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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Re-mapping the Cosmos

 The universe is bigger than we can think. This galaxy and its 100 billion stars is, in turn, just one of a humdred billion galaxies in the cosmos

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few”, said Buddhist scholar Shunryu Suzuki. Perhaps this explains why in the year 1900 Lord Kelvin stated that:

 "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement."

In just a few years physics was upturned by relativity theory, then completely reframed by quantum physics. And now we know that visible matter is but five per cent of the cosmos, with dark matter (25%) and dark energy (70%) making up the rest. And let's not even mention m-theory and the idea of multiple universes.

The limits of our vision are not the limits of the cosmos. The limits of our cognitive science are not the limits of our minds.

We might chuckle at Lord Kelvin’s short-sightedness now, barely a century since he spoke these words, but we should recall that he was one of the brightest men of his day. How long will it be before others are chuckling at the way we see the universe today? Again, history reveals that it will not be very long. Science – or at least the culture of science – is conservative. Yet futurists like me are not quite so restricted. It’s our job to critique, predict and speculate. We are expected to take risks. And that is exactly what I enjoy doing in my writing and talks! 

There is a tendency for experts and layfolk from every era to believe that history is a linear journey from superstitious past to the inevitable triumph of present wisdom; and that what we now understand as truth is the way it will always be. Each age deludes itself that it has reached the pinnacle of knowledge and that all that remains is to add the finishing touches. And each age gets it hopelessly wrong. Certain futurists like to talk about how the future will bring us flying cars and virtual reality interfaces in every room and how cool that will be. But I predict that the future will not be a mere rehashing of the current consumer age.

I like to challenge people to contemplate the changes that are taking place in science, and especially the sciences of consciousness and cosmology, and how absolutely important they are for all our futures. It is with these understandings that I predict vastly different futures than many techno-futurists. Futures which focus upon "money and machines" are what Sohail Inayatullah calls "used futures". I think we can do better than that.

For for me it is not so important to be proven correct by the passing of time, but to challenge the habits of thought that tend to make us believe that our outmoded maps of reality are actually the territory.


1 comment:

  1. " the laws of physics are the same through out the cosmos " Carl Sagan ................. " no they are not " Says John Mac...