Monday, May 08, 2006

We'll get around to making first contact as soon as I clear this level...

I've been meaning to make this post for a week now... seeing as I'm now taking abuse for not keeping up to date on blogging, I figure I better eat lunch at my desk and get down to business...

On May 1, Seed Magazine published a fascinating article by evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller. Dr. Miller suggests that the reason we haven't made contact with aliens is because they too have created x-boxes and other diversions such as porn, and are no longer investing time and energy in things like space exploration.
Basically, I think the aliens don't blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games. They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they're too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don't need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today. Once they turn inwards to chase their shiny pennies of pleasure, they lose the cosmic plot. They become like a self-stimulating rat, pressing a bar to deliver electricity to its brain's ventral tegmental area, which stimulates its nucleus accumbens to release dopamine, which feels…ever so good.

Obviously the larger message is that we here on Earth have messed up our priorities and need more rocket scientists and fewer game developers. The article ultimately ends up being fairly anti-technology and anti-consumerism, suggesting that the only people who will survive long term are the super-family oriented breeders who eschew trivial diversions like computer games or even reading novels.

The article is right up my alley - the intersection of humanity and technology. I've wondered for years if advances in electronic communication were really bringing the global community together, or isolating us from real people and real life just outside our door. But even I'm not as big a cynic as Miller appears to be. Sure, you have people becoming so engrossed in virtual life that they are living fraudulent existences, creating in some case multiple personas for the identity they want to portray to others and carrying on 'relationships' with people they not only have never met, but never will meet. All the while not interfacing with the real people just down the street and developing real relationships which result in reproduction of our species. But on the other hand, you have people who do not have the means to travel learning about far off cultures and becoming better global citizens for this expanded understanding, or meeting their soul mates on eHarmony or whatever the matchmaking website du jour is. Technology itself isn't a bad thing, it is people's lack of willingness to live in reality and the allure of an ideal existence that leads to mixed up priorities. And that sounds like a problem that will happen regardless of what the particular diversion is (computer gaming, porn, television, etc). The path to enlightenment is not the rejection of all entertainment, it is finding a way to make entertainment an inspiration for real life action instead of a substitute for it.

Of course I would very much like to meet aliens or colonize another planet (or even our own moon for heaven's sake) during my lifetime. That would be cool. So kids, stop playing Oblivion and get back to your telescopes and dreams of becoming an astronaut when you grow up. Maybe by then we'll have political leaders in place that will actually put some funding behind space programs... OOOH, and cloning and hybridization, that's pretty slick cutting edge research too. Go study genetics and biology if space exploration doesn't do it for you. Remember Dark Angel? See if you can't do that in a non-evil way. See? Entertainment for real life inspiration. hah.


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