a book by Michio Kaku
(our site's book review)
The book makes the well-known case for the erasing of the cultural lag (technology outpacing cultural advancement and the result that we have technological devices that are beyond our cultural maturity to safely deal with, without risking humanity’s survival). Nukes (etc.) can and will kill us all unless we evolve socially. (Carl Sagan deserves credit for raising the nuclear winter question and forcing us to think about it via his book A Path Where No Man Thought.)
Nukes can and will kill us all unless we evolve socially
He looks at old-paradigm reductionism and new-paradigm holism. He chastises those naïve enough to think they ought to fight about “who is right.” Both are right. Both are needed. He hopes for a synthesis of the two approaches, as do the Tofflers in The Third Wave. Regardless of these “science wars,” it’s certain that our futures will continue to need analysis of the part and analysis of the whole. All around us are examples where various fields are learning the benefits of a systems perspective. And in our ecologically ravaged world of daily species loss, it behooves us to adopt the systems view to keep our biosphere from being destroyed.
It behooves us to adopt the systems/ecological view to keep our biosphere from being destroyed
The book investigates more esoteric areas, such as escaping the Big Bang (actually, some say the Big Crunch comes first—although Crunch-think has many detractors these days) by jumping to another dimension, and other fun stuff, but such things are not relevant to the near future. However, this does bring up a point:
In 1999, theoretical physicists and astronomers seemed to think they had enough evidence to conclude that the universe was expanding at an accelerating rate of speed, and therefore there would never again be a Big Bang, there would never be a Big Crunch, and the universe would die a cold, dark, blind death in about 100 billion years as everything disperses and dissipates for infinity. This announcement in the Universe 2001: Beyond The Millenium series on The Learning Channel (TLC) took much of the public by surprise—and possibly the universe itself was a bit chagrined, and it may well have been inclined to inform these physicists, à la Mark Twain, that: “Reports of my [future] death have been greatly exaggerated.” For a more likely and more hopeful perspective on the future, see our comments on Wrinkles In Time.
For his part, Kaku cites dimension jumping as an escape from the Cosmic Whimper death of final entropy and absolute zero temperatures. But he also hints at the answer being found in humans (or other intelligent life) evolving incredible technological powers and taking control of their physical destiny. Logically, there can be intelligent life for infinity if the process of proton and neutron decay can be dealt with (if indeed it needs to be, which we doubt), the expansion and contraction of the universe can both be halted (if indeed it needs to be, which we doubt), and we find a way of taking control of at least a star system or two, if not many. It seems optimistic to think that we can, but today’s level of technology would be utterly unthinkable to the humans alive a mere several thousand years ago—or even several hundred. So one can only speculate as to what a billion or more years of human evolution can accomplish.
One can only speculate as to what a billion or more years of human evolution can accomplish
Perhaps there can be intelligent life for infinity if we can halt proton and neutron decay
As resources at our disposal in the quest for the infinite continuation of intelligent life, we have:
- Whatever technological knowledge can be contributed by other stars’ intelligent life over billions of years;
- The likelihood that we’ll be making artificially intelligent robotic beings that are far smarter than we are, and that reproduce at any needed rate for any pro-survival purpose—including running starships that do star/comet/asteroid/moon/planet herding (like cow herding only hotter or colder) for cosmic nondispersal purposes or whatever
- The likelihood that we’ll be using nanotechnology in incredible ways soon, and eventually (a few million years?) we’ll be able to get nanodevices to turn planets, comets, asteroids and cosmic dark matter into whatever we need it to be: fuel, rockets, supercomputer brains or space colonies without us lifting a finger or expending any resources
- The possibility that in a few billion years we may be able to travel dimensionally to parallel dimensions or higher dimensions or other universes and find ones that aren’t going to flicker out in a few hundred billion years
- The possibility of time travel into the past, which would allow us to simply jump backwards every time the universe’s condition became too grim
- The possibility we’ll learn to control the dispersion and health of matter so that in our local area (our galaxy?) we keep our elementary particles from decaying, keep our matter from dispersing, keep entropy at bay, and keep new, healthy suns forming at the needed rate, regardless of what the rest of the universe does—a sheltered, protected and controlled area kept from dispersion or contraction or decay (call it Cosmic Cocooning—à la Faith Popcorn)
- Other unknown factors, such as learning to control gravity, entropy, or star formation.
Note that even though many scientists feel that dispersal and the Cosmic Whimper seem (at this point) to be the general tendency of the universe as a whole, it’s an incontrovertible fact that our galaxy is headed for the local phenomenon of concentration at about the time our sun peters out (5 billion years from now), as it will collide with the Andromeda Galaxy at that time, which will give intelligent life from both galaxies an opportunity to get the ball rolling on local dispersion control
Perhaps the knowledge to sustain galactic civilizations indefinitely will result from the combination of our knowledge and power with their knowledge and power. One thing’s for sure: It’s the epitome of a win-win scenario: We either work together to control our ultimate destiny or we work against one another and the universe makes the decisions while we are merely at effect. We prefer humans and other life forms being at cause. This is merely a cosmic extension of the age-old existential truth: Either one runs one’s life or one is run by one’s life. It’s simply to be or not to be, again, on a cosmic scale. Anyone believing that a live universe (healthy matter) is better than a dead one (decrepit, used-up matter) and that a universe with intelligent life in it is better than one without intelligent life (i.e., all sane life forms) will be joining in this quest.
We bring all this up partially to highlight the difference between the thinking of those dedicated to being at cause and those a bit too willing to be at effect (resigning themselves to a cosmic fate simply because of a piece of scientific evidence that happens to point in a scary direction). Did they forget that the Enlightenment-fueled human scientific evolution is happening at an exponentially faster pace than is universal entropy, and that intelligent life thrives on big challenges (walking on the moon, sustaining long-lived democracies, etc.)?
The other reason to look into this matter is as an example of the limits of discipline-specific thinking. Their resignation to a dismal cosmic fate smacks of overspecialization, at best, and unconscious millenium-doomsday-Armageddon (and even Y2K!—it was produced in 1999) fear at worst. If it’s overspecialization, then it underlines the need for more generalist-synthesist-eclectic systems thinking and less discipline-specific thinking.
Armageddon will be our reward is we continue warmongering insanity for no reason—all these neocons gambling with precious life just to make a buck: makes one wonder just how much our culture is worth saving, if it has, indeed, brought us to such a precarious juncture
On a final note: The scientists have no idea how the universe works or even what it is made of in spite of what they tell us. They have a few proven theories about gravity and black holes and the speed of light and the E=mc2 formula. But they don't really understand black holes and where the stuff goes that falls into them. They have no idea why our universe would start with a bang and then end with a whimper and they don't know where all the stuff that got created from the Big Bang really came from, or whether their string theories are right or nonsense. They don't know how many dimensions there are, or what dark matter is, or what dark energy is, or even how to find any. See
Since their theories say the universe is mostly dark matter and dark energy, and yet they don't know what it is or where it is, we can conclude they do NOT actually understand the universe or how it works. And the vast majority of their theories are unproven—many seem forever unprovable (e.g., their Big Bang Theory). In order to keep getting funded, they tell us about countless exotic theories, and then remind us of the few proven ones occasionally so the money keeps coming in. Some even have the big-headedness to say that they've proven their pet theories. They're saying "see how far we have come—we've proven this stuff." As if!
They pretend they've proven their Big Bang Theory. The only thing proven about the Big Bang Theory is that it is a very good TV show, and they didn't prove it—we did (by so many watching it so faithfully). Everything exploding out of a point smaller than an atom and then exploding faster than the speed of light is insanely non-intuitive to the point of foolishness. Trying to make the few facts they've gathered about the universe be expanded into an entire theory of where everything came from is too big a leap and a symptom of the frustration of our having to observe everything about the vast universe from our Earthly or near-Earthly perspective.
Their wild theories are a symptom of the frustration of having to observe everything about the vast universe from Earth
They first thought that everything was always just there—no bang. Then they came up with the bang and later the crunch and then there was no crunch because the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. The latter was explained by ghosts, little boogeymen called dark energy and dark matter. Neither of which mean a darn thing, since they have no clue if it is there, where it is, or what it is.
Their ghosts, little boogeymen called dark energy and dark matter, mean nothing, since they have no clue if they're there, where they are, or what they are
One thing to always remember about scientists—when they're thoroughly confused (e.g., because their bang/crunch idea turned out wrong), and they don't know what to do, scientists punt. In the case of the Big Bang, they cobbled together something fantastic and insane and gave it a name. Which showed it happened, right? Wrong! Naming shows nothing and proves nothing. Then they named their big bang boogeymen dark energy and dark matter so they wouldn't look so silly when they seemed to find that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate because nasty little ghosts are "pushing" it. It was to save face.
Again, naming shows nothing and proves nothing, nor does naming theoretically predicted but unproven particles. It is simply PUNTING. But it sounds better to the public than ghosts or boogeymen. They could have as easily named it more honestly and called it: "here is an embarrasing, humongous, ginormous gap in our knowledge which seems to show that our entire model is being called into question so we will hurry up, cover our tails, protect our funding, and give it a nice-sounding name and—presto-changeo—now dark energy and dark matter suddenly exist"! Okay, our name is a tad too long. How about: "oops"?
So before you lose any sleep over a model of everything that says it was suddenly there (before which there was nothing anywhere) and that the universe will peter out some day in an entropy-flavored whimper and then there will be nothing again, observe that, like the universe, which they now say is mostly dark matter and dark energy (ghosts), most of their theories are 1% solid and 99% punting. Clever, fun, colorful, creative punting, but still punting. Better Charlie Brown should lose sleep over Lucy's punt assistance than you worry about scientists' punting!
For a better theory than the Big Bang theory that actually observes—rather than ignores—Occam's Razor, see our comments on Wrinkles In Time. Our theory is simpler, more natural, and even more fun!