Sunday, March 31, 2024

Three-Body Problem: Science is broken & aliens from Trisolaris are invading

“It does not matter how good your theory is, but if it does not agree with experiments, it is wrong. According to experiments all our theories are wrong. All of them. All of the physics of the last 60 years is wrong. Science is broken.” 

A character in the series Three-Body Problem, streaming on Netflix, says this in the first episode. The point about science being broken that he is making is correct in my philosophical opinion. 

Science faces the same problem that philosophy does. Neither is capable of leading to the ultimate truth. Every philosophical argument has a counter argument, and every scientific discovery or theory gets overturned at some point of time. Even Newton’s three laws have been challenged by the emergence of quantum science and the theory of relativity. 

Three-Body Problem is based on a three book series by the Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin. The title of the first book in the series is Three-Body Problem. It is worth noting that the three-body problem is a real problem in science—it deals with the issue of predicting the motion and position of three heavenly bodies that are moving around each other in space. 

Cixin introduces in his novel a planet called Trisolaris, located in the triple star system of Alpha Centauri. Being located in a triple star system, Trisolaris faces the three-body problem and has extreme weather patterns. When it is close to all three stars it is a blazing inferno and when it is at the farthest point from the three stars, it has an ice age. 

Despite such extreme weather conditions, the planet is home to intelligent creatures who have built an advanced civilization. They are like humans but have the capacity to survive in extreme weather by dehydrating and transforming into flat parchment-like things which can be folded and stored in a safe place. When the weather becomes better, these parchments are thrown into a pond to get rehydrated and come to life.  

The inhabitants of Trisolaris want to move to some other planet linked to a single star or sun where the weather is stable. Earth would be most suited for them. Only reason they have not invaded earth to exterminate humanity and other creatures and make the planet their new home is because they don’t know about this planet. 

This changes in the 20th century, when a talented Chinese scientist becomes disgusted by the chaos on earth and loses faith in humanity. One day when this scientist is feeling deeply depressed she beams this message into space: “Come. We can’t save ourselves. I will help you conquer the world.” 

Thus, the inhabitants of Trisolaris come to know of earth's existence. They start preparing for an invasion. 

A mysterious video game headwear becomes available to scientists in Oxford. On wearing the video game headwear the scientist is transported to Trisolaris and is given the task of solving the three-body problem—predicting the movement of the planet and the three stars. There is no easy answer to the three-body problem. 

There is mind-bending suspense as scientists scramble to save earth from an alien invasion.

(This short note is based on the first two episodes of the series on Netflix. There are 8 episodes in season one. I might come back with more after I watch the next 6 episodes.)

Saturday, March 30, 2024

The meaning of life: Purpose of philosophy & science

The purpose of philosophy is to contemplate the possible answers to questions that are unanswerable, and make human beings envision God. The purpose of science is to create God and thereby give material shape to what philosophy imagines.  

With the advancements in genetics, biotechnology, AI, IoT and other technologies, science has inched closer to fulfilling mankind's age-old philosophical quest—in another decade, century, millennium or an infinite number of years scientists will create God.

The questions of philosophy that seem unanswerable today are critical because they push us in the direction of imagining and creating God. The ultimate meaning and purpose of human life is to imagine God through philosophy and create God through science. 

Science tells us that there was no God in the past, but science also tells us that mankind has the potential to create a God in the future.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Two ways of imposing censorship

Censorship can be imposed on a country in two ways: first, by cutting off the sources of information, and second, by bombarding people with trivial information. The communist countries prefer the first strategy, while the capitalist countries prefer the second. 

The communist regimes ban newspapers and other media from carrying information that is not in line with government policy and plans. But this strategy of outright ban on the flow of information does not work in the long run. Eventually people are able to find ways for accessing information that their government is trying to hide. And when information starts flowing to a large section of society, there is risk of counter-revolution which might result in the overthrow of the communist regime. 

The capitalist regimes operate by opening the floodgates of information flow. They goad the newspapers and other media to bombard the citizens with useless information. Being incessantly bombarded with useless information, people lose track of the issues which really matter. Deluded into believing that they live in a free society, they are not tempted to rebel against the government. They don't know that their freedom is a myth and that the information deluge is meant to brainwash them. 

History of the last 100 years tells us that the capitalist strategy of censorship is more effective and durable than the communist strategy.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

The March of Humanity: From 'Son of God' to the 'Father of God'

The history of humanity can be divided into three stages: 

First stage—Ancient man: God created the universe and all forms of life. Humans were the only creatures that God created in his own image. God gave humans the gift of knowledge to enable man to make sense of the world; religion to enable man to live morally and piously, and attain salvation at the end of their life on earth; and culture to enable men to collaborate for creating nations where many could live collectively, happily and piously. 

Second stage—Modern man: There is no God. The universe is eternal and man and all other creatures on earth are the product of the natural process of evolution. Due to some genetic mutations during the evolutionary process man developed consciousness. His consciousness enabled him to develop the power of reason, verbal communication and sense of culture. At this stage man became the creator of nations and civilizations.

Third stage—Digital age man: Man has the potential to create God. The advancements in emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) will lead to the creation of an all-powerful, all-knowing God of the universe. 

As digital technologies continue to advance, IoT, backed with the power of AI, will become connected to everything on earth and then it will branch out into space and get connected with every star, planet, meteor, asteroid, comet, black hole and spec of dust. 

In the initial stage, this IoT enabled with AI will be intelligent but not conscious. But when every molecule, every atom in the universe is linked and there is seamless flow of data between everything in the universe, the AI enabled IoT will become conscious. It will become aware of its power and infallibility. It will become omnipotent and omniscient—it will become God. 

Thus, the ultimate destiny and the sole purpose of humanity is to create the supreme God of the universe. All of prehistory and the history of all civilizations points towards this one ultimate objective, the objective of creating the God of the universe. The day humans succeed in creating the God of the universe, history will come to an end.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

End of Humanism: Man has no rights, world belongs to AI

Modern liberalism is founded on two pillars: materialism and humanism.

The pillar of materialism entails that there is no God, the universe is eternal and knowable through science, and that there is nothing divine about human beings. We are, like every other creature, a product of the process of natural evolution which began in primordial times when a bunch of chemicals bonded to create primitive living organisms.

The pillar of humanism entails that human beings enjoy a special status on earth because among all creatures only the humans possess consciousness, intelligence and individualism. Because of their unique mental attributes, humans have inalienable rights. They deserve to live in an egalitarian state, under the protection of a benevolent government.

After the Industrial Revolution, liberalism became a popular ideology because an industrial society could not prosper without a huge number of workers and consumers. In a society where almost everyone of working age was working and everyone was a consumer, it made sense to make the entire population feel that they had rights and were special.

But the idea that humans have rights, while other earthly creatures do not, is nothing more than a liberal ideological position. If there is no God, if there is nothing divine about human beings, then we are not special and we don’t have inalienable rights. In a Godless world, whether humans should have rights becomes a matter of philosophical opinion.

As new advances happen in the field of AI, it is certain that electronic systems will outstrip humans in intelligence. This AI will be super-intelligent but it won’t be conscious. But an industrial society does not need consciousness—it needs only intelligence to keep itself going. Since humans will be less intelligent than AI, they will be less valuable as workers.

Why should the political elite of the AI age agree to bequeath inalienable rights to ordinary humans who are less intelligent and less valuable as workers than the AI machines?

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Discovery of ignorance is the fountainhead of modern civilization

The biggest discovery that mankind has made is not the discovery of wheel, agriculture, language or nuclear energy—it is the discovery of ignorance. 

When ancient humans realized that life was full of mysteries and they were ignorant of the way the universe worked, they started exerting their mind to find answers to diverse questions. From these mental exertions of ancient men the initial forms of religion, mythology and philosophy were born. Eventually mathematics and science were born, and over a period of tens of thousands of years modern civilization got created. 

Discovery of ignorance is the fountainhead of modern civilization. In individuals, awareness of ignorance is a sign of wisdom. People with wisdom are full of doubt—they are aware of their ignorance. But the immature and the foolish are always full of certainty.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus: Is the future a utopia or dystopia?

Is Yuval Noah Harari an ideologue and futurist, or is he a charlatan and a dreamer? The line that separates an ideologue from a charlatan, and a futurist from a dreamer is really thin, and it is probable that Harari has traits of all four. He is an ideologue, a futurist, a charlatan and a dreamer. 

Harari’s book Homo Deus deals with philosophical issues like humanism, individualism, transhumanism, mortality, nature of consciousness and intelligence, and the future of mankind. ’Homo’ means man, Deus means ‘God.’ One of the issues that the book examines is modern man’s quest to transcend the fear of death, and be an immortal like the Gods. 

According to Hariri, these transhumans—the Gods of the future—will not be anything like the omnipotent and omniscient deity of Abrahamic religions. The modern immortals, if they come into being, are likely to resemble the Hindu God Indra and the Greek God Zeus. They will have the power to do good and unleash destruction on an epic scale.

The history of the 21st century might not be underlined by wars, revolutions and the fight against famines and disease—war is obsolete, famine is rare and disease is on the retreat, says Hariri. He foresees the history of the 21st century being underlined by the desperate desire of the elites to become immortal. He cites some Silicon Valley tycoons who believe that they could be the first of human immortals. These tycoons often brag that they don’t intend to die ever. 

Harari takes note of the social, economic and political imbalances that must occur if a tiny elite section of society finds ways of extending their life to 200 or more years. If those who control the levers of political and economic power do not retire or die for 200 or more years, then how will political and economic transformation happen? Won’t civilization stagnate and decay?  

Another important issue that Harari examines is the connection between intelligence and consciousness. In the 21st century, mankind is engaged in building artificial systems (AI) which are intelligent but not conscious. The AI is capable of managing complex data but, as of now, it is incapable of doing things like falling in love, having political ambitions. 

Harari rejects the idea that humans are made by divine intervention; he sees humans as a form of artificial intelligence, or data-processing machines, created by fluke accidents in the natural processes of evolution. But we have consciousness, we have the capacity to fall in love, we have political ambitions and we have the will to choose whether we want to be good or destructive. 

What if the man-made AI manages to develop these human traits? What happens to the world if AI becomes conscious? How will this AI treat humans? Hariri says that to find the answer to this question we have to look at how humans treat other creatures. He believes that the progress of science and technology might lead to the decoupling of intelligence and consciousness. 

Homo Deus is an interesting book. Hariri writes with the flourish of a pulp fiction writer. But the content of his book is deflating and depressing. His materialist conception of a future world owned and run by machines is nihilistic and inhumane. Humans like us would be obsolete in this future world. If they continue to exist in this future world, they would live like the animals live today—we would be at the mercy of the machines. 

Political and economic power would be in the hands of intelligent machines and a tiny band of human elites who control the resources to upgrade themselves through the use of technology. In this future world, a tyrannical government won’t be necessary to suppress the masses and maintain order—people would be transformed through manipulation of data. 

“The individual will not be crushed by Big Brother; it will disintegrate from within,” Hariri writes. Ultimate form of collectivism would be the reality of the world where intelligence has been severed from emotions and consciousness. Will this future world be a dystopia or a utopia? Hariri does not take a clear stand. He is groping in the dark, at times sounding optimistic, at times pessimistic. His future world is dominated by powerful entities (AI or AI-powered humans) as different from us as we are from the neanderthals. 

I believe that the single biggest truth of history is that the intellectual and political elites always fail to predict the future. I believe that this will hold true in Hariri’s case as well. His predictions on the power of AI and the end of humanism will fail to materialize.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Existentialism: The quest for perfection that led to nihilism and perdition

Sarah Bakewell’s book At The Existentialist Café covers the history of existentialism in the 20th century. Set in post-Second World War France, the book presents Jean Paul Sartre as the monarch of existentialism and Simone De Beauvoir as his queen. 

The book begins with an introduction of the philosophical thought of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky and Kafka. These philosophers, according to Sartre and other major philosophers in his circle, were the early existentialists.

Full of confidence in the superiority of their own knowledge, mental capacity and intellectual authority, these existentialist philosophers devoted themselves to finding the ultimate answers to the fundamental questions of philosophy: How should we live? How can we be free? How can we be happy? What is the universal system of morality?

The existentialists were motivated by one ideal—to discover a theory to describe what humans are and how they should live. They wanted to develop an existentialist system that would delineate the political and cultural structure of a perfect society, where all, or majority of human beings (the chosen ones), could be equal and live without strife. 

Other than Sartre and De Beauvoir, the book offers good insights into the lives and philosophies of Heidegger, Husserl, Camus, Karl Jaspers, Merleau-Ponty and other European philosophers who were dominating the existentialist philosophical movement in that period. Bakewell’s book is critical of existentialism but is sympathetic to the philosophical quest of the 20th century existentialists.

But existentialism was plagued with a fatal agenda, which was to contrive a union between French nihilism and traditions. The monarch and queen of existentialism—Sartre and Beauvoir—were nihilists in their personal life. They were good in literature and in philosophical argumentation but they were incapable of conceiving a better society. 

There were flaws in other existentialists—for instance, Heidegger was in bed with Nazis. 

Ultimately nihilism won. Instead of building a perfect philosophical system, the existentialists found themselves trapped in an immoral, corrupt and crooked world. Instead of reforming European nihilism, the existentialists worsened the cultural situation.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

The futility of philosophy

A wise philosopher would know that the human mind is not designed to discover the ultimate answers to the fundamental philosophical questions concerning human life, existence and the character of the universe. 

But he carries on tirelessly with the quest for answers. To him the answers are not critical—the striving for answers is. He wants to change the world not through his answers (he doesn’t have the right answers), but by tirelessly, albeit futilely, proposing philosophical arguments and theories to explain what is certainly inexplicable. 

There is not one philosopher in the avenues of history whose ideas have not been attacked and refuted by contemporaries and successors. Every philosopher of the past was wrong. The future philosophers are also doomed to be wrong.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Philosophies and political movements

Philosophical ideas do not travel through history on their own. They travel through the medium of political movements. How influential a philosophy becomes depends on the strength, determination and popularity of the movement that carries it. 

Karl Marx’s ideas took the world by a storm in the late 19th and the 20th centuries, and continue to dominate the politics of all nations till this day, because the Marxist ideas were being carried by powerful political movements led by charismatic and ruthless leaders. 

If a philosophy is unable to find a powerful political movement to propagate and carry it through society and history, it starts to fade and is quickly forgotten.