Our Alexanders are not Jesuses, nor Mohammeds

Just as Alexander the Great’s teacher, Aristotle, set metaphysics above physics, today’s technological conquerors need metaphysics and morality (via nanoscopic biophysics) to complete their large-scale physical triumphs.

Monument to Alexander the Great on Thessaloniki embankment, Greece (inscription “Alexander the Great”) © Mistervlad / shutterstock.com

As a lifelong technologist, I have always fiercely admired those few individuals who change the world with ideas which outlive them, for example by inventing new technology. Tesla did it, as did Edison, Feynman, Einstein, Ford. There are new technological titans like that today, I have met many and worked for a few.  They are geniuses in multiple dimensions.

As a lifelong physicist, I most admire the uber-technologists whose primary accomplishments are not merely in marketing or software optimization, but in mastering Laws of Nature so severe that cheating can be deadly in every sense.  Rebooting and re-entry are entirely different realms.  Those who change humanity in those domains, deploying natural law within their lifetimes, are the Alexanders of today. They have conquered whole new worlds alone to make a lasting imprint.

So it pains me when they say things that are silly and destructive, things outside their core domains with lasting impact, but impact in the wrong direction. 

Alexander was a conqueror and administrator, not a spiritual leader. His specialty was making people do his will, not healing and transforming them as humans and spiritual beings like Jesus and Mohammed set out to do.  To my knowledge Alexander didn’t speculate aloud on how to pray or meditate, even as he remade cities in his wake.  Yet some new Alexanders talk of uploading our personalities in various file formats, and speak of so-called “digital communication” as if it bore some actual resemblance to real live human touch.  Such talk is an insult not just to human decency and common sense, but to the very laws of Nature on which such folk presumably build their empires. 


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For their children’s sake, I certainly hope they ignore their own advice in dealing with kids.  An algorithmically mesmerizing blinking piece of glass is not a substitute for loving lips and giggles. Parents know this, children need it.

I have done the bandwidth calculations now for years, the latest published just last week , the earliest published in a prestigious journal, showing implications of the rather simple idea that trust requires continuous re-calibration[].  I enjoy explaining these bandwidth calculations and implications in person to almost anyone, but especially to independent-minded technologists like myself.  For free, if necessary.  

An effective, potentially change-your-life explanation requires interactive 3-D proximity in a quiet location, AKA face-to-face. By the numbers, proximity bandwidth beats a kilobyte of explanatory text at least a billion-to-one. At the opposite extreme, here is an even more over-compressed (80 bytes), caricatured cartoon “explanation” of this very same deep point, the point the titans miss: trust is built from high-bandwidth neuromechanical interaction, nothing else.  From our eyeballs to our eardrums to our spines and souls, human muscle tissue vibrates and our brains reciprocate those vibrations at multiple scales.  Those vibrations constitute our informational oxygen. We need to be gentle with them.


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So my lord Alexander, I beg stop toying with the human spirit.  That is foolhardy and dangerous, and presumes that you can fix what you might break. You already have accomplished more than almost any human, pushing size and scale beyond the limits Nature set. 

But your approach will fail with human brains. When dealing with information,  the least rules the greatest. Near-infinite room at the bottom, but none at the top. Nanoscopic ultrasonic wavefronts, not big clunky chunky bits. Always moving, never stopped.  Fluid flow, not frozen memories. Nothing to be stored, much less uploaded.  Just like mere integers cannot hold real numbers, no simple set of propositions or stored digits could restore a human spirit or make up for lived experience. During Catholic Mass, the prayer “Our Father” rises up from murmuring human voices. It is not a list of abstract PowerPointed bullets up for rifling.

This clean and simple technical conclusion was written by Mother Nature eons back in equations you respect, equations like those of Mr. Newton. Written in her usual cursive hand. Nature also wrote them into our bodies’ inflammatory reactions to digital decalibration and damage, damage you may promote.

My lord Alexander Technologist, triple-check your technical understanding before deploying at scale. If your first rough estimate of what the human brain can do is off the mark by much at all, much less by millions-fold, or if you accidentally introduce a subtle poison, the damage to childrens’ brains could be considerable.  Don’t force anyone, especially kids, to hook their minds to interfaces which are bad for us.  Loneliness, anxiety and addiction are bad enough as it is.

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