Seer.ws

by futurist consultant Ersan Seer

By

The Milky Way Galaxy May Be Alive

Sit back, and I’ll take you on the journey I just went through.

I started the journey by wondering: how big is the universe?

I ended in a different place: I was left wondering if the milky way galaxy is alive.

Wonder with me.

This is a wondering post. If you want to wonder with me, keep reading. Read slowly. Leave all skepticism at the door, because this is an exercise in speculation—and because skeptics are notoriously mistaken when it comes to determining what is and isn’t possible.

What you can expect from this post.

Unique perspectives on ontology, astronomy, and the future.

I hope it’s as exciting for you to read as it was for me to type. :)

Let’s get started. First things first:

Let’s calibrate your perspective on the universe.

It’s vast. Really, really vast.

I recommend Khan Academy’s Scale Of cosmology and astrology videos.

Watch the first 5 videos in that section. Everyone should watch them. High school science teachers should show them on the first day of class.

For the physicists, astrologists and science buffs among you whose minds are already blown, carry on reading. For those who are as yet unblown, I highly recommend watching those videos before proceeding with this post.

Go ahead and watch them now, if you’d like to. This post will wait 45 minutes for you. :)

 
 

Welcome back.
You’re now part of the fraction of humans who are really acquainted with how massive the universe is.

How do you feel?

Small?

Good. That’s how I feel. I imagine that’s how theoretical physicists feel every day at work.

We’re practically insignificant.

In addition to small, we’re short-lived. From grunting gesturers we became philosophers, composers, artists, mathematicians, astronauts; we created advanced civilization in a few thousand years. From the milky way galaxy’s perspective, humans have evolved in a millionth of a blink of an eye.

“Advanced civilization.” I say ‘advanced’ with tongue-in-cheek. The truth is, the human race may be an embryo compared to what we’ll one day be.

Why do Natural Selectionists assume we are the epitome of human evolution?

We’re not the complete product. We’re not done evolving. Heck, we’ve barely started. We’re a far cry from what we will be.

The odds are against us surviving.

Every year the human race survives, it is in defiance of entropy. It’s my personal opinion that humans are likely to eradicate the human race. But that’s a topic for another post (coming soon, I promise).

But maybe the human race will survive, for tens of thousands of years.

Can you envision what we’ll be like? It’s hard to imagine. But let’s try, in broad strokes.

We can assume that, unless we obliterate ourselves, we’ll accomplish some pretty incredible things:

  1. (Some level of) colonization of Mars.
  2. Jump drives which allow faster-than-light travel.
  3. Colonization outside our solar system.
  4. Extreme genetic manipulation, and conception of new types of humans.
  5. The evolution of a central intelligence, a Gaia, comprised of individual human intelligences.
  6. The Omega Point

We’re getting quite into the abstract here. It’s hard to believe we’ll accomplish these things, but it shouldn’t be. After all, the technologies we use today—wireless internet, skype, cell phones, satellite TV, nanotechnology,— would be utterly magical to the people living just 100 years ago.

Someone from the 19th century would think we were magicians. Perhaps Gods.

Much of our current technology was once someone’s dream.

Consider a recent tweet of mine:

What the human race collectively dreams about, it creates. KILLER ROBOTS!! Funny now. Maybe not so funny later.

The internet. You think the internet happened spontaneously? Nope. Scifi dreamers imagined it first. At the time, they didn’t know what computers were—the object as we define it didn’t even exist—but scifi authors foresaw our progression towards a hyper-connected world.

I’m referring to Asimov’s Second Foundation, printed in 1953.
And Mark Twain’s From the ‘London Times’ of 1904, printed in 1898.

Augmented reality. See National Geographic’s Augmented Reality and Microsoft’s Productivity Future Vision. AR is sure creating a lot of hubbub now. You think these are new concepts? Larry Niven was writing about it three decades ago, in his Dream Park series.

Let’s go back even further.

Killer robots were imagined in 1863.

Interstellar spaceflight, 1752.

Travel to the moon, 1630.

Flight. Many people credit the Wright brothers with creating flight. Nope. They just made it possible. A couple millennia earlier, people were dreaming about human flight. (Credit the Chinese with attempting to achieve this with kites.) Humans have been dreaming about flight ever since we first realized we’re not birds.

So what’s my point here?

The near future will be incredible. The future beyond that will involve technologies which we’d now consider magical.

Option B

Can’t forget dystopias. We could enter a dark age for 4,500 years, with a massively reduced population and genetic deformities common in the aftermath of nuclear war. It may take us another 500 years just to reach today’s level of technological achievement. But dystopias are for another post.

So let’s revisit that list.

These achievements aren’t so hard to believe anymore:

  1. (Some level of) colonization of Mars.
  2. Jump drives which allow faster-than-light travel.
  3. Colonization outside our solar system.
  4. Extreme genetic manipulation, and conception of new types of humans.
  5. The evolution of a central intelligence, a Gaia, comprised of individual human intelligences.
  6. The Omega Point

Central intelligence may happen sooner than expected.
We’re really close.

Another recent tweet of mine:

We hurtle faster than ever towards the Omega Point. We’ve moved into the next stage; the advent of social media marks the transition.

There’s one major hurdle between us and Central Intelligence: bionics. The prerequisite network is ready and waiting (the internet). The desire to connect is there (social networking). We’ve bought in to synergy (cloud computing, gamification, crowd sourcing).

Once we’ve mastered bionics, the human mind will become digitized. And soon after we’ll have a central intelligence, comprised of the individual intelligences of millions, perhaps billions, of networked humans.

This is the beginning of the future you never thought you’d live to see. It’s happening. In your lifetime, you may be battling robots. You may experience faster-than-light jump drive technology. We may be colonizing other planets. It’s possible.

Let’s stare into the future again…

To look into the future, we only need to look at what scientists are dreaming about now.

This is pure speculation at this point. But let’s do it anyway.

  • 2,300 AD. We become masters of bionics.
    Consider something we’re nearly masters of now: electronics. Give us a hundred years and we’ll have nanotechnology down pat. We’ll then begin integrating electronics into our own bodies, changing what it means to be human.
  • 2,700 AD. We discover jump drive technology.
  • 3,500 AD. We’ve colonized 6 planets.
  • 4,500 AD. We’ve mapped out the entire milky way galaxy.
  • 10,000 AD. We’ve colonized most habitable places in our galaxy. Or we were taken over by another race who, by luck of the draw, realized the ambition of galactic domination first.
  • Assuming we’re not conquered or eradicated internally, we will eventually be truly god-like.

We’ll be transporting planets at our convenience, harnessing the energy of stars at 100% efficiency.

When we advance sufficiently, we will become masters over matter and our physical environments. Matter will change at the whims of our will. When we need a certain element, we’ll create it.

We’ll be invisible.

We’ll live in high-G and vacuum environments.

We’ll feed on any kind of matter. Or even energy. We’ll engineer ourselves to be nourished by a very abundant source of energy — light.

Some humans will be microscopic. Others will be the size of planets, or larger.

Eventually, we will be nearly any type of matter or energy that we choose.
I say nearly because some types of matter or energy may not be ‘habitable’.

Hard to believe? Consider this: all we are is information. All kinds of matter and energy can store information. All we need is sufficient technology to encapsulate and rewrite information in the matter or energy of our choice.

We may one day become the milky way galaxy.

Big jump in reasoning, I know. The rest of this article will bridge that gap.

Right now we’re just part of the milky way galaxy.

And the earth. We’re not just on the earth. Our atoms came from the earth, which came from a supernova, which came from the big bang. And to the earth will our atoms return. We are simply pieces of the earth which have free will and are moving around.

You could say that the earth is our mother, but it would be more accurate to say we’re appendages of the earth.

But we’re not the earth. We’re not the milky way galaxy.

Right.

So what is the difference between being part of something and being it? Answering this question involves looking at what “me” means, and what we can attribute “me” to.

Let’s get into some semantics. It will be interesting, I promise.

The line between me and not me is actually quite blurry.

I’ll illustrate.

Am I the total of all my cells? Yes.
Am I the total of my cells including my clothing? No. Those are add-ons.
Am I the total of all my cells including the tattoo pigments? Yes. They’re add-ons, but they’re permanent.
Am I the total of all my cells including only permanent add-ons? No. Tattoos can be removed. It’s just not as easy as removing clothing.

… So…. I’m the total of all my cells + add-ons which can only be removed at considerable effort after I just got my paycheck?

Something like that. See how hard it is to define where me ends and not me begins?

Another perspective on the blurriness:

Am I a picture of me? No. I’m three dimensions. I’m sentient.
Am I a description of me? No. That’s just a representation of my personality.
Am I the sum of the people I associate with? No. They are merely the network I reside within.
Am I a picture of me plus a description of me plus the sum of the people I associate with? No. Of course not. Easy answer.

But it’s not really easy. Everyone I know happens to disagree with that answer. So do you. Each time you log in to Facebook, you are the avatar with whom other people consort. You = picture + description + your network.

Yet another perspective on the blurriness:

Allow me to reiterate something I just said.

But it’s not true. Everyone I know happens to disagree with that answer. So do you. Each time you log in to Facebook, you are the avatar with whom other people consort.

Notice my phrasing: “other people.” You didn’t notice it, did you?

In that split second communication, you seamlessly equated two concepts: other peoples’ avatars and other people.

Further proof is this blog itself.

Allow me to reiterate something I just said.

The Ersan sitting at his computer didn’t really say anything. I don’t read my words out loud as I type. :)

We need to clarify something…

What does “me” really mean?

I propose this explanation.

“Me” = the total of all matter, energy or information which I dictate the actions of; which when interacted with by anything not me I become aware of through a system of regular feedback; which other people (who are mes in their own right) agree is physically part of me, or is (or once was) a communicating representation of me.

Things which fulfill this definition:
- Diary entries written by your great-great-grandfather
- Your Facebook profile
- A sculpture you created, intended to communicate something
- Your tattoo
- A voicemail you left
- Your handshake
- Your body

Things which do not fulfill this definition:
- Your great-great-grandfather’s ashes
- The Facebook profile of someone who has the same name as you
- A sculpture someone made of you
- Your clothing
- A voicemail left by someone who has a voice just like yours
- The CO2 you breathed out 10 minutes ago
- Your car
- The earth
- The milky way galaxy

You are not currently the earth or the galaxy. However…

Tens of thousands of years from now, when we are masters over matter, a single man may desire to be as large as a planet.

Does it matter how he acquires that mass? Must he build up to it gradually?

What if he “eats” an entire planet, taking over it, so that it becomes part of the network of matter which his will dictates the actions of?

It’s no longer a planet. It’s part of him.

This isn’t much different than the cheeseburger you ate yesterday. It became part of you as soon as it was digested—or even ingested. In this analogy, the only difference between a planet and a cheeseburger is its size.

And size isn’t a determining factor of “me.”

You can, therefore, make the analogic jump from planet to galaxy as you did from cheeseburger to planet.

To become the milky way galaxy, all you’d need is technology capable of dictating all the matter in the galaxy.

And where would you dictate from but the center of it all, the single place towards which all of the Milky Way’s energy flows?

The supermassive black hole at its center.

The milky way galaxy is estimated to be 13+ billion years old.

That’s a lot of time for life to spontaneously erupt.

Let’s assume that my projections were way off, that it actually takes 500,000 years for a civilization to achieve mastery over matter.

There’s still a significant chance that life has erupted somewhere, and developed superior technology, and achieved mastery over matter long before we evolved past grunting gesturers.

Which brings me to wonder…

Has our Galaxy already been occupied?

Is it already alive?


Click for detail:
the-milky-way-galaxy-may-be-alive-lg

Thanks for reading!

What do you think? Disagree with something I have written? Have anything to add? Share your insights in the comments below!

Ersan Seer

Ersan Seer is a futurist consultant, coolhunter, market researcher, strategic advisor, and concept artist. Ersan hungers to make the future world a more peaceful, survivable place.  → Read More & Book Ersan Seer

5 Responses to The Milky Way Galaxy May Be Alive

  1. Kasio says:

    A great read ! Was pondering this the other day. That galaxies are huge “alien” lifeforms beyond our traditional thinking of E.Ts.

    • Ersan Seer says:

      Thanks Kasio. I think it’s funny how ETs look so human-like in early Scifi. Two legs, two eyes, two arms, a nose… It’s almost cute how naive we were (and how we likely still are).

      I happen to think that oceans of methane may support life as readily as oceans of water. I admit, I don’t like when scientists say things like, “that’s too cold to support life.” (To which I envision a methane-drinking E.T. scientist clicking and squeaking to his contemporaries: “Liquid H2O is too hot to support life. We must continue our search for life on planets with oceans of methane!”)

      Point is, life can take on many forms, in many environments and extremes of pressure and temperature. I would venture to say that some forms of life are not detectable by our current technologies. Some life may move too slow for us to detect.

  2. David says:

    Yes, our galaxy is already alive. Living bacteria, plants and animals are composed of atoms of the galaxy and of the universe. Hence, we know at least a portion of the galaxy/universe is alive at this very time! That portion will become larger when there are more living organisms than there are right now. For an exponential increase of the living galaxy, more locales (planets, asteroids, intergalactic starships) will need to become places that support life. Then there is likely other portions of the universe that are now alive of which we know nothing yet (and may never know about).

  3. Absolutely fascinating blog post, I’m looking forward to all your future entries.

    Probably the only technology I’m skeptical that we could feasibly achieve is “Jump drives which allow faster-than-light travel”, because doesn’t this imply time-travel?

    If future society does develop the ability to time-travel we should expect to see these ‘jumpers’ altering our present reality. I’ve yet to see a great sci-fi novel or movie that explores this fascinating idea in a truly compelling (and non-cheesy) way…

    Again, great post :)

    • Ersan Seer says:

      Ahh, for instant and time travel, you need to read Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy and Simmon’s Hyperion series. They include FTL (Faster-Than-Light) and time travel but they’re about so much more.

      Whether or not FTL travel constitutes time travel is hard to grapple with. I mean, with jump drives, in one instant you’re here and the next you’re there—no matter how far away ‘there’ is.

      Yes, the current laws of physics say that you cannot manipulate time in order to travel through it. From that perspective, time travel is impossible.

      But here’s the fun part. Do the current laws of physics say that an investment of time is required in order to travel? Because if they don’t, jump drives may be possible. I’d like to know an astrophysicist’s thoughts on this.

      Jump drives are not really time travel. If anything, they can be thought of as the antithesis to time travel. After all, they are travel without time.

      Cool huh?

      Interesting to think about.

      Thank you Saad. I enjoyed your 3D designs.

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