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Posts Tagged ‘technology’

In order to understand rise and fall of civilization we can use the analogy of waves. Waves cannot run on themselves. It makes use of energy as nations use energy of peoples to form waves. People themselves do not pass energy around but energy uses them to travel distance. I call this making my day count. But life that is in me has ways of connecting with energy that begun even before the Big Bang.

The energy of winds in turn is another form of solar energy.

The sun doesn’t ever heat the Earth evenly nor do abilities of groups of people scattered around the globe are evenly matched. The same principle that keeps some regions more heated than others keep drive civilizations in circulation. Inequality principle in human affairs carry potential energy to destroy and redefine nations . 

The Earth’s natural formations as well as its orientation to the sun play their part just as abundance of natural resources make some nations lead the engine of progress.

As some air gets heated, it becomes less dense, and thus lighter, and naturally floats upward. This leaves an open space for denser, colder air to rush in and take its place. This air rush is the refreshing cool breeze you feel on a sunny day. The fruits of civilisation are mostly result of many technological innovations and these  make life easier for the nation that can control it. The Allies in the WWII could make nuclear bombs and control the outcome to their satisfaction. It did not however prevent other powers also getting hold of nuclear know-how.

Solar power is energy that make waves just as energy from elsewhere take some nations to pre-eminence. The bottom line is energy is not created by nations themselves but carried by many waves begun elsewhere.

Around the coastal areas waves closer to the bottom carries less energy than the top giving the waves to crash and the energy is not lost but dissipated. Thus we have seen the ancient civilisations crashing into oblivion while energy of these go to fashion new players.

(ack: HowStuffWorks/How waves form) 

benny

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Progress as a result of human endeavour is in direct context of nature. Man versus nature. Man controlling and shaping his environment to his manifold conveniences consequently creates many chains of events that require other species sharing the same environment to respond adequately. Natural selection warrants these to adapt for the changing environment or go bust. Has not man also created a similar situation for his species? Such risks many of which are caused by humans. Bio-terrosim for instance. From pandemics to Nuclear wars, human civilization thus had to face many challenges which are existential risks, that are less understood than the most obvious advantages we have derived from the march of progress.

There are some worrying features in human intelligence that may fuel the risks of his very existence. From anthropological findings it would seem humans embarked on the march of progress too early. His branching off from his ape cousins was an event and it would indicate it was undertaken before his brain was full developed. Its consequence can easily be set down from analogy of human child. Our ape ancestor was like modern human, as a baby, with its brain developing all the while till it reaches some 20 years. (A pliable head of the baby facilitates its exit at birth from womb which is biologically safe for the mother.) This necessitates from the child all the support system without let up counted in days, years and decades till the end of his adolescence. He needs rearing from his parents in order to achieve emotional intelligence he needs. Only difference was that our ape ancestor had no such back up from his peers. His brain was in the process of developing but without nurture of some role model*.
Biologists speak of ‘norms of reaction,’ which are patterned responses to environmental circumstances. For example, some male insects are more likely to guard their mates when there are fewer females in the population, hence fewer other mating opportunities. Natural selection didn’t just shape a fixed behavior, it shaped the norm of reaction — the nature of the response,”
In humans a bad idea when he can think rationally on it brings many advantages. Increasing his supply of food at the cost of one who is weaker is one way of doing it. Annexing a territory from a weak tyrant is worth the while of a chieftain if he has a superior force. He reckons that his success would silence others and make his position more secure. It must have come handy when others would take the same path to aggrandize themselves. It is a norm of reaction that suited well for the bandit kings of yore.
When circumstances could be shaped to justify it war must have seemed a fitness-enhancing behavior. Warring parties included all those who agreed with the idea and circumstances. Like success it sets off many others.
‘Just as compassion for your offspring increases your genes’ chance of survival, violent tendencies may have been similarly useful for some species’ observed biologist David Carrier, also of the University of Utah,” Humans certainly rank among the most violent of species.” In true nature-nurture fashion, though some kind of genetic preprogramming for violence, may exist in humans as a result of our evolution. Norms of behaviour as a result evolved in that along period of trial and error method.
 
 
As a result how he created a society in terms of families, clans, tribes were all flawed. It became in most cases patriarchal leaving women in the background. Creating wars as a manly sport, would leave women incapable what with her long period of gestation and nursing. Eventually it would stamp the role of women as secondary. This we witness even this day where some societies can kill women simply for ‘honour.’ Lack of sufficient role model man simply created a swath of experience in which his brain simply was inadequate to anticipate long range consequences.
(*There is no accurate picture what made our human ancestor diverge from other apes other than fossil evidences that our human ancestors could walk as well as climb trees. The oldest evidence for walking on two legs comes from one of the earliest humans known, Sahelanthropus 6 million years ago. By 4 million years ago early human species lived mostly near open areas and dense woods. Their bodies had become adapted to walk upright most of the time, but still climb trees.

“Apparently, there were multiple ways early human species had of moving around.” observed human origins expert Richard Potts of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, about a mystery species discovered in Ethiopia’s Afar region in 2009, the fossil forefoot bones, eight in all, from same era and same region of Africa as the famous ‘Lucy’ (1974).

Walking was a human characteristic before the development of oversized brains. The newly discovered foot-fossil gives us a clue why early human species might have moved around. By learning to walk upright they conceded forests hitherto their home to cousins better adapted for living in trees.)

If his brain was inadequate what could have been the overwhelming reason for him to strike out on his own? His tool making skills gave us stone age, iron age, bronze age and so on. His curiosity and cleverness of hand would develop into science and technology. His foresight in overcoming an inconvenience was not matched by foreseeing the consequences of his innovations. No more apt example we need seek than reasons for ushering in the Nuclear Age. America could stop the WWII speedily. The Allies however did not anticipate proliferation of the nuclear arsenal but soon they were in for a rude shock. Now in some sixty years we have come at a stage the nuclear secrets can be peddled at the click of a mouse. It is what AQ Khan achieved with the backing of his government.

Optimism of man is in terms of abstract than concrete. His abstract thinking has created the world as idea but in terms of its realization no two persons shall view an idea exactly as one and as a result these can only end in conflict. Workers’ paradise as envisaged by Lenin in the view of Stalin was transformed into Cult of Personality!
Bad experience of the past is such that technology and its progress can only be sustained by the systems an idea created along the line. The Crusades in the middle Ages were fought under the call of a Pope. Pope Urban II in 1095 invoked the Christian army of Europe to reclaim lands lost to Muslim invaders previously. It was on the matter of Ideology of clashing belief-systems of the West and East he could invoke them to fight under the sign of cross. Ideas keep evolving while experience remains in the bloodstream of the species. The war to end all wars as President Wilson qualified the WWI did exactly the opposite. If idea of war had achieved its goal the first war that primordial man waged would have been sufficient.Instead collateral consequences of war, misery,loss of prestige,material advantages are all such in collective experience that necessitates conflict ad infintum. Idea of war, belief-systems can only be settled with experience of humans proving its justness for all. It is inherent in the idea and man’s inability to see any other way than as idea. There are millions of ants to every man and by sheer numbers insects outnumber human population. Despite of being one among so many species we see the world in terms of ideas than for what really it is.

Over the past century we have discovered or created new existential risks: supervolcanoes were discovered in the early 1970s, and we should expect others to appear just as a nuclear holocaust is possible. The average mammalian species survives for about a million years. Hence, the background natural extinction rate is roughly one in a million per year. This is much lower than the nuclear-war risk, which after 70 years is still the biggest threat to our continued existence. (ack:the five biggest threats to Human existence/the Conversation-Anders Sandberg,29 May, 2014)

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Some 70,000 Iraqis died as an indirect consequence of the 1991 war in the Persian Gulf and a Harvard University study determined that another 100,000 people, mostly children died in the following year.This high incidence of infant mortality was caused by economic blockade against Iraq.

When questioned about civilian casualties General Tommy Franks seems to have said, “We don’t do body counts.” When war goes hi-tech civilian death becomes an abstraction. In the evolution of war we see in Ancient Greece the concept of glory held certain personal ability, courage and character essential for challenging man in eyeball to eyeball confrontation. In this combat dying constituted glory for soldiers. No wonder we read of Alexander of Macedon hurling himself into the thick of battle to set an example for his men.

In the First World War heavy casualties of men in the trenches was so high both Germany and France shrank from such a strategy. Technology of co-ordinated attacks using armored tanks and infantry moving quickly with air power to pulverize anything that stood in the way. Blitzkreig showed technology very useful.

In our century technology of warfare is such it is more hi-tech versus low tech. It is same story of rifles against bow and arrows that determined in the Americas. Colonialism was ushered in with the help of technology. In these days war would mean imposition of a culture with claims to ‘liberal and democratic’ values over another less endowed culture and belief-systems. For this purpose human casualties are merely an abstraction.

benny

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Evolution gave man a brain where nerve nets of jellyfish and brain of lizards served as the basis. These were set some 600 million years ago and our ape-ancestors who later peopled the earth did not have a brain that could be said as state of the art. It would take millennia in terms of evolutionary timescale a wink so to speak. So the civilization that we take pride in has been with a back up from many other species. Brain is still evolving and it shall indeed the case whether we colonize the moon or some super-earths some light years away. This being the case what prompted him to this grand vision of a civilized world? Tool making capacity determined man’s progress.

March of progress worked on two speeds. A solution based technology that took care of his specific needs and it allowed no delay. While his brain developed on the slow lane as with all events in evolutionary timescale he set about creating his world in his image. If our civilization has shown several cracks the blame for this must be in the variable speeds. It is more soulless mechanics of supply and demand, time and motion and many other exercises in futility that guide us. Consider how this has blighted our parenting skills? How shall not a man fail if his one leg were to shoot up faster than the other one? We seems blissfully unaware of our human side that needs time as a child requires time to mature. His brain develops quickly around three till he is six. But it would take some 20 years for all the brain circuits to be fixed. He is considered fully mature and responsible by the age of twenty. Technology has won us over to do its bidding and we aren’t even conscious what we have sacrificed to appease a monster. Our best part, our wealth in compassion and altruism is being chipped away steadily. All because we have failed to negotiate the two speeds that make up our existence. In missing the cue of variable speeds whatever we have touched has come with its downside. Man left arboreal living to build cities and also created slums and inner cities.

Consider man in relation to all other species. A shrew has heart beats so fast that a whale must consider it as impossible. Nature has allowed both to develop according to their biology and evolutionary demands. Nature of lions is affected by their physiology. So their predatory behavior has to account for it. With relatively small hearts and lungs they are not fast runners; a maximum speed of 60 kph, nor do they have the stamina to keep this pace for more than a 100 – 200m. As such, lions rely on stalking their prey and seldom charge until they are within 30m, unless the prey is facing away and cannot see the charge. Why did lions become the only sociable cat? Is it because they would have higher success rate if they hunted in groups?
Only man seems to have missed this curious fact. His inability to develop all round by his technology may be compensated by pooling life experience of all and old and present. If one were to look closely there is a running thread that makes us connected with our environment and all life forms. Instead we have degraded the earth all for profit. The very idea of things motivating man is derived from technology. As John Ruskin so eloquently puts it,’There is no wealth but life.’ Our reliance on technology is a case of progress being derailed. Technology is power; accumulation of material wealth by technology has created fragmentation of the world into different blocks. Wars had never been the solution but still man relies on it . Why? Both technology and war acts as one. It is a Geiger counter to detect and ferret out more wealth. This must explain the present human predicament.
Peter Pan never grew up. Perhaps he could serve as a timely warning, a metaphor: He shall grow old only in terms of exigencies of Nature. Never-never land is a place where nothing grows but according to the slow speed of evolution and he shall ever be vital and clear-eyed since he is in step to a different drummer than we do.
benny

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“Oh I am your kid brother,Eavesdropper.”

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Subway ©

Is that descent into the night?
On the thundering hooves
Of iron monsters upholstered
with people like you and me,
-Vacant our gaze barely
Glancing, we bob along.
The belly of the beast spews
Out the remains of a day
And the pavements skewed
with neon lights smell stench
Of nightfall.

Benny (Below is the original version)

Subway
Down between the walls of shadow
Where the iron laws insist,
The hunger voices mock.

The worn wayfaring men
With the hunched and humble shoulders,
Throw their laughter into toil.

Carl Sandburg (January 6, 1878 – July 22, 1967)

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The dream of flight was fueled by man’s observation of the birds, and is illustrated in myths across the world (e.g. Daedalus and Icarus in Greek mythology, or the Pushpaka Vimana of the Ramayana). The first attempts to fly also often drew on the idea of imitating birds, as in Daedalus’ building his wings out of feathers and wax. Leonardo da Vinci’s design was limited since it relied on pedal power. Attempts to build wings of various materials and jump off high towers continued well until the seventeenth century. ( aviation history-ack:wikipedia). In the wake of Industrial revolution it was inevitable the application of machines became as important as man’s imagination.
The dynamics of this alliance between man and machine would change. The fanciful world of alchemists would give way to hard-nosed scientists,- and science and not humanities became the hi-octane fuel driving progress. It also forged a link with Technology as the benchmark for human progress. The effect of art and humanities on human mind I guess was not so much visible as of technology for the world to go some direction. This partnership between Science and technology if logically taken to its conclusion robotic age on one hand must happen. On the other man would think of conquering outer space, provided man is able to master the right technology. How can this ever happen without that elusive quantity in the equation- man? By this I mean every facet of his mind, his imaginative faculties and practicality included.
To sum man cannot do away with any of his experience. His imagination like the wax wings of Icarus may fail since his grounding in science was not sound. Man’s fancies may be under no discipline to conform to certain discipline but there shall always be a point where art has to take a degree in a manner of speaking. It may lead to pure research.
Since technology has shrunk the world into a global village we may hear some grumbling at the pure research. But without it or art, technology shall only be a creation of some Frankenstein. The versatility of new-generation Mobile phones is a spin off of exploration of the space.
ii
Progress of man is a co-operative effort.
Man in trying to express himself does so after his fashion: from nature- a pushpak vimana; or a composite type- wings made of wax in imitation of birds’ wings. He adds something of his own invention to what is already existing. No wonder, inventive mind of man shall not rest with a single success. If he would learn to be airborne he would put it to refine to such degree that shall keep with his ever changing requirements. Hot air balloons shall be replaced with gliding, biplanes and so on.

In course of time we find airplanes are not merely for flying but for military purposes. Planes that could destroy towns, cities thoroughly are natural extensions of man’s striving for excellence. In short man who raises himself ever a notch higher into higher realms finds a drag that makes his angel, a monster. Science bears the stamp of man’s excellence, his curiosity while Technology recognizes only economics. Can there be evil in the very perfection that we strive for?
Devil is in the details, sir. In the very essence of Good resides resident Evil like the serpent in the Garden of Eden. This is inevitable: since every progress of man is necessarily a cooperative effort. How experience of each draws from the Collective experience shall connect, we may expect Dr. Faustus who only thinks acquiring knowledge shall connect with Mephisto who would want his soul in return.
Fancy free and footloose man sets out but before long tollbooths would overtake him and may even stop him for toll.
Ack:Aussie student finds the Missing Mass-AFP May 27 I am giving an excerpt:
Monash astrophysicist Dr Kevin Pimbblet explained that scientists had previously detected matter that was present in the early history of the universe but that could not now be located.
“There is missing mass, ordinary mass not dark mass … It’s missing to the present day,” Pimbblet told AFP.
“We don’t know where it went. Now we do know where it went because that’s what Amelia found.”

Pimbblet said astrophysicists had known about the “missing” mass for the past two decades, but the technology needed to pinpoint its location had only become available in recent years.
He said the discovery could drive the construction of new telescopes designed to specifically study the mass.
Pimbblet admitted the discovery was primarily academic, but he said previous physics research had led to the development of diverse other technologies.
“Whenever I speak to people who have influence, politicians and so on, they sometimes ask me ‘Why should I invest in physics pure research?’. And I sometimes say to them: ‘Do you use a mobile phone? Some of that technology came about by black hole research’.
“The pure research has knock-on effects to the whole society which are sometimes difficult to anticipate.”

benny

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