iCloud Today… Galactic Domination Tomorrow

With the recent release of Apple’s iCloud, it seems cloud computing is here to stay. If you’re a little behind (which is better than being a huge ass), cloud computing is simply a way of saving files to the web, instead of to your hard drive.

The idea here is redundancy. If the data is stored on one hard drive and that hard drive breaks, your data is lost. If it’s stored on 5 hard drives in the same house, and there’s a fire, your data is lost. With the cloud, your data is stored on several drives in all different locations, which allows you to access it via the web whenever you want, without running the risk of crashed drives losing your data.

This same concept is what the human species needs in order to survive. Being on Earth is like storing all of your information on a single drive. It doesn’t matter how much we archive elements of our culture, or the lexicon of knowledge we’ve accumulated over time. If a meteor, or a gamma ray were to strike the planet tomorrow, it would all be lost without a trace for a future species to discover.

The only way to avoid such a catastrophe would be to spread out to other planets, and ideally, other solar systems. Currently, there are plans in place to terraform Mars (make it Earth-like, so humans could someday move there). If humans can inhabit two planets, then the sudden destruction of one wouldn’t mean the end of human history. The more spread out our species becomes throughout the universe, the safer our species becomes.

Just another example of how humans and computers mimic and learn from each other in order to survive.

Homophobia & The Illusion of Choice

When you listen to homophobic people explain their point of view, you will often hear some very peculiar things. Now, when I say homophobic, I include anyone who is against gay marriage, gays in the military, and any other discriminatory points of view you can think of. Their reasons usually include a word that in no way belongs in the conversation. That word is “choice”.

I always hear things like “it’s a lifestyle choice” and “if they choose to do that, it’s not my problem.” Recently, Carl Paladino (who recently ran for Governor of NY State) even said that it’s wrong for children to be “brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option.” But, where is this word ‘option’ coming from?

As a heterosexual, I don’t remember there ever being a time where I chose to be attracted to women. After puberty I didn’t take a look at some men and some women and think “hmm.. I know most people want to sleep with women, but those men are preeeetty tempting!” For that matter, I don’t remember there ever being a time where I chose to like ice cream or chose to dislike the smell of horses either. That’s because nobody chooses what they prefer, they just enjoy the things they like, and avoid the things they don’t.

So why is it that homophobic people just don’t seem to get this? Well here’s one possible solution that helps put my mind to rest:

Let’s say you were a homosexual man (and if you really are a homosexual man you can still play along). You come to a point in your life where you know very well that most men are attracted to women, but you find yourself mysteriously drawn to men. Your church tells you that homosexuality is a sin, and you know your family would frown upon it if you were gay. So what you do, even though it’s less pleasurable, is go for the women. You get married, have a family, and you’re very proud of yourself because this was quite an accomplishment. You think that this is how most men must feel, and that’s why the bible was making such a big deal out of it. Life is a struggle!

Now you see some openly gay people and you think to yourself “that’s not fair! They took the easy way out!” To you, resisting this temptation was one of your major accomplishments in life; a sacrifice that you had to make. Why should these people who chose the easy route be entitled to the same privileges as you?

And there it is: the choice. This was not a choice to be gay, but only a choice to be honest with oneself.  You often hear about people who are openly against homosexuality getting caught having a gay affair (Ted Haggard comes to mind), and then their defense is that they were “tempted by the devil and gave in to that temptation.” Well I have some news for these people: There is no such thing as a temptation to have a gay affair when you’re straight, you’re just gay! (or at LEAST bisexual!) As a heterosexual, I never look at a man and think “I know he looks yummy, but I must resist” because I am actually a straight man, and not just playing the role of one to avoid judgment. I don’t ‘resist’ men for the same exact reason I don’t look at a horse and fight my temptation to sniff it’s… well you get the picture. There’s nothing to resist!

Nobody ever chose to be gay or straight, but any attack on openly gay people is an attack on honesty. If you aren’t ashamed of your society for preventing gay people from marrying and openly serving in the military, you’ve got some serious soul-searching to do.

Update: This video goes perfectly with this post. Special thanks to Alec N. for contributing.

There’s No Such Thing As Sex Addiction

I remember a time when you would hear the name Tiger Woods and think about golf. Well those days are over because every time he’s in the headlines now, it’s because he’s apologizing for his several affairs. As of right now, the latest news is that Tiger Woods is a sex addict and is going to sex therapy.

Moving further into the past, there was a time when what we currently refer to as “sex addiction” was better known as “survival of the fittest.” Remember that? As far as evolution is concerned, Tiger Woods is a role model. The idea being that the more women a man has sex with, the greater the probability that his genes will be passed on and therefore survive at least one more generation (evolution sounds so sexist, right?).

Evolution aside, I personally don’t think adultery is respectable, but adultery is really Tiger’s only actual problem. If he wanted to live the life of a bachelor and sleep with several women, he shouldn’t have gotten married, or at least not have remained married. But that’s enough talk about Tiger’s domestic issues.

What it comes down to is simple:

There is no such thing as sex addiction.

Even though the DSM-IV (the most recent medical diagnostic manual) does not acknowledge it’s existence as a real disorder, no one even seems to question it. That doesn’t mean I believe the DSM is a gospel, it just happens to agree with me on this issue. What happens every time someone is involved in a sex scandal is they eventually come to the media and admit (if you even want to use that word) to the world that they have a problem. They, unlike every other man in the world, like sex too much. They have this terrible stuff in them called testosterone and this dreadful ability to attract women and they need help. Now, the world stops looking at them as a bad person, and begins to pity them, as they now have a problem which they can’t control; they are now the victim.

The whole thing is so obvious, but the majority of people fall right into the pity trap every time. I would love to see Tiger Woods get on a podium and say “I’m sorry I cheated on my wife, but when she now leaves me, I will continue to get laid on a regular basis by women who you can only dream about. Because I am a superstar athlete… and you are not. Thank you.”

Also, an addiction isn’t a disorder unless it prevents you from living a functional life. Have you ever seen Tiger Woods play golf? I think he’s functioning just fine.

AI and Personality

I’m very interested in artificial intelligence, and I was thinking about an issue that the development of such a thing might have. As much as we can program a computer to have artificial intelligence, an artificial personality is a very different story.

Since personality is widely believed to be a combination of genetics (which is the part we can somewhat emulate) and childhood experience, it would be a daunting task to create one artificially.

When we build a robot with artificial intelligence, we are basically building something which will not develop or grow. It will not have a family and it will not have social interactions with a child-like brain. Because of this, it would have a missing ingredient in personality. Yes, it might be able to understand things, but it will not have any personality bias, so it will be a creature that runs on pure logic.

While I am a huge fan of logic, I’m sure this would make for a very dry conversation. No major breakthroughs or anything here. Just a thought.

Here’s My Law: The Day Begins at Sunrise

There always seems to be a confusion after midnight over which day it is. Most people will say it is still the same day it was when they woke up that morning, but some people always need to point out the fact that it’s passed midnight, so it’s the next day.

You’ll typically hear something like this:

“Tomorrow? You mean today!” As if this person is the first to figure out the technicality that you can still be awake when the day officially changes, so they need to point it out to everyone else, partly to be funny (which it never is) and partly to sound smart (which they never do). These are the same people who say “See you next year!” on New Year’s Eve, and “I haven’t showered since last week!” on Sundays.

The way I have always thought of it is the next day doesn’t really start until sunrise. If it’s 2:00AM on a Saturday, in my book, it’s still Friday night. This is the way the whole world thinks of it, because nothing feels any different from 11:59 to 12:00.

Let’s agree as a community to keep the day the same until the sun rises, at least in social situations. The next time you hear a comment that resembles “Yesterday? You mean two days go.”, just slap them and explain when the day really begins.

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Religion is Proof of Evolution

There’s a terrible rumor going around amongst religious people which states that evolution is “just a theory”. Well gravity is a theory also and you don’t see people floating away, do you? The truth is that evolution is the most natural occurrence in the world. It is everywhere you look, and the most ironic place to look is religion itself.

The basic principle of evolution is natural selection, survival of the fittest. The world has seen a countless number of religions and gods, but at this point in time, there are very few commonly practiced religions left. It is very uncommon to meet someone who worships Zeus, but very common to meet someone who worships Jesus or Allah. That is because these religions were the “fittest” religions and were able to survive through many different times in many different places and cultures.

I often hear people discussing how these “big three” religions are designed to control people, but I have a major issue with that statement. Just as humans were not designed, neither were these religions. They have changed throughout the years, and by adapting so well, they have survived. This is why it is so hard to argue with a religious person. Their religion has survived for thousands of years because it has been tested relentlessly and come out in one piece.

I see no reason to get too technical with examples because I think this is a very simple concept, as long as you understand how evolution works. Try telling a creationist that their religion is proof of evolution, their head might explode.

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The Unattainable Abilities of Time and Space Travel

There are two very unique concepts that have been debated over by scientists, philosophers, and common people for quite some time. I’m referring to the possibility of time travel and the existence of intelligent life on other planets. Although very different, they each have a common argument against them that is hard to dispute:

“If there is such thing as either, why have we not been visited by people from the future or extraterrestrials?”

As far as time travel goes, the question is very simple. If time travel is possible, at least one person would eventually travel back to our time, or some point in the past. We would not have to wait around for them because they are not restricted by time as we are. If at any point in the future, any species figures out how to travel through time, we should have theoretically seen them already.

A very similar argument is raised with the question of extraterrestrials. If there is intelligent life on other planets, there has to be at least one life form that began advancing in space technology long before us. If this is the case, they should have figured out how to reach us by now. Even if not by physically coming to Earth, then at least with some sort of signal that we can receive. But, just as we haven’t been contacted by people from the future, so haven’t we been contacted by extraterrestrials.

So again, we find ourselves asking “why not?” Well, the simpler of the two explanations is that of time travel, and so that is where I will begin.

In order to create a “time machine” (I put that idea in quotes because time travel might not require a machine at all), technology needs to be extremely advanced. At the very least, it needs to be more advanced than anything any of us have ever seen. To achieve such technology, a few things are necessary: First, there needs to be a species that is capable of reasoning. Second, there needs to be enough time for that species to evolve to a point of understanding such a concept. Finally, third, there needs to be enough of the correct resources to create the technology.

No one knows for sure how life began on Earth, but we do know how humans became such intelligent creatures, and that is by means of evolution. Evolution is a wonderful process in that it creates some incredible species, but it has its share of side-effects. Natural selection allows the “fittest” organisms to survive and pass on their genes. By fit, I only mean fit to survive long enough to reproduce though. Because of this, people have some primitive qualities to ensure survival. Since survival is so important, war is inevitable because there aren’t enough resources for everyone; competition is only natural.

Another side-effect of evolution is religion. Proof that religion is a natural first explanation for our world is that completely isolated civilizations from all different points in time, all around the world, have come to this same conclusion. That does not mean it is the correction explanation, only that it is the most primitive explanation. Once this idea has entered a civilization, it is extremely hard to get rid of it. Through evolution, children are very malleable and gullible. They need to be in order to survive, since a child who does not believe their parents who warn them of cliffs will just walk off one and find out. At this point, is already too late to pass on their genes. At a young age, parents teach their children the ideas of their religions and naturally, the children believe them. This cycle is a very difficult one to break.

As people get more and more intelligent, we discover and create new technology. Much of this technology is very beneficial to the species, but others are only beneficial to individuals and not the species as a whole. I’m talking about weapons of war. As technology increases, so does the effectiveness of weapons. This probably would not happen if there were no wars, but because of our survival instincts, war is inevitable. Now add religion into the equation and war is not only inevitable, but also perpetual and extraordinarily dangerous. Certain religions tell their followers that dying in the name of your religion will promise an eternity of bliss in the after-life. This goes against evolution by eliminating the fear of death and need for survival.

In the past, these by-products of evolution were not detrimental to the world as a whole because the fighting was more localized. If there was a war or any type of conflict, it did not affect people halfway around the world. However, as technology improves, the weapons it creates are no longer compatible with our natural survival instincts. The best example is the invention of nuclear weapons. In 1938, Albert Einstein figured out how to split an atom, which was a process that could be used to generate power. Instead, it was immediately implemented in the invention of the atom bomb. By 1945, the first atom bomb was dropped, and the world would never be the same. Einstein later admitted that his greatest mistake was urging President Roosevelt to begin the construction of such a weapon.

Keep in mind, this devastating weapon was invented in the age of radios. We now live in the age of iPods, and our weapons can easily destroy the world if ever used. What kind of weapons would exist in the age of “time machines”?

Here’s my theory:

The reason we have never been visited by people from the future is not because time travel is impossible, but rather because no species ever survives to the point where their technology is great enough to attain it. This is definitely the case for humans, but humans are only a product of evolution. There is no way for a species to advance to the point where they can create a “time machine” without first evolving. By the very definition of evolution, this species will have a survival instinct, war, and religious motivation. Couple this with modern weapons and we have a recipe for disaster. It is actually somewhat of a paradox.

As far as space travel goes, extraterrestrials would have to evolve by these same standards to get to the point where their technology is advanced enough to contact us by ship or any other means. They haven’t contacted us for the same reason we have not contacted them, and for the same reason we will never travel through time: we will destroy ourselves before we ever get the chance.

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A Simple Argument Against The Supernatural

I’m going to make this very brief. Things such as God and the soul are argued to not exist because they cannot be detected by our senses (even with the aid of instruments.) However, the counter-argument is that just because something is undetectable by the senses, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. But what do you call something that can’t be detected by the senses? Nonsense. How fitting.

Note: If you really believe that I’m stating this as a well thought out argument, you need to loosen up and find a sense of humor.

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Who Decided When My Year Starts?

January the first, the new year begins. Some people go on diets and join gyms, and I just wonder why it’s suddenly a new year. Deciding when a new year starts is similar to deciding where the beginning of a circle is. So obviously, there’s no right or wrong day to start and end a year. But who decided our year starts in January?

I’ve done some research and found a ton of different possible reasons and absolutely none of them make any sense. It really might as well just be random because every explanation is either ridiculous, quite a stretch, or just plain silly.

I don’t even think January is a good time to start a year. It doesn’t hold any significance other than being close to Christmas. If I could pick a day for the new year to begin, it would be March 20th, the first day of spring. The cold is finally on its way out and the flowers are starting to bloom. It’s a symbolic time and would make much more sense to be the beginning of the year than January.

Unfortunately, I think we’re stuck with this January New Year business for at least the rest of our lives. And that’s also the same amount of time that it will piss me off.

Note: The Iranian New Year begins March 21, and is known as Nowruz,  so someone actually did get it right.

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Shape of the Sky

Look up into the sky. It appears to be a great dome above our heads. It’s like a planetarium with all the stars painted against the ceiling of this dome.

Now think. This doesn’t make any sense, does it? We all know that space has no shape, and that’s exactly what we’re looking at. So why does it appear to so clearly be dome-shaped?

I have a few ideas as to what the reason could be:

  1. This is simply an illusion. Since there is a horizon, the sky appears to touch the ground on all sides of us. In any other situation, this would mean that whatever is over our heads and touching the ground all around us must have a dome-like shape to it. Through evolution, this assumption would come in handy to us, just like how we look at “solid” objects as “solid”, even though they are mostly made up of space.
  2. The atmosphere is round, so it filters our vision of the sky around us and everything beyond it appears to take the shape of it.
  3. No matter where we stand on the planet, we always make up certain angles with the sky. The zenith is right above our heads and it is a 90 degree angle. All of these angles would form an apparent spherical sky.

Maybe it’s a combination of all these three things, or maybe they’re all wrong. Either way, I’m sure you’ll head will hurt the next time you look at the sky and try to figure it out.