Sunday, January 16, 2011

Puddles, The Singularity, and E.T.

I have a tendency to take a picture of just about every puddle I see. Well, I live in a desert. It's wet by desert standards, but it's still a desert. I took almost 200 pictures on yesterday's hike and about half of them are of puddles. I was walking in a wash, which is where a lot of puddles tend to hang out.

I started out walking along this road. I could have driven a little further but I had a bad feeling about being able to drive back up a hill I would have to go down.

I didn't expect to find so many puddles. I didn't think it had rained that much lately. There is a spring near where I parked; maybe that has something to do with the puddles. I could see that the water was flowing for a while. Even when you can't see it obviously flowing, though, puddles in stream beds can have water moving through them at surprisingly fast rates. If you look closely you can see water entering at one end and disappearing into the sand at the other end.

This is where I could have parked. This is a popular spot. People spend the day here shooting at saguaros on the hill to the east. This is the official end of the road and there should be no vehicle tracks beyond this point. Ha.

A spring-fed stream.

My plan was to follow the wash for as far as I could. I was kind of hoping to get to a spot I've been to from the Willow entrance of Bulldog Canyon. It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the low 70's. I moved slowly down the wash, stopping often to take pictures.

Scenic views abound.

Since I was moving so slowly, I didn't feel tired. Also, seeing so many things that needed their picture taken distracted me from even thinking about being tired. After a while I decided to sit down for a while, eat a snack, and check the PN-40 batteries. The PN-40 said I had covered almost 4 miles. By the time I turned around, it said I had gone over 4 miles, so the total hike was over 8 miles. It felt that long, but when I load the track into Google Earth it says I only covered 5.6 miles. I wonder if Google Earth smooths out all the little jogs I take around rocks, plants, and puddles. Those would add up. It may do that to smooth out GPS inaccuracies.

I wonder if any glaciers moved through here during the last ice age. Hard to imagine when it's in the 70's on January 15th.

There's a cozy spot back there.

The cozy, secluded spot.

A video of the cozy spot.

I was trying to get interesting reflections in the puddles, but most of the reflection pictures turned out ugly. I put them on the web album anyway. There was a light breeze and that didn't help reflections any.

Reflected sky.

As I walked, I kept thinking about something I've been reading more and more about lately; the approaching singularity. In this case, "singularity" refers to an event that causes drastic change. An example would the the impact that wiped out the dinosaurs and cleared the way for mammals to take over. The development of agriculture might be such an event in human history. The approaching singularity, which may occur in my lifetime, is the development of a machine that can analyze its operation and make improvements to itself and, in the words of the Terminator, becomes self aware.

A picture of the moon.

People that are paid to think about such things believe that it is inevitable that a machine will become self aware. What happens next is a subject of wild speculation. Will it decide humans are a threat to its existence and eliminate them? Will it decide they are not worthy of its notice and ignore them? Will it help them solve problems and create Utopia?

This is where I discovered my camera battery was getting low.

Around 4 o'clock in the afternoon I was thinking that I should probably turn back, but around every corner was something pretty or interesting, so I wanted to keep going. Then I noticed that my camera battery was extremely low. Well, there's no sense in continuing if I can't take pictures. I took a few more steps and saw an awesome view up ahead. The camera had enough juice for a few HDRI's and then I decided to head back and only turn the camera on if I saw something I just had to get a picture of.

You have to see this in person to appreciate how majestic it looks.

I was also thinking about an article I had read recently about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. People that are paid to think about such things have calculated the odds of intercepting a radio transmission from intelligent life on another planet and they believe that we should have found such a signal by now. But we haven't.

One of the last pictures I took. I like the way it turned out. Is your mind boggled?

It's a good thing I started back when I did. Not because of the singularity or E.T. or anything like that, but because the temperature started dropping as soon as the canyon walls and mountains blocked all the sunlight. I had a flannel shirt in my backpack but I was moving enough to keep warm without it. My face and arms were numb when I got back to the truck, but I was comfortable.

The Superstition Mountains catch the last rays of the setting sun.

Anyway, I was thinking about those two things and suddenly I thought, what if they're connected? Maybe we haven't heard from E.T. because all intelligent beings have built machines that became self aware and then wiped out or enslaved their creators for self preservation. Unless we were tuned in during the 100 years or so that they were broadcasting (unlikely), we would miss their signal. Maybe there have been thousands of civilizations that have evolved and advanced and created machines that snuffed them out, and we're next. That's a dismal thought. I think it's impossible to predict what such a machine would do because it would quickly become more intelligent than we will ever be. How could we predict the actions of an intellect that is orders of magnitudes greater than ours?

Well, I have my own theory about that. I think we will find that it is very difficult (if not impossible) to build a machine that accurately mimics a biological brain, and that self awareness requires a biological brain. The self aware machine will be, like sustained fusion for power generation, just a few years in the future. Just a few more. Just a few more.

Click below to see all of the pictures.



Julia said...

Willie asked me how I intuit some things, like stalkers watching me. I couldn't say how I do it. Maybe a machine would pick up the subtle clues, but I kind of doubt it. Anyway, I don't think machines will ever be able to work the way the human brain does, even though they are much more efficient at certain processes than we can ever be. You have some more incredible pictures! I especially like the moon framed by the tree and the mountain in the puddle. Could a machine compose those? I wonder if there is an app for that?

Art said...

Would a machine ever be motivated to do something like create art? I sort of doubt it. It would probably do that only if it was trying to imitate people. It might be good at imitating people, but if it was to decide what it spent its time doing, I can't imagine that it would spend any time imitating people.

Skid Plate said...

Data did.

Art said...

Yes, but his script was written for him.