Sometimes I need some extrinsic motivation. Or a reminder of what is driving me forward (or at least of what I am in a constructivistic way putting together of myself). But anyway – this is my ultimate list. As an alternative to cat content.
A scepticistic-optimistic approach for humanism
Acceleration, Evolution, Mankind, Technology, Culture
New Physics on the rise?
The recent news regarding cosmology and astronomy triggered a certain feeling. Our standard model of the universe will dramatically change. It seems as if in the next 10 to 20 years we will have a totally new insight on the development of the universe as well as a complete new understanding of space, time and matter (including the known and yet unknown forces).
Let’s start with the actually most thrilling news at first: The discovery of a so called dark flow. As a teenager I learned that something like a big bang happened and as a result we have a expanding universe (e.g. Redshift-Phenomena). But obviously the flow of space is not evenly distributed, as new examined Planck Data revelas.
Actually a gigantic space of billions of lightyears is moving “into the wrong/unexpected” direction. For the moment the only applicable explanation for this kind of force is NOT a blackhole. Even this super strong forces could not move these masses through space. So the idea is: it could be another universe, which “pulls” the sector. Imagine that: we live in a multiverse. And EVERYTHING is much bigger than anyone has ever dreamed of.
And Planck revealed more unexpected results – our universe is a bit older than we thought (13,8 not 13,7 bn yrs). Furthermore the data suggests that the observable universe is way bigger then we thought. On the other hand the data proofed with a very high resolution the current standard model.
But still there are these little findings that disturb the model. Take for instance the “Methuselah Star“. The measurements suggest, that this object must be older than the universe. Maybe our anthropo-centristic understanding of time (length, linearity) are the biggest obstacles to crack the paradoxons we are experiencing.
Paradox as the new default state of mind
In astronomy it is a habit to include to unknown phenomena the term “dark”. For a couple of years astronomers try to understand, what is called dark energy and dark matter. If we would understand these phenomenas, we should be able to answer fundamental questions like: What is the origin of the universe (or multiverse)? What is time?
IMHO an interesting approach to solve this mystery might be the idea to see dark matter and dark energy as the outcome of the same source. The dark fluid. It just depends on the perspective, if these forces appears to be energy or matter.
If you combine the aboved mentioned aspects with the most promising candidate to solve the contradiction between Relativity Theory and Quantum Physics, the so called Loop Quantum Gravity*, it is obvious to me that it is really just a matter of a few decades till we reach a new level of physics.
Maybe these new physics also help to explain, why these enormous voids in space exist – regions of thousands of lightyears, which seem to be “empty”. Or another unexpected recent find through the Kepler system: A “dead” star, floating alone in space without a sun. And then there is the assumption, that statistically every fifth planet is in a habitable zone.
The Ptolemaic System, technological civilization
I like to use the idea of the Ptolemaic System as a general reminder. It should remind me of the relativity of knowledge. The model itself made sense, but unfortunately new discoveries (data) and new technologies (engineering) proofed the model was wrong. Not to mention Gallileos struggle with the vatican.
So these new physics will dramatically have an social impact on our civilization. It will not be necessarily a quick “zapp” moment. It will probably be a slow simmering process – because it will take some time, till these new physics are kind of a “common sense”. But then there is maybe a generation on this planet, that may be able to intertwine different assets of this basic research to new technologies. Hopefully I will witness the day, when the current state of 3D-Printing will appear to me as a pre-historic sweet try.
Further more I expect, that sooner or later the Fermi Paradox will we solved – what ever the answer will be. It would fit into the history of discoveries, when mankind would make contact with ETIs by accident. Typically it would be something more sustainable as the WOW-Signal 😉
But this is another story for another post.
* = Loop Quantum Gravity in short: Combine Time, Space and Matter on a quantum level to a “Quantum Fractals of space-time”-Reality model. One important insight in this context – space itself consists of “space atoms” – which means, that the the spacial density/compression is limited.
Imagine that our planet would actually be a galaxy (in a galactocentric-sense: the milkyway). So every state on earth would be comparable to a solar system in this galaxy. You would have different kinds of civilizations with different characteristics.
Some could be described as imperialistic, many would seem to be on the “victim” side, even though the circumference of the land mass would imply more possibilities (fairly developed, but no actual power = political, military, intellectual culture, science, etc.). Others would maybe follow a pacifistic path (no matter if this approach is induced by common insight/social development or a lack of military opportunities).
Now imagine that this galactic “family” is not playing its’ game of conquer, trade and cultural exchange in a far future, but about 600 to 700 years ago.
Furthermore we discover in our galactic-historian trip a quite small republic (about 50.000 people), whose total time of existence lasted almost 450 years. A further examination reveals some interesting facts about this city state:
– medical service was introduced in 1301.
– the first pharmacy (still working!) was opened in 1317
– a refuge for old people was opened in 1347
– the first quarantine hospital (Lazarette) was opened in 1377
– slave trading was abolished in 1418
– an orphanage was opened in 1432
– the water supply system (20 kilometers) was constructed in 1436
The government was organized by “the rector” for a long period of time (ca. 650 years). His ruling time lasted for one month – in this time he was allowed to live in the rectors palace. A reelection was possible after a waiting time of two years.
Two central governmental mottos were:
Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro
Liberty is not sold for all the gold in the world
Obliti privatorum – publica curate
Forget private affairs, take care of public ones
We can observe albeit their progressivity a typical social structure:
– nobility (in the end 33 families)
– citizens (like craftsmen, educated folks, …)
– peasants (Well, …)
And of course, only the nobility was allowed to get into the rectors position. But still the noble families understood very fast, that cooperation and sharing were the most important principles in order to protect and develop their quite small republic.
Humanity alone would have been not enough to construct a republic that would have lasted that long (ca. 450 years is quite something, if you compare it to the 800 years of the roman empire).
The people of Ragusa (the old name for Dubrovnik) were clever enough to strengthen other important aspects:
– Ragusa had a widespread network of diplomatic contacts and representatives (peak: in 80 cities!). This enabled Ragusa to foresee the next best possible move in greater politics and necessary strategies. This diplomatic network was also useful to staying updated in terms of relevant developments in science or culture. The Ragusa republic was also among the first to accept the independence of the USA.
– They relinquished from building up an army. They concentrated their energy on the fortification of their city. In their entire history they were actually never conquered (in terms of: taken over the city walls) by any rivaling force. BTW: That is a strategy that I also love to play in the games of the Civilization Series: Instead of building up a huge army I focus on a good defense, while I develop my folks (science and as soon as possible a democratic system).
– The real “weapon” of the Ragusians was their merchant fleet. Even though they were a quite small city they had a remarkable amount of ships in their fleet: 180 to 200. They travelled up to England and Germany in the north and were active in the ports of Northern Africa. But besides these sailing skills, they were one of the best ship builders of their time – they were famous for their speed and reliable vessels. Venice, the main competitor in the Mediterranean Sea, actually envied them (how Venice solved this problem – by standardization or Lean Management – is another story).
There is a nice anecdote about the strongest enemy they ever encountered – the Ottoman Empire. The turkish army was simply too strong in force and in size. So the Ragusians made a deal:
You do not invade us, therefore we will pay you a yearly tribute. And furthermore you let us do business in the Ottoman territories – for a special tax of just 2%.
Unfortunately I do not have any sources that prove my assumption (I am not a historian): They made better profits then before – and the tribute was some kind of a “entry fee” for a greater market.
Beside their fortune in mercantile issues and the organization of their community (and providing very early public services) another aspect helped to sustain the republic: Ragusa had the luck to have ore sources close to the city. As every real estate agent would confirm it is of course all about location, location and location. Dubrovnik was perfectly situated in the middle of the Mediterranean trade routes. This instance was definitely an accelerating momentum.
At the end of this post I would like to take a closer look at what brought the end of the republic.
One dramatic event was the earthquake in 1667. Almost all the buildings in the city were destroyed except the REALLY thick city walls. Many members of the noble families died, so it was necessary to call “normal” citizens into the city council in order to keep the governmental system alive. After this incident the city never really fully recovered.
Another major event was the relocation of the important trade routes, away from the Mediterranean sea towards the Atlantic (the new world).
But the nail in the coffin were the confusing times of the restauration. Between 1800 and 1807, thanks to the Napoleon and some other players in these euro-strategic games, the nobility was disunited and in the end an era of 450 years came to an end. Even though the Austro-Hungarian empire granted a special status for Dubrovnik, the old republic never recovered and it ceased to exist.
What can we learn from Ragusa?
Actually I wanted to connect to my last post regarding the externalization of a search for a higher being and humans evolutionary heritage. I wanted to use the example of our desire for food (evolutionary given, easy to understand) and the agent detector (idea of evolutionary psychology) which was mentioned in my earlier post. But then I ate lunch with my in-laws and the plan slightly changed.
We sat today together to have a little “celebration lunch” of the 42nd year of their marriage. Somehow I mentioned that I personally never experienced real hunger (in order to direct the conversation to the point how sated the “rich” class on this planet is – the lack of self-discipline = connect argument-wise to the hyperactive agent detector, which also IMHO should be put into the atavism shelf).
Then the talk took a different direction (due to privacy reasons I will not publish the name of my father-in-law – I just call him “Z”, which is actually the first capital of his first name).
But to give the reader a chance to follow my quite emotional thoughts, I have to give you some background information. My wife left Sarajevo just a couple of months before the war started and the following siege of the city (1991). The rest of her family stayed in Sarajevo – and they experienced four years of war, trapped in a valley. Surrounded by a war machine.
There were the grenades, local combats and much more morally devastating the snipers. The snipers were paid in “Deutsch Marks” (DM) – a sniper got 100 DM for a man, women and children of course were just worth 50 DM. Perfidiously it was the idea not to kill the citizens – but to shoot them into their knees or hips. Because a sudden death would have been to easy. A suffering enemy has a higher value than a dead person. And it produces medical costs for the opponents. Also the water canisters where a popular target. I feel like I have to vomit, if I try to imagine what kind of human one must be to follow this rationalization of terror.
My wife once told me that, while she was a civilian war refugee in the US, watched a TV report about the siege of Sarajevo. Suddenly she recognized that one of the snipers as one which whom she was doing skydiving in the pre-war times. I can not imagine what kind of feeling this observance must have triggered… How disillusioned one must be after realizing this sub-human morality.
But back to the lunch talk. I started/triggered the war memories by mentioning that I never experienced real hunger – I just can fairly imagine what it means. Or in other terms – once when I just moved out of my parents house I had money problems – so I had to “survive” with a certain amount of money. I was hungering for maybe one and a half day, till I got that money to buy some potatoes, onions, oil and eggs (salt and pepper was still in the house). So I can assure the reader, that I have no clue what real, lasting hunger means and does to ones moral habits. I had a well-arranged perspective – no real worries – just a personal level of pride which lead me to a point of view, where I hesitated to ask for help.
At the lunch the parents of my wife said, that they had for four years no water, electricity and safe supply of food (not to mention medical supplies). Getting to the water source meant a trip of ca. 1o km. A trip where it was not unlikely to be hit by a grenade or shot by a sniper.
*A big knot grew in my neck, listening to this daily experience*
Then he spoke about a few bizarre, almost funny incidents which I want to write down as long as the memory is fresh:
– One day, the war was still “new” and people in the city did not know how to behave in a war, Z was on the road to get some water. He saw a guy, running away from machine gun fire, holding his hands over his head. The guy said to Z: “Take care! There are machine guns!” Z said: “Don’t worry, they are from our side”. The guy responded: “From which of our side?”
– Z wanted to meet a guy who brought some meat for the family – so he went out, even thoug it was the “policy hour” – when everybody was expected to stay inside. But still he went out, and in the middle of a bridge that he was passing, out of the sudden, a super bright light of a UN tank put light on him – so he was SUPER well visible for the snipers. The UN soldier asked, what he was doing at that time of the night on the street – and said, that he wanted to help Z. Brilliant – by making him a target…
– Around Z’s home was the only broadcasting radio station of Sarajevo – it was in a building which was good protected from snipers and grenades. Z walked along by the building when a guy from the radio station stopped him to ask a question. Z took the time to answer the guys question. 10 to 15 seconds later a grenade exploded at the point where he would have been. So if he would have not responded to the guys question, he would have been blown away. He felt like a lucky bastard.
There are more stories that I heard, but I guess the reader gets an idea about the war experience and its absurdity.
Z said that he is actually thinking about writing about these events. But not to push the tragedy, but actually to point out the almost humorous aspects of the incidents. I want to encourage him in doing so, even so many stories and movies have been published since then. But I am convinced that HIS message should be transmitted to the next but one generation – his grandchildren (of course when they are old enough to follow this experience, maybe around 8 to 10 yrs).
As long as there is a reminiscence of war, we have to recall our ancestors memory. We have to remember what has happened to make sure, that humans never ever do this to other humans again. And we as a civilization should be angry, and develop a constructive resistance against fear, which leads to hate, which leads to war. It would be such a waste of potential, if we would end up killing each other, instead of developing our planet, while working on interstellar travel. Yup. I mean it.