The Window For Consciousness To Survive
A few days ago I unintentionally set off a heated discussion on this site by quoting Greta Thunberg, whom many people have passionate opinions about, one way or the other.
At the risk of lightning striking twice, I’m now going to quote Elon Musk, a similarly divisive personality.
On Sep 28th, Musk presented a lengthy update on SpaceX’s Starship prototype, which is intended to be history’s first rapidly and fully-reusable orbital rocket.
At the end of his official remarks, Elon made a really interesting existential point. I’ve been chewing on it ever since.
He reminded the audience that, as far as we know, we’re the only conscious form of life in our corner of the galaxy.
And while it took 4.5 billion years for humans to appear on Earth, scientists predict that we only have several hundred million more years (perhaps up to 1 billion) left before our sun will become so hot that the oceans will boil and Earth will become uninhabitable for life as we know it.
And then he made this observation:
From an evolutionary standpoint, if it took an extra ten percent longer for conscious life to evolve on Earth, it wouldn’t have evolved at all because it would’ve been incinerated by the sun.
It appears that consciousness is a very rare and precious thing and we should take whatever steps we can to preserve the light of consciousness.
Only now, after 4.5 billion years, has that window been opened. That’s a long time to wait. And it might not stay open for long.
I’m pretty optimistic by nature, but there’s some chance that window will not be open for long. And I think we should become a multi-planet civilization while that window is open.
That’s very interesting to reflect on. In we humans, the cosmos has produced consciousness just in time for us to find a way to outlive our home planet’s expiration date.
But will we?
I realize that this topic raises all sorts of controversial lines of thinking. Is huckster Musk just talking his book? Should we become a multi-planetary species before we learn how to live sustainably on our own planet? Where does religion fit into this cosmic view?
I’m not looking to ignite a firestorm here.
I just think it’s worth reflecting on how lucky our species is to exist at all. On this planet. At this time.
What will we do with that great fortune?
Will we carry the precious flame of consciousness into the cosmos?
Or will we destroy ourselves long before?
Looking at our current behavior, it could easily go either way.
But I sure hope we make it. What a gift to be offered such a noble cause.
What is it. Where does it reside. How do we know if other creatures are conscious? I have often struggled with the idea and usually conclude that consciousness is in fact a feature of the universe and that I, as a human, am a receiver for it and that it is filtered through my ego, but not emergent from me. Similar to how a TV converts a signal into useful pixels and sounds, but the signal comes from elsewhere. If that is the case, how does that change Elon’s mission? Is it more important to spread our fragile little egos around the cosmos or to invest those same resources in understanding the nature of consciousness and the reasons we have evolved….perhaps our greater mission is to make it to the stars, but perhaps it’s something else entirely.
I’ll never forget watching the Falcon Heavy test flight. Like Elon, I’m a bit of a sci-fi fan and dreamed the dream of a space faring human race. During the test flight, when the first stage booster rockets touched down simultaneously at Cape Canaveral, it brought tears to my eyes. It was the first time I really felt that I’d witnessed a credible launch vehicle.
I’m with Elon, in that reusability is key. Dropping boosters in the ocean and parachute/splash down return are not strategies that will get us far in space.
One of the takeaways I got from the presentation is just how far SpaceX has come in the last eleven years. NASA has admitted that it would have cost many times as much for them to accomplish what SpaceX has accomplished.
For what he has done with SpaceX, I am willing to cut Elon a lot of slack. That does not mean I hang on every word he says. He has some interesting ideas and some ideas I find… far afield.
I am worried that he will blow the SpaceX initiative with his rush on the Starship. He already has a powerful platform in the Falcon Heavy that he has barely used. It may not be big enough to colonize Mars, but he could certainly put us back on the moon with Falcon heavy and use that extra experience for the next step up.
But then, my conservative nature would have never produced the Falcon Heavy. Perhaps his vision is what is needed to produce a vehicle like Starship.
As far as consciousness is concerned. I’ve looked through a lot of telescopes and done a lot of astrophotography. I have one picture that I took of the Virgo Cluster, that contains 459 identifiable galaxies. I cannot entertain the notion that intelligence and self awareness are rare, much less that we are the only example of it in the Universe.
I’d agree that the consciousness represented by the human race is worth preserving at present. But, we have some growing up to do, as a species. If we are still much the same 100 or 200 years from now, I’d probably rethink that assessment.
- This reply was modified 6 months, 1 week ago by LesPhelps.
Will we have the resources to colonize other planets or solar systems? Our fossil fuel energy is rapidly being wasted on trivialities here on earth with no sense that there is a plan for how to allocate any to extraterrestrial expansion.
I think that the inevitable shortages of fossil fuel energy (currently necessary to fuel rockets) due to demand from expanding Chinese and third-world economies will cause space travel to become too expensive. I don’t know how many years that will take but it seems unlikely to be many more than 10. How far off the earth can we get in that time?
“Where does religion fit into this cosmic view?”
You “went there”… If you don’t want any comments on that hot topic I suggest you edit your post and delete my comment.
Why does it need to?
The majority of free willed critical thinking intelligent humans have recognised fictional religion was a part of humankind’s early evolution. They also recognise it has been a tool for controlling the population.
Facts and optimistic reasoned thought with evidenced based thinking will be the best hope we have of surviving beyond this Earth spaceship. Let’s acknowledge and wave farewell to a wish thinking mindset that is no longer relevant and destructive to our future generations.
- This reply was modified 6 months, 1 week ago by New_Life.
Adam, by the way your post reminded me of a classic Star Trek Next Generation episode, “The Inner Light”, telling the story of a entire civilization threatened with extinction because their sun is about to Nova.
Worth searching for the video episode if it’s your cup of tea.
To me, belief isn’t some binary choice: choice a) the Catholic Church which tortured people during the 1400s, or choice b) the world is just a mechanical universe.
To me, there are a lot of other choices that an intelligent person could select. [Perhaps you already agree with me; if so, please forgive the following]
The double-slit experiment, the placebo effect, and the demonstrated beneficial effects of prayer at a distance provides some pretty compelling evidence to me that the universe is more than the mechanical construct of choice b).
[I reject choice a) for a variety of reasons – mostly aligned with your arguments about it being an axis of control over the masses, which it most definitely is – and certainly has been much more so in the past]
Still, the double-slit experiment, the placebo effect, and the beneficial effects of prayer all strongly suggests to me that Consciousness Matters. Evidence tells us that Consciousness is more effective than Prozac. And, in some cases, surgery.
The whys and wherefores of this effect – and probably others – are a mystery yet to be unraveled, but I suspect the answer will end up revealing that Consciousness is an important – perhaps critical – force that remains unexplained by today’s understanding of reality.
For my part, I want to get the power of my own Consciousness on my side as I go through life. Relying strictly on mechanistic effects seems like I’m leaving half my power – if not more – on the sidelines. And why would I want to do that?
And that’s just at a minimum. There’s lots of other stuff behind this which I find helpful too.
And something created the universe. Which is a pretty magical place, if you look at it closely enough.
Oh, and as to “why” we should include this? One word: utility. That’s why we include it. Sorry for burying the lead.
“demonstrated beneficial effects of prayer at a distance” ???
Trying to comprehend this. What exactly do you mean? What peer reviewed scientific evidence can you cite to back up this claim?
“Something created the universe”.
Poor choice of word, the Universe was not “created”, hence it doesn’t need a creator.
I agree consciousness matters and understanding your purpose in the universe can be a driving force, but that also does not require the continued peddling of ancient false fairy stories.
- This reply was modified 6 months ago by New_Life.
Prayer at a distance:
The specific section:
Cha et al. studied 219 consecutive infertile women, aged 26-46 years, who were treated with in vitro fertilization embryo transfer in Seoul, South Korea. These women were randomized into distant prayer and control groups. Prayer was conducted by prayer groups in the USA, Canada and Australia. The patients and their providers were not informed about the intervention. The investigators, and even the statisticians, did not know the group allocations until all the data had been collected. Thus, the study was randomized, triple-blind, controlled and prospective in design.
Cha et al. found that the women who had been prayed for had nearly twice as high a pregnancy rate as those who had not been prayed for (50 vs. 26%; P <0.005). Furthermore, the women who had been prayed for showed a higher implantation rate than those who had not been prayed for (16.3 vs. 8%; P <0.001). Finally, the benefits of prayer were independent of clinical or laboratory providers and clinical variables. Thus, this study showed that distant prayer facilitates implantation and pregnancy.
The above-referenced article has some interesting questions it asks. Is this proof of divine intervention? The existence of God? Or is it simply consciousness acting on reality in ways we just don’t yet understand?
My opinion is we should put more resources behind studying the effects of consciousness on reality – how it can modify existence in ways that are not explainable by the current understanding of the “strictly mechanical universe” gang.
I think there’s a ton of stuff we just don’t understand. And almost all of our “science” dollars are focusing just on molecules and atoms – that’s because this is where the money is. You can’t get a patent on consciousness effects, it can’t be stuffed into a bottle, so “science” works overtime to eliminate the effects of consciousness on reality. That’s because the effects of consciousness on reality are so powerful.
Curious, that. You’d think something so powerful would be worth studying. But no. We choose to eliminate it instead.
I’d be happy to discuss “creation” another time – I believe there is a lot more potential utility in discussing consciousness effects on reality.
- This reply was modified 6 months ago by davefairtex.
We shouldn’t put the cart before the horse. Just the fact that we are using these “one time fossil fuels” to do all the stuff he is trying to do (fly into space) proves to me that he is part of the problem of humans not the solution.
Very few understand what the problem really is that needs to be solved FIRST. We have not learned how to live (true) sustainability on our own planet. Until we become intelligent enough to fix that first everything else is our lack of intelligence. Yes we have enough brain power to self recognize but so far we have not proven to be wise. We may make ourselves extinct by our own hand. Until we become wiser I am not sure we earn a special distinction in the cosmos. We will just be another blind self-interested animal.
- This reply was modified 6 months ago by karenf.