Star Trek, Computers and Pulling out the Plug!

So…here is an idea. A science fiction idea? I will let you decide.
It is a fact that the processing power of computers is growing exponentially. And there is nothing to make us suppose that this will not continue to be the case. I still marvel at the things that can be done and continue to be done by computers.
I grew up watching Star Trek – in the early seventies I used to walk around the corner with my brother to my aunt’s house to watch it, she had that most wondrous of things; a colour television. Our TV was black and white and you had to get up from the sofa to change between one of the three (yes only three!) channels.
Anyway, my young self marvelled at the original series of Star Trek. It captured my imagination in many ways. Of course I loved the thought of travelling to distant alien worlds. I grew up thinking that if I ever got into a fight with an alien then the worst that could happen was that my shirt would get ripped and a small drop of blood would appear at the corner of my mouth, just like Captain Kirk. I loved the possibility of the Enterprise and all the technology contained within. Phasers and tricorders and replicators and communicators. All of that seemed so impossibly wonderful and distant to my young self.
And yet, here I sit, typing this on an iPad. Just like Star Trek. I can talk to my phone and it can talk back. Just like Star Trek. I can find vast amounts of information on the internet. Just like asking the computer on Star Trek. And some clever scientists and engineers are building machines now that might even mimic replicators (I will blog about that soon hopefully). I couldn’t have imagined those things would happen. And I can’t imagine the wonders of technology that my five year old daughter will experience in her life.
So, here’s the thing. The ‘Science Fiction’ idea. As I said, the capacity of computers grows ever larger as does the things they can do (compare the computers on Apollo 11 to an iPhone!). If this continues then it is conceivably possible that eventually computers will have the processing power to re-create everything within them. Yes, everything. A future computer could re-create our whole world for example, down to the molecular and sub-atomic level. Every animal, plant, human being and object re-created and modelled. And perhaps, the whole universe too.
Now I know this isn’t a new idea (I bet some of you are thinking about ‘The Matrix’). But here’s the part of this idea that gets me thinking; if that will be possible in the future (and we have no reason to suppose it won’t) then how do we know it hasn’t already happened…
I can envisage two scenarios:
1. An alien race has already done this, and our world and universe are part of some vast computer science project.
2. Humans develop computers in the future to do this and they re-create our world in order to study history.
In both scenarios I imagine that we are being watched and observed and studied.
If we are part of some vast computer project, then what will happen when we develop computers fast enough to create and re-create worlds? Worlds within worlds going on forever?
Some of you may think this idea is far-fetched and it probably is. Is this Science Fiction? The truth is that we have no way of knowing. You could be part of a computer generated world right now. And my question is this: what if someone pulls out the plug?

© 2012 Simon Poore

20121003-101721.jpg
“It’s life Jim, but not as we know it!”

Advertisements

The Future anyone?

Where will things be in a hundred years? Or two hundred. I like to think about it even though I know I won’t be around to see it.
I watched the fifties film version of H.G. Wells ‘The Time Machine’ the other day. This is a story I have always loved, since I was a teenager. Wells was remarkably prescient in many of his stories, predicting things, and describing things that often came to pass. For example he foresaw nuclear weapons and men on the moon. And even predicted the global conflict of the second world war in 1933 (in ‘The Shape of things to come’). He predicted aerial warfare and tanks and all kinds of things.
In ‘The Time Machine’ the time traveller journeys to an amazing far flung future where the people are divided between those who live above ground and those below, evolved into strange new forms, by the aftermath of a long finished war. Mind you he also predicted invisibility and interplanetary war. Maybe these will come to pass. Eventually.
If you have never read any Wells then I urge you to do so. You can get classic stories like ‘The Time Machine’ or ‘War of the Worlds’ free as ebooks nowadays (click here to see the free selection of his work you can now get).
So I wonder what things will be like. When I was young I used to think that by now, in the 21st century we would be living on the moon, wearing shiny silver spacesuits and riding around in hover cars. I distinctly remember being a bit scared and in awe on New Years Eve 1983, simply because it was going to be 1984 (what would Orwell have thought?). Lots of things didn’t come to pass. some did (I sit here typing this on an IPad, didn’t they have those in Star Trek first?)
So now when I imagine the future I do it through a different, more post modern lens.
Amazing things will come to pass: –
I predict more space travel, some for ordinary people and some to planets in our solar system.
I predict faster global travel. The world will shrink further.
I predict unimaginable computers, amazingly powerful and ergonomic, all connected and doing things for us we don’t even know about, possibly implanted inside us, connected to us.
I predict medical breakthroughs, some that will enable the fortunate to live much longer lives.
I predict that ‘nano’ technology and ‘bio’ technology will change the world in ways we can’t imagine yet…could be bad and/or good.
Some terrible things will come to pass: –
I predict a continuation of terrible wars, conflict, starvation and disease, as the world population continues to grow and the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ increases.
I predict horrendous natural disasters, some caused by global warming (and yes I do believe in that!).
I predict an increasing inability of national governments to cope with global problems, as we creep towards a truly multi-cultural global society.
I predict that millennia old prejudices of race, religion and creed will continue to fuel suspicion and distrust between essentially well meaning peoples.
These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. It will be a post modern future because the amazing progress we make will not benefit everyone. Some people’s lives will be worse in the future than they are now.
Of course, I may be completely wrong, after all the only certainty is change. But one final thought, look back two hundred years and think about what that was like compared to now.
One way to do this is to visit the ‘Gapminder’ website – http://www.gapminder.org/ – click on ‘Gapminder World’ and watch the animated graph which shows how nations have faired over the last two hundred years. Please take a look and think about where we are all going….
As ever all comments, ideas and, in this case predictions are welcome…

© 2012 Simon Poore

20120222-150315.jpg
H.G. Wells – great moustache! Wonder if they will come back in fashion in the future?

20120222-150456.jpg
A photograph of an actual 19th century time machine…

20120222-150550.jpg