our proximate creator could be humans from distant planets...

Posted by Tandarin Nike Tuesday, November 30, 2010 7:32 AM 2 comments
Someday, when almost everyone is connected to almost everyone else via the Internet, I would argue that humans will have evolved into a single collective organism for all practical purposes.

It would be much like the way individual cells of your body are united as one human.

Sure, humans aren't physically connected to each other, but neither are the atoms in your body if you shrink down to their level and take a look. You'd see more empty space in your body than matter.

So proximity doesn't seem to be relevant to the definition of a living entity. It has more to do with how the parts communicate and act in a generally shared purpose for survival.

Thus, when humans are linked via a central nervous system called the Internet, we can call humanity a newly evolved creature.

Humanity will eventually develop the scientific wherewithal to create new worlds, create new life, and manipulate existing life. And humanity will be immortal for all practical purposes, as long as it diversifies its parts across multiple planets, which seems likely.

If science progresses at a normal pace, it seems inevitable that we would someday terraform a planet and seed it with life designed to evolve.

Prepping new planets for our eventual colonization might be part of our long term plan for survival.

We'll always need more real estate if we keep reproducing. And it is the only way this new entity called humanity can survive.

Once we future humans get rolling with all the terraforming and seeding planets with life, we'll probably repeat the process thousands of times over millions of years.

And that brings us to the interesting part which has got me thinking for some time now.

Logically, it is far more likely that we are the product of previous human tinkering than it is likely we are the original humans who started it all. There can be only one first planet of humans, but there will be (or has been) thousands of subsequent versions that are essentially man-made.

So even if you assume a traditional God exists, it is far more likely that your more proximate creator is people. And even if you believe in evolution, it is far more likely we are a human designed version than the very first version.

And the odds that somewhere there is at least one planet inhabited with some version of advanced humans is very high indeed, for there is no rational reason to believe we are the first of what will be thousands to come.

It's more likely we are somewhere in the middle of the process.

Here's the secret to friendship...

Posted by Tandarin Nike Friday, November 26, 2010 7:10 AM 3 comments
Have you ever wondered how someone crosses the line from being an acquaintance to a friend?

Or more importantly, if you want to convert an acquaintance into a friend, what could you do that wouldn't come off as stalking?

I think you can define a friend with two criteria, both of which must be met.

A friend is. . .

1. Someone you have told a secret.

2. Someone who has accepted a favor from you.

Notice that I have cleverly defined a friend in terms of things you give and not things you receive. If you are evaluating your potential friends in terms of what they can give you, or how they can entertain you, you probably don't have many friends.

I read somewhere that telling a secret makes the recipient of the secret automatically bond to you. It puts the giver of the secret in a vulnerable position and it changes the receiver into a protector.

That's halfway to being friends.

The second rule is simple but powerful. We accept favors from strangers all the time, without any expectation of becoming friends. But we don't also share secrets with those strangers. It is the combination of the secret and the favor that nudges an acquaintance into a friend.

Most people are wired to reciprocate. So if you go first with your secret and your favor, the recipient will be primed to do the same. It is the willingness to reciprocate that matters.

Obviously you don't want to give a dangerous or important secret to an acquaintance in hopes it will lead to friendship. You want to hold back the good stuff and start with something small.

For example, lets say you are both at a dinner party and your host served you fish. At the dinner table you told the host the food was wonderful, but later and privately to your would-be friend you jokingly confess that you hate fish. That's a secret, but a tiny one. You don't want to start out with your deepest secrets.

Work into that over time.

Likewise with the favors, keep them tiny at first. You might have some special knowledge to share that costs you nothing but a few minutes of your time.

Or perhaps you had a conversation about a vacation spot and you forwarded an e-mail with a link that your potential friend might find useful. It's a tiny favor and will be accepted.

You don't want to start right off offering to drive someone to the airport at 4 AM.

This partly explains why people who work together, or play sports together, naturally become friends.

You have lots of opportunities to share small secrets and perform minor favors. And of course you have lots of things to talk about. That helps.

The secret and the favor are necessary but not sufficient for making a friend. You still need some basic chemistry and common interests. But chemistry and common interests aren't things you can easily change.

So if you find a candidate for a friend with whom you have some chemistry and common interests, work on the secret and the favor.

Those you can surely control.

One more theory to ponder...

Posted by Tandarin Nike Tuesday, November 16, 2010 1:32 AM 4 comments
I have many crackpot theories.

Today is no exception. Let's test today's theory, unscientifically.

First, think of someone you know who is unusually creative. It should be someone who almost can't stop creating, whether that involves painting, sculpting, starting new businesses, rebuilding cars, modeling, whatever.

But don't count knitting or anything that involves following directions. I'm only talking about creating from original ideas. Pick someone for whom the need to invent something new as often as possible almost defines the person.

Okay? Now hold that thought.

Second, think of your best friend who does NOT have a creative streak and is about the same age as the creative person you chose. Okay, do you have both people in mind?

Now, which one has more body fat?

My prediction is that the creative person is usually thinner than the non-creative person.

My theory is that when your body experiences the early stages of hunger, you become more creative, and more energetic. (Obviously at the later stages of hunger you become sleepy, cranky, distracted, and probably less creative. Let's call that starvation and not hunger.)

This makes sense from an evolutionary view. As soon as you feel hunger coming on, your body is designed to put you into your most creative and energetic mode for the purpose of hunting and gathering. If you can't outrun your prey, you have to outthink it.

And if there are no bananas in your usual tree, you'd better have a creative idea where to look next. It makes sense that the onset of hunger would stimulate your brain to its highest operating level.

I came to this theory after two decades of watching how my own diet influences my energy and personality. One pattern is remarkably clear: My creativity and energy are highest when I haven't eaten much lately.

Is that a coincidence?

The highest period of creativity in my life coincided with the period in which I became a vegetarian and felt hungry all the time no matter how many carrots and salads I ate. I joked about it at the time, but there was a very real sense of clarity that coincided with my change of diet.

During those same years, I discovered that my most creative time was in the morning. I assumed it had something to do with alleged circadian rhythms, coffee consumption, or the fact that there were fewer distractions.

By the afternoon, I was lucky if I had enough brainpower left to drive my car. My new theory is that I have very little food in my stomach during the morning, and the onset of hunger is spiking my creative energy. I'm in hunter/gather mode. Then I eat lunch, and its nap time.

There are days when I experience floods of creativity that are almost overwhelming. I noticed recently that those times coincide with periods in which when I'm trying to lose a few pounds to get back to my target weight.

Today as it stands my target weight has gone for a sixer.

By now you've probably seen the CNN story about the nutritionist who lost 27 pounds and became generally healthier by eating mostly junk food, but limiting his calories.

We don't know if it raised his risk of cancer in the long run, so no expert is recommending his diet. But it calls into question how much we really know about the link between food and health.

On a final note, have you ever wondered why famous musicians write their best songs when they are young?

Maybe it's because young brains are more creative and less cluttered, or because they are more tapped into the youth culture, or maybe it's because they are doing more drugs.

But maybe it's also because young musicians don't eat as much as their bodies require. Musicians tend to look underfed during their most creative years. Maybe it's not a coincidence.

I remind you not to get your health and nutrition advice from me.

But I'm curious if your own creative moments have coincided with low caloric intake?

Am happy for the wild dogs..

Posted by Tandarin Nike Saturday, November 13, 2010 8:48 AM 2 comments
According to a new study, which I am quoting here, women are attracted to intelligent men for both long term relationships and for hook-ups.

The only time women are not attracted to intelligent men is when they have the option of a good looking guy who is dumber than pants on fish. Still, it's comforting to know that given the choice of two ugly guys, women usually prefer the one who is not a moron.

And obviously many women will still pick the guy who is both ugly and stupid if he has lots of money, good hair, is tall, or plays in a band.

I did my own study to reach that conclusion. It's titled "Duh.."

In my immense experience as an unattractive smart guy who was not always a dreamer, there are in fact women who have fetishes for smart men. Not many, but they exist.

My guess is that about 5% of the female public is in that group. That's probably good enough to keep the inventions flowing for a few more evolutionary steps.

The only risk to the future of humanity is that nerds will invent a technology that is better than sex with another human being.

I'll try to keep this next part rated PG-13, so please be patient with the indirectness. Can't help it.

I assume some entrepreneur is already working on creating a business where guys will be able to buy a lifelike female body part that plugs into a standard USB port, and can be controlled by someone else across the Internet.

That artificial body part could mimic a hand, mouth, or whatever. In the short run, the business model would involve paying someone, in countries where such things are legal, to control the device and appear on a web cam chat.

In the long run, artificial intelligence and computer generated imaging; women will be controlling the action, so the whole system would only cost Rs 100, with no recurring fees.

And, that will be the end of humanity because nerds will stop mating, their genes will die out, humanity will revert to the Bronze Age, and all the attractive, dumb people will be eaten by wild dogs.

I like to end on a positive note, so let's take a moment to be happy for the wild dogs.

Barge your way through immense real estate....

Posted by Tandarin Nike Monday, November 8, 2010 6:06 AM 4 comments
I've been thinking about this for quite awhile and it's interesting to see technology coming together to make it feasible.

The idea is that people will start living on barge-like boats and slowly motor or sail around the ocean and to stay in the best weather.

Of course, you'd need a number of technologies to make this feasible, and all of them either exist or soon will. Obviously you want solar power, and some method of storing the energy for night.

You'd need a desalinization device, GPS, and some sort of satellite Internet service. And you'd probably need some serious waste treatment gear.

The reason I think the future will be barges instead of standard boats is that you can start small and add real estate as you can afford it. Just connect a new barge and presto. And you can dock to other barges to create temporary or permanent communities.

If the barges are designed to be connected, according to some common standard, the entire city can move around to the best weather and fishing spots as and when needed.

The reason I think this will be a compelling lifestyle is that you won't have to pay much in taxes if you live and work in international waters. And there will be no government to squelch your freedoms, unless you choose to form one.

Big countries will have no compelling reason to conquer your barge, or even your barge city, because it will have no strategic value.

With scale, you get floating hospitals and schools and all the other services you need. The big problem of course would be pirates. But there is a theoretical amount of firepower that makes that risk manageable too.

You could have your own surveillance drones that warn you well in advance of any company.

I seriously think it will happen.

Nobel Prize.... here I come

Posted by Tandarin Nike Monday, November 1, 2010 1:05 PM 2 comments
As regular readers might by now know, my goal is to win a Nobel Prize.
I don't really care which one. I'm just in it for the instant celebrity status that comes with it. Last night I came up with an idea that should get it done.

This idea targets the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. I don't have any relevant education in those fields, and I haven't done any research, so I know I need to come up with something big to get the judges past their bias for competence.

My idea needs to cure a whole lot of problems. Anything less would be begging for the award committee to snub me once again.

My idea is this: A web site that collects extremely detailed lifestyle habits from volunteers all over the world, which includes the type of food they eat, how they exercise, exposure to sunlight, and lots of other things.

These volunteers will also enter data on any health problems they encounter, from a sniffle to a broken hip. The data would be available to the general public, without association to the identities of the people, so amateur researchers can mine for patterns.

For example, we might find that people who have a diet rich in a particular vitamin or mineral don't get cataracts, or tinnitus, or shin splints, or whatever.

This idea is cobbled together from several other ideas floating around in the ether. Most recently, I was wondering why my allergies inexplicably went away in the past year.

The only thing I changed, as far as I know, is taking some supplements, and there is some scientific evidence to believe that could help. But it might be something else, such as drinking more lime juice than usual. If the database I described already existed, doctors could check to see if people who take supplements, or drink lots of lime juice, have fewer allergies.

I read a book called The China Study that is a lot like this concept, but with less detail than I am proposing, and limited to China. The data from China showed that people who ate a plant-based diet hardly ever got the most common killer diseases such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes.

This past month you might have seen a number of media reports about other research that supports that same point. Wouldn't you like to know if most of the health benefit shown in The China Study came from particular plants?

Personally, I don't want to eat any more kelp than I need to.

The other source of inspiration for my idea is the stories about amateur astronomers who have been given access to the vast unviewed archive of pictures of space, so they can help find any anomalies.

You'd think that would be boring work that no one would volunteer to do, but apparently so many people are volunteering that the servers initially couldn't hold the load.

I think that in a world of 6 billion people, it wouldn't be hard to find a few million who are willing to record their lives in great detail, knowing it would have so much benefit to humanity. And volunteers might end up finding solutions to their own health problems along the way.

The database would do more than discover what prevents health problems. It would also tell you what lifestyle elements promote good moods, or lead to high performance at work, in school, or in sports. It might tell you what elevates testosterone, thus improving our productive lives, and probably keep you looking younger. The potential is just too vast.

I'm hoping the idea is so good that someone builds the web site.

If you decide to do it, I promise to thank you by name when I am in Stockholm accepting my award.

Now wish me luck ……