Living Beyond The Human Filter

The concept of the Great Filter goes a long way toward explaining the Fermi Paradox and is pretty interesting. Basically, the Great Filter is a theoretical barrier that all civilizations approach at some point, ultimately either dooming that group or giving it free reign to advance. According to Tim Urban, “we’re rare, we’re first, or we’re fucked”. The Great Filter is essentially a wall in time that makes or breaks a civilization, if you will. When it comes to human interpretation of this concept, on one side tends to lie the somewhat naive (often religious) people who believe we are special (or, ‘rare’) and that the Great Filter is already behind us. The other two options postulate that the Great Filter is still ahead of us, which is why many scientists, including Stephen Hawking, are vocally alarmed about humankind’s destiny.

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Man, he must feel frustrated with people.

The Great Filter could be ahead of us in one of two ways; the first (as Urban puts it) is that we are first. ‘First’ meaning that we are the most advanced civilization in the entire universe, which when you consider the age of the Earth (4.6Ga) compared to the observable universe (13.8 Ga), can feel a little unbelievable – but still not a giant leap to think that we could be one of, (if not THE), first to find ourselves approaching the Filter.
The second way in which the Great Filter is in our future is that We Are Fucked. This is not a stretch when you consider the smorgasbord of skidmarks soiling the rag that is our current planetary underwear – nuclear annihilation, artificial superintelligence, impact events, and of course, human-driven climate change, to name the most identifiable few. This concept means we are neither rare, nor quicker to evolve than anyone else – which makes a lot of sense when you consider how many galaxies and suns exist, giving us our boring address on the nondescript outer arm of an unremarkable spiral galaxy.

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She sure is pretty though – that’s the view from our outer arm, looking through a cross-section toward the centre of the Milky Way. (Photo by Roger Groom, incredible astrophotographer from Western Australia).

Just as the concept of the Great Filter can be applied to a civilization, it is applicable at the individual human level as well – in our human lives we are all capable of standing before a Great Filter; not a three-option theory, but a simple two-parter.
The Great Filter for humans (we’ll call it the Human Filter), rather than obliterating us at a certain point, would merely be the point at which you truly shed anything fucking absurd that doesn’t positively contribute to your life in a demonstrable way. Those who haven’t passed the Human Filter are those who haven’t managed to simplify their lives to the point of immediately understanding whether their current situation in life is beneficial or detrimental, to themselves and others. There are an overwhelming number of people who seem to make their lives far more difficult or complicated than necessary, and these people are usually the unhappiest overall (people who tend to stagnate in their misery – for example an unhappy/ambiguous relationship or an unhappy workplace). These situations can be solved with a simple calculation that usually results in removing the unsatisfactory factor (leaving the bad job, getting clarification or removing the bad relationship altogether), yet the person involved seldom makes these changes and instead remains firm in their misery, confusing as that seems.
The simple answer is that these people are still living in front of the Human Filter, and are in some way comfortable in their dissatisfaction – after all, who doesn’t love to have a good wee sense of indignant outrage? Can you imagine how some might deal with finishing their day with no sense of annoyance or injustice? Besides, it’s so much easier to use our time and energy dealing with our trivial problems and gripes than to expend real energy trying to tackle real problems.

The troubling thing about the Human Filter is that time is of the essence. None of the aforementioned people are bad people at all, they are all as wonderful and beautiful and kind and thoughtful as the next person – they just haven’t been morbidly consumed by one or more of the following four thought processes:

  1. We only have ONE LIFE to live. That’s roughly 90 years, in the best case scenario. Think about this minus your current age, and take into account your shifting perspective of how fast time moves as you grow older (each year feels faster than it’s predecessor). Put down your phone/computer for a minute, close your eyes and really, really, TRULY give yourself a moment to understand that when your time is up, it’s up. There is almost definitely no afterlife (sorry, but science says no – also, the probability of your special fabulous religion being the winner out of all the other special fabulous religions out there is just a simple matter of statistics; meaning that you have a low chance of having chosen the correct religion, therefore are likely wrong in accordance with the mathematics of probability). So, suck it up and realise that the probable outcome is that you are going to cease to exist – just like before you were born, your consciousness  will cease and it won’t be horrible or painful; it will just “be” (so think carefully about the regrets that you definitely don’t want to have before you are no longer conscious, and work on those ASAP).
  2. Being that we experience such a teeny speck of life in the vastness of infinity, you should know that nothing that you do matters in any form whatsoever – as long as you do not harm, or impede upon the enjoyment of, any other living creature, then you should do exactly as you please. You need to immediately stop caring what other people think about boring arbitrary shit like what you are wearing or what you do for a living. Seriously, if someone is going to think any less of you for living in a non-harmful and happy way, then those people are the ones that are in trouble, not you. Don’t waste your tiny precious sliver of time being alive manipulating your one life to conform to the standards imposed and upheld by other people (many of whom are still living in front of the Human Filter).
  3. The known universe is ridiculously vast. You’re a fucking speck of dust on one of the smallest planets on the one of the most inconsequential stars in one of the smallest galaxies. That Hubble Ultra Deep Field photo shows us about 10,000 galaxies – and the patch of sky in that shot is less than 2 percent of the area of the full Moon as seen from Earth. It’s pretty hard to get this scale across in writing, so do yourself a favour and watch this just for an entry-level understanding of how much of a nothing in space our sun (let alone the Earth, and all of us on it) actually are.

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    Frighteningly awesome.

  4. We have no idea whether our civilization has passed our own Great Filter or not (unlikely), so it would behoove us to do everything we can to ensure that we actually manage to surpass it when that time comes. That’s why we have incredible people like Elon Musk trying to take some of our eggs out of this one planetary basket by becoming an interplanetary species – starting with Mars. That’s not the easiest thing to achieve and not everyone is going to be able to go to Mars anytime soon, so in the meantime, it’s now considered officially fuckwitted to ignore all of the compounding data about climate change, which means that if you’re not at least feeling guilty about doing nothing to help our ailing environment, then you’re probably firmly in front of the Human Filter.

The bummer is that we have neither knowledge nor control over when, and how, the Great Filter will present itself to us as a species – that event (hopefully) remains to be seen.
However, the awesome thing is that on an individual level, we very much have control over our own Human Filter – we can quite easily jump it safely – and if we all manage to pass the Human Filter, then these actions in and of themselves are going to help us negate at least a couple of the unnecessary and totally avoidable Great Filter scenarios, like self-destruction, climate change and death by post-human superintelligence.
By the way, I’m hovering around outside my own Human Filter, having a ciggie, chatting to the bouncer, waiting to sober up a little before he lets me in. As preachy as this post sounds, I’m not there yet. But I’m starting to think very hard about it, and the first step in overcoming the Great Filter as a civilization, is to think about how you can overcome your own Human Filter as a person.

Love, Chelle xoxoxoxoxo

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Science Communication, A.K.A. I’m Starting To Feel Like Doing Something Somewhat Unselfish With My Life For The First Time Ever And It Feels Somewhat Not Horrid (But I’m Still A Self-Serving Jerk For The Most Part)

This year, I have been becoming more and more preoccupied with the idea of taking science communication as a separate postgrad qualification after my geology MSc. I hated science at school, as it was never presented to me in a way that interested me – and so I slipped quietly through the years believing that science was just “not my thing”. The thing is, science is EVERYBODY’S thing, in some form or other. Science is the detailed exploration of the very foundation upon which every aspect of our existence operates, and there is definitely bound to be an area of science that excites you on some level, whether you realise it right now or not.

Something that heavily frustrates me are the limited ways in which science is being presented to the masses. There are scholarly journal reports which, although factual and highly important, are inaccessible intellectually for 95% of people, as the understanding of these usually requires experience in the specific field of the journal, or lengthy side-reading. Then there are the well-written science articles and blogs which are not nearly well-known enough, due to lack of exposure. Then you have your immensely popular sites such as “I Fucking Love Science”, which has many Facebook followers (showing that people are on some level trying to enjoy science), yet often offers clickbaity headlines and misleading statements (and by the way, if the title is presented in question format, the answer is almost always no, so stop getting your hopes up about pyramids on Mars).
Sure, these borderline pseudoscience articles offer links to follow, which are usually firstly links to other “news” sites, and if you follow the links back far enough you can usually arrive at a legit science report, which often does not state anything nearly as sensational as what the front end “science news site” is claiming. The problem with this is that the majority will not play “follow the hyperlinks”, and will just take the first article as fact (because hey, the news wouldn’t lie, right? It’s a proper website! I can’t wait to tell my friends all about the amazing new discovery of the “new Earth” that is definitely the same as us in every way).

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The thing is, people don’t go sifting through all the garbage in the internet to correctly inform themselves. They simply don’t have time – and why should they? They aren’t scientists or the Information Police, they are regular people, with lives going on and relationship problems and work deadlines and kids to deal with and all sorts of pressing bullshit that doesn’t afford them time to read three hours of articles to ascertain whether the shit that I Fucking Love Science is feeding them is actually legit.
So why aren’t we, as a society, reporting science more accurately? I mean, I get it – clickbait headlines serve to get people to visit your website. There are so many dollars to be made from this that people who aren’t really science journalists can be easily persuaded to start shoddily writing about science for a crust. It’s just sad that it’s being done under that guise of “loving science”. The thing is though, science is REALLY FUCKING EXCITING in its own right. You don’t NEED to make bullshit stretches of the truth to captivate and inform people. Look at Carl Sagan, arguably the most effective science communicator of all time – nary a sensationalist thing would cross his lips, yet he could bring to life a picture of the physical world at infinite scale in both directions, giving you a sense of wonder whilst pounding you balls-deep with scientific fact. That torch was passed forward to Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who not only upheld Sagan’s incredible vision, but brought it to the new generation in a spectacular way (and with much better CGI).

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What a pair of heroes! (art by Matt McManis)

Science communication is first and foremost, a middle-man role. It’s the task of undertaking the grunt work of reading ALL of the available facts and opinions, understanding them properly and then presenting them to the public in a way that excites and interests, without resorting to misleading or misinformation (a.k.a. bad scientific conduct).

All is not lost, there are many people out there doing this very thing and doing a great job of it – Ethan at http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/, Ed Young at http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/blog/not-exactly-rocket-science/ and Tim Urban at www.waitbutwhy.com, to name a few. It’s still an overwhelmingly male-dominated field – not because it’s an inherently sexist field in and of itself, but more because those of us reaching the age of career journalism, and those before us, still grew up in a society which on some level discouraged little girls from pursuing maths and science. I’m hoping I’m correct in considering my generation to be the last gasp of these attitudes, however there are bound to be some of us that are still blind to it and will continue instilling subtle gender roles into their kids. In general, sexism in science is beginning to taper off and hopefully will be gone within a couple of generations – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all that idiomatic shit.

I’ve been growing more and more alarmed at the state of the world and from my perspective, the biggest underlying issue facing us today is a lack of knowledge. In a world oversaturated with the loudest voices and the most well-paid agendas, we are losing our ability as individuals to easily identify the truth on the most important matters. Although the internet is an incredible thing, it has made it so easy for the facts to become overshadowed or hidden, giving voice to anybody who wants their voice heard. Given this, how is the average person supposed to understand the important issues without doing a whole fuckload of additional reading? Ain’t nobody got time for that. So what happens when someone is overloaded with too many conflicting pieces of information or too much scientific jargon? They shut it off and place it in the “too hard/don’t care” box. And there are simply too many important issues facing our species today to be placing shit in the “too hard/don’t care” box.

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So, what I want is to be a strong part of the solution – to be the change I want to see in the world, and many other similar overused motivational phrases. I love to write, I love the truth, I love objectivity, I love entertaining people, I love edutainment. I’d love to shift my writing from glib inane thoughts about being a boring white woman with insecurities and whatnot, to earnestly readable pieces of scientific interest. I want to make someone feel the same way that watching Cosmos made me feel as a jaded 28 year old woman, and to spark determination in people to take issues like climate change seriously. I want to contribute to shutting down the confusion about critical topics created by self-interested organisations who have desperately greedy agendas that rely on the public being shielded from the truth.
I want to help, even if it’s just one person who reads.

Love, Chelle xoxoxoxoxooxoxoxoxox

I’m Flirting With Paranoid Conspiracy Territory, So Bear With Me Just For One Post, Then I Will Write About Funny Things Again.

Well! It’s been awhile and after some prompting from some rad readers, it’s time for me to get back on the blogwagon. Today I want to write about my interpretation of a Lauryn Hill lyric, “Let’s love ourselves and we can’t fail to make a better situation”

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is filled with great messages.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is filled with great messages.

Everybody in the world needs to learn how to truly love themselves, because then, and only then, will all bigotry and war end. Negative actions such as acts of bigotry, and war arise out of pure fear. If everyone were secure then they would not need to oppress others to ensure their own status. People that bully others are only doing so because they hate themselves on some level. I know this because I was once like that, I was so jealous of people that “performed better than me in life” that I was a bitch to them.

Collective self-hate culminates in collective debt. Look at USA, it is a tragic country that is in a mess – their national debt is actually equivalent to their national wealth. This is because people are unhappy and insecure and driven to spending money that they haven’t earned, to buy things that they don’t really want, to prove their worth to people that they don’t actually like. In the USA, the average person is exposed to around 3000 marketing messages per day. PER DAY. That’s a whole lot of “hey you’re not good enough” to have to endure all the time, and it is enough to give anyone insecurity and low self-esteem. Studies in the US have shown that girls aged 8 years old are dieting, and in surveys have advised that they would rather lose an arm, a parent, or get cancer, than be fat. So there you go. An entire country filled with people being constantly driven to hate themselves by the media, leading to a gun-obsessed, angry, miserable nation. And this self-hate leads people to try to better themselves by – you guessed it – BUYING MORE THINGS. Bullying in schools is out of control, regardless of this special attention that is being paid to combating it. Why is bullying more prevalent than ever? Because forty years ago, kids weren’t constantly sucking up advertising everywhere they looked, and in turn feeling miserable about themselves and taking it out on other kids. Kids just had fun, for fucks sake. Everyone had the same things because there wasn’t so much junk constantly in production. Forty years ago, you had a bike, some dolls, some sports gear and a dozen sweet huts in the neighbourhood that you made with your friends. And you can bet that not one 8 year old forty years ago would choose to lose an arm or a parent over “getting fat”.

They also had jam, which was not to be fucked around with.

They also had jam, which was not to be fucked around with.

Collective self-hate also leads to war. I’m not going to name about any religions in particular, but you know who you are. The slaughter of millions of innocent people because of your need to play “I have the better imaginary friend and he said I could play on this land” is disgusting and no person that has true love for themselves and others would ever facilitate or condone those acts. This is why I cannot take those religions seriously, my faith is in myself only. I don’t need texts written by misogynist fucks way back when, to dictate to me what I should and should not do in my life. Self-awareness and self-love is a powerful tool. If you are a person whose actions come from a place of love and do not harm others, then there is nothing wrong with the way you live your life, and you are most not definitely going to end up in any kind of “eternal hell”. So just continue to be a good person, we need more of you in this world!

Actually, there is a special circle of hell reserved for some people.

Actually, there is a special circle of hell reserved for some people.

The aforementioned Hill lyric is later followed by another, “And the ones on top won’t make it stop – so convinced that they might fall”. Referring of course, to the corporate giants and people in power – who rely on everyone’s self-hate, so that they can continue to enslave us into debt, into our shopping addictions, and into eating the processed food that they put on the shelves. Because when people love themselves they want to nurture themselves and they have the motivation to live more self-sufficiently. And if everyone did that, the multi-trillion dollar corn syrup industry would go bust and the ones on top would indeed fall, and so it is important for them to continue feeding us marketing to keep us unhappy, to keep us eating the processed junk and to keep us trapped into debt and trapped into shitty jobs to pay our debt. Jobs that make those guys richer.

OK It’s been a long day and some of this is just starting to make me sound like a conspiracy theorist, so I will wind this up here, haha. But my main point is; LOVE YOURSELF!!! THINK about whether constant spending is actually making you happy. LOVE other people and EMBRACE everyone’s differences instead of acting bigoted and feeling superior just because you experience white/rich/male/thin privilege.

I will write a funny post next, I promise!!!

Love, Chelle xoxooxoxoxoxoxoxooxoxox