Thursday, July 15, 2010

before you put your pants on smarty...

Someone please tell me that I'm not the only person who pontificates about what would ever happen if we reached the end of science. Is that even possible? I mean, even if we discover all there is to know, won't there always be a couple of unanswerable questions because of the conditions with which we're surrounded? For instance, without the aid of greater perspective, how will we ever know that what we think we're seeing is really what's there? For instance, what you're seeing as a computer screen and keyboard may actually be specks on some tiny part of some hard-to-even-imagine-how-big-or-small-it-could-be gravitational horizon that reflects light in a certain way to mimic shapes. No really, some scientists think THIS COULD ALL JUST BE A F*CKING HOLOGRAM!

Your hand on the mouse guiding the pointer toward the "X" right now? ILLUSION!

But seriously, please don't click that "X." I swear I'm going somewhere with this in that it will soon become a metaphor for something we perceive to be real within the parts of the world we think we're able to detect through our current science-based "facts." Or whatever.

Basically, what I'm saying here is that even if we do come up with a theory that more or less "proves" (or at least what we perceive as proves) a certain theory, how do we know that's the end? What if that hologram universe is part of a larger hologram world? Or what if that larger hologram world is balanced on the backs of a million stacked-up turtles? Or what if those millions of stacked up turtles are actually located in a marble being knocked around by some 8-year-old kid in some other world where up is down and down is up? Or, God ironically forbid, that we discuss the possibility of the existence of God or Allah or Krishna or Xenu (well, maybe not that last one...) or some other traditionally divine possibility! Or maybe it's not anything anthropomorphic at all! Maybe there's still some supernatural force -- for the atheists in the crowd let's call it Science 2.0 -- that our mysteriously conscious minds don't have the faculties to even begin to comprehend! Perhaps, all we are is dust in the wind. All we are is dust in the wi-i-i-i-i-i-iiiind! (You're my boy, Blue!)

And I joke (as signified by my nod to "Old School," the greatest film to ever be produced on hologram Earth), but maybe that's literal! Maybe a Science 2.0 blob-god flipped on a fan, causing the dander (which is really tiny hologram us!) on his pet blob-cat to careen off into the far corner of his blobpartment in an ever-expanding mass. Maybe THAT'S the "big bang!"

(Give me a minute. OMBG! My head's about to explode.)

Phew. The point is, no matter how much we think we know, we might be totally wrong, at least in the grand scheme of things. And sure, some will argue that if there's never going to be a possibility of proving or disproving a set of possibilities, there's no point in trying or even caring. They say, "I'll just stick to what I can see, thankyouverymuch. The rest doesn't matter because I can't quantify it with my TI-89!"

Fine. I get it. Facts (or what we perceive to be facts) are important. So are statistics and data and everything else that can tell us more about the immediate world that we can see. After all, hologram or not, the way our senses work (whether they were evolved or designed or pooped out by evolutionary forces within the intestines of blob-god), we're forced to operate within the parameters we can detect through sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Sadly, those are all the faculties we've got, which means we might still be missing things we can't merdop, zangle, puffuffle, lorp and vulkem. (I assume those are the totally reasonably named senses of the future.) In other words, we're probably missing a lot.

And so is this Brookings Institute study that led the Washington Post, which I love so much, to proclaim, "Washington region ranks as best-educated area in the country." Mainly, it seems to be missing the data, which they apparently gathered from some mythical "2008 Census."

Judging from the 2010 Census PR campaign, I'm guessing the 2008 return was probably pretty paltry and, more importantly, probably pretty lopsided. For one, I don't even remember receiving a census form, and also I'm guessing that there was probably a disproportionate number returned from the suburbs where people simply have nothing else to do but get rich, go to school and fill out government paperwork. (And spy for Russia.)

But even if I was the only oddball in DC proper not to receive a form and this 2008 data is more or less correct, having the highest number of post-high school degrees isn't necessarily something we should be bragging about. These days, most people in middle-class-to-affluent suburbs go to college because that's what they're supposed to do. You don't have to be extraordinarily smart to get in anymore (George W. Bush went to Yale), which means when you graduate, it certainly doesn't signify that you're smarter because of it (again, George W. Bush went to Yale). Really, college is the new high school, but with a lot more grade inflation, so in a weird way, it's actually easier. (GEORGE BUSH WENT TO YALE!)

More importantly, college doesn't make you interesting. And in fact, going to college because "it's what's expected of you," actually just makes you boring. What do you do? Oh, you're a [insert serious occupation here]? That's great. What else do you do? You act like a douche because you let your college-degree-necessary serious job define your entire personality? That's fabulous. Good for you.

Seriously, think about how many parties (and I use that term loosely here) you've been to in DC or Arlington or Alexandria or Bethesda, where you find yourself saying, "I need to be drunker to be here right now." Why do you think that is? It's because besides talking politics and policy (which, I concede, we are very good at here in DC) party conversations here are about as stimulating to the mind as blob-god's legs are long. (Get it? BLOB-GOD DOESN'T HAVE LEGS! Or does he? Or she? Or it? Or some other pronoun our brains can't even conceive of yet?)

DC is very good at maintaining the status quo, which is fine I guess (it's better than being below average), but it's certainly nothing to be proud of. Great, we all went to college. Great, we all have stable 9 to 5 jobs (well, most of us...). Great, we all watch CSI and go to Home Depot on the weekends. Woot.

It comes down to this: What we lack in DC in adequate stimulation, we try to make up for in our boasting about how book-smart we are. While that's great (I think a certain level of erudition -- although not necessarily that which can be acquired through traditional schooling -- is necessary to create stimulation), if we're always reading the book instead of writing it, we're destined for nothing more than normal, adequate, so-so, meh, peppered every-so-often with a truly great policy discussion.

So here's my unsolicited advice: We need to break out of the constraints we've trapped ourselves within and look at the grander picture. Life isn't all about staying in line with what's expected of us given the circumstances into which we were born. It's high time we here in DC began to see beyond our own myopia and puffuffle the numinous that could be. Or at the very least, stop being so damn socially boring, wonks, and start realizing there's more to life than networking. There's blob-god. Or something.

About the author: The Anti DC not only went to college but somehow convinced another school of higher learning to give her a Master's degree in Russian foreign policy, which she will talk about if asked at parties until your ear falls off. Literally. Then, in humanity's quest to get to the end of science, she will conduct an experiment to discover how many hologram cocktail napkins it takes to plug the gaping hole left by your missing ear. Talk about being socially awkward at a party! This girl!


Anonymous said...

What kind of drugs, Marissa?!

-Anonymous Brian

Patrick B said...

1st, Marissa are you high? If so where can I get some of that shit!?

2nd, Damn this is a great post. One of my favs. I like when you get all, pardon the expression, high-minded. The pacing is great and the venom totally warranted. Science and smart people can be just as dangerous as Religion and dumb people. It's really important to recognize all that we don't know and never become dogmatic which science does as often as the religious right. Sadly I'm not smart enough to put into words the Sparkley thoughts that this post put in my head.

3rd I never thought of what happens if we run out of science, so bravo for that, a totally new thought. There was a rumor that they discovered the Higgs Boson and in some ways that would mean the end of this era of science.

Lastly, what spurred this post?

Patty Duke said...

I like to get drunk and party my ass off at parties.

the only politics that interest me is D.C. politics.

I have better things to do than spend my weekends at Home Depot.

I have a college degree, but my job doesn;t require one.

Damn, do I belong here?

Debbi said...

Wow, I got tired just reading that.

One of your best posts ever.

kob said...

It's a hologram all right, and a rerun at that.

Marissa said...

Anon Brian--


Patrick B--

Sadly, this is my mind totally sober. I was having some conversations with someone strictly science-minded and it just got my mind rolling. And then it didn't stop. Thanks for the kudos, though -- I'm glad you found some coherence in it!

Patty Duke--

Your last question is a really good abstract philosophical question: Do any of us belong here, really? I love this sh*t.


Welcome to my hologram e-world. (Thanks!)


You said it! You said it!

Alex said...

Science is a self-correcting system and, as such, is infallible. However, the methods we use to gather information to be fed into the system (and, of course, if we choose to update the system with the new information) can be fallible.

For example, I grew up in a haunted house. I know ghosts are real. Whatever. However, by their nature they cannot meet the criteria of scientific rigor - yet still exist. That's not science's fault. The fault lies in the fallibility of our ways of gathering empirical data. At least until I build a ghost-catcher.

So my point is that there may never be an end of science because the concept itself is malleable. Once we reach the "end" there will be a suite of new questions about the nature of the end.