Here’s an awesome video montage illustrating the late great
Arthur C. Clarke’s uncanny space predictions. It goes to show how
much the world needs great sci-fi minds for critical scenario
construction so that we may build and live into our dreams.
“Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the three-hour Las Vegas-Mars
Hyperspace Express. In a few moments we will leave Earth atmosphere
and experience a quantum leap as we achieve greater than
light-speed travel. Be sure to glance out your window during our
hyper-speed mode and watch the stars flash by at dizzying speeds;
truly one of the most breathtaking views in the galaxy. Expected
arrival at Branson-Bigelow Spaceport is noon Martian time; we hope
you enjoy your trip.”
The above scenario is fiction of course, but German scientist
Burkhard Heim who
developed this radical theory believes that hyperspace propulsion
systems will become a proven concept within five years; and could
be fully operational by the end of this century.
Heim’s theory adds two components to Einstein’s four-dimensional
space-time; a repulsive anti-gravity force similar to dark energy
that appears to expand the universe, and a bold idea that
accelerates a spacecraft without using any fuel.
If Heim’s idea proves correct, it will radically change space
travel. Forget spending six months holed up in a rocket on the way
to Mars, a round trip on the hyper-drive could take as little as
five hours. And for longer trips, adventurers could visit
Alpha Centauri, 4
light years away, in as little as 30 days. Hyperspace
propulsion could bring travel to the stars within reach for the
The immense popularity of Star Trek suggests that “to boldly go
where no man has gone before” could become humanity’s mandate for
Satellite Industry Association President Richard Dalbello sees
the space industry as the jewel of our economy. It drives
innovation, creates jobs, and positions us to begin mankind’s
greatest dream – to explore other worlds.
But many believe our progress is too slow. Past explorations
produced huge benefits much faster. 25 years after the Lewis &
Clark exploration, wagons rolled west to Oregon and clipper ships
landed pioneers in California. 25 years after the Wright Brothers,
citizens could fly around the country. By contrast, landing on the
moon – our “giant step for mankind” – has only produced 40 to 50+
years of earth orbits and a few unmanned flights.
Space enthusiasts say this slow progress shows we are
misdirected. They would like to see faster development of moon and
Mars settlements and strong incentives created for private
businesses to design and build space colonies and other facilities
Space flights are expensive today, but once travel to and from
orbit become cheap; profit-driven entrepreneurs will head for the
high frontier to build hotels, permanent housing, and entertainment
and sports facilities.
Exploring space will also push genetic research. Better Humans
author Simon Smith claims environments such as Mars extreme cold
temperatures and toxic atmosphere will require biological changes.
Sending humans into space without genetic modification would be
Summary: Spivack’s observation that the web is saturating the world (rather than just enabling a super fast web that the world and humans can enter) reinforces the idea that our system as a whole is amplifying its total intelligence and capabilities, rather than just supporting the digitization and “upload” of everything. It’s a basic, yet profound distinction that fundamentally changes how we expect the future to unfold.
Nova Spivack has posted some interesting thoughts up on his personal Twine, noting that “The Web is starting to spread outside of what we think of as ‘the Web’ and into ‘the World.’” He points out that “the digital world is going physical”, an idea that opens up an array of new futures previously not imagined by thinkers who’ve largely focused on digitization and inner space as the inevitable human destiny. Spivack concludes that “Beyond just a Global Brain, we are really building a Global Body.”
This thinking resonates with me because it moves away from a human-centric view of the future (digitization is good because we can live forever) in favor of a more systems-centric explanation (the system as a whole is getting smarter for its own reasons). It also makes sense in the context of an ongoing discussion I’ve been having with good friend and EvoDevo systems thinker John Smart about the direct relationship between A) our collective drive to tunnel toward Inner Space (nanotech, chemistry, energy efficiency, etc.) and B) our drive to expand into Outer Space (exploration, space travel, universe mapping, manufacturing, resource discovery).
An increasingly intelligent, self-orgainzing web that furthers growth of both the Global Brain, a concept originally advanced by Francis Heylighen in 1995, and what Spivack calls the Global Body, seems like the necessary tissue connecting our Inner Space and Outer Space focused appendages. In other words, the web that Spivack observes is not only concerned with creating better simulations, but also with expanding reach and bettering physical capabilities.
This jives with the idea that the point of the game of life, including the human-created web, is to ensure the survival of our global system via knowledge gathering and expansion, and less with the species-centric view that the future is solely about digitizing ourselves and escaping our biological chains. If in fact we are living in a system that purposely or automagically (to borrow a term from another futurist colleague, Jerry Paffendorf) seeks to increase control over its perceived environment (COPE) in order to ensure survival and expansion, then the creation of a web that serves this system, rather than just its human components, seems perfectly rational.
From this perspective, a merger between the web and physical world makes a lot of sense as it accelerates the input, sorting and output of information, resulting in increased system quantification and knowledge generation. In other words, a world-as-web + web-as-world boosts both our collective intelligence and capabilities.
Of course, this sort of thinking steadily pulls us down the rabbit hole to a place where the physical world can be viewed as web and the web as increasingly physical. But, then again, we’re due for some serious paradigm shifts, aren’t we?