Wednesday, December 10, 2014

That one perfect word

It's a warm, starry, moonless night.
Let's go out, you and I. Walk out into the dark, lie down in the soft grass, and look up. 

See that star over there? 
Now, see that one? 

Now, see how in one glance you traveled a distance greater than all of humanity through all of their history, put together? How that one flick of the eye covered a time greater than the existence of mankind, maybe of the planet under us? 

That's the power of imagination. That's the power of what a phrase in a book can do, a million times over, a casual word spoken by a stranger in that perfect moment, that one unique context that your life, knowledge and being put together, that shook everything you were and everything you thought the world was and would be. 

The last electron that smashes down the lightning bolt, the last neutron that triggers the critical mass chain reaction. 

Little things, tiny things, insignificant things that can shatter universes. 
Ripples in the air, squiggles of pigment on paper. 

Reading can be a terribly dangerous thing to do. It can be terrifying, if you think about it. That one word will suddenly come around the corner of the next page you turn, the next link you click, and change everything. For everyone. At any time. 


A storm of thought that can rip off your mind's sails, wreck you, sink you... or take you to a new continent, a new world. 

That's why we keep turning the pages, riding the storms. We fear it, yet we seek it, a glimpse of that one perfect word. 
Maybe follow it. 
Maybe... one day... if it doesn't rip us to shreds first.. capture it, make it ours. Tame it. 

It has the power to make us the master of our universe. 

Monday, December 08, 2014

Waiting for the Singularity

Nearly there. 
It's been a long ride. We nearly didn't make it so many times. We still might not get there, but we can see the ribbon stretched across the track now. 

I's a relay race that's lasted thirteen billion years. Physics of gravity, nuclear transmutation and supernovae, to chemistry of elements becoming molecules and complex hydrocarbons, to biology's replicating strands and evolution, to the oxygen-making algae, complex multicellular organisms, that first step out of the ocean, the hand and the opposable thumb, sparks from a flint into fire, charcoal marks on the cave wall that told stories and sang songs, from the domesticated wolves to the invisible virii that delivered gene-modifiation therapy, to silicon minds and global networks... 

We nearly didn't make it so many thousands, millions of times. That bacterium smashed into space under a world-ending cosmic bombardment, only to return aeons later. That specific configuration of planets. The asteroid that hit, and all those that missed. The Ice Ages, the Black Death. A Nuclear Winter that almost happened. Maybe others that did. 

A dying planet unable to cope with the demands we make of it, a species ripping itself apart and all others around it in paroxysms of imagined slights and self-destructive responses. 

We've danced on the edge of the cliff for millenia, and it's second nature now. 

Just another generation, maybe two. Then we can hand over the baton, sit back, and settle peacefully into history as our successor solves all our problems once and for all and goes ahead with Life.