David Brin, author of The Transparent Society, is joking about how a astronomer/physicist transforms to a sci-fi author to being a pundit for openness. His talk is about What Limits Our Ability To Cope WIth Accelerating Change.
There are two ways to look at the future and the past. And in almost every civilization, "the golden age" of the past is often romanticized - everything was great until we fell from a state of grace. Perhaps from hubris and trying to appropriate the gods' power.
The difference between these two worldviews - the past was the golden age or the future is the golden age - is profound and to a large extent mutually incompatible. [Reference made to Election 2004 here.]
Look at the concept: "Eternal human verities." True, there are some fundamental truths for instance in physics. Post-modernism and relevatism's "everything is an opinion" is just as dopey as everything is a preset stage for someone's acid trip 2000 years ago. Buddha and Jesus and others say: "We fool ourselves." This is also the allegory of the cave by Plato. Therefore, you cannot know for sure what this is. So give up. Seek real truth through incantations - incantations of faith, or reason, or meditation.
Mathematicians actually believe you can prove something. Galileo said what we want to see interferes with what we actually see. But through repetitive falsifiable experimentation and the gift of criticism we can know...But criticism is repressed by leaders. It's a threat to their personal power. The more you repress criticism of your mistakes the more trouble you're in.
Galileo said that although you don't know exactly what this is. My preconceptions will get in the way...but with the help of criticism I can find out what it is not. [Reminds of Buddhist concept of 'neti'.] If you're not making a falsiable statement - then it's not science.
I have been reading Theodore Sturgeon "More Than Human" soon to be out. He then turns to audience: Do you believe that caloric restriction will double our lives as it does for lab rats? We're already the Methuselahs of the world. We already living as long as the long-lived mice.
Look forward versus look backward worldviews. I'm a romantic: late at night, I'm Shelley screaming at God. It's great stuff but it belongs nowhere near public policy.
We carry baggage from the past - huge amounts of baggage. Why can we look forward to a Golden Age?
Now he asks: Before the fall from Eden what was asked of us...before sin? There is one moment that God asks us a favor: To name all the beasts. Can you think of a better allegory for science?
The will to believe despite evidence is the romantic one. We need to talk to people - not stymize them. We only fire up their ire if we don't have a dialogue. If you look at distribution of votes within Ohio, within Florida - rural American is pitted against urban American. Seventy-plus Republican papers changed their stance for the first time. But we were were showing our bigotry by only looking at urban America - but we're not all there is, are we?
Romantics don't have to be grateful, but they do have to be dragged into this century.
The way to do that is not aggressively - it's with love. Every citizen in Manhattan should adopt a small town in Ohio and invite them to their homes for a week.
The point is that we have to think about the topic of this conversation: Horizons. One of the reasons we are capable of looking to the future golden age has to do with certain basics of human sanity. Sanity was used as a bludgeon to disparage those that were different. Post-modernists don't want us to us the word 'sanity' or 'truth' - ever.
How many of you would say you and your neighbors are surrounded by propaganda?
You will not find a popular movie in which the hero does not bond with audience through some small eccentricity and shows suspicion for authority and the bad guy doesn't show intolerance. No one ever wants to believe that their own beliefs are the result of propaganda.
Sanity should be adaptability - ability to take new information and change your mind. It should have tolerance built into it. And it should have satiability. If you get the very thing that you said you wanted - shouldn't it make you happier? Most therapists throughout the world agree that mentally ill relentlessly show the trait of insatiability. When they get what they said they want - it doesn't make them any happier.
Tolkien and other romantic legends don't show us democracy. They have kings. Good kings, but kings nonetheless.
This is first society that the well-off outnumber the poor. That children may be better off than their parents. It assumes that the future can be better. We're in a diamond-shaped society - where previously it was a pyramid with the bottom containing the world's poor. The satiable rich like riding the diamond out. It's the insatiable rich that want to flatten out the diamond back to a pyramid.
Go to my website to see why liberals lost the election Tuesday. Liberals emphasize guilt and never imagine praise. The only liberal that ever did that and saw glass half-full was Clinton and he never lost.
Neo-conservatives want to outlaw meetings like this. This is different from Bill Joy - the carping from within will help us find the mistakes while charging into the future - and we get across our wasteful technologies to technologies that empower 10 billion people to live comfortably.
I'm Mr. Openness and Mr. Optimism in most fields. But it's fun to be the contrarian. I'm on the SETI committee and they refuse to believe any possibility beyond aliens are friendly and benign. History has been filled with predation and quid pro quo...it's only recently that we've become more altruistic.
I'm working with an Exorarium project with Sheldon Brown. We're proving C.P. Snow wrong - that the two cultures of arts and sciences do get along. As a visitor to a museum you build a solar system and ecosystem and you get your own alien race. You can go to the extraterrestial terrarium to interact with other species, including humans. This could be done online as well. It's an example of a teaching tool. It's a way to get more people thinking about what we're thinking about now.
We also have to bear in mind that world is a dangerous place - and we always have to be saying "Yes, but..."
I've been a curmudgeon about "singularity now." I think we're all going to die. Replication is already happening ;-) What are the odds that this is an original event?