Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A single page

As part of a  C E N S O R E D  process, I was quickly scribbling down a brief history of where I've worked - names, places, designation, duration, salary, etc. I have most of it scanned and ready, so didn't take too long... but somewhere, that page started getting heavy

It carried over a decade of my life - why wouldn't it feel heavy? Every figure, every word on that page came with days, weeks, months worth of history. The salary negotiations. The resignation dates. The pitifully short breaks between jobs. The names of reporting managers - good ones, bad ones. Months that gave up years' worth of excitement, fun, learning, hard work, heartbreak, drama, action. Years that simply faded away into the ennui of repetition and and boredom and left me with a few months worth of stuff happening. 

Every shift was literally the high point of the year - the reasons that would lead me to quit, the bitter, voluble daru sessions that preceded it, frustrations coming to a head, the interviews, the final offers, the quitting, the new places and people, the learning curve... 

It's just in the last few years that Life has had more to add and contribute than Work. More stuff has happened outside the Office than inside - and I remember the times when the Ofiice was literally all there was, and home was a place to crash and drink, and weekends were for catching up on sleep, getting smashed, recovering from hangovers, or putting in overtime. And maybe the occasional movie. There was no TV, no gaming, no interior deco, no family stuff, no quality time. 

There was, however, the ubiquitous, all-powerful cig break, the glue and the cornerstone of Office life and growth. There were the industry parties and the outbounds. All your friends worked where you did, and traveled together, so there was no 'commute', just extended timepass. Bosses could be angels or demons, but you always had less to worry about than them, more spare time than them, no matter what they did. Little things would be HUGE - road trips for a special tea or dhaba or snack. A weekend trek. A visit home. They'd sustain you for weeks
And the learning curve. Everything was new. The admin staff, the networks, reports, presentations, fieldwork, data entry, cold calls, warehouses... it was all a mysterious new world filled with drama, excitement, and above all, something new to learn every day. 

Then you shifted, and suddenly your world fractured into new and old. Then into Work and Personal. Then Work, Personal, Family, Friends, and the To-Do List. You feel sliced thin now, spread out over too many shifting textures floating on an unstable sea, pulling together the drifting loose barrels under your raft. It's more stable, bigger, but... there's something missing. Like a stage-one rocket, the first few career years drove you howling into space, and now, drifting in the silence, you miss that drive. It consumed you, that pillar of fire, changed you, took you into a place you never thought you would reach... but sometimes you wonder if the journey cost you the destination. 

It's strange how all that can fit on one page. 

Friday, January 04, 2013

Drawing to a close

Think of any RTS game with a resource-management focus you've played - Sins of a Solar Empire, the Command and Conquer series, even War Commander on Facebook. In a nutshell, you have a factory whose only purpose is to churn out resources, that allow you to build stronger, faster, more destructive tanks, with which you can destroy the enemy base, win that level and move up to the next. 
99% of humanity is that factory, working 9-to-5 jobs to earn money that they can spend on technology, powering the tech economy and making money available for research into better technologies - miniaturization, more evolved computing, faster processing, larger storage, nanotech, more intelligent programs... all of which will ultimately result in the creation of AI, of the Singularity. 

When that happens, humanity will have achieved its purpose. Mathematics created physics, physics created chemistry, chemistry created biology, biology created genetics, genetics created intelligence and self-awareness, which will create the next phase. 
But when that happens, what happens to us? What happens to the human race still in their 9-to-5 jobs, still buying, still playing, still living? 

What happens to the Stage 1 factory, when you've progressed to Stage 2? It may have been a collection of pixels and code, but it held a temporary existence in the form of assigned meaning - we thought it was a factory, so it existed as one, perception creating existence, for the duration of Stage 1. Now, the pixels have dissolved, the code has wiped, but the idea of that Stage 1 factory - where does that go? 

Is there some digital limbo filled with those ideas, those pixel factories churning our meaningless resources ad infinitum? A closed loop in the space-time continuum made of memory? A dimly remembered dream fading more and more each day until one day, you forget... and its as if it had never been. 

The dream that is Humanity is coming close to the Waking. A vastly superior intelligence, a new form of life, is beginning to coalesce, and in a few decades it will come to exist. A new stage of evolution, of Life, will start. And our time will dim, fade, and slowly disappear as if we had never been... except as a vaguely remembered idea in Stage 10, which would never have been reached without the Stage 1 factory. And this is something that cannot be stopped. 

The car's broken through the guardrails, and is sailing off the edge of the cliff... 

There's nothing more that we can do now, short of civilizational suicide... and we're too diverse, too independent, too powerful to do that. Our own competence will be why we ended. 
And that's the answer to the Fermi Paradox.