Bigger than Time Travel

Imagine trying to research the idea of sound in the 18th century. Imagine attempting to function in a world of audio science in which you didn’t have a basic form of recording. Imagine studying sound without understanding one basic principle of sound or without a device to record sound. How could you study sound, pattens, waves, tone or anything else associated with sound if you did not have the capacity to make a reproduction of that which you were studying. Imagine if we are existing in a world in which we make aesthetic choices with out some basic tool we have yet to discover, the Internet only seems interesting because we have yet to understand the fifth wall. As David Foster Wallace postulates; we are fish and we don't know what water is.

It's not even about how to break through, but even that there is a fifth wall and if it exists, how to give it a name and frame the search for it. In the seventeen hundreds as they sought to understand sound waves they had no comprehension of recorded sound. Let alone making that sound visible on LCD screens to investigate wave patterns through a sound editing software.

We may exist now in total bliss.

When the atom bomb was invented it was to create a larger version of what we had, explosive combustion taken to the extremes of imagination, and it did in fact extend past what we thought possible. But then we stopped because the scale of surprise was adequate and chilled our collective soul and eliminated the search for an ultimate devil, we had found it in the split atom. The bomb provided everything we could want; poisonous by-products, un-survivable explosions and instant elimination of society. What could be worse? But what could be worse? We found a destructive element good enough for the modern life, but now seventy years later are we hungry for some further power? What could be worse than the atom bomb to humanity? Of late we have planted the idea of super viruses capable of global pandemic. We have also taken part in the melting of our icecaps leading to complete destruction of life as we know it. The analogy of the boiling frog is perfect here. The melting process is just slow enough to trick people into believing they are not boiling. But even this does not extend outside our conceivable destruction. We imagine in Sci-fi novels the end of our humanity in mutation or death or evolving into some mouthless telepath who hovers, but these are still imaginations built on the ideals of now. That is the curse of sci-fi according to writers like William Gibson. All science fiction is more a reflection of the time it is written than the future it predicts. We are impotent to imagine a demise outside the parameters of our current fears.

The child does not fear the snake until it meets one. Nor do they comprehend drowning until the concept presents its very real potential. We are stuck imagining destruction on a larger scale, but by the same demons we already met. When we invent or imagine, we are stuck at the fence of our intellectual front yards and we can not know what we are trying for until we peak over and see an entire new goal. Until then we are left using the ideas at hand, even if we do not know how to make them work, like self propelled human flight, we can imagine it and not do it. But it is still a small idea compared to the shift we experienced when the first atom split.

The super-colliders seem to be drumming up some strange bits of idea, they certainly occupy a level of resources that we couldn’t have accidentally happened upon any new understanding which might come from the strange underground loops. Which is to say some ideas can be imagined because we encounter the bird flying and desire the same thing. But other times we must have the resources to begin to learn. Like the chemical combination for analog photography. The photo sensitive nature of the process had to be assemble through accident and intention. The first photos were not taken to create a photo. The super-colliders are a very specific assembly intended to discover the unknown, which is exciting.

Would they work in space, is this why we need to go to the moon to discover new reality via a change in the laws, which govern our science? Will the surface of Jupiter give us the needed advantage to discover time travel? But more importantly is there a concept that exceeds the magic of time travel. What else can we imagine? We accept these past dreams as present lacks. We were suppose to have flying cars, we were suppose to have intergalactic space travel, we are suppose to be closer to time travel. But maybe time travel is a thought of a long dead society that didn’t even have photography, maybe time travel is not the most outrageous thought? What else are we seeking besides foresight? Our imaginations from the past of what our futures will be like are entirely wrong. Because we extend out our current understandings of present technology and social patterns, but we cannot account for watershed moments. That’s what makes them watershed moments, if they were foreseen they would just be innovation. Watershed moments shift the paradigm completely. They cause a complete course adjustment. IPhones, laptops, Tupperware, the atom bomb, these are extensions of previous life patterns but manifested in such innovative patterns as to create watershed moments for the way we live our lives and imagine our futures. The imaginations we have of the future drive our research and development. We only seek cures to symptoms we already express. But occasionally medicine gives us a pill for diabetes that also helps liver problems. This is an unexpected side effect. But we are tracking side effects, we are looking for “may cause death”.

What aren’t we looking for? Lewis and Clark took their walk 300 years after Europeans landed on the continent, but why did it take so long for them to take a walk? They didn’t need a technological shift. So is our next big watershed moment something on a par with the internet, a system which will seem as archaic as radio tubes to our children. Will the event happen because of a thought someone has in their garage which they will follow through with to create HP or Microsoft or Apple. Can the next revolution in idea be thought up or will it be happened upon because of an unexpected side effect.

We as a society are arguing birth control for women, deciding who should fund it, the world is headed toward war over resources, we are already at war over oil, a finite resource. What happens when we begin to struggle over renewable resources, like fish, grain, heat, knowledge, or medical care needed for extended life? Americans do not want to die, but the rest of the world wants to live just as badly. We are bound by our social conservative ideals. Our comfort zones, which keep us functioning. We need routine to build on. We need stability to allow us to function on certain levels and at certain tasks, but are we binding ourselves with our social constraints to a system, which does not get us closer to whatever it is we are most assuredly moving toward. You can not want time to advance and you can pretend nothing is changing. But that is just pretend.

The singularity is not coming, for various reasons. By the time we have technology, which can make us seamlessly one with the machine, we will no longer want that. The singularity is the flying car of the future. In the future we will have things that look like what we think the singularity will look like but it will coincide with our imagination of the singularity in the same way as a jet coincides with our family car. Most people will still not be able to fly to work and even if they can, it won’t really seem worth the risk. In the future our children will laugh at our technology and they will laugh at our ideals for their present.

The future is left to the imagineers to create the new goals. Watershed moments of complete shift which will erase our attachment to anything we have now. Like the abandonment felt by the VHS player. The imagineers work outside of technology, they are functioning in pure fiction encumbered not by a necessity drives invention to soccer practice way, but instead in the form of pure open desire. What do we desire or more over what is past our shame, sin, and guilt? What will we find if we can re invent ourselves from this point forward. Brad Pitt said on the Daily Show that we would never design the cars we have if we started over. We wouldn’t, we would create smart things that we liked. So let us not limit this concept to our transports. Let us make all our experiences smart and likable. Lets begin with out baggage, no limits to our abilities or inhibitions. Let us not simply call our shot at Mars because that is the next one past the moon, let us decide as a people to strive for complete planet stability. Simple, lets just take seven billion people and get them all to agree on some basic principles. I won’t purpose those, I will leave that to a bigger mind.

But what about the minor feats, what can we divine for life which we do not already have, idea that are not extensions of present technology, and not dreams of the 20th century. That’s hard because we are so formed by the literature and texts of the 20th century. Perhaps you can only find true innovation in the hand of the novice. I teach children art sometimes and maybe the best drawings I have ever seen are from people who don’t know how to hold a pencil. Maybe they are without sin. Without preconceived notions or expectations. They are simply exploring two systems, which have come together, that of graphite and paper pulp. Representation is not the goal, the aesthetic is raw, can we find ideas for new unsearchable missions through the minds of the child, if we could talk to them just before they are aware of self-doubt. Ask them for an idea as big as time travel. What would they say?

They might tell us we want to learn how remove the need to eat so they can avoid bread crust. We want to learn to not be afraid of the dark by being able to change dark waves into light waves in our own heads with out external fixture. We might want to become water rather than a machine. They might ask us for a formula for hate and how to pack all the hate in the world into once single stock of broccoli and leave it there, knowing that no kid would willing eat from the tree of hate.

They might invent a flavor to rival Chocolate Vanilla and Strawberry, many have tried but seriously, that’s a three-legged race that’s not changing soon. Blind people never buy lamps, def people don’t own iPods, and most of us have all five senses as we have defined them. But what if there is another sense that we have yet to tune, we have yet to invent for, or create industries to cater to. We have restaurants and music clubs and movie theatres and even rose gardens, but what if we all posses more senses and we only need the right environment or device to activate it. We would look back and think the person was not blind but just in need of a lamp. Jerry Andrus said to open your eyes. The quote is longer but really what if eyes are not the only thing in need of opening? Lewis and Clark took a walk. What are we missing? Are we allowing politics to distract us from the inevitable and needed discovery? Bill Hicks, before he died wanted us to take all of our resources and explore space forever. He made a living as a comedian, but in death he will be remembered as Right.

If I seem like an alarmist, stating that there may be more to human experience than the five senses known to humans for millennium than think about the internet, and how a child of the seventies would have reacted to that thought. The technology which powers your cell phone would have worked in the year1850. Take the time machine and imagine if you traveled to 1850 with a radio transmitter and receiver you could have broadcast and received on the planet earth in 1850. Radio waves weren’t invented they were discovered and harnessed. Is it really logical that we have completed that process? That we have found every frequency possible. We exist in a tiny pocket of the known cosmos, how could we limit ourselves socially and worry about problems we have already solved when we have so many bigger potentials than we do actuals. The number of maybes far exceeds the miniscule number of certainties.

On a planet of 7 billion souls we will be forced to face certain truths about freedom and social structure. Humans are viciously intelligent and they will find ways to survive and when it comes to vicious survival, America is particularly poorly suited to the task. We have not had to innovate our survival since the atom bomb. That seventy years has made us weak, our children are caudled and our seniors are lavished, and our young are distant, our entire society is disconnected and hurting for love. How will we exist when the boomers are gone?

The tree is perfect, every time you climb it, it is a different experience because the tree has grown. But you have grown as well, what will you know the next time you stand at the foot of the tree planning your ascent. Tree climbing is a privilege and should be attempted when ever possible because the one guarantee of tree climbing is a new perspective on the world.

Patrick Melroy
Sick in bed on the last day in March.


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