Travel Notes: Flying to Australia

"I am in New Zealand... of all the places in the world, I am in New Zealand."

As I sat in the New Zealand International Airport lounge waiting for the departures screen to tell me which gate my flight to Australia was leaving from (in the area where the gate number for my flight should appear, it simply says "Relax"), I look around and feel the need to keep reminding myself that I'm actually here, in New Zealand, that place on the map that, until now, was really just a place on the map.

As my trip to Australia approached, I was asked several times what I was feeling. All I could say was that it didn't feel real. 

It's hard for me to comprehend how my physical body is going to move from one spot on the planet to an entirely different spot, across huge oceans and continents, in the matter of hours. Yes, I simply "fly across", but that doesn't feel simple to me. I'm in absolute awe with how that's even possible. I understand the science, but it feels like reality hasn't caught up with the science.

I look outside the airplane window and marvel at the wings, these giant metal structures that move and expand like a bird when landing, but manufactured by human beings, with materials and chemicals formulated by human beings, parts and pieces engineered, assembled, tested, and finally flown by human beings. 

An entire buildings worth of people, with multiple floors, carrying 100 tons of fuel and, on this particular trip, transporting 10 tons of asparagus from Los Angeles to New Zealand, some 6,200 miles through the air, like a giant, mechanical, human-made bird. And here I am in the air with all this stuff and all these people, 40,000 feet above the Earth, traveling at nearly 600mph, through an atmosphere that would certainly kill me a −57F.

How is any of this possible? And why do I feel like I'm the only one absolutely dumbfounded by it all?

A few hours ago I was in California and a few hours before that I was in New Hampshire. Now I'm in New Zealand, on my way to Australia! I can only imagine what Magellan or Christopher Columbus would've given to have this freedom, and how disheartened by the future they would feel if they had the opportunity to observe how easily people today take such fantastic things for granted. 

This isn't the future. This is the future and the past combined. This is now.

Notes: The Next 50 Years

In The Next 50 Years: Why I’m Optimistic Because Everything Will Be Terrible, science fiction writer John Shirley talks about where we are now and where we're headed.

It's worth remembering that he is a science fiction writer, so there's a lot he talks about in this article that I feel is a bit "out there" (or at least several hundred years off), but the highlighted points below stood out as particularly thought-provoking.

I believe in the power of human good and in natures ability to find natural ways of correcting imbalances, but I also feel that our growing mastery over the elements and our growing usage of technology is tampering with those natural checks and balances; we're putting more responsibility in our hands without actually accepting the responsibility.

Addiction to social media, videogames, cell phones and the internet is now a recognized phenomena and that has implications for our relationship to future tech. Because its addictive capacity will only increase as its experiential quality improves.

It's strange—most of our technology is about extending our reach... but paradoxically, we're in danger of a relationship to technology that actually cuts us off from one another. Cartoonists already caricature families who sit together talking to everyone but each other on their plethora of devices...


The real singularity will be simply an unprecedented cybernetic intelligence explosion to many orders of magnitude, combined with astronomically improved interactivity—but the Kurzweilian singularity that allows us to interface with machines until, in his words, "there will be no distinction between human and machine" , will not come about sustainably because the psychological and social consequences would be so dire.

People who are quadroplegic have noted that they feel less emotion than they did, when they could still feel their entire bodies. The projection of the self into electronics reduces our relationship to the body, the seat of our emotions, and for several reasons that might lead to an increase in psychopathology.

And empathy may be a precious commodity in the future. Most people unconsciously cut off their empathy when they're feeling endangered — when the population increases to 8 and 9 and 10 billion, we may instinctively become, as a race, proportionately less empathetic — unless, with self-observation and cognitive therapy, we actively struggle against that kind of degeneracy.


Mastery of technology must include acknowledgement of its dark side. Mastery of technology means accepting of limitations. Limitations have value, eg limiting electricity to what will work for a particular power line means electrical flow isn't wasted. Water is good; a flood usually isn't. Technology too needs limits.

An invention which pollutes is only partly invented. And a lot of the time we rush into technology so quickly we don't realize it's going to pollute... It was recently discovered that every time a garment made from synthetic fabric goes through the wash, it lets go of thousands of tiny plastic fibers which end up fouling coastal environments throughout the globe. No one expected that. No one thought that form of manufacture through.


It's time for a new philosophy of technology—one that acknowledges its dark side and thinks pro actively about the consequences of new technology so that technology can be tweaked and negative consequences prepared for. Technology needs to evolve a conscience.


Only world government — not an autocratic one, but a world governance committed to human rights, the rights of women (which are integral to population control), and environmental justice — can deal with the kinds of international crises that will arise in an environmentally stricken and overpopulated world. World government will not mean anyone gives up their culture, except the bits that reject human rights; it will not be a great gray conformity; there will still be at least as much national sovereignty, for most issues, as states in Europe have in the EU — and remember that the EU, a fuzzy foreshadowing of world government, is in a very early stage. It's having problems, and that was inevitable as it's still evolving. But it does have the right idea. Toward the end of the 21st century the world will move toward a framework of consensus, on some basic rules regarding population growth, the environment, and access to technology. Empowering third world people with education and technology will give them a step toward the resources and coping ability they'll need to survive.

I believe we'll achieve a collective progressive consciousness as a result of the revelatory shocks we'll endure in the next fifty years. We'll learn... we'll come to understand that we can't treat Spaceship Earth as a party cruise ship.

The Three W's: What to Write Where?

I'm not sure why, but lately I've felt as though I haven't had much to write about. I'm not sure if it's that I haven't had much to write or that maybe I just haven't felt the desire to write what's on my mind.

As I've mentioned in the past, I intentionally don't write a lot of personal things on this blog. That's not why I started it and I'm not narcissistic enough (yes, we're all narcissistic to some degree) to think that my thoughts, dreams, and personal observations are all that important. I don't really feel compelled to express myself or talk about what's on my mind and it's not that I don't feel like people will care what I have to say; it's simply that I don't care what I have to say. In this age of information, I feel as though anything to be said has already been said and so why should I repeat it?

But I digress. Perhaps all the definitions and various places to write are slowly killing my creative outlet. Perhaps making the decision of what to write and where is becoming difficult enough that I choose to simply not write anything. My time can be used for more important things than figuring out where I should write, let alone what I should write.

Writing about events and places is easy: I simply recount what happened and maybe include some pictures for eye candy. But nobody wants to hear about the ride into work, or the meetings, or the support emails, or... or maybe some people do? Well, to those people I say go find another hobby. Or at least, find another blog. I find it absolutely revolting and a total waste of textual space and time to see people writing about things that have absolutely no substance. I will not become a twitter shitter or an iRaam. The last thing I want this blog to become is my personal diary. (This post is coming dangerously close to what I'm trying to avoid.)

Then there is the question of where to write. When I started this blog, it was easy. Facebook wasn't even open to the public and Twitter didn't even exist. Now I find myself posting thoughts, activities, and other updates on Twitter (trying desperately to stay within the 140 character jail) with my Facebook status automatically being updated by Twitter. (Then my Facebook friends, who probably never read my blog, comment on my updates and make me feel compelled to reply on FB.) Anything that doesn't fit on Twitter I usually put on my blog as an Aside (it appears without a post title), and longer stuff, like this post, get the honor of being a full-blow blog post with a Twitter update announcing it being published.

So why haven't I been writing more? I've been asking myself that question a lot the past few weeks and the only answer I can come up with is that my rule of not writing about passing thoughts or seemingly pointless observations is leaving me without much to write. I've been very busy concentrating on work and fitness and I haven't had much time for exploring my various interests or writing about them. So I'll try to start writing more asides with what's on my mind and see where that takes this blog.