SETI@home currently involves millions of volunteers, in 226 countries, who have downloaded the SETI@home screensaver. The SETI@home volunteers have formed one our planet’s most powerful supercomputers and have enabled the world’s most sensitive SETI search. Thousands of students are running SETI@home as part of their science curriculum.
The question “Are we alone?” touches on many disciplines, including physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, engineering, computer science and of course mathematics which all the rest depend on. The 7 “hard” disciplines. “Hard” because they rely on facts and replicable experimentation, not opinions and feelings and whatever the researchers want to prove. “Disciplines” because they require, well, “discipline” to develop the skills to excel in these fields.
I think the question “Are we alone?” also touches on and originates in a deep fear amongst many moderns. This is the reason behind the fact that SETI didn’t really get going until the 1980’s. That is when the 60’s generation started to inherit the mansion. IF we are alone, then we are pretty special and the conditions for our existence are vanishingly rare, perhaps even implying that Someone went to a lot of trouble to put us here, hence the Anthropic Principle.
The hypotheses underlying “Are We Alone?” is that there is no God. God is dead, or some variation on this theme, another name is “Progressive Atheism”. We NEED to prove that we are not alone. If we are NOT alone then we can possibly legitimately aspire to being gods ourselves, rather like “Dr. Manhatten” in the film “Watchmen“. We can become gods because there is “probably” no higher authority to which we are accountable, we decide what is morally right and morally wrong, ethics don’t matter, and the “random evolution” theory is easier to believe and to sell even if there is no proof.
So it is IMPORTANT to many folks to prove that we ARE NOT alone. Now, personally, I don’t believe there’s a snowball’s chance in Hell that all this effort will find ET. I just happen to think it’s a cool hobby activity that is easy to take part in. There is a good presentation by Dan Werthimer at Cal Day which covers off most of what you need to know if your interested in helping.
To be continued …