The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. This video is another thought experiment contemplating extraterrestrial civilizations and the ever-present Fermi Paradox. Much has been said about why we can never seem to detect aliens or why they never contact us. But I don’t think enough thought is given as to why an advanced alien civilization would avoid contacting humanity. I try to explore that topic in this video. Enjoy!
Category Archives: Thought Experiment
What if there was a virtual environment that was so real and so lifelike that it was completely indistinguishable from the real world?
What if you had an opportunity to upload the entire contents of your mind into that environment?
Would you do it? Even if you didn’t have a full measure of control over the environment, would you still venture into this virtual world?
I’m not just asking these questions as another thought experiment, nor am I asking it as an excuse to talk about “The Matrix: Resurrections.” Yes, the prospect of another movie in the mold of “The Matrix” did inspire me to pose these questions, but I also think these questions are worth seriously contemplating.
Back in 1999, the year “The Matrix” first came out, the idea of an entirely simulated world seemed like classic sci-fi tech, the likes of which we’d never see in our lifetimes. That’s understandable. In 1999, the most advanced simulations we knew could only be rendered by a Playstation 2 and those hardly looked realistic.
Since then, computing power and graphics technology has come a long way. These days, graphics in video game consoles are so realistic that it’s nearing Uncanny Valley territory. It won’t be that long before we have computer renderings that are so advanced, so lifelike, and so realistic that our brains can’t tell the difference.
At that point, creating an entirely simulated world is just a matter of computing power, scale, and interface. Since brain/computer interfaces are already being developed, it’s not unreasonable to think that we won’t have a Matrix-like simulation available within the next 40 years. Many people alive today who are under the age of 50 might very well live long enough to see that technology.
Once we have it, we’ll have some important decisions to make. Some of those decisions will be societal. If people suddenly have access to a virtual world where they can be anyone, do anything, and immerse themselves in any conceivable experience, then what does that do to society? What does that do to people, communities, nations, and social structures?
Those are far messier questions to contemplate, which is why I’m not going to belabor them too much at this point. Instead, I want to keep this question within the context of individuals. Everyone’s circumstances and beliefs are different. As a result, that may impact whether you’d take advantage of such an opportunity or what kind of environment you’d seek to create.
Personally, if I ever had an opportunity to upload my mind into a virtual environment on par with the Matrix, I would do it, but the extent and circumstances would vary. I suspect others may feel the same.
If I could create my own personal virtual environment before I uploaded my mind into it, then I would certainly be more willing. I think that’s an important factor. The humans in “The Matrix” didn’t have any measure of control over the environment they were in. I think that would complicate any that anyone would have in such a world.
It would also depend heavily on my physical state in the real world. If this technology became available and I was old, weak, and in poor health, then I would certainly be more inclined to use it. That assumes that any technology involving human enhancement hasn’t progressed significantly and people still age, get sick, and die.
Like it or not, our physical bodies in the real world will break down. If the technology to manage and reverse that isn’t available, then virtual environments might be the only way we can continue to live in any meaningful capacity. I certainly hope that isn’t my only opinion when I get to be that age, but if it is, then that simplifies my decision.
It’s hard to know what sort of options we’ll have. I still believe that technology involving human enhancement and creating virtual worlds will advance in parallel. One would, by default, need the other in order to properly interface with these environments. As such, it would complicate any decision about venturing into virtual environments.
Then, there’s the actual nature of those virtual environments. If we can control what environment we go into, then that opens the door to even more possibilities. Within these worlds, you could be a billionaire playboy, a medieval king, a famous celebrity, or super athlete. From your brain’s perspective, it would feel every bit as real as what you’re feeling right now.
Whether or not our brains would accept it is a different story. I suspect there may be some who, once they enter these worlds, would never want to leave. There may even be some who willingly erase their own memories of the real world so that this new virtual world is their new “reality.” That’s exactly what Cypher desired in “The Matrix” and I suspect others might share that desire.
It really does depend on the person, their situation, and what sort of virtual world they seek to create. We probably won’t know the full impact until we create our first true Matrix-like virtual world. I sincerely hope I live long enough to see that. If you’re reading this, hopefully you get to see it as well. It should give you plenty of time to contemplate these questions and whether you’ll venture into those world.
There are some moments in movies that stick with you for all the right reasons. As much as I love and consume superhero movies, not all those moments have to do with comic book characters or action stars in the mold of John McClane. Sometimes, a scene is just so beautifully done that you can watch it a million times and still smile.
That’s how I feel about one particular scene in “Back To The Future.” Specifically, it’s that legendary moment where Marty McFly plays Johnny B. Good at the school dance after helping his parents fall in love. It doesn’t matter how you feel about the song, the movie, or the actors. This scene is just pure, unrivaled fun.
I first saw this movie over 25 years ago. This scene is still one of my favorite movie scenes of all time. When I think “Back To The Future,” I think this scene.
I could talk about this scene for hours on end. However, I’d like to set aside the cinematics for a moment and use it as the basis of fun little thought experiment. Lately, I feel like some of my previous thought experiments were a bit too serious. These experiments should be fun and I think this one has plenty to offer.
The premise is simple. You’re basically in Marty McFly’s shoes and you have a chance to share music from the future with people from the past. For the sake of broadening the experiment, I’ll even tweak a few details. In terms of specifics, here’s the situation.
You’re in 1955 America.
You’re on a stage facing a large audience of kids and their parents.
You have a chance to play one song before you go back to the future.
It could be any song from any era.
You have the ability to play, sing, and perform that song perfectly.
What would that song be?
After first seen that scene in “Back To The Future,” I often entertained thoughts about the song I would play if I were in Marty’s position. Over time, I find myself entertaining those thoughts even more. I’ve been on this planet long enough to see many changes and trends with popular music.
Some of it has been positive.
Some of it has been downright awful.
What we consider good or bad comes down to taste, but there’s no getting around it. What would be considered mainstream today would be considered obscene in 1955. Remember, this was an era where people thought Elvis moving his hips was too risqué. Can you imagine how they would feel if they heard Cardi B’s “WAP” or pretty much any song by Kid Rock?
It would be hard to imagine the full spectrum of peoples’ shock. That’s part of why I asked this same question on the popular subreddit, AskReddit. I did not get nearly as many responses as I’d hoped. That’s why I want to ask it again here.
You’re in that same position as Marty. You have a chance to leave an impression that will transcend time, space, and vastly different musical eras. What song do you play? Here’s my general list in no particular order.
“Thunderstruck” by AC/DC
“Enter Sandman” by Metallica
“Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift
“Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit
“Gin And Juice” by Snoop Dogg
“American Badass” by Kid Rock
“Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars
“Superfreak” by Rick James
“X Gonna Give It To Ya” by DMX
“Kickstart My Heart” by Motley Crue
“American Idiot” by Green Day
“Welcome To The Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses
“Applause” by Lady Gaga
“The Fight Song” by Marilyn Manson
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana
If I had to pick one, I honestly would have a hard time deciding. As much as I love these songs, I have a feeling the words might completely fly over the heads of a 1955 audience. If they heard a song like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Gin And Juice,” they might not understand it. They might be more confused than shocked.
Other songs might get a much stronger reaction. Pretty much any song by Marilyn Manson and Eminem would surely offend, if only because of the profanity. Other songs, like many by Green Day or Lady Gaga, would contain messages that would definitely conflict with 1955 America. However, I still suspect the teenagers would love it.
For that same reason, I think the parents of 1955 would hate every song by Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crue, but the teenagers would love it. It’s loud, it’s energetic, and it has plenty of sexual overtones. That’s going to appeal to the youth of any era.
Other songs might have truly universal appeal. I feel like most songs by Bruce Springsteen could play in any era and still get audiences cheering, young and old alike. I feel the same about many Taylor Swift songs. I honestly think “Shake It Off” would play well to a 1955 audience. It might even play too well to some crowds.
That’s just my opinion. I still don’t know which song I would play out of that list. What about the rest of you? What song would you play in Marty’s position if you had the opportunity to time travel to 1955? I’d love to see your list, as well. Please share it in the comments.
There was a time when people were skeptical about having a computer in their home. I know because I’m old enough to remember people like that. It wasn’t that they were paranoid about them, although a few certainly were. They just didn’t see the need.
Then, computers became smaller, more affordable, and more useful. They went from being these big, bulky machines that took up an entire corner of a room into being a sleek, decorative piece of hardware that did so much to improve our lives. From information to communications to masturbation, computers revolutionized our lives.
It’s a common trend in technology. When it’s new and undeveloped, people are wary about having it in their homes. Go back several decades and people felt the same way about television. Go back a century and some people were reluctant to allow electricity into their homes. It takes some people longer than others to come around, but they eventually do when the utility is just too great.
This brings me to robots and for once, I’m not referring to sex robots. While they could very well be part of this conversation, I’m going to set that kinky angle to this issue aside. Instead, I’m going to stick to robots in general, specifically the kind with a body and some mechanism for doing work.
We’ve watched in recent years how quickly robotics technology is advancing. A while back, I highlighted a video from Boston Dynamics that showed one of their robots dancing. Even before that, this same company demonstrated a robot that could run and navigate basic obstacles. While it was certainly no Terminator, it was still no Wall-E.
These robots exist. Every year, they’re being improved and refined. Within the next decade, it is likely we’ll have a robot that can move, react, and navigate its surroundings like a human. It may not have human level intelligence, but it will have the body to match our capabilities in every way.
When this day comes, the world will be a very different place. It’ll definitely raises issues regarding robot workers and robot soldiers, but that sort of impact won’t be as direct for most people. The real change will come when we have the ability to have a robot in our homes that can do almost any kind of work a human could do.
By that, I don’t just mean a virtual assistant like Alexa or Siri. We already have those and they’ve already become an increasingly popular feature for many homes. These assistants can help us with shopping lists, music playlists, and schedule reminders. They can’t do the dishes, clean the bathroom, cook our meals, or make our beds.
Having a robot that could do all that would be nice. It would be like having a personal maid and a personal secretary. There’s certainly a market for it and the rise of virtual assistants has already laid the foundation for that market. However, that still raises some important questions.
How should that robot look before you welcome it into your home?
Ignore for a moment the paranoia about a robot turning evil. Assume, for the sake of argument, these robots are as functional as your typical Roomba. They don’t have advanced AI. They’re not sentient or self-aware on the same level as Rosie from “The Jetsons” or Hal 9000. They just these big tools that do all the work you’d expect of a maid, butler, or servant.
Would you welcome that robot into your home if it looked like one of the Boston Dynamics robots?
Would you welcome that robot into your home if it looked completely indistinguishable from humans, like Kara in “Detroit: Become Human?”
Would you want that robot to look only mostly human, but still be distinctly machine, like Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation?”
These are all relevant questions if these robots are going to be part of our lives. For some people, a robot that looked too human might be too jarring. It would be difficult to see them and remember they’re just a robot. Some people might be fine with that, especially when sex robots are involved. However, for a robot that’s primarily a helper, that might not be ideal.
For robot servants, it might be more beneficial to everyone if they didn’t look too human. In fact, having a human-like body might even hinder a robots ability to do its job. That’s why most robots you see in factories don’t look human at all. They take the form of whatever helps them do their job.
Maybe a perfect robot housekeeper doesn’t look human. Maybe it looks more like a droid from “Star Wars” that has multiple arms, a head with a panoramic camera, and four legs like a dog. Depending on the home its in, it might even need to be able to adjust its height. Such a robot may be good at its task, but would it be too weird and bulky to allow in our homes?
No matter how human they look, these robots would have to appear to us in a way that we’re comfortable being around. We have to be willing to just leave them in our homes for most of the day, possibly with pets and children, and trust that they’ll do what we want them to do. That kind of trust will take time, just as it did with computers.
It may ultimately take longer to welcome a robot into our homes than we did with computers, but once the benefits and utility get to a certain point, it may be too appealing to ignore. I don’t claim to know what typical household robots will look like before then. I just know they’ll have to look a certain way for us to embrace them as part of our world. Naturally, we’ll still probably embrace sex robots sooner, but it won’t stop there. Robots will become a larger part of our lives eventually. They may end up having a greater impact than any new technology since electricity.
The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s another thought experiment about superheroes and what makes them effective. It was an extension of sorts of an article I wrote years ago on how to be an effective superhero. However, this video is a bit more open ended in that it takes a big picture approach to heroics. To all that check it out, I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments. Enjoy!
The older I get, the more I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self that things weren’t as hopeless as they seemed. I would’ve loved to grab my 15-year-old self by the shoulder, looked him right in the eyes, and told him that I had many wonderful experiences ahead of me. I would’ve maybe told him some winning lotto number as well, but that’s beside the point.
Most people who survived adolescents and found ways to thrive in the adult world appreciate the perspective of hindsight. It can be sobering for some, but bittersweet for others. When we’re young, ignorant, and inexperienced, everything just seems more overwhelming. We struggle to make sense of it all. You really can’t hope to understand anything without time, experience, and perspective.
I suspect most people have entertained the idea of sending messages to their younger self at some point in their lives. Even if it’s just to tell them who will win the Super Bowl this year, there’s a lot of wisdom we’d love to impart. Movies like “Groundhog Day” and “Happy Death Day” demonstrate the power of having such hindsight. However, those movies only go so far.
It’s one thing to relive a single day with all your memories intact. An entire lifetime is on a much larger scale with far greater implications. It makes for an interesting thought experiment. Now, after a certain X-Men comic told a remarkable story with this, I’d like to pose it as a formal question.
What would you do if you could live your entire life over again with the same memories, knowledge, and experiences you have now?
It’s a question that is likely to inspire many different answers. Everyone’s life, circumstances, and experiences are different. Some people wouldn’t want to change much. They like how their lives turned out. Others would make significant changes, both for their lives and for others.
Since a scenario like this has so many implications, here are a few specifics to consider before answering this question. I’m going to try and answer it for myself, but I think it’s worth establishing a context, if only to avoid the kind of time travel paradoxes that make the timelines in “Back to the Future” so confusing.
With that in mind, here are the rules for this little experiment:
- When you’re reborn, you have all the memories you have up to this point in your life
- You’re aware that you were reborn and don’t suffer significant shock from being in a younger body
- You keep the fact that you have the knowledge of your future self secret
- You assume consciousness in your younger self at around five-years-old, which is when most children start to form lasting memories
- You can only be reborn and re-live your life once
- Your ability to recall your memories is consistent with your ability to recall general memories at this very moment
- You have no hint of knowing how different decisions affect the future course of events for yourself and the world as a whole
- The course of events still unfold as you remember them and don’t change unless you directly influence them
With those rules in mind, take a moment to contemplate how you would live your life the second go-around. What would you do initially? How would you change the course of your childhood? How would that change the course of your teenage years? What points in your life would you make radically different decisions?
For me, personally, there are many general aspects of my life that I would change, even from a young age. I would take a very different approach to how I went about everything from school to friends to my little league baseball career. Life experiences has shown me how flawed my mentality was during that time. I focused so much on outcomes over the process that it caused more frustration than growth.
I also developed a very negative outlook for much of my youth and during my teen years. In my defense, I had terrible social skills and some irrational anxieties that only became absurd with the benefit of hindsight. Armed with the experience I have now, I would’ve been a lot more hopeful and optimistic in approaching school, friends, and challenges. I think that would’ve helped me achieve more and learn more.
In terms of specifics, I freely admit that I would use my knowledge of the future for personal gain, albeit to a limited extent. I can’t remember specific lotto numbers for specific dates, but I can remember which teams won the Super Bowl and the World Series. I also remember which companies made the most gains in the stock market. As such, I would invest whatever I could in Apple, Netflix, Amazon, and Google.
That would’ve made paying off my student loan debt a lot easier. It also would’ve spared me some very unpleasant experiences I had when it came to finding decent housing, both in college and after I graduated. Not having to worry about money would definitely have helped with a lot of things. I could use it to take additional classes, invest in my writing career, and avoid some major missteps, of which I’ve made plenty.
I imagine a lot of people would take advantage of that knowledge. Now, there are some arguments that making those kinds of investments and bets often end up changing the outcome, resulting in a time paradox of sorts. That might be the case if you randomly invested a billion dollars in Apple at a time when it was on the brink of bankruptcy, but I imagine it would take a lot to significantly change something like that.
This brings me to the most sensitive aspects of this thought experiment and one I’m sure more than a few people have already imagined. Having the benefits of hindsight means you can fix the mistakes you made in your youth, both in terms of decision and attitudes. What about decisions that might affect the entire course of history?
It’s one thing to profit from a bump in stock prices. It’s quite another to change a key moment in history. It’s the inescapable implications behind the butterfly effect. However, even movies like “Back to the Future” show that you can only affect the course of history to a limited extent. Even in the worst scenario, Marty McFly only messed up Hill Valley in “Back to the Future II.” He didn’t cause a nuclear holocaust.
If you only have your memories of the future and no other abilities beyond that, you’re still going to have trouble changing certain events. A lot of people would probably try to prevent the events of September 11th, 2001, but how would you even go about that? Would calling someone at the FBI or warning the airports be enough? Would going there and trying to stop it directly be effective?
At best, you’ll only delay it. At worst, you might get yourself killed. The same goes for any event. Say you wanted to change the outcome of the 2000 US Presidential Election or, depending on your affiliation, the 2016 Election. These events have many moving parts. There’s only so much you can do to influence them. Even if you shout the warnings from the highest rooftop, you’ll probably won’t be taken seriously.
There’s also the distinct possibility that changing these events will lead to something much worse. That’s what happened in the Stephen King novel, “11.22.63.” In the story, Jake Epping stopped the Kennedy Assassination, but that indirectly led to a nuclear war. There was even an episode of “Family Guy” that explored this concept.
It’s a difficult decision that I’m sure most would wrestle with. Personally, I would make an effort to avert something as terrible as the September 11th, 2001 attacks. I don’t know how I would go about it, but I certainly would try. I would probably do the same for things like the Columbine massacre or other school shootings, if only to save the lives that wouldn’t otherwise be saved.
As for other events, it’s hard to say and even harder to know the implications. If someone has a specific method they would use, please share them in the comments. I think they’re worth discussing.
These are just some of the issues you would face if you had a chance to relive your life all over again. Hindsight offers many benefits and perspectives, but it also comes with risks. You might be able to avoid the mistakes you know about, but you also might end up making others you didn’t anticipation and those could be far worse.
It’s still an interesting though to consider. As we get older, our perspective on the past and present changes considerably. We can never know how we would’ve acted with some added foresight. I like to think that I, along with most people, would’ve used it to become better.