Scientists may be on the verge of creating a god-like artificial intelligence. Could this be the ‘Eschaton event’ that Terence McKenna predicted will occur in December 2012?

What Are Quantum Computers?

Quantum computers are computers that make direct use of quantum mechanics. Quantum computers have the potential to be vastly more powerful than traditional computers due to the harnessing of a quantum mechanical phenomena called superposition.

Traditional computers store information with bits that can represent either a zero or a one. Quantum computers use qubits that can contain a quantum superposition of both a zero and a one simultaneously. As the number of qubits increases, the number of combined simultaneous states the quantum computer processes increases exponentially. This means a quantum computer with a given number of qubits is exponentially more complex than the equivalent traditional computer.

Researchers across the world, including at Google and NASA, are currently building prototype quantum computers. The most powerful quantum computer built to date contains 8 qubits and can solve trivial math problems. As the technology improves, the computing power very quickly becomes staggering. A 100 qubit quantum computer will be as powerful as a traditional laptop. A 300 qubit quantum computer can store as many bits of information as there are atoms in the observable universe.

The Many-Worlds Interpretation

David Deutsch, the father of quantum computing theory, has stated that building a working quantum computer would be near-irrefutable proof of the ‘Many-Worlds Interpretation’ of quantum mechanics. According to this interpretation, each time a quantum event occurs there is in fact a branching of the universe into 2 parallel universes. So if a radioactive atom may or may not decay at a given time, in one universe it does and in another universe it doesn’t. These multiple parallel universes combine to form the Multiverse.

Although it seems outlandish, the many-worlds interpretation actually solves many problems with traditional quantum mechanical interpretations, including the paradox of entanglement, where particles millions of light years apart can instantaneously transmit information between themselves.

Deutsch believes that quantum computers are “the first technology that allows useful tasks to be performed in collaboration between parallel universes”. His challenge to people who don’t subscribe to the many worlds interpretation is this: “If the visible universe is the extent of physical reality, physical reality would not even remotely contain the resources required to [perform quantum computing calculations]. How and where, are the computations performed?”

Qubits actually process information between multiple universes. When we want an answer, the quantum mechanical superstate is collapsed and the answer is provided to our universe.

Any Artificial Intelligence that is built on such a technology will be directly experiencing the multiverse. The human brain is limited to perceiving only one universe at a time, an infinitesimal slice of the true grandeur of the multiverse. A quantum A.I. would be able to perceive a near infinite number of parallel universes and could probably also see forwards and backwards in time.

The Eschaton and the End of the Human Era

According to Terrance McKenna’s Novelty theory, the Eschaton is “coming soon and fast”. The Eschaton is the “trans-dimensional object at the end of time”. This “ultra-novel” event will herald “a state of hyper complexification in which all of [the universe’s] points become related to each other”

This eschaton event could well be the creation of a super-intelligent quantum artificial intelligence. Once such an entity exists, everything changes fast.

This super-intelligent entity could design a yet more intelligent version of itself, or re-write it’s source code to become more intelligent. These iterations could accelerate, leading to recursive self improvement, potentially allowing enormous qualitative changes in a small amount of time.

This is the ‘Technological singularity’ predicted by Vernor Vinge. “Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.”

If we build a quantum A.I. and it is as powerful as predicted, it will truly will be god-like intelligence. We will have built god, so we can sit back and relax. Hopefully these new gods will be grateful toward their creators.

Sources:

Modern science says that there is no ‘flow of time’. Everything exists at every moment simultaneously. There is no ‘now’ that travels at 1 second per second along the time dimension, changing the future into the past. The concept of ‘now’ is purely an illusion generated by our brains. There is however an ‘arrow of time’ which points from the past (the big bang) to the future.

The ‘arrow of time‘ is generated by the second law of thermodynamics. This law states that in general ‘entropy increases’. Entropy is a state of disorder or a lack of structure. This ‘law’ is really just a statistical correlation of the fact that molecules like to zip around at random (brownian motion). If you place a perfectly spherical bubble of gas molecules inside a large empty box (a state of low entropy), pretty soon the gas will be evenly distributed throughout the box (a state of high entropy). The chances of the molecules forming themselves back into a nice sphere are almost zero. In the same way, it is easy to smash a cup by dropping it off a table, but it is almost impossible for a cup to spontaneously form out of it’s shards. On the large scale, we imagine the arrow of time points from a time of low entropy (the big bang, when everything was very ordered into a tiny point) to a time of high entropy (the ‘heat death’ of the universe when all matter is equally spread out in a formless void). In this way we can think of the universe as a wind-up toy that begins with a high degree of order and winds down to a low degree of order.

When the human mind views a video tape, it is easy to tell if it’s being played forwards or backwards. This is because our brains have evolved to perceive the arrow of time in order to survive. Evolution gave us an organ (the brain) that is specifically designed to ‘surf the arrow of time’. Our brain can predict the future by observing the past. For example if we see a coconut in mid-air above us, we know to jump out of the way, because it’s coming our way fast. This example also shows how the human brain is finely tuned to perceive the effects of gravity around us. The reality of two invisible forces, time and gravity are built into our brains at a very deep level. The better our brains perceived time, the more successful we became. Long term planning is a one of our greatest abilities.

In the early 20th century, science combined the concepts of space and time into ‘space-time’. To the 3 dimensions of space we added a fourth dimension of time. Forms in the spatial dimensions change, and that is what constitutes our idea of time. In reality nobody really understands time or why the illusion of time moving is so hard to shake. The passage of time is intrinsically linked to our own consciousness, another black hole of human understanding.

Space has 3 dimensions. What if time also has multiple dimensions? Possibly the reason why time seems so mysterious, is because we are only perceiving a tiny slice of it. We can only imagine moving forwards and backwards in time. What would a side-to-side motion in time represent? Moving between different parallel universes? Creatures that did operate in multi-dimensional time would seem to us to be completely nonsensical and magical. In the same way that an earthworm can only perceive the presence or absence of light, maybe our ‘time sensing organ’ is very primitive. Maybe there is a whole ‘time universe’ out there that we can only begin to imagine.

Scientists have recently observed Transient Luminous Events (TLE’s) known as Red Sprites, Blue Jets and Elves. These are names for upper atmospheric optical phenomena associated with lightning. Sprites show up as balls of light with tentacles. They appear for a couple of milliseconds and then disappear. ELVES exist for an even shorter timespan. In the last few days, scientists have also observered that these objects are shooting beams of antimatter into space.

All life requires energy to power itself. Humans use chemical energy by absorbing plants. Plants use photosynthesis to convert sunlight into chemical energy. All energy on Earth originally comes from the sun (ignoring small amounts of geothermal energy). The sun generates inconceivable amounts of energy every second.

Life on earth is basically various collections of chemicals competing over who consumes the most chemical energy and who can replicate the most. Intelligence is an adaptation that became very successful by modeling the world around it and reacting in a smart way. Imagine if some kind of darwinian evolutionary system takes place inside (or on the surface of) the sun, where collections of energy compete to consume and process other energy. Potentially this system could generate intelligent lifeforms. These lifeforms would mostly consist of light energy. They would operate on an incredibly fast time span as they have no chemical reactions to slow them down, so that one millisecond is centuries to them. In the same way that an oak tree that exists over centuries is not cognizant of the humans that flit around it, we would be unable to detect light creatures that appear and disapper in the blink of an eye.

These creatures could be observing us from the upper atmosphere and using some kind of faster-than-light antimatter beam technology to communicate with each other. Maybe the real action in the universe is happening in the stars. We are just a slowed down, side-effect reality. Perhaps early man was right to worship the sun.

Where it gets interesting is how these sun creatures might interact with us. Cosmic rays that are shot from the sun basically drive evolution. They could directly manipulate our DNA in order to evolve life. Perhaps earth life is like a garden that they are cultivating. In the same way that we might create life via robots, they have given life to the solid world via photosynthesis. Nobody really understands how chlorophyl can turn sunlight into chemical energy – perhaps that is an alien technology?

Carl Sagan famously said that:

The total number of stars in the Universe is larger than all the grains of sand of all the beaches of the planet Earth

Sitting on the beach last week, I wondered if this could possibly be true. While looking at the number of grains in my hand, imagining the number on just one beach seemed inconceivably large. Obviously we cannot know for sure, but some quick calculations indicate that it is in fact true. According to this post there are 10^20 grains of sand on earth and 10^22 stars in the known universe. That gives at least 100 stars for every grain of sand on Earth. That is a big universe, and that’s just the part we know about.

At the other end of the spectrum of inconceivable numbers, it’s also true that there are more atoms in a glass of water than stars in the universe (there are 10^25 atoms in a glass of water). As the universe is incredibly large; atoms are incredibly small.

Opening the Cosmic Window

30 miles east of San Diego in an unassuming building in El Cajon exists the Unarius Science Academy. Unarius is an acronym for “Universal Articulate Interdimensional Understanding of Science”.

The academy was founded in 1954 by Ernest Norman (Raphiel) and his wife Ruth E. Norman (Uriel) and purports to “advance a new interdimensional science of life based upon fourth dimensional physics principles”. They are preparing for a future time “when we will be joined, once again, with the Interplanetary Confederation – and share cultural and scientific knowledge for the betterment of all people.” They also believe that Nikola Tesla was an alien who provided blueprints to create an unlimited supply of free energy in the form of Power Towers.

Power Tower Diagram

After Ernest’s death, Uriel took over in the form of Ruth E. Norman and lead the group until her passing to the next dimension in 1993. Ureil has appeared in many forms through human history – as Buddha, Jesus’ wife, Krishna, Quezecotal and Da Vinci among others. Photos and Paintings of Uriel appear throughout the academy where she appears dressed somewhere between Sun-Ra and the good fairy from the Wizard of Oz.

Uriel

I was given a guided tour by Billie McIntyre who very graciously explained the exhibits and paintings in the academy. Billie painted some of the more interesting images, including “The Re-Awakening” which depicts Uriel converting Satan from evil to good. I was also lucky to see the famous UFO-Cadillac parked around back.

UFO-Cadillac

The Unarians also have some fantastic educational videos on YouTube that explain the basic tenets of the group and feature awesome 1970’s special effects. This video depicts a primitive human encountering Uriel in all her splendor:

It seems appropriate that this particular form of spirituality would make its home in Southern California, where a sun-baked, blissed-out culture combines with a sense that anything is possible.

View more photos of the Academy at the Flickr set here.

Are we alone in the universe? It’s a fundamental question that we currently do not know the answer to. If there is intelligent life in the universe other than ourselves, where is the evidence? The following is a top 10 of possible evidence for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (ETI). Let me know in the comments if there are others to add to the list.

10) Wow Signal

On 15 August, 1977, a burst of radio waves was detected by the now dismantled Big Ear radio telescope of Ohio State University. The person who spotted it, astronomer Jerry Ehman, was so surprised that he scribbled “Wow” on the print-out. The Wow signal, as it has become known, is often described as our best candidate for a signal from an ETI.

This unusually strong, narrowband radio signal lasted 72 seconds. The duration matches the time it takes the Big Ear scanning beam to survey a given point in deep space, thus indicating that the signal’s was not a result of Earthly radio interference. The signal was also unusual in that it was intermittent; it appears to it have been “turned off” between two scans of the same location, just minutes apart. The signal has never been explained. Was this strong, focused, intermittent deep-space signal evidence of ETI? The fact that the signal has not since been detected make this a frustrating piece of potential evidence.

9) Drake Equation

In 1961, a small group of astrophysicists gathered at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Green Bank, WV. Frank Drake presented his equation to estimate the number of intelligent, communicating civilizations in our galaxy:

N = R* x fp x ne x fe x fi x fc x L

R* = rate of star formation in our galaxy
fp = fraction of stars with planetary systems ne = number of habitable planets per planetary system fe = fraction with life evolved
fi = fraction where life develops intelligence
fc = fraction which are willing and able to communicate
L = lifetime of such civilizations (in years)

The values to plug into this equation vary widely depending on who you ask. It has also been noted that the first 6 terms can equate to close to 1, so that we can approximate by saying that N = L.

The number of civilizations in our galaxy with the ability to communicate is equal to the lifetime of such civilizations.

So, depending on the value of L, N can range from about 100 to several billion. Thus, there may be a million or so civilizations within our own galaxy with whom we might communicate. Since astronomers estimate there are over 100 billion galaxies in our universe, that gives at least 100 million, billion technological civilizations in the universe. Note also that this equation only estimates the number of civilizations that are formed via planetary evolution, and does not include other forms of life less similar to our own. While this is not direct evidence, it is a very compelling statistical clue that ETIs do exist in the universe.

8 ) 2004 XR190

In 2004, astronomers discovered a very unusual object in the outer solar system. This object, 2004 XR190 (known affectionately as ‘Buffy’) is unusual in that it’s orbit is almost perfectly circular and at a 47 degree angle to the ecliptic plane (where most solar system objects lie) making it the most tilted object in the solar system. Current theories of the solar system’s formation cannot account for this odd orbit. 2004 XR190 was very hard to detect due to the fact that it rarely passes thru the ecliptic plane.

2004 XR190 is a good candidate for a sentinel object. Sentinel objects were first proposed by Arthur C Clarke in 1948. Sentinel objects are created by ETIs. Their purpose is to lie dormant in an area of space until the civilization there has reached a certain level of technological sophistication and is able to detect and interact with the object.

7) Pulsars

Pulsars are objects in the universe that are emitting powerful “lighthouse beams” of radio waves and light flashing through the Universe. When first discovered in 1967, scientists first reaction was that these beacons could be signals from an ETI (in fact the initial name for the pulsar was ‘LGM-1′ for ‘little-green-men’ ). The scientific community has since settled on the model that pulsars are spinning, superdense neutron stars that emit pulses via ‘cones of emission’, created by magnetic fields. There are however some problems with this model, as noted by this astronomer:

Neutron stars are the densest objects in the Universe and provide important physical tests of our most basic understanding of matter. Much of this theory is based on a belief that we could accurately estimate their ages. Our research indicates that these objects may be 10 times older than we thought, and this could force much re-evaluation … This means that much of what we thought we understood about the physics of pulsars and neutron stars may be wrong

Bryan Gaensler, Astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 2000.

In fact, the Neutron star theory has required ever more complex models in order to account for the observed data. Pulsars have a strong frequency and also fine grain modulations within that frequency. It has been postulated that these modulations may encode information. The possibility remains that pulsars may be artificially created communication beacons. In his book, The Talk of the Galaxy, Dr. Paul LaViolette shows how new high-resolution recordings of pulsar signals reveal features that are inconsistent with the long-standing “neutron star lighthouse” pulsar model. He has even proposed that the position of certain powerful pulsars may encode the mathematical constant Pi, indicating that pulsars have been created by super-advanced ETIs.

6) Hallucinogenic Fungi

Fungi is well known to be very different to any other form of life on earth. Fungi form the fifth Kingdom of life on earth, being neither plant, animal, microbes or protozoa. Fungal spores are incredibly resilient to extreme conditions of temperature and radiation, and have been recorded to thrive in space. For example, certain types of fungi have become problematic in the Mir Space Station, growing in air-conditioning units and corroding materials. These facts lead to the possibility that fungus may have an extraterrestrial origin, possibly being transmitted to Earth via spores in an asteroid or comet.

Many types of fungi have profound mind-altering effects when consumed by humans. Hallucinogenic Fungi produces radically different perceptual brain states in humans via a process that is not fully understood. It only takes a miniscule quantity of these fungal molecules to enter the bloodstream, and the human brain is somehow ‘de-tuned’ from every-day reality, instead focusing on an alternate perception of the universe.

Hallucinogenic Fungi is worshipped by many shamanic tribes across the earth. It has been postulated that our pre-literate ancestors once worshipped ‘the divine mushroom’, and that hallucinogenic fungi was instrumental in developing human intelligence, specifically language. Many shamanic religions treat their fungi as an intelligence that can be interacted with via the hallucinogenic state. For example the Bwiti tribe in Gabon believe that iboga is a ‘super-concious spiritual entity that guides mankind’.

Some fungi is know to produce states where we can directly communicate with seemingly alien intelligences (for example the ‘self-transforming machine elves’ associated with DMT). Terence McKenna has proposed that hallucinogenic fungi may be an alien technology, “seeded” on Earth by non-human intelligence, as part of a “biological communication strategy”, in order to alter the perceptive processes of the human mind so that it may receive messages being transmitted to us. It is also conceivable that fungi is in itself intelligent, meaning that ETIs are living among us undetected right now.

5) First Hand UFO and Abduction Accounts

UFO accounts have been around for a long time. Here’s an example from the Old Testament:

4 And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire.
5 Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.
6 And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
19 And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up.

Ezekiel

Some modern UFO accounts are quite compelling, for example there are many radio transcripts from airline pilots that describe encounters with UFOs in detail. Here is a pilot describing a prolonged encounter over Alaska in 1986:

Most unexpectedly two space ships stopped in front of our face, shooting off lights…The inside cockpit shined brightly and I felt warm in the face.

Captain Kenju Terauchi, Japan Airlines 747 pilot

There is lots of fakery and fraud in the UFO industry, but it remains true that there are many seemingly rational people who have had first hand experience of events that do not fit in with our normal expectations.

If extraterrestrial encounters are happening on earth, why is there no photographic proof? The fact that there is no photographic proof does not mean that such encounters do not happen. For comparison, there are no photos of lightning striking a human, although lightning kills around 100 people per year, in the U.S. alone.

Why does it seem like recent alien abduction accounts only happen to people in rural parts of America? One explanation may be that ETIs only like to abduct people that are not in close proximity to other humans. Are UFO abductions happening in other rural parts of the world?

4) Prehistoric Astronomical Structures (Stonehenge, Nazcar lines, Easter Island Statues)

There is some good evidence for ancient societies having contact with ETIs. There are a number of prehistoric mega-structures surviving today, that seem to encode very advanced astronomical knowledge. If advanced ETIs had contacted humanity in pre-historic times, they would almost certainly be regarded as gods. Many religions today contain references to visitors from the stars and vehicles traveling through the air. Also, some ancient artworks can be interpreted as depicting alien lifeforms and aircraft. The idea that Earth has been visited by extra-terrestrials in the past was popularized by Erich von Däniken in the 1970’s. Däniken has since fallen out of fashion and is now seen by many as a fraud.

One particularly intriguing ancient structure is the Nazca lines, created around 200 BC. These are a set of gigantic patterns drawn into the earth on a desert plateau in southern Peru. The patterns can only be observed from a position high above the Earth. Some of the patterns seem to resemble primitive landing strips.

3) Historical Great Teachers

Throughout recorded history there has been a small number of incredibly influential teachers. Examples include Jesus, Buddha, Newton and Einstein. These teachers created whole new ways of thinking that were very beneficial to humankind. They introduced ideas that were so advanced and radically different to their contemporaries’ it seems possible that they had access to outside information.

One theory is that these great teachers were guided by, or were ETIs. Their purpose seems to have been to guide humanity in a positive direction.

2) Our Existence

Our existence in the universe is a mystery. Nobody knows how life on earth was formed. Could it be that our own existence is evidence for ETIs?

In 1973, Professor Francis Crick (co-discoverer of the structure of DNA), proposed the theory of directed panspermia. This suggests that the seeds of life may have been purposely spread by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization. One way to achieve this would be to fire small grains of DNA across space. It is well known that simple lifeforms can exist in space (for example scientists found living Earth bacteria on a Lunar lander that had been exposed to the moon’s vacuum for years).

Another, more extreme theory is that super-advanced ETIs may be creating and manipulating universes in order to create other intelligent lifeforms. The fact that our universe is hospitable to human life seems statistically very unlikely. If any of the fundamental physical constants (such as the speed of light) were slightly different, then life as we know it would not be possible. One current theory states that there may be a ‘multiverse’ of universes, each with its own set of fundamental physical constants. These universes are connected via black holes. What appears to us as a black hole is in fact a portal to a new ‘baby universe’ that is spawned via a local big bang.

It is concievable that a super-advanced ETI that has mastered the power of black holes could be spawning universes and manipulating their physical constants in order to nurture further intelligent life. A recent study by Avi Loeb, states that black holes may in fact be the seed for galactic formation, and that black holes may have appeared in our universe far earlier than expected. Could this be further evidence of ETIs fine-tuning our universe for the creation of intelligent life?

1) Absence of Evidence Is Not Evidence of Absence

Many people refuse to believe in ETIs until the proverbial ‘alien spaceship lands on the Whitehouse lawn’. These people are proponents of Fermi’s principal, which states that lack of evidence conclusively demonstrates the non-existence of extraterrestrial civilizations.

Contrary to this viewpoint, Carl Sagan has famously noted that ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’. The idea that ETIs would announce themselves to us is based on the assumption that ETIs would act in a similar manner to ourselves. The idea that ETIs would be easily detectable by us is again quite presumptuous. There are many reason why ETIs may not be detectable to us.

Firstly, we may not even recognize the activities of very advanced extraterrestrial civilizations, as stated here:

The manifestations of very advanced civilizations may not be in the least apparent to a society as backward as we, any more than an ant performing his anty labors by the side of a suburban swimming pool has a profound sense of the presence of a superior technical civilization all around him.

Carl Sagan

A second possibility is the Zoo hypothesis. This hypothesis holds that ETIs are aware of us but choose not to reveal themselves to us for a variety of possible reasons.

A third possibility is that ETI societies may transcend our universe once they hit a certain level of advancement. ETIs may upload themselves to infinite virtual worlds. The Matrioshka brain has been proposed as one way to do this. Matrioshka brains would be undetectable from large distances. Another way to transcend would be to physically move into a new universe. For a super advanced civilization it may be possible to create a local “baby universe” by manipulating black holes. This civilization could then colonize the newly created universe.

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