Trees look like nervous systems

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Naked trees, especially in the fog, make me think of nervous systems. They are kind of creepy looking if you think of it that way. The roots could be nerves too, though we don’t see them. Branches are kind of like air-roots. The tree we see above ground is a mirror of the roots below…

A tree is kind of just a bundle of tentacles reaching out in every direction for food…

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Horrors of the world

Rings of Saturn’s seemingly random topic hoping is all coming together, related in the big picture by every thought, every piece of history he talks about seeming to show how humans are terrible, or maybe that the world is terrible.

Aside from the overt bleakness of the historical stuff he talks about, there is a subtle kind of darkness overlaying everything, just in the way he describes things. Below is a section for example, when he sees some people below him at a beach:

I crouched down and, overcome by a sudden panic, looked over the edge. A couple lay down there, in the bottom of the pit, as I thought: a man stretched full length over another body of which nothing was visible but the legs, spread and angled. In the startled moment when that image went through me, which lasted an eternity, it seemed as if the man’s feet twitched like those of one just hanged. Now, though, he lay still, and the woman too was still and motionless. Misshapen, like some great mollusc washed ashore, they lay there, to all appearances a single being, a many-limbed, two-headed monster that had drifted in from far out at sea, the last of a prodigious species, its life ebbing from it with each breath expired through its nostrils.

There are many ways one could describe a couple having sex on the beach… this way of doing it is certain to create a strange, creepy feeling for the reader…

Multitudinous progeny

Different creatures have different strategies for passing on their genes. Spiders for example, produce thousands of offspring and send them flying off on the wind without a care for their survival–with a thousand chances, a few are sure to survive. Humans and other mammals, on the other hand, put all their energy and effort into one or two offspring, and making as absolutely sure as possible that they survive. What would our world be like if humans took the spider’s approach to procreation?

A human giving birth to a thousand human eggs… what would the tiny hatchling human be like? What would it eat, how would it grow? Perhaps it would take the strategy of the caterpillar, and be in a different form at a young age, eating loads of food until it built up enough energy to transform. Most of them would die, of course. As do most spiders, or other animals that lay huge broods.

I think humans would be very different, if that was their way. They would be less caring, less helpful, less social. More loners and individualists. Less empathetic. We probably wouldn’t have society as we know it, and would not have accomplished what we have, since we wouldn’t work together as well.

Odd John: another biography style story about super smart people

I just finished Odd John and it reminded me a bit of The Glass Bead Game in that it was a historical/biographical style telling of a group of super intelligent people who the rest of the world doesn’t understand. It was about ten times more entertaining, though that isn’t saying much. It was also written around the same time so maybe fictional biographies were a fad then.

This story was interesting, and gave me a lot of ideas to pirate. It follows the path of one character, John, from his birth to death. He starts out as a genius baby learning to read and speak and do complex math, physics and more all in his first years. From there, he moves on to even stranger/more amazing feats.

The end is what one might expect from a group of hyper smart people trying to start a colony. The world can never accept what it doesn’t understand. The author leaves it a bit vague what the group is trying to do with their collective smarts, but whatever it was, we normals would never have understood…

An interesting book, but I wasn’t a fan of the way it was written.

Odd people

I’ve been listening to Odd John recently, and the character is so ‘high above’ regular humans that he sees them as friendly animals. Hi arrogance is abbrasive, but his overwhelming curiosity and passion for knowledge makes up for it and makes him a likable character.

How to write terribly smart characters without being terribly smart yourself? Probably by leaving a lot of it up to the imagination of the reader… however, getting the mannerisms and way of speaking/acting etc right, could be difficult.

Maybe it’s enough for the character to be ‘odd’. Different ways of thinking would be reflected in different ways of acting, so getting to know some strange, off-kilter, or even somewhat mad people might be a useful way to write a super smart character…

Sometimes, you can’t tell one from the other…

Alternate Worlds: in which there is more than one human species

It is mostly accepted that several human species lived together at the same time, long in the past. Eventually all the others were killed/died off and we are left with only homo sapiens. But perhaps, in an alternate world, more than one human species survived to the modern world, living alongside us.

Would this world be more, or less united than today? If we had entire other species of humans that we couldn’t even breed with, would we be united as homo sapiens, regardless of race or religion, and have all our fear and hate focused on the other species? Or would we be even less fearful of ‘outsiders’ after living with them for so long?

It would certainly be harder to have the ‘humans are special and better than everything!’ attitude when there is an entire other species just as smart and capable as yours. And that could only be a good thing…

Creating new senses for humans

I just watched this TED talk with David Eagleman, and I am impressed, astonished and excited for the future of our species.

After seeing all the different ways our brain is able to process sensory input in this video, I am convinced that Eagleman’s ‘Mr. Potato-head’ analogy is not far off at all.

If blind people can learn to see via electromagnetic impulses on their tongue, then why shouldn’t I be able to learn to sense electromagnetic waves, or ultraviolet light, or radio waves in some similar fashion? Our brain is so adaptable at interpreting sensory input, that I can see a future where people can pick and choose what senses they want equipped at any time. If it’s dark out, turn on your heat vision, which you feel via vibrations on your fingertips, or in your forehead, or any other number of options.

Eagleman also goes into possibilities that I found extremely interesting from a sci fi perspective. He talks about having, for example, instrumentation on a space shuttle be connected to sensory input, so instead of reading charts and graphs and counting numbers or ratios, you just feel when something is wrong, on a gut or instinctual level. The same way you are aware of your own body and when something is wrong with it.

This really interested me because this is how I, and a lot of people, think naturally. I don’t always know why I make a certain decision at the time I make it, I just know that it feels right. Only afterwards, when I try to analyse my feelings, do i realize all the underlying information that lead to the decision. But the feeling comes instantly. The calculations are done on some subjective level and I’m left with what I can only call a ‘gut instinct’ at the time it happens.

Now imagine if you were getting sensory information about the altitude of the plane you are flying, as well as the speed of the winds outside, the condition of the engines, the state of the crew, the fuel levels, your speed–Imagine you could ‘feel’ all of this. And then imagine something goes wrong. Your instincts are going to take over much more efficiently if you can feel your altitude dropping instead of seeing it on a gauge. If you can feel all these inputs at once, and your brain is allowed to process it all on a subconscious level, you may even get that ‘gut instinct’ about the decision to make. And this time you’d know your brain has all the information it needs to make the right decision.

Our brain does a lot more behind the scenes than we are even aware of, and the more tools we give it to work with, the more it can accomplish. This kind of technology has me excited for the future, and I think I’ll be paying very close attention to Eagleman’s work from now on.