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Scientific Data and Intelligence (Understanding Ourselves)

One of the key themes you may have noticed in "Life and Earth" is that our interpretations of the physical universe and our ensuing decisions are key in establishing a bright future for Life and Earth. Ultimately there is only one measure of our interpretations and choices, and that is in the consequences. As suggested, the use of science as a way of interpreting the physical world is critical in order to face the future side effects of our technologies. In a sense science is the most realistic "common language" that we can all live with given that we all live within laws of science like gravity every day.

In order to use science and accurately interpret the physical world, it is of critical importance that we use accurate data and make it accessible to all. After all, how can we get on the same page if we have conflicting or inaccurate data about the physical world around us. For example, countries may disagree on the impact of humans on climate change if they have different and conflicting data. In order to become as intelligent as possible about our future we must use and have access to accurate scientific data.

a) Intelligent decisions require accurate scientific data

In the context of this book I refer to intelligence as the quality of human beings that enables us to interpret the world in such a way that our decisions that follow will allow Life and Earth to endure. Not only does it mean we must endure as long as possible, but it also means we must maintain the qualities of Life and Earth that give us reason to appreciate living. How do we find the intelligence to make this all possible? I have talked a great deal about having accurate and relevant data in the section Science, Probabilities, and Beliefs. Although it may not be the only important factor in being intelligent, data that is accurate, meaningful, and reliable is a basic requirement in order to make intelligent choices.

If we make our choices and we rely on bad data then we pay the consequences. For example if we plan on buying a used car and we simply take the word of the seller at face value, we open ourselves to the possibility of bad consequences. Ultimately, is it the sellers fault that we bought the car without getting it checked by a mechanic, or is it our own fault? In most cases it is our choice on which data we rely upon when making our choices in life. If we do our research, sometimes referred to as due diligence, then the probability increases that our choice will give us the consequences we desire. In the aforementioned case I have used the example of making a choice to buy a used car. Sometimes we are just lucky but in the end the odds catch up to us and we find that accurate and relevant data are critical to ensure the consequences that we desire.

Human beings as organisms on this planet are able to now have a greater impact on Life, the Earth, and the future, because of our technology. As we move forward our decisions on how we handle nuclear weapons, artificial intelligence, biological research, and so on, will impact our future in ways we have never experienced. We must have accurate and useful data in order to make decisions related to our technologies. If we move forward and we have inaccurate data, or we ignore the data for whatever reason, we will be as vulnerable as the person who would buy a used car simply based on the seller's word. Whether we are a carpenter selecting the best wood to make a chair or a world leader attempting to negotiate with another country, in order to make choices that will take us to where we want to be we must have available to us accurate and relevant data.

With all due respect for our beliefs reflected in our religions, our egos, our morals, personal interests and so on I must again make reference to the physical universe that we are a part of. If we do not show respect for the laws of matter and energy, then we are more likely to make decisions that place the physical existence of Life and Earth at risk. If we do not show respect for science, then we cannot expect to dodge the implications related to the side effects of our technologies. It is important to note that I refer to data regarding science and not data related other means by which we interpret reality such as religions, our imaginations, and other non-scientific beliefs. These beliefs also warrant detailed consideration but I refer specifically to scientific data related to the physical universe of matter and energy.

As an example, as I write "Life and Earth", the new administration of the United States of America (2017) decided to exit the Paris Climate Agreement where all countries attempt to deal with the impact of climate change. I cannot say whether this decision is correct or not, but clearly it is an example where the countries of the world are faced with a technological side effect that may warrant a greater understanding of climate science. Specifically we need to know whether humans are a significant cause of climate change and if so how much we are impacting the planet from our activities? Such data, and the decisions, or lack of decisions that follow, affect us on a global scale. Clearly the world needs a method to understand such problems as climate change or Life and Earth may not survive. We need a way to interpret the physical universe around us accurately. We must make this a priority that supersedes our cultural belief systems and economic interests.

So how do we go about establishing a system to gather data to enable us to be intelligent and interpret the physical universe accurately? In previous sections I categorized our beliefs as scientific beliefs and non-scientific beliefs. This leads to one of the primary recommendations I have made in the section "My Memorandum to Life and Earth". I believe the countries of the world should establish two organizations, not so different than the United Nations or possibly divisions of the United Nations, which would combine the best minds of the world from all countries. These two organizations would provide intelligent and unbiased recommendations to world decision-makers on both scientific and non-scientific issues. Each organization would include representatives of countries that might wish to contribute. They would be the think tanks from all countries that would help deal with and confront issues related to both science and philosophy.

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

b) Intelligent decisions require accessibility to accurate scientific data

It is one thing to have accurate data but if it is not available it does none of us any good. It has only been a few centuries ago that world populations were spread all over different continents with no way of communicating or even exchanging information between cities and towns, never mind between continents. Even at that time it was a big development for cities to establish postal systems where mail could be transferred between them on horse or even through a postman making the trek on his own between cities.

Today things are different. Through our technology we have established the internet which has become available globally almost to everyone. It is hard to fathom that someone on the opposite side of the world can simply type a message or make a video and send it to someone else on the other side of the planet. In fact our ability to communicate has come to the point where we can send signals and images between planets such as from satellites or robotic vehicles on Mars to Earth.

Given that our ability to communicate and share information has improved significantly, it only makes sense to combine all our knowledge and place it in a type of world library and what better place for the library than the internet. The internet is a resource that individuals, cultures, and countries can immediately access. I think it is important to appreciate the significance that accurate and relevant data can be provided in such a place as a worldwide library that could be accessible to all. It would be a huge achievement in bringing the minds of the human species together and a means for us to learn from each other and plan for the future of Life and Earth.

Just imagine how a complete knowledge database for all levels from grade 1 to university could be offered as part of a world data bank to individuals and schools worldwide. This might be especially useful if it provided accurate information in areas such as biology, chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, and physics given these deal with the common language of science that we all must deal with as we attempt to survive in the physical universe.

This might ensure that a greater percentage of the world population had a better understanding of how technological side effects like climate change and nuclear proliferation affect us all.

One might argue that not everyone on this planet needs to be intelligent about science? Why does everyone need to be educated on the flow of matter and energy and the nature of the physical world that we are all a part of? There is some truth to this but given that much of the world works on the premise of "one person one vote" it means that each individual's interpretations of the world, and decisions, are treated equally. Sometimes we hope we can delegate the task to our leaders who get voted into power but theoretically, at least in democratic systems, they gain power because of those who voted them in. One must be willing to accept that our leaders are a reflection of our intelligence. Ultimately the consequences of their actions can only be traced to those that allow them to be in power, hence the consequences of their decisions are our responsibility.

What I am suggesting is that if leaders make bad decisions based on their inaccurate interpretations of reality, especially regarding the impact of the side effects of our technologies on such things as climate change, then their decisions are merely a reflection of our own inaccurate interpretations. We are responsible for being intelligent and ensuring our children are intelligent. I make this point to highlight how important it is that we make accurate scientific data about the physical universe accessible to all. Even if our leaders do not reflect our beliefs it is still our responsibility to have the knowledge, intelligence, and the will to question their decisions if we feel it is warranted. Once again this requires accurate data that is accessible to all.

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

c) Intelligent decisions require us to value and apply accurate scientific data

I have discussed the two obvious requirements in order to make accurate interpretations of the physical world. Basically we require accurate data regarding the physical universe and accessibility to the data. A simple example would be if a hurricane were headed toward your home. If you have inaccurate data you might think the hurricane is not coming your way. If the data is accurate but the data is not accessible to you, it does not do you much good either.

Let us assume that the data regarding a hurricane coming your way is accurate, and it is accessible to you. Even though you know the data is accurate this does not guarantee that you will make a specific decision. Most would assume the "right" choice would be to leave in order to survive and in most cases you would find animals leaving the area to survive but there are other reasons that humans might do otherwise.

The fact is that an individual, culture, or country may simply not want to make decisions based on the clearly accurate and accessible data that is available. Such reasons for ignoring the data might include religious beliefs, our imagination, our ego, and other beliefs not related to science and the physical universe. We might go as far as to conclude that even when accurate data is available for making a decision, some might choose to overlook the probable scientific consequences of a decision, thereby placing the existence of themselves and others at greater risk in the physical universe.

To express this more clearly I will use the example of an asteroid about to hit a planet, a variation of an example I used earlier in the book. Assume there are 4 planets that face a cosmic event that may destroy their planets.

Planet A is comprised almost entirely of inhabitants that follow the laws of science. They have created instruments such as telescopes to monitor the cosmos and they have developed energy that allows them to propel themselves and objects through space. With their instruments it becomes clear that there is a massive asteroid heading to their planet and they will surely be destroyed. The inhabitants consider two alternatives which are to try to change the trajectory of the asteroid, or if that is not possible, they have made preparations to move their inhabitants through space to another nearby planet that is habitable and will be unaffected. How they do it is not important. All that matters is that they were able to acquire accurate data regarding the asteroid, that those who make the decisions had access to the data, and they chose to use the data to survive which was the consequence they desired.

Planet B is very similar to Planet A. The inhabitants are well versed in the laws of science and they have created the means of space travel so that they can colonize a nearby planet that they have studied. Like Planet A, relying on their scientific data, they make preparations and leave before the asteroid imminently destroys their planet. Unlike Planet A, they also recognize the value of diversity when it comes to survival. Instead of all inhabitants leaving they also construct a fail-safe plan. They create safe areas underground where some inhabitants can stay even when the asteroid hits. Those that stay are aware that the scientific probability of them surviving is very low.

As the collision date arrives, it appears the scientific calculations did not account for all variables and there is only minor damage to Planet B and those that were underground come to the surface only to find that it has been virtually unchanged. They have survived. At the same time they find that those who had left to the new planet have found that they are unable to return and the destined planet is not inhabitable.

The inhabitants of Planet B have survived because, even though their cooperative attempt similar to Planet A failed, they maintained some level of diversity so that the inhabitants that remained survived. Even the best projections we can make, even with the greatest probabilities based on science, can go wrong. As part of intelligence, along with our cooperative efforts, diversity is an important factor to include in our decisions.

Planet C inhabitants have not yet developed any method to detect objects outside of their own atmosphere nor have they found means of transportation beyond walking the surface of their planet. They live good lives living off the food that is available and are integrated into the ecosystem of the planet with other species. They are quite primitive and, though they value life greatly, they face the unfortunate consequence of the asteroid destroying the planet they live on. When the asteroid collides with their planet they all will be gone nearly instantly and will have had no concept of what had occurred before their end. Certainly if they had had access to the data and had the capability to act they would have done so.

Planet D is entirely different. The inhabitants are highly advanced and they have access to data that informs them that the asteroid will collide with their planet in about 3 years. It is possible that given they are quite advanced, the inhabitants do have enough time to construct a space vehicle to escape the planet. They can then live on a space station that will take them to a nearby planet. They might also be able to send their weapons toward the asteroid and change it's path such that it misses their planet.

The inhabitants have also evolved to what they feel is a higher dimension. They imagine that even if the planet comes to an end that there is a place in another dimension where they are destined to go that will be an even better place to live than their home planet. They all would normally wait to the end of their life spans and expect to go there if they behaved according to their customs and beliefs. Instead though they see the asteroid is likely to be their end in the physical world so they conclude that it is now their destiny anyway to leave the physical universe.

There are some that do not agree with this thinking but the ruling leaders favor their faith in their belief that they are about to take their next step to a higher dimension. Unfortunately it requires the full cooperative effort of all in order to create the technology necessary to take them from the path of the asteroid. Ultimately, the majority chooses not to react and given no one is able to leave the planet, they all face their end. Whether true or not, or whether it is their ego or their ability to extrapolate and imagine a world that may not exist, they choose to accept an end to their existence in the physical universe. Even with the data and accessibility to the data to allow them to survive, they chose otherwise. No one can judge them for their actions. No one can conclude whether the actions they took were right or wrong. There is no one left in physical reality to judge. The only measure of their choice is the simple consequence of their choice.

Some might be of the opinion that the above example is a bit far-fetched and not realistic, but we can find similar situations in our day to day lives quite easily. For example, an individual may have a medical problem where chemotherapy might be the only known scientific solution at the time. Regardless the individual may feel they can heal the problem through the power of thought, or less scientific remedies that historically show less probable results of success. If we choose to ignore science we can only measure the results through the consequences of our decisions.

I am reminded of another example where someone I knew once thought when they jumped, if they believed they could jump higher than they were physically capable, then it would just happen. Such a simple example as this illustrates how easily our imagination can supersede physical reality.

Another somewhat funny example occurred when I was a child. The family all went out to dinner to a pizza restaurant and the owner said that if I could eat an entire extra large pizza myself that I could have the next one free. The pizza restaurant owner knew full well it would be "physically" impossible for me to fit the pizza into my small stomach but I of course could not help imagine that it was quite possible, and even the second pizza too! To no surprise I was unable to eat it. In life every day we are all faced with interpreting the world around us and making decisions. If I had the "data" that no small child could possibly eat such a large pizza, I might have had second thoughts. Once again, decisions that lead to the consequences that we desire require accurate accessible data, and we must use the data.

Hurricane and Asteroid image courtesy of https://www.nasa.gov
Belief Image courtesy of thepathtraveler at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Nuclear Image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Pizza Image courtesy of Suat Eman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Summary

Earlier in "Life and Earth" I suggested that the future of our physical universe is already preset. For example, tomorrow you will be standing at a specific spot at a specific time and it is in a sense pre-destined. Even if you make a choice to change the result before the event occurs, your choice is merely a part of the cosmic flow of events that will affect where you stand tomorrow. I also alluded to the idea that if this is indeed the case then all we can really do is gather the most accurate and relevant data possible in order to make predictions as to the events that will occur in the future. The fact that we can take physical action based on accurate and accessible data does enable us to affect the consequences. Though our choices may be a part of destiny, we nevertheless can affect destiny.

Our interpretation of accurate data, and our actions that follow, can increase the probability that the consequences we desire will occur. It is now our task as countries and individuals to determine the relevant and accurate data that will tell us how the side effects of our technologies will affect us in the future. We must collect data on climate science, nuclear weapons, artificial intelligence, and so on and determine the best courses of actions possible to ensure the world is what we hope it can be. Countries must learn how to cooperatively move forward with technologies, and also when to halt or slow down our development of new technologies.

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