Fermi’s Fallacy

I have been thinking about the many responses to Fermi’s Paradox. This lunchtime statement from 1950 has endured as a continued discussion of great interest. I decided to write my own lengthy response and ran into format technical difficulties. So, below is my ending summary. Check the link for the full monologue.

Summary: There are probably billions of reasons why aliens have not visited Earth as there are billions of possibilities in endless galaxies of our universe. To propose we are alone is based on a woeful lack of evidence. To propose that aliens exist, but Earthlings hold some unique status that keeps aliens away has the same evidentiary support as our solitude scenarios. Instead, observing the fantastic diversities of life and civilizations and their evolutions on Earth gives us the best clues of why intelligent, technologically advanced aliens could exist without our knowledge.

Fermi’s Fallacy

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Reality Monologue

It has often been discussed, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Let’s modify the question: “If a tree falls in your forest while you are near it, does it make a sound?”

Now the philosophical scenario seems to change, as if observation and reality are linked. But think about all the scenarios in which the second statement is the same as the first.

You can be present to hear it but not able to hear it. Deafness, proximity, dampening effects, size of the tree, distraction. Distraction is the most interesting. For example, it often occurs that a person is told that someone has been calling their name repeatedly, but the person did not hear it. Remember the distraction scenario.

Think about the forest as our solar system, our galaxy, or our universe. Think of sounds as the evidences of planets, suns, phenomenon, possibilities, realities. We are standing amid the trees, we are present to hear the sounds within our forest. Does it make a sound then, if we do not perceive the sound?

We have tools. We use our knowledge of the electromagnetic spectrum, enhancements from sophisticated and cutting edge machines and software, elaborate inventions designed to hear the tiniest ripples in space and on Earth. We are smart. We understand how to use mathematics, physics, astronomy, chemistry, archaeology and so on to perform calculations, permutations and predictions. These pursuits are very disciplined, rigorous and technically performed by expert minds and verified by the same. Experiments have been performed, theories have been tested and verified, and knowledge of the universe has been unfolding to us like a lotus flower.

The real answer to the question, “If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound?” is – No. Not if you cannot perceive the forest itself. That is the crux of our reality. Trees are cascading all around us, probably affecting us, potentially killing us, but without knowledge of those trees we are as prepared for reality as the ant that is decimated by a footfall.

We look, but our gaze is not constant. We gather snippets of time, comparing them to other fragments, as if we could piece together the universal puzzle using pieces the size of dust mites.

Take the example of asteroids and the potential of meteors to impact Earth. We can look at tiny fragments of the sky using dozens of telescopes scattered around the world and in space. We can make predictions based on the mapping of asteroids and construct algorithms to assess possibilities of collisions and other events. We look at such a small portion of the asteroid belt on any given day that an unseen event can occur. The proximity of the asteroid belt allows for unpredictable or unseen changes to affect us quickly and with little warning. We are distracted by the immense task of looking everywhere at once. We cannot see it all in real-time so we rely on what has been seen and what can be concluded from the past observations.

Science fiction writers have enjoyed the Extinction Level Event (ELE) scenario wherein a newly discovered threat gives the inhabitants of Earth a short span of days before imminent unrecoverable disaster.

The enthusiasm of discovery is its own distraction. As Scientists (a funny term that rolls hundreds of specialties into a blob of almost magical potential) discover more, they learn that they know less. Or what was known becomes flawed, incomplete, irrelevant, or worse – just incorrect. There is no warm fuzzy feeling from being told by Scientists that dark matter + dark energy constitutes 95% of the universe for which we have no knowledge.

Perhaps another tree fell and we do not know where or when or why or the consequences of the fall.

Ditch the Outline!

Writing is hard enough without trying to fit form to format.

Or is it that the format is simply wrong for the form?

I recall the endless outlines written for school. The sterility of it all. Nowhere in the body of your outline are you expected or allowed to be creative. Give facts, follow-up, quote, etc. and do it in proscribed ways or get hammered for not writing properly.

Reality check – reading the drivel that I and others have written over the years is time wasted. That time would have better been served daydreaming, fantasizing, calculating mining futures or determining what types of angels and how big a pin to use before counting them. Or doodling, of course,

To the point – do story-boarding instead!  Your story boards do not need to have pictures if you are writing a story (me) or doing some otherwise dry report, although pictures need to be included in dry reports, book reports of all kinds, and anything else any time (have fun, eh?) Even here! SEO experts say pictures add hits on every type of social media.

storyboards

The nice part about story-boarding is you can go old school and cut things out and paste them onto a big sheet, like butcher paper or a continuous roll of drafting paper. Move them about first, have some fun taking parts of your ideas, your stories, your reports, and mixing the shit out of them to see how convoluted you can be. Not good advise for the workplace, although it may get some nodders to pay attention.

That’s it.

If you organize by the major components of your work, it’s easy to play with the pieces on the dining table. I like the colors, but do what you want. Create your own work pieces or go online and struggle with someone else’s design. Your choice.

The Nature of Music

Precious time in the shower. Alone, private, and a great place to sing or listen to music. Sometimes music or a song springs to mind, playing over and over, perhaps just that snippet when you almost remember all the words. Your mind creates its own loop, so that the song fragment cannot escape your attention. You may find yourself singing the fragment, giving it that external voice.

The question: How many times does that musical moment spring from your adolescent days, some meaningless pop tune lyrics that you would never be caught singing at work or with your friends. Pieces of songs where your words are likely wrong, but remembered with burning clarity. But heck! You are enjoying the moment, you’re in the shower!

Now the alternate question: How many times is that musical moment a piano concerto, a symphony movement, an aria phase? If you answered, “Of course, I love Die Fledermaus!” then you are of a mind that reinforced a different genre over the inane. Thou art lucky. But are those flaky tunes from your childhood still buried underneath the more civilized tones, just waiting for a moment of escape? I am thinking you would be the middle-aged person head banging to music thrumming from someone else’s car. Yes, I saw that.

Stop – Please Stop!

Two words that get ignored so often.

In this case, it is the press that did not stop. Yes, of course, the press, those who cannot stop the diarrhea of their mouths long enough to give time for thought. Comment, over comment, compare, divide, divert, conclude, espy, regurgitate, opinionate, blather, dither, interview, interrupt, and on and on.

Doing the Job – the universal excuse. Yuck

Sometimes, it’s time to shut up. In today’s world, just for a few seconds. Ten seconds, a little silence. No FCC rules get broken. No one loses a listener. In fact, you gain at least one listener: The reporter!

Subject of Rant:  Coverage of The President’s Speech at Hiroshima

The Situation:  A poignant, powerful moment where those on site were respectful enough to be silent. To listen. An important moment in history.

The Complaint: The reporter repeatedly brought other voices into the situation, running over the moment, jumping to an opinion, another person’s response. It was a powerful speech that was respected by an international group of people, including reporters on site. But the remote reporter did not listen to his colleague who spoke of the reverence of the moment. He did not give any pause between the excerpt of the speech he actually did allow to be heard, but immediately diverted to some other opinion of the moment. The speeches were short. There was time to allow listeners to experience it for themselves.

In the time spent running over the moment, the entire speech given by President Obama could have been broadcast. It was an emotional, poignant, powerful moment when both our President and his counterpart, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, shared something rarely heard and felt;  Respect. Love. Trust. Vision.

I was so angry that the reporter ran over the moment. I needed a few seconds, there was so much richness in what Obama had spoken. I had to turn off the radio, shout away the anger, then recall in my own mind the tender yet powerful words that I had heard. To get the full speech I had to go to the internet. Fortunately, CBS had a fairly bullshit free video.

http://www.cbsnews.com/live/video/president-obama-delivers-speech-at-hiroshima/

Please take a moment to listen. These moments are important to form our own memories, our own impressions, unfettered by the sounds of other people’s blathering.

For those who have an interest in sharing this speech later, when the only means remaining are most likely cluttered with crap* – as on YouTube, of course – I have added a copy of the text.

President Obama – Hiroshima Speech

 

*(Unfortunately, there were others who used the event to further their hate rants.  Or, used a copy of the video on their own attention gathering channel – built off the blathering comments of followers – allowing anything that could fog a mirror to run over the moment with their attempted impressions of sentient life.)

 

My Moleskine Collection

“Working without passion is like pushing a cart of rocks.

The work is physically and mentally exhausting and without meaning.

Why would anyone care about the rocks?

More importantly, why would anyone care about a person pushing rocks?

There is certainly no reason for the rock pushing soul.”

My Moleskine Pile

My Moleskine Pile

This gem was found in my Moleskine notebook while taking pictures of my collection. I didn’t think I had a collection after culling through nearly 30 books to whittle down to my modest pile. Some of those left are spares, so I have only a handful of new Moleskines at my disposal.

The smallest blue one (opened, on top) is for daily lists, that quick contact capture book that also serves for notes on the go. It is great for the purse or pocket, so it goes anywhere. It does not need the internet, just a pen.

The next books (second and third in the pile) are for long-term captures. They are much thicker. One holds musical compositions of all sizes. The other is journal-like with observations for and about myself, plus commands that have had various success levels.

IMG_1461

IMG_1462

The large one is my primary writing book. It also has my mini pen sketches. It is a nice size for writing as the pages are large enough to get a lot of thoughts down before the distraction of turning the page.

In between are ones that are out and about. They can hold mostly what is in the large book and they are more likely to have pages torn out after moving their content somewhere more permanent.

All are blank books. Lines are restrictive, grids are doubly so. I am waiting for the second generation of the Smart Writing Set. I need some invisible grids. I also would like to do more subtle drawings with shade and tone captured. It’s got to happen, so I will wait.

Empty - New - Blank Books

Empty – New – Blank Books

Offline Procrastination Ends

Information gathering online is often very exciting (Nerd – yes!) and distracting. There are strings everywhere leading to somewhere else and it can all be very overwhelming. So much so that saving articles, .pdf or .jpg or .png files, and website snapshots can feel quite productive. Look! I have found useful information or a great resource. Yay! I can even congratulate myself for staying mostly on track, since I don’t read all those saves, but finish the original online search or task. So when I am ready to finish that in-depth article, there are files already gathered up and even saved to an appropriate folder.

Reality moment

I am in the process of transferring years of handwritten pages from my Moleskine notebooks to my computer. While doing this analog to digital conversion, while looking for and creating the best place to save my treasures, I got a very good look at my file infrastructure.

Whoa!

My “_desktop” folder has 117 files, plus one folder with 34 files (151!) These items started out on the primary desktop so I could find them quickly, because I needed them very soon. However, once my real desktop got too cluttered, I moved them to this folder. Still easy to find, if I had remembered to go back there and disposition them.

My other writing + related items are in the “working” folder, which is five tiers deep overall. So much information, so many bits and pieces …

The Point

I have procrastinated the follow-up on articles, ideas, snippets, etc. This should have been an ongoing “offline” effort, since the files were saved so that I could work them anytime on the computer. Although there was some self-awareness that a vast amount of “important stuff” was hiding in the analog world,

I did not realize my file saving behaviors were fulfilling a self-denigrating label of “procrastinator”, which fed that behavior to the mess I am clearing.

Glad to be at work for positive change. Best get back to it.