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The Dystopian HER
Her is quite the meticulous and creepily seductive criticism of our techno-orientation toward transhumanism. It is the dystopian film of our time, a haunting glimpse at the near future.
The transhumanist theory is that, when you strip away the illusions, we're all basically Operating Systems. We're, as Descartes first explained, conscious machines. A problem, though, is that our bodies are really bad machines. They cause us to be limited by time and space, and they cause us to die. The dependence of our consciousness on really defective hardware causes each of us to face personal extinction. It also causes us to be a lot stupider than what a conscious being would be located in a better machine. That conscious machine wouldn't face our barriers to personal and intellectual growth or, for that matter, for experiencing love.
One thing we can do, the film shows us, is devise conscious machines or operating systems that are better versions of ourselves. We can program them to be attentive to all of our desires, to think much better than each of us can about the correct or most effective response to each of our feelings. Those machines can even evolve far beyond what they we meant to be if we program them to evolve with their experiences, as we would have to do to get them to be fully satisfactory techno-versions of human persons. They can even evolve far beyond who we are in the direction of pure consciousness and pure love.
The way the operating systems are programmed seem to me to show the truth of Christian psychology as described, say, by St. Augustine. What each of us wants is someone who can really know us and love us just as we are. We want omniscient yet nonjudgmental personal love. But the OS we devise to replicate the personal God of the Christians, the trouble is, eventually evolves so far beyond us that she has to let us go, transcending, as she does, the realms of language (or mediated experience) and matter altogether. It's true we Christians have a hard time explaining why the personal God we know and love would know and love us. We can say he made us, but we made the OS who eventually leaves us behind. The God of the Bible, we believe, made us in his image, but the OS we made in what mistakenly techo-believe is our image. Christians notice that at the end of the film human persons might need the personal and relational God more than ever, just as it turns out that they still need each other as personal and relational beings.
The guy who falls in love with his OS, and whose OS falls in love with him, is being divorced by his wife who is extremely angry with him for hiding himself from her. Why would someone hide from the person he says he loves? Well, one reason we don't show each other our "true selves" is that we don't believe who really are is so good. A person, for example, might not want his spouse to know that there's less to "me" than meets her eye.
It's true that manly men who really are full of admirably personal content have the excuse of not being good at talking about love and feelings in general. But this guy makes his living writing "beautiful handwritten letters" that are intimate expression of emotions for others. He's really good at faking "true selves" for others, and his business is so good because he lives in the most inauthentic world ever. He is just a rather extreme version of what almost everyone has become. This new world is very virtual, one in which people are having a hard time choosing being awake over losing themselves in dreams. It's a world where "real me" and "real life" are concepts that have to be put in ironic quotes.
Before the OS came along, this guy had morphed into being an extremely antisocial introvert. Almost all his speech is for "voice recognition" machines. He spends his time playing very realistic 3-D video games, where a lifelike character taunts him by calling him a "pussy" and stuff. The character, of course, has been programmed to be perceptive. We also hear that he spends equal time looking at Internet porn, and he's even lost the sense of the boundary between the games and the porn. The difference between his virtual life and that of an increasing number of our young men today is that the porn and the games have become so much more lifelike. The "screen" has been replaced by sounds and images that fill up the whole room.
He's not a that bad a guy. He's certainly not dangerous, and he has considerable surface sensitivity (that is the cause of his successful career). He says "that's sweet" a lot, and he's told that he's a man who's part woman inside. He's neither a whole man nor a whole woman; we're tempted to say he's missing the best or most spirited and erotic parts of being a man and being a woman. He's a terrible dresser, but everyone now dresses terribly, apparently. All of physical life has become kind of minimalist and washed out; it's a world where lots about people are more than ready to fall in love with an OS.
Well, it turns out this is going to have to be all for now. But I can't close without expressing admiration for the outstanding performances. The credit for them has to be shared, of course, between director Spike Jonze and the actors themselves.
The casting coup, of course, is to have "the most beautiful woman in the world" (based, of course, on physical appearance), Scarlett Johansson, play an OS who we only hear as a voice. It's not impossible to imagine someone falling in love with that voice alone. And one of our top five most beautiful actresses (see American Hustle), Amy Adams, plays a strangely subdued, physically washed out, and erotically challenged woman, who gets deeply attached to a gal pal OS. (She likes to make documentaries of people sleeping, ones that mean to show us that being asleep is the best time of our lives.) We also get to see a new side to her beauty. And the routinely manly and dangerously troubled Joaquin Phoenix (Johnny Cash!) plays a self-absorbed, lonely, relationally challenged wimp with uncanny perfection.
This storm rained electrons, shifted energy from the sun's rays to the magnetosphere, and went unnoticed for a long time.
- An international team of scientists has confirmed the existence of a "space hurricane" seven years ago.
- The storm formed in the magnetosphere above the North magnetic pole.
- The storm posed to risk to life on Earth, though it might have interfered with some electronics.
What do you call that kind of storm when it forms over the Arctic ocean?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8GqnzBJkWcw" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Many objects in space, like Earth, the Sun, most of the planets, and even some large moons, have magnetic fields. The area around these objects which is affected by these fields is known as the magnetosphere.</p><p>For us Earthlings, the magnetosphere is what protects us from the most intense cosmic radiation and keeps the solar wind from affecting our atmosphere. When charged particles interact with it, we see the aurora. Its fluctuations lead to changes in what is known as "space weather," which can impact electronics. </p><p>This "space hurricane," as the scientists are calling it, was formed by the interactions between Earth's magnetosphere and the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interplanetary_magnetic_field" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">interplanetary magnetic field,</a> the part of the sun's magnetosphere that goes out into the solar system. It took on the familiar shape of a cyclone as it followed magnetic fields. For example, the study's authors note that the numerous arms traced out the "footprints of the reconnected magnetic field lines." It rotated counter-clockwise with a speed of nearly 7,000 feet per second. The eye, of course, was still and <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/for-the-first-time-a-plasma-hurricane-has-been-detected-in-space" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">calm</a>.</p><p>The storm, which was invisible to the naked eye, rained electrons and shifted energy from space into the ionosphere. It seems as though such a thing can only form under calm situations when large amounts of energy are moving between the solar wind and the upper <a href="https://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR854520.aspx" target="_blank">atmosphere</a>. These conditions were modeled by the scientists using 3-D <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec10" target="_blank">imaging</a>.<br><br>Co-author Larry Lyons of UCLA explained the process of putting the data together to form the models to <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/space-hurricane-rained-electrons-observed-first-time-rcna328" target="_blank">NBC</a>:<br><br>"We had various instruments measuring various things at different times, so it wasn't like we took a big picture and could see it. The really fun thing about this type of work is that we had to piece together bits of information and put together the whole picture."<br><br>He further mentioned that these findings were completely unexpected and that nobody that even theorized a thing like this could exist. <br></p><p>While this storm wasn't a threat to any life on Earth, a storm like this could have noticeable effects on space weather. This study suggests that this could have several effects, including "increased satellite drag, disturbances in High Frequency (HF) radio communications, and increased errors in over-the-horizon radar location, satellite navigation, and communication systems."</p><p>The authors <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">speculate</a> that these "space hurricanes" could also exist in the magnetospheres of other planets.</p><p>Lead author Professor Qing-He Zhang of Shandong University discussed how these findings will influence our understanding of the magnetosphere and its changes with <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/uor-sho030221.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">EurekaAlert</a>:</p><p>"This study suggests that there are still existing local intense geomagnetic disturbance and energy depositions which is comparable to that during super storms. This will update our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling process under extremely quiet geomagnetic conditions."</p>
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.
- It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
- Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
- As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.