9/30/2009

S(E)TI

A recent conference report on the buildup of complex organic molecules from some mauled "Ursuppe" raised expectations about alien life, so possibly about ETI's too. As long ago as at the dawn of modern physics, Huygens even wrote a book about that. But would alien civilisations nessessarily develop advanced technology and sciences? I doubt this. Even Kant estimated that the discovery of science needs, aside intelligence whose advancement may be an automatic result of any evolutionary process, some set of special "synthetic apriories". Nicolai Hartmann, a forgotten but interesting neokantian philosopher, later described a "categorial dynamics" analyzing the development of such basic concepts. The emergence of science in our history seems to me as caused by a series of singular events which could easily have been disrupted for ever. Aside the idea of science and it's relation to mathematics as mental model, the invention of a scientific community was IMO such a singular event. Perhaps it is an invention by Descartes? When I read some weeks ago in his texts, I had the idea that he first estimated the minimum lenght of research for reaching his goals (ca. 500 years until an understanding of the mind-body problem) and looked for means to extend his personal life for achieving that by himself. The concept of a scientific community with it's special way to communicate according to certain standarts was perhaps only a substitute he propagated when it dawned him that he would never harvest the fruits of the tree he planted.

Conc. Seti, one reads often about how messages sent should be cleverly encrypted for reaching only clever aliens. I guess that would communicate only - like communicative complicatednesses in general - a sickness of the mind behind the message. Communicating existence only would be very little and civilizations detecting that would wonder why we don't tell something more of interest. Most interesting would be astronomical data from our satellites and details of our biology and ecosystems. Only a detailed understanding of biology would make an understanding of anything involving culture possible. So the IMO only reasonable way to proceed would be to transmit such data for a very long time and see if that attracts responses (like cheese in a mousetrap). The signals would have to be detectable for civilizations able to undertake such data exchanges over centuries. But such data would be of interest for a civilization only because our universe and the biologies in it are the single source of really interesting information. If more developed civilizations have other and easier to handle with sources of that, they would lose an interest in the physical universe and would invest nothing in Seti.

Perhaps we are for communication purposes just too weird in comparison with the universe's average ETI? This idea of lucubrating black holes may fit better. Perhaps one should look for "TI's", not "ETI's", but unfortunately the real TI became extinct ca. 10,000 years ago. That's what two well known neurologists published some time ago, speculating about findings at the beginning 20th century indicating the existence of a very large brained version of homo sapiens in south africa ca. 70,000 -10,000 years ago. Their reconstructions show them with a ca. 30% overall bigger brain, ca. 50% larger prefrontal cortex, than modern humans. It is amusing to wonder about the implications, if that becomes verified by further diggs some time. Those „Boskops“ - the real "TI's" - would have differed from us as we do from the homo erectus.

anthropological musings

I wonder if the homo erectus was the first "real human": They had a much smaller brain and no modern language skills, but lived in something like huts around central paved places, used fire, became independent from a specific ecological nice, competed carnivores out of their ways, made specialized stone tools. Experts in reconstructing those stone tools say, a modern human would need ca. 2-3 weeks of intense and guided training to reproduce them. (-> see more, new infos and links above, at the entry "some updates")

The homini erecti probably were the first hominids who became "personas", because the heights of women suddenly increased after some climate change modified their food collecting methods. Earlier women were ca. half as high as men, male homo erectus' were ca. 1.80 m, women-h-e's ca. 1.40 m high. This change forced homini-erecti-women to avert a "monopolization" by dominant males, because the later would not have been able to nourish them any more. But the males' perception systems were still adapted to small women, so that they had trouble to perceive the startling elongated women as such. Women used that to invent some sort of attractive cosmetics and aliennating camouflage for guiding how they were perceived. In an article, an archeologist speculates that women dressed each full moon with animal parts and ashes as gastly "zombies" to drive males out of the settlements for hunting - when the males returned, suddenly the "zombies" had become attractive women again. This way, homo erectus women invented culture. IMO that could have been the root of advanced nonverbal social skills and social role playing. Perhaps our intuition about other people comes from those times and stayed on the level? Then, we would be essentially "blind" for those later developed higher mental functions which we usually proudly use to define us. Could it be that the core of real modern humanity is actually beyond our mental radar?

In that case, there should exist people with extremly restricted variants of human mentality which avoid detection by normal social intuition. A recent documentary seems to show that this is the case. An other case of a grossly deviant science fraudster (actually, Meinertzhagen was much worse, e.g. killed at least 25 people and his wife after she discovered his frauds. Meinertzhagen became model for "James Bond" when he impressed Fleming with his tales). Finally here an essay by Yuri I. Manin on reflections of the associated "trickster" figure in mythology, similar reflections of such cases in early european mythology, in antique greek culture and society, and in antique chinese literature.

Books and Libraries

I love to browse them and to make accidential findings. Sometimes I even dream of wonderfull libraries, bookshops and books and sometimes I find myself browsing the shelves, only to find out that I've hunted a memory out of a dream. There is a beautifull scene (youtube) in Wim Wender's film "Der Himmel ueber Berlin", where, invisible for it's living visitors and readers, the spirits of the dead populate a public library and observe, comment, whisper to them.

An other place where the spirits come is this small private museum. When Wim Wenders stumbled across it, he made a small film on it and it's remarkable founder, Mrs. Blaschke. Her Museum is housed in a ca. 800 years old building above a place where pre-christian pagans saw ghosts. Then a women-monastry was build on it, which later turned into a police station and prison. Now it is about the spirit of creativity. A physicist donated a toy from (very early) Einstein, which Einstein had given him as symbol of the importance to never lose contact to one's childhood. (The text on the sheet behind it belongs to an other exhibit, we moved the cow for a better foto)