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Weekly Commentary - July 15, 2019

The future arrived and we look in the opposite direction

Recently, a young man told me he was looking for a job and asked me to inform him if I knew of any opportunities in his area of interest. Shortly after, an opportunity arose and I immediately shared it with him, only to find out days later that he had not accepted it.

I asked him why he had rejected the opportunity and his answer was clear. "I do not want to work all day in a basement talking on the phone and listening to people's problems." The argument, although acceptable, had a big problem: it wasn’t base on reality.

The job I had was him was at a large, bright office in a commercial building with easy access and ample parking. It was not a basement. And the job was to make community education presentations, not listen to problems over the phone.

I asked the young man why he had come to such a conclusion with no based on reality and he told me that some years ago he had looked for work in a similar organization and that the initial interview was in a basement where there were people answering phone calls.

Perhaps that experience was so traumatic or memorable that the only option for this man was to cling to it and project it into the future and the present at every possible opportunity, assuming (erroneously) that what happened in the past would serve him to understand the future and decide his actions on that basis.

But when that future came and it was not what he expected, instead of changing his expectations and his way of understanding, instead of opening his mind and heart to other possibilities, this man locked himself inside his belief and, as a consequence, he was trapped in his past, unable to enter the future.

Let's be honest: we are all in that same situation. We cling to a past, even if it is imaginary and nostalgic, and, for that reason, we are unable to see the future and, as a consequence, we can’t create a mental map of the new future.

For example, in recent days, stories were published about the creation of "liquid metals" (in the best Terminator style), personal intelligent robots, photographs of quantum entanglement, and progress in the connection between human brains and intelligent machines (Neurolink, ofElon Musk.)

In addition, commercial trips to space are getting closer, there are already smart glasses that "know" what they have around them and store that information, and robot-musicians and robot-painters are being hired as replacements for humans, and they even win prizes previously reserved only for humans.

If we don’t understand what all that means, it is because we still live locked inside our own mental, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual basement, where, either through fear or narcissism, we only see and believe the fantasies that we created ourselves.

Meanwhile, the new future has arrived, and we, as the man in history did, rejected it because it doesn’t fit what we believed.

What’s the point of talking about a new planetary consciousness?

Almost three and a half millennia ago, Pharaoh Akhenaten surprised Egyptians and strangers when he decided that Egypt should abandon their traditional gods and accept a kind of monotheism, which, although it was never accepted in Egypt, after numerous historical changes and cultural transmutations, is still alive in broad sectors of the world.

If what Akhenaten did in the 14th century before our era was surprising, even more surprising was for me unexpectedly meeting with Akhenaten in person recently in my office and being able to talk with him on an unexpected subject: the new planetary consciousness.

Obviously, the contemporary Akhenaten that visited me and with whom I spoke doesn’t resemble the person of the same name who lived 3500 years ago, nor do I believe for a moment that it is his reincarnation. In fact, I don’t believe in reincarnation, nor did I believe it in any of my previous lives, although I can’t remember it well.

The 21st century Akhenaten didn’t speak ancient Egyptian nor did he present himself as Tutankhamun's father (although I never asked him if he was). It's just someone who came to my office (without an appointment) and used that unusual name to introduce himself, explaining that someone had told him that I was a person with whom he could talk.

The situation, as for the name, is similar to meeting someone called "Jesús" (a common name in Spanish) or "Moses", without this representing any other connection with the one who previously carried that name than having the same name. Something similar happens to those "unknown" people who share names similar to celebrities.

Be it what that may be, I had never had the opportunity to speak with someone who used the pseudonym "Akhenaten" to introduce himself, taking into consideration that his illustrious predecessor was treated by his fellow countrymen as an "enemy" and "criminal", a fairly common situation among religious reformers.

Beyond the question of the name, the modern Akhenaten has its own intentions of religious and spiritual reform, based on a new planetary consciousness and access to cosmic knowledge, available, he said, for all of us with adequate preparation (of the same way, I add, that you can’t learn advanced mathematics without first learning to add and subtract.)

Akhnaton (let's call him that) presented the subject as something positive, as something that is already happening. But, with my usual more pessimistic view of life (the pessimist is an optimist with better information), one can really doubt that our global human consciousness is improving.

At a time when the difference between reality and fantasy has become irrelevant, where history changes faster than in Orwell's 1984, and where the narcissistic satisfaction of the ego is the main motivation of life, even if it leads to the destruction of the planet and humanity, is it worthwhile to speak of a new consciousness, even if Akhenaten says so?

What new consciousness can emerge when the social field of negativity leaves no room to build a future?

Robots already have their own blood. Will they shed it for us?

Recent reports (available online) from two prestigious universities (Harvard and Cornell) explain that robots already have their own "blood", that is, a liquid that circulates inside the robots and that carries energy to the entire robot-body so that the robot can fulfill the tasks assigned to it.

It should be clarified that this liquid, known as robotic blood, is used in so-called soft robots, and not, for the moment, in the most well-known metallic or “hard” robots. Robotic blood allows soft robots (clearly precursors of artificial humans) to maintain their shape or even recover it, should they be crushed.

Be that as it may, the idea of robotic blood seems to have consequences beyond questions of robots, machines, science, and artificial intelligence. In fact, throughout history, humans have associated blood (own or animal) with all kinds of beliefs and rituals, from sacrifices to appease the gods to the promise of immortality.

Should we now add robots to that short list of living beings with their own blood on this planet? In other words, what does it mean that robots, whether soft or metallic, large or small, intelligent or not, now have their own blood?

Perhaps a better question is whether we should assign to robotic blood all or at least some of the beliefs we commonly associate with human and animal blood. I mean: will we sacrifice robots on an altar as lambs or bulls were sacrificed before?

Regardless of the answer, we will know it soon, perhaps in just ten years, because other scientific reports from reliable sources indicate that by 2030 the integration between robots and humans will reach such a level that we will practically be inseparable from each other, not because we will become robots or them humans, but because robots will be part of our daily life.

So, in this conflictive and increasingly intolerant world, with a growing social field of negativity that does not necessarily mobilize the social field of positivity to grow, the title question takes on a new urgency and meaning: will the robots shed their blood for us? Or maybe a single robot will do it to save us all?

In his last interview for a newspaper in Germany, the philosopher Martin Heidegger (yes, I am aware of his many controversial aspects) stated that we cannot make the divinity come to us, but we can help create the hope that the divinity will come.

Regardless of what Heidegger may have said or thought, the technological and scientific advances of our time can be interpreted as the desire to create (or recreate) our own divinity or to become ourselves divine. And maybe we are doing it and achieving it.

In fact, futurist Ray Kurzweil had said that by 2029 we will all become immortal. It seems his prediction is no longer a laughing matter. 

I wonder what narrative will be told in 2000 years about what is now emerging for the future of humanity that many are unable or unwilling to perceive.

Robots already have their own blood. Will they shed it for us?

Recent reports (available online) from two prestigious universities (Harvard and Cornell) explain that robots already have their own "blood", that is, a liquid that circulates inside the robots and that carries energy to the entire robot-body so that the robot can fulfill the tasks assigned to it.

It should be clarified that this liquid, known as robotic blood, is used in so-called soft robots, and not, for the moment, in the most well-known metallic or “hard” robots. Robotic blood allows soft robots (clearly precursors of artificial humans) to maintain their shape or even recover it, should they be crushed.

Be that as it may, the idea of robotic blood seems to have consequences beyond questions of robots, machines, science, and artificial intelligence. In fact, throughout history, humans have associated blood (own or animal) with all kinds of beliefs and rituals, from sacrifices to appease the gods to the promise of immortality.

Should we now add robots to that short list of living beings with their own blood on this planet? In other words, what does it mean that robots, whether soft or metallic, large or small, intelligent or not, now have their own blood?

Perhaps a better question is whether we should assign to robotic blood all or at least some of the beliefs we commonly associate with human and animal blood. I mean: will we sacrifice robots on an altar as lambs or bulls were sacrificed before?

Regardless of the answer, we will know it soon, perhaps in just ten years, because other scientific reports from reliable sources indicate that by 2030 the integration between robots and humans will reach such a level that we will practically be inseparable from each other, not because we will become robots or them humans, but because robots will be part of our daily life.

So, in this conflictive and increasingly intolerant world, with a growing social field of negativity that does not necessarily mobilize the social field of positivity to grow, the title question takes on a new urgency and meaning: will the robots shed their blood for us? Or maybe a single robot will do it to save us all?

In his last interview for a newspaper in Germany, the philosopher Martin Heidegger (yes, I am aware of his many controversial aspects) stated that we cannot make the divinity come to us, but we can help create the hope that the divinity will come.

Regardless of what Heidegger may have said or thought, the technological and scientific advances of our time can be interpreted as the desire to create (or recreate) our own divinity or to become ourselves divine. And maybe we are doing it and achieving it.

In fact, futurist Ray Kurzweil had said that by 2029 we will all become immortal. It seems his prediction is no longer a laughing matter. 

I wonder what narrative will be told in 2000 years about what is now emerging for the future of humanity that many are unable or unwilling to perceive.

The Universe grows faster than we can know it

Let’s carefully think about this fact: every second about 20,000 stars move beyond the visible Universe, and, for that reason, that we will never be able, now or in the future, to see analyze, or study those stars. That means that each year about 630 billion stars escape forever from our sight.

The information comes from a video recently released by Dr. Don Lincoln, professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame and researcher particles at the Fermi National Laboratory (home of a famous particle accelerator).

According to Lincoln, the expansion of the Universe is accelerating so that the light we see now, which took 14 billion years to reach Earth, originated when the Universe was a sphere with a radius of 42 billion light years. At present, the radius of the Universe reaches 46 billion light years, that is, 92 billion light years in diameter.

And because the Universe continues to expand, we can never see anything that is more than 15 billion light years from Earth. But how can we say that the Universe measures 92 billion light years if we only see a fraction of that distance?

Because, Lincoln explained, we see the objects that are now 46 billion light years away from us as they were 15 billion years ago. That is, what we see is their past, but not their present. (Obviously, the explanations are much more complex and profound than this simple summary that we present here.)

In short, every second we can see less of the Universe and those objects we can actually see we see them as they were in the past, but not as they are now.

If we are honest and understand what this means, we must admit that we know less and less (20,000 stars and countless planets escape our sight every second) and that what we know is obsolete the moment we know it.

We think we are the kings of creation, the apex of evolution, but the Universe laughs in our own faces, laughing at our lack of understanding about time and dark matter. 

On a much more mundane level, the situation reminded me of the conversation I recently had with a man in a Latin American country to whom I asked him for directions to a certain place. The man told me that I should use "the highway" and added: "When you see that highway, you won’t want to use any other".

The highway in question didn’t turn out to be anything special and, in fact, it’s not at the level of the great highways of Europe or of North America. But the good man, protected by his cultural and geographical isolation, was not comparing "his" road to the Autobahn, but to the dusty roads he knew in the past.

At the cosmic level, something similar happens: We don’t know what is happening now, but only the past. We believe we are "the best" because we insist on ignoring the true dimension of our ignorance.

Traveling presents the opportunity to reconnect with oneself

It has been said, and rightly so, that one of the best ways to know oneself is to travel. But traveling is not just a mere geographical change, it is not moving from one place to another, but it means being fully and consciously open to realizing that our daily reality is neither the whole reality nor the only reality.

I know many people who move from one place to another, but never “leave” themselves. They arrive at a place on the other side of the city, the country, or the world, and expect and demand everything to be exactly the same as the place where they usually live.

They are people who arrive at a certain place and the first thing they do is look for the addresses of the same chains of restaurants and cafeterias they already know, and they go to eat there, without ever visiting, or wanting to visit, the local restaurants.

They are people who demand to be spoken in their language, even if they are in a country where their language is neither the official language nor a predominant language. Even worse, they demand that the people of the other country (of the other culture) behave according to the expectations and wishes of the newcomer, without the slightest attempt to understand the culture of the place they are visiting.

They are people who live within their own small narcissistic bubble, the only one that (unfortunately) they have known throughout their lives and that is why they (unfortunately) confuse it with the limits of reality.

They travel, they go to places, but, no matter where they are, they do not see the others, and, if they do see them, they see them as something exotic, something interesting to photograph, something fun for posting on social networks. But it is never a transforming encounter with the other who, being both like and unlike me, forces me to question myself.

With these "bubbles of narcissism" there is no possible dialogue because there is no dialogue of them with themselves. They do not have an inner dialogue. No matter where they go, they never leave where they are.

On the contrary, every true journey, whether on the other side of the city or on the other side of the world, is a journey of discovery and, therefore, of self-discovery.

Basically, one discovers that what one believed was "normal" was only what one was accustomed to. And that the "truth" that one had accepted was, in the best of cases, a truth valid only in a certain cultural and historical context.

And the mention of history leads us to another important point: not all journeys of self-discovery are geographical trips. You can also travel to the past and the future to reconnect with your self. 

Do you want to know your true self? Get out of the bubble of narcissism in which you are locked up and right where you are you will have already traveled to another reality.

The worst answer I ever received was, "You can’t talk about that"

Of all the responses that I have never received to my questions, the most unpleasant response has been "You can’t talk about that" because, far from being an answer, that phrase oscillates between escapism, condescension, and ignorance, making any dialogue impossible.

But why people say, "You can’t talk about that"? An intellectually honest person expressing that affirmation would say something like "That is an issue that, within the framework of my beliefs, values, and doctrines, I prefer to avoid".

However, such a level of honesty doesn’t exist, and, on the contrary, the statement, "That issue is not open for conversation" is repeated in a myriad of variations, including "Those questions are not to be asked", and "Things are as they are and you just have to accept it."

It is true that my mentor never answered my questions, but he did it for didactic and pedagogical reason. He was fully aware of his approach and he used it to guide me from the ignorance reflected and expressed in my questions to a better understanding of the questions themselves to make those questions obsolete and to allow other questions to arise, then repeating the cycle.

But I am not talking about not responding as a way of helping the other to understand what he/she is truly saying, but of not responding as a way to end all dialogue or at least to restrict it to reduced limits, that is, to the limits of one's own thought, uncritically acquired and considered in many cases as the very limits of reality.

In that context, all criticism and challenge of the "already known" is unacceptable. Therefore, theological, philosophical, political, historical, or controversial questions -from sexuality to paranormal events- are inadmissible within certain paradigms.

But the paradigms come and go, as masterfully explained by Thomas Kuhn, and, therefore, those issues that "should not be talked about" serve as indications of the limits of the paradigm and as signals of the new paradigm.

Therefore, an attentive look at the forbidden topics is a careful look at the horizon of the prevailing reality and the new dawn beyond that horizon. That attentive look is both deeply contemplative and deeply active. It’s indeed a call to action, to carefully listen to what has been said and not what has been said.

Honestly, I dislike remembering how many times, in my childhood and adolescence, the answers to my questions were, "That's not something to talk about". I can only imagine how different my reality and my future would have been if the answers had been: "That's a good question. Why don’t we look for the answer together? Or, "I do not know the answer, but do not stop asking."


Be that as it may, imposing limits on dialogues and questions, controlling the discourse and the narrative, determining what can be talked about and what can’t be talked about, all that means limiting our own humanity. And that must and deserves to be questioned, because undeniable that’s something to question. 

The emotional attachment to an illusion removes reality from being a priority

I remember that time when, still in my first grades of elementary school, I liked to watch a wrestling program once a week on a small black-and-white television set. But one day I stopped watching that show when, to the horror of my childhood mind, one of the fighters was injured and blood covered his face (even though I saw it only in black and white).

My emotional reaction to the blood running down the face of the masked fighter was so immediate that I remember turning off the television (the only one in the whole house) and running to my room, alarmed and disgusted by the show. In my recollection, my family got upset with me.

Then, many years later, when one of those masked fighters of my childhood retired, they interviewed him for one of the local newspapers and in that interview he revealed that the fight that had left him bloodied years earlier was, like all the other fights of his career, only a performance in which there was never real blood. Everything had been an illusion.

I felt disgusted, but this time disgusted with myself, because I had to acknowledge that my feelings and my understanding of reality had been intelligently manipulated by actors. My only defense was to remember that, at the time of the incident, I was a small child unable to fully distinguish between reality and illusion.

That incident, which for years remained forgotten in some dusty corner of my memory, unexpectedly returned to my mind when I read a few days ago a report indicating that, in the United States, between 10 million and 40 million people, according to different statistics, would not go to work to be able to see or after having seen the end of a well-known series of fiction.

Millions and millions of workers -not 6-year-old- will not go to work because they want to know who gets sit on certain imaginary throne. Suddenly, that’s more important that their obligations and responsibilities of daily life. And thee priority thus assigned to fantasy is based on emotional attachment to fictional characters.

I remember reading how, after the final episode of the series Friends in May 2004, for several weeks mental health and psychological counseling services in Florida and other states were overwhelmed by calls or visits from people who reacted to the end of Friends with the same symptomatology they would have reacted if a real person close to them would have died.

Similar situations were experienced after the cancellation or the end of other series and even after the "death" of fictional characters, which many viewers erroneously believed that corresponded to the actual death of the actor or actress representing that character.

In short, the well-know parasocial relationships (psychologically active relationships between a real person and a fictional character) are, paradoxically, very real. In fact, they are so real that they overcome reality and, therefore, they become reality. The masked ones continue to deceive us with their performances.

How do you solve a puzzle that changes every time you add a piece?

I think there is something worse and more complicated than trying to solve a puzzle without a complete image serving as a guide and it’s trying to solve a puzzle that changes every time you add a piece, so even if with all the pieces at hand there will never be a complete image to guide you.

Let's do that mental exercise. Let's think we have all the pieces of a puzzle and we have connected several of these pieces together, although there many more pieces to be connected. And let’s suppose that each time we connect another piece, the image formed by the pieces already connected changes, precisely because a new element has been added.

Let's also assume that we have a fairly clear idea of the final model and that model helps us choose the next piece we want to add to the puzzle. But once that piece is in place, everything changes, so that no image can be taken as the final image.

To further complicate the issue, other people are also constantly adding (or removing) pieces of the puzzle, sometimes accurately (in accordance with the model image) and sometimes insanely (although that doesn’t mean a new image will not emerge).

In short, the pieces are added one by one, in no particular order, and without necessarily connecting the new piece as one would have anticipated with the pieces already connected. And each new piece changes the whole image.

Is it possible under these conditions to solve the puzzle? Certainly, it is, although there are no guarantees that it will be possible to reach an "end", when all the pieces will remain static and with the “final” image looking more like a painting than something in movement.

But what is this experiment for? It serves to understand what is currently happening with the scientific and technological advances related to the search for human immortality and, more specifically, with the arrival of a techno-scientific transhumanism.

As in the puzzle of our thought experiment, many of the "pieces" to (potentially) achieve immortality are already emerging, such as connections between brains and computers, technological connections between brains, quantum super computers, and even new kinds of materials and states of matter hitherto unthinkable.

But every time a new piece is added to the puzzle of human techno-immortality, the whole puzzle changes, to the point that in many cases the interconnection between all the pieces is no longer seen. And it is not that the interconnection has been lost, but that the image that connects the pieces has changed.

For the inattentive person, the many announcements of scientific and technological advances seem to lack a unifying goal, a "guiding image". But that image exists and day after day becomes more and more clear, to the delight of Ray Kurzweil, who expects immortality by 2029. 

Obviously, following the example proposed above, there are no guarantees that the puzzle will be resolved definitively. But what if the puzzle is solved and we become immortal?

Our second genesis is imminent. Yet, we are not ready for it.

The "second genesis" of humanity is not only unavoidable, but imminent, and it includes the scientific confirmation of the existence of extraterrestrial life, thus modifying all aspects of our life on this planet, said a renowned Australian scientist.

According to Dr. Cathal D. O'Connell, researcher and director of the BioFab3D Center at St. Vincent Hospital of the University of Melbourne, Australia, a series of "remarkable discoveries" over the last two decades (including the identification of thousands of exoplanets) has cemented the possibility of the existence of extraterrestrial life.

Current calculations, says O'Connell, indicate that there are at least 40 billion planets like the earth in the universe observable by science, a number large enough to indicate that life is "inevitable".

Once the existence of that life is confirmed, that confirmation will mean a "second genesis" for humanity, because it will force us to rethink all aspects of human life, from biology and psychology to theology and philosophy.

This "second genesis" could be deepened and expanded in ways still impossible to fully predict if life found on another planet is totally different from what we know here, for example, a life not based on DNA.

But, what does it mean that confirmation of the finding of extraterrestrial life is "imminent"? What factor or element is the basis for O'Connell to say what he said? In his own words: "The ancient question “Are we alone?” has graduated from being a philosophical musing to a testable hypothesis."

How and when will that hypothesis be verified? As soon as 2021, said the Australian scientist, when the space telescope "James Webb" begins to analyze those exoplanets similar to the Earth already discovered. And soon after that, even more advanced telescopes will be able to take pictures of those planets.

For that reason, O'Connell suggests that "we should prepare" for the response the space telescopes could give us in a few years. We should be prepared for the "No. We are not alone in the universe."

But, I add, we are not prepared, and we will probably never be. After all, day after day we see countless examples of the intolerance of humans towards other humans, with whom we share DNA and the planet. And we see and suffer the destruction of the planet and its many non-human inhabitants.

Why do we destroy each other? Because “they” don’t think like us, or don’t speak like us, or don’t believe what we believe. Or simply because “they” are “they” and that’s reason enough to give free rein to our tribal thoughts.

Why do we destroy the planet? Because we see it as a "resource", as something we can and, for that reason, must "exploit". And then the "other" also becomes a resource for us to exploit.

If that is our attitude towards those with whom we share the planet and towards the very planet we live on, what will we do when extraterrestrial life is discovered? Or what will they do to us when they discover us?

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