The Game of Life – Augmented Reality


No kidding, we could all be participating in a game we call life. At least that’s what SpaceEx founder Elon Musk recently told folks at the Code Conference. He thinks it’s possible we are all characters in a virtual reality game created by beings of higher intelligence. The gringa would have appreciated that, if this is so, they could have opted me for a superpower rather than this pesky thing called epilepsy. That was just not nice at all.

Now, Musk is an intelligent guy. What in the world is he talking about? If he really believes in this possibility and he’s not some wacked out fringe science believer, does he have anything of substance to back up this theory? As he began to explain himself in the interview, he took listeners back to the video game era of Pong. The reasoning follows this line of logic:

  • 1st – Pong
  • 40 Years Later – 3D simulations
  • What’s Happening Now – Virtual Reality
  • What’s Next – Augmented reality

He expects that augmented reality will be the era of technology where reality and the game will be indistinguishable. He believes it’s possible that other life, far more advanced than humans, has already reached this stage and Earthlings are part of their augmented reality games. So what the heck is augmented reality?

Definition: augmented reality – technology that super-imposes computer generated images over the player’s real-world view. What the person sees is a composite image of reality and computer generated images.

So, basically, if I wanted to live in an augmented reality, rather than go to the trouble and expense of painting my walls I would pop in my augmented reality contacts at the beginning of every day. They would be programmed with an image of my quaint little apartment featuring walls of my favorite color preferences. I could also eliminate having to look at dust and the icky grime build up in my bathtub. Mona Lisa could grace the place of honor in my living room rather than an inexpensive original by an obscure starving artist. I could live a life of comfort and laziness and never be bothered with the filth accumulating around me as I no longer have any motivation to clean, since my augmented reality apartment is always spic and span and downright lovely.

But how does such a possibility translate into one that puts forth that all of us humans are already part of an extra-terrestrial or advanced earlier human augmented reality game? Does that put us on the same level with our pets? Are we the pets of extra-terrestrials or earlier humans? Am I cleaning house for treats? Am I an augmented reality star?

Is there something positive to the possibility of being little more than an observed lab rat in an ET/advanced human video game? Well, there’s that whole apocalypse thing. If we’re not really “real” then the apocalypse is not really “real”. It’s just all part of the program. The Earth is not going to self-destruct because of human accelerated climate change. Or will it?

What if the ETs/advanced humans are simply seeing if we solve the problem? What if they WANT us to solve the problem and we don’t? What if they get disgusted and hit the reset button and start over? Will I be doomed to repeat this very day all over again once the game advances to the point that my character is, once again, sitting at the same desk pecking away at the same laptop keys composing the same story? Would I know I had been reset or would I just resume in the blink of an eye as if nothing had happened feeling it was my first time to write the story rather than, perhaps, the kazillionth attempt? What if they delete my character altogether because I never reached my full potential the first time around? Holy Cow! What if they re-invented me with supermodel measurements, flawless skin, a genius mind and bottomless pocketbook?!

But what if there are no super-advanced civilizations managing us like puppeteers? How about we continue to progress through science and technology and eventually have supercomputers that can generate augmented reality en masse for the public, as easily available as the Internet is today? What if augmented reality becomes a way of life? What if we are reduced to live our lives lying about on loungers, hooked up to nutritional supplement dispensaries and simply exist in our mind’s created reality? What if we are doing that already? Or perhaps we go about our everyday affairs but we ladies can all have Prince Charming for husbands. Our cranky boss can be converted to look like a hobbit. Instead of passing strangers on the streets, people are all programmed to look like Easter bunnies and unicorns.

Could artificial intelligence evolve through augmented reality to the point that a character could actually be considered to have consciousness and exercise free will? If so, is it possible that you and I originated as artificial intelligence and have advanced to that stage as characters in an advanced ET/advanced human augmented reality game that the simulated civilization is developing the same technology that led to our original existence? It seems greater minds than the gringa have been musing over just such questions and more for quite some time. The idea of humans living a virtual reality existence did not originate with Musk. He simply did a spin with a theory originally proposed by philosopher Nick Bostrom.

Bostrom’s theory proposes:

  • If we are living an augmented reality as pets or game characters of a more intelligent species, humanity will eventually become extinct as part of the game parameters which means…
  • The advanced civilization (or civilizations) within the game must eventually evolve to contain no individuals wealthy enough to have a strong interest in having ancestors and the freedom to pursue that interest.

Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, has published a controversial article in Philosophical Quarterly positing the possibility that we are all characters in a computer simulation. He bases this on the theory that at some point in the future humans will have super-computers capable of running simulations of the civilizations that came before them and let them continue unhindered to see how far they develop. If that is true, consider the possibility that it has already happened and you and I, dear reader, are existing within one of those simulations. How would we know?

We would know once we evolved to the point that we developed technology to create simulated civilizations. That is why the ones in control of the simulation we are cast in have to design the program with an apocalyptical human extinction parameter when the characters get too close to achieving that level of technology. Then it all starts over. The gringa hopes her next character is epilepsy free and has prettier feet.

P.S.  Augmented Reality… there’s an app for that!

Sources:

http://www.popsci.com/elon-musk-says-we-could-be-simulation?src=SOC&dom=fb

http://www.vox.com/2016/6/2/11837608/elon-musk-simulation-argument

http://www.recode.net/code-conference-2016

http://www.simulation-argument.com/simulation.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simulation_hypothesis

http://www.simulation-argument.com/

Image Credit: sby.dnet.net.id

 

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Life In A Bubble


There are many different reasons to be interested in the science of climate change. Maybe you are a lover of nature, like the gringa. Maybe you are a doomsday prepper, anticipating worldwide failures of critical natural resources necessary for humanity’s survival. Perhaps you are a problem solver, interested in creating solutions to help us all survive. Or you could be an author of science fiction and fantasy and the realities of climate change provide a plethora of creative resources. Whatever the reason, then you will find the possibility of life in a bio-sphere bubble interesting to ponder.

Tucson, Arizona was recently host to an environmental event sponsored by One Young World, a group of leaders in innovative climate change survival solutions, particularly Biosphere 2 (Earth is #1).  The event featured experts in science, international diplomacy, political science and commercial industry who are all interested in humanity’s need for sustainable sources for food and energy. The speakers whom event attendees were, perhaps, most interested in were probably the former astronaut and individuals who have been living in Biosphere 2.

If a person was to take a tour of Biosphere 2, you might be expecting a sterile, technical, enclosed life support environment like the International Space Station. However, you will probably be pleasantly surprised to find a faux ocean the size of an Olympic swimming pool surrounded by a bamboo forest. As you continue exploration, you will stumble across a desert recreation complete with species of ants and cockroaches.

The Biosphere idea was birthed more than two decades ago. In 1991 the dream was realized when eight individuals, four women and four men, donned their uniforms and entered the three acre terrarium smack dab in the middle of an Arizona desert where they would live confined for twenty-four months.

The habitat was constructed thanks to the generosity of a wealthy Texan who wants a place of safe retreat when the Apocalypse crashes down around our ears. He shelled out about $150 mill to recreate miniaturized versions of South America’s rainforest, the African Savannah, and a single ocean. The Biosphereans worked for two years to determine if this earthly microcosm would interconnect, survive and become a self-sustaining world producing oxygen and food.

Beneath the multiple geodesic domes of steel, glass and plastic transplanted nature began to fail the moments the doors were sealed. Precious oxygen was leaking and making its escape to the outside world. Despite the threat of suffocation, the Biosphereans soldiered on. They planted crops near the ocean. A sophisticated underground bellows system created wind. But small crops of oxygen producing plants and man-made breeze were not enough to make the habitat a survivable, much less pleasant, environment. For the sake of science the Biosphereans persevered through two years of oxygen deprivation yet finally called it quits when survival was only possible by pumping in outside-sourced oxygen.

But was this experiment really a failure? Of course not. It was a very valuable learning experience. Think of all the research that was accomplished on learning how vegetation, geography, water and air movement, and fresh water sources can all be successfully recreated and the knowledge of certain mistakes not to repeat in the process.

The Biosphere 2 is not a total physical loss either. The University of Arizona will continue studies on how to succeed in a biosphere lifestyle. Part of the property will be open to the public and re-christened “Land Evolution Observatory”. The university will launch a project that, over the span of a decade, will attempt to perfect the methods the Biosphereans began. The gringa considers these self-sacrificing and brave Biosphereans to be the pioneers of the Millennia.

The Biosphere story also has a romantic twist. The gringa, madly in love with her caveman, loves a good romance and is happy to learn that two of the individuals fell in love during their confinement together and married as soon as they had regained their freedom to the outside world. The couple, speaking to the Tucson audience, explained how profound their sense of inter-connectedness to their environment became. Daily they tracked carbon and oxygen levels, strongly aware that their survival depended on the right balance.  They felt aware, moment by moment, of each breath they took and each CO2 exhalation they made. The reality of the co-dependence the humans, plants, animals and insects all had with one another was always at the forefront of their mind.

When former astronaut Ron Garan addressed the audience, he discussed his six month stint enclosed in the self-sustained environment of the International Space Station. It was a profound experience that increased his environmental awareness and how tiny, fragile and singular our Earth is. His individual life perspective was completely changed as he worked beside the two Russian cosmonauts he shared duties with. Upon his return to Earth, he dedicated himself to collaboration with projects that will promote the survival of humans and the planet we call home. The only planet, mind you, that we have.

He recounted one of his most poignant experiences. It was the moment he returned to Earth. He peeked out the window of the capsule, saw a landscape of rocks, flowers and grass. His immediate mental and emotional response was, “I’m home” despite the fact that this American was actually in Kazakhstan. Once you’ve been off world, any square inch at any spot on the globe is home, regardless of politics, religion, nationality or ethnicity. The gringa finds this philosophy beautiful and inspirational. And I hope that we all figure it out together, how to save our home.

Source & Image Credit:  www.newsweek.com

 

 

Asteroid Ahead! Redirect! Redirect!


I am a sci-fi fan. I love to read science fiction books, watch science fiction movies and even indulge in trolling some of the latest conspiracy theory sites on the future Armageddon triggered by an apocalyptical asteroid-Earth collision event. One thing I have learned throughout my many years of science fiction madness is that there is usually an itsy-bitsy kernel of truth within the fantastical story. The gringa has found such a tidbit of truth within the asteroid-Earth collision story and it comes straight from NASA.

A one of a kind robot mission is being planned at NASA regarding an asteroid near Earth. The robot’s job within the next decade is to gather a mega-ton boulder from an asteroid and redirect it into an orbit around the Moon. This asteroid sample would be explored about five years later and samples returned to Earth from its surface.  This mission, begun in 2013, is called “Asteroid Redirect Mission” (ARM) and is all part of the plan for getting humans to Mars in the 2030’s. This little information nugget is what is fueling the preppers and conspiracists who think all of mankind is doomed sometime this September by an asteroid-Earth catastrophe. As these folks hunker down in their bunkers, the gringa asks the dear reader to simply read on and amuse yourself.

Out of the thousand-plus asteroids astronauts have to select from, they have four that are favorites. A bit more research on their orbit, velocity, spin and size will be conducted for a few more years before a final decision is made. To speed things along, NASA also has created an initiative called the “Asteroid Grand Challenge”. Its purpose is to identify asteroids that pose a potential hazard not just through NASA’s efforts but through collaboration with other cosmic partners. For the astronaut hopeful, physicist, hobbyist astronomer and such in my reading audience, who knows, perhaps you could lend a hand and be a part of something fantastic. Since the plan to launch ARM is scheduled for some time in the 2020 decade, you’ve got plenty of time to get to work.

Now, considering my insatiable curiosity, the gringa has to ask, “Why should we spend so much taxpayer money and risk the lives of astronauts to collect some kazillion years old space rocks?” The answer? Asteroids are considered to be the remnants of the Big Bang. They are the left overs. By having access to an asteroid as near as our Moon, scientists can study more samples than ever before. This helps to satisfy their insatiable curiosity as to how our solar system was formed and life on Earth began. In other words, the discoveries could lead to mankind saving the planet and figuring out how to colonize another planet. There are also possibilities of finding frozen water sources which could hold all sorts of interesting things within to study under a microscope, maybe even a frozen bubble of breathable air. That would indicate the possibility of a sister planet that a human could survive on without a protective suit or artificial environment. And, of course, there are always “those” people who hope to find another energy and fuel source. You know, the ones who don’t look at outer space with curiosity and wonder but with dollar signs in their eyes.

The mission will develop a planetary defense technique that could be used to deflect an asteroid that posed a dangerous threat to Earth. Now, if you’re already questioning whether it’s even a good idea to nudge an asteroid over to the Moon and ask the sort of questions the gringa asks, like, “Um, guys, could it just be THAT could become the asteroid that ends up threatening all civilization?” Rest assured, NASA has thought of that as well. That is the reason for the studies on size, mass, velocity and speed. They want to capture an asteroid large enough to provide great research opportunity but small enough to burn up in the atmosphere if it did go rogue and plummet towards Earth.

The gringa also considers, “This all sounds fascinating but, exactly how does this get us closer to Mars?” Well, ever since mankind has begun to climb into rockets and physically explore the cosmos, astronauts have been dependent upon supplies and support from Earth. This has limited the amount of time astronauts can remain in space and how far they can travel. Such missions are labeled “Earth Reliant”. The “Proving Ground” of the deep space environment surrounding the moon is closer to what space travelers will experience on a trip to Mars. For example, solar and cosmic radiation is stronger outside low-Earth orbit and closer to the Moon.

Presently, a typical astronaut mission on the International Space Station (ISS) can last up to six months (about 180 days).  A manned mission to Mars could take 500 days or more. Most of that time is simply in transit back and forth (about six months each way). To become completely Earth independent journeys,  new technologies and methods will be tested on the asteroid.

One such technology to test is Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP). This would do away with chemical dependent propulsion allowing larger on-board payloads in place of the weight that would have otherwise been dedicated to fuel. A larger payload means more on board supplies. More on board supplies means a longer mission capability. Solar propulsion also means energy independence. Energy independence means limitless distance capability of travel within our solar system. By having the asteroid, NASA can test the SEP system as a robotic system that can simulate sending cargo to Mars well before habitants arrive.

Once a robotic spacecraft has successfully landed on Mars, the next phase would then be to launch a crew to Mars. This crew will need to have the skills and technology to maneuver and dock with the Martian robotic spacecraft. This can be practiced on the asteroid delivered to Moon orbit.

Now, a trip to Mars is not a hot-shot, non-stop flight. The plan is actually to have a staged journey. Between Earth and Mars would be multiple ports of call similar in nature to the current ISS. The Orion is NASA’s current exploration craft that will be used in future solar system exploration.  All astronauts slated for Martian missions would then need to know how to dock the Orion with these stations.

What about the protective suits astronauts wore on the Moon landing and currently wear when conducting maintenance and repairs in space at  the ISS? Are these suits sufficient for a Mars mission or do astronauts require new technology there as well? Spacesuits, also known as Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), will need upgrades to the primary life support system (PLSS) due to the carbon dioxide atmosphere of Mars. Engineers are also working on upgrades that will provide better oxygen regulation and humidity control. The gringa thinks, “Dear God, please have decent humidity control. We don’t want to see leather skinned astronaut faces with crazy, frizzy hair.” The EMUs also have cooling systems and atmospheric pressure regulators that will be upgraded to accommodate holding more fluids for longer periods of time. Durability will also be a factor. Astronauts traveling to Mars will need these babies to last a long time and be easy to maintain and repair. The new designs will be tested on the asteroid missions before actually going to Mars. It would really suck to be 10 days out on a 500 day mission only to find out your spacesuit was not going to be able to hold 17 months worth of pee. At least on the asteroid you can turn around and go home and change your pants.

Within the next five years, the world can expect to see a new object floating around the moon and regular travel back and forth to study, research and rehearse for even greater events in the future. Within the gringa’s lifetime, I may just witness humans arriving on Mars. Who knows, by the time I’m old and ornery enough that my kids and grandkids have stolen my driver’s license, hidden my car keys and put my car up on blocks, I may just buy a damn ticket.

Sources:

http://www.nasa.gov/content/what-is-nasa-s-asteroid-redirect-mission

http://www.nasa.gov/content/how-will-nasas-asteroid-redirect-mission-help-humans-reach-mars

Photo credit: spectrum.mit.edu