Friday, January 1, 2010

Some thoughts this New Year

Happy New Year, everyone!

New Years Day is a day where we look both backward and forward in time. Maybe we only do it one year back and one year forward. I can't help but go farther out and back then just one year, though.

I don't have a particularly good memory. I think everyone believes that, except for maybe those rare people with photographic memories, but my wife can verify that I do, indeed, have a bad memory. Because of this, sometimes looking backward is a saddening thing for me to do. I feel like with every day forward I take I lose more of my past to the ravages of time. Even more than what we know we've forgotten. (There are things we remember, things we know we forgot, and things we don't know we forgot. Thanks go to Donald Rumsfeld.)

I wish there was some way of reconstructing my past. Sometimes I wish there was some way I could relive my past -- not to go back and change things, just to have and understand the feelings and experiences I had before. Then maybe somehow I could save all those feelings and experiences and sensations as Memories(tm), the total package. And this time around they would not get lost.

As far as I know this is not possible. As far as I understand physics it isn't possible, anyway. (But then, damn it Jim, I'm a programmer, not a theoretical physicist!) And even if it were possible I don't see how it could ever be the same as the original memory without being the original person -- meaning without all of the knowledge and additional memories and changes we've had since that point in time. Can the me of now really completely understand the me of 10, 20, 30 years ago?

And then, my past is inextricably tied into the lives of so many other people, most especially my parents and siblings. Would I need to reconstruct their experiences to be able to reconstruct mine?

Will there ever be any way of recovering our past? If so, what can I do toward the goal?

I guess I really should have been keeping a journal all these years.

What will the future be like? It's an interesting question. I really don't know.

I am looking forward to Space Ship Two and White Knight Two! Even though I don't have $200,000, and the flights only spend a short time in weightlessness I think the idea of having private flight to space is awesome, and hopefully it portends even more involvement in space in our future.

I'm looking forward to better computer user interfaces that can read our thoughts. No more typing, or talking, or mousing, or carpal tunnel or shoulder problems or whatever. Just think it and your computer does it. Almost unbelievable, yet scientists are in the middle of our first clumsy steps and mind reading. Just two weeks ago I saw this Star Wars toy that senses one's brainwaves as input for raising a ball in a tube. Force Trainer or something. I wanted to buy it but my cheap self held back.

I follow the headlines of some techy websites, and it is amazing to me the number of blurbs there are about progress humanity is making in technology. Most of them are in the 3-5 year- and 5-10 year-out ranges, and thus haven't "arrived". Maybe these articles are giving an impression that we are progressing faster than we really are. Still, if even half of these modern miracles materialize it will be amazing. Over the past few years I've seen progress being made on retinal implants to help certain blind people see. The last time we could even imagine this was 2000 years ago when Jesus was annointing eyes with clay.

Many people much smarter than I fear our future. Death by asteroid, robot attack, engineered (or natural) supervirus, environmental disaster, World War III and so on certainly are plausible futures. I understand and share a fear of the future. The future demands a great amount of caution and foresight from us, I think.

Yet if we have an expectation of annihilation, where does that take us? I worry that the result is us fulfilling the prophecy. It is important that we take an optimistic view of the future, and work toward that future, as the first step toward a future where we (humans) are still living.

The future will be amazing. Our future will be to us even more amazing than today is to a caveman.


  1. Sometimes I wish I could forget things. The things that made me a pessimistic realist. I envy that you have forgotten some of your childhood. Perhaps the time of your youth was pleasant enough not to leave wounds that don't ever heal right. Instead of lamenting the fact, rejoice.

  2. I have had my share of embarrassing moments and painful experiences, like anyone else. I still want to remember those. Or maybe I should say, at least have the option of recalling them, not necessarily think of them. But you're right. I had a good family and life growing up. I can see that other people may have things they just want to forget.