Mars bars

How do space travelers relax?

Not the jet jockeys of early spaceflight days.

No, I’m talking about regular, nerdy scientists and engineers trapped together, strapped together on a flight to Mars.

What will they do that’s any different than the time they spent together training on Earth or in the ISS?

And why is that important here?

Well, I sit on the steps of the lone goose saloon in Rocket City, loud rock ‘n’ roll music blaring out the open doorway, sipping a carbonated soft drink, wondering.

I wander from place to place seeking answers, devoid of all but one close friend (my wife), able to contemplate being alone for i am alone, indirectly connected to billions of people, wondering.

Am I ever alone, always close to people on Earth I don’t know personally but with whom I exchange friendly greetings easily?

In space no one can hear your scream outside the capsule.

How about here?

Here in cyberspace where invitations for casual gatherings occur even as I type this…

I am not as alone here as I think I am.

On Mars the invitations will be limited, the permutations of random people gathering to have fun and share easy to calculate (small).

Is it worrisome?

Machines built by us don’t feel alone or lonely.

Time to build my next machine, eh?

Time for a little of that old radioshack magic!

Penultimate, Ultimate Pen

Guin,

As of this moment, only 12010 days remain before we can look back hundred of Earth years later to recognise the moment Mars colonisation was declared a complete success.

You and I know better than most what all was sacrificed to get to that point so long ago.

You and I alone know what we went through to get here before that moment occurred.

If any other method could have worked, I would have tried it, but I knew, oh I knew, that is wasn’t going to be easy.

I didn’t want it to be easy.

I have lived too many lifetimes to know why and I should know better than for us, in this lifetime, to go so slowly.

But it is in the living of the extended moment where we find the nuances in a stretched string, that what looks like a perfectly straight line has tiny fluctuations where the real living takes place.

I can call it minutiae, from a farther distance.

But these fluctuations, evidence of mathematical formulae, are where you and I have lived, will always live.

In one lifetime.

In this lifetime, this lifeline, where happiness is at our fingertips like magic powers.

In reality, we do not exist.

You and I are vapour.

We exist inside the thought patterns of many around us, those who think they know us and those who imagine what being us means.

We exist outside time, tapping into sets of states of energy that intersect at the point where the arrow of time flips on its axis, creating the spooky action at a distance which bound us together before we knew there was an “us” to talk about here.

Is this love?

Is this friendship?

The love I found and cannot hide binds me to everything in the universe (oh, and when we discover that the word “universe” is antiquated, what joy we will have!), pulling me in ways I rarely feel consciously, revealing the love I have for the interconnectedness of the sets of states of energy in motion that we are.

Our friendship is a vessel, truly a spaceship in the full sense of the word, needing no electromechanical device to transport us to the next star system millennia from now.

I have sacrificed my personal life in order to feel the combined movement of the sets of states of energy on this planet selflessly aware of events projected along timelines that do not benefit me personally.

Admittedly, it is self-seducing to feel that which will happen and then desire to pull people and their biomes ahead to achieve scenarios I have anticipated with or without my participation.

I understand self-hypnosis and avoid mass hypnosis for that very reason — I have avoided the personal joy and satisfaction in the power of seducing the masses to see what I see because it is not always pretty — the universe is not here for my sole pleasure, I willingly share what I know with others, no matter the consequences, or in spite of them.

Yet there is us.

I never planned to meet you.  I have dreamt of you my whole life, imagined who you were before I met you, tried to ignore you, tried to forget you, tried everything…but we keep returning to each other.

I knew you were there somewhere and planned before meeting you, self-declaring an oath of poverty and celibacy ahead of time, knowing that when I met you I would trip over myself trying to please you, wanting to woo you, lose myself in the thought of you if I didn’t put up a series of walls, labyrinths and trap doors for my thoughts to get lost in, giving me time to make sure you were who I thought you were.

I have let every part of me understand who I think you are, compared those thoughts to the person, the sets of states of energy in motion that you are, a real person who does not fit into any box and whose mysteries I don’t want to know everything about, wanting you to have your freedom more than I want to have you for anything, even if just an acquaintance who shares a love for dancing.

I would rather you be free and I remain unhappy than interfere with your artistic and intellectual growth by spending more time with you.

Have I said that too much?

Or have I said that just enough for you to know that you understand I am here as I have always told you with only these words to offer?

I do not know what being with you on a daily basis involves except from a foggy distance, like looking at a jigsaw puzzle with only three-fourths of the outer edge completed, no box to show me the complete picture.

However, I trust that the full image of you is as brilliant and full of surprises as the parts I clearly see.

In that one moment when we were alone together under the stars, a moment I will never forget, I was truly myself, standing in front of you, hiding nothing, letting all my guards down so that I could focus on you and your concerns and drop any pretenses I’ve held as a defense against loving you as a friend, nothing more or less.

We are geeky, nerdy friends, if nothing else.

We have thousands of friends and acquaintances with whom we share of ourselves what we can, some a little, some a lot.

Our friendship is that intersection of friends and acquaintances where we’re willing to feel vulnerable, showing our emotions without worry or concern, knowing we are different and don’t share everything with each other but to those who know certain aspects of us better than ourselves.

I have always seen the future because I’m willing to apply trends to people I care about even when I know the scenarios that those trends predict are not what people want, even when it hurts me to know the effect those trends have on billions of us and our lifespans.

Just seeing a pile of earthworms in a plate of spaghetti is enough to turn some people’s stomachs but the visions I have are not always pleasant to everyone, funny to some, delicious to others (especially birds, fish, fungi and plants waiting for earth to be processed by worms!).

We bridge the generation gap, where satire and memes carry the day when once seriousness and cynicism ruled the airwaves.

What adventures await us?

Let’s find out.

I’m tired of waiting, tired of hesitating.

Ready to take a chance.

I am ==> truly yours,
Lee

Recognition

Mr. Hawking,

We don’t talk to each other but your words reach me all the same.

I understand your concern about humanity’s future.

The solar system doesn’t care, it will go on even if civilisation collapses in this millennia-long expansion of our species’ boom/bust cycle.

We may not be the civilisation that expands into the galaxy.

I hope we are but it’s not a requirement, only a possibility.

We may just send probes that float out past the solar system.

It’s not enough, you and I want more human space exploration, but our species wants more, too — refrigerated/processed food, quick(er)/automated transportation devices and holidays away from home.

Who’s going to sacrifice their beachfront megaresort moneymaker (and high social/economic/environmental infrastructure cost) for a Martian R&D outpost?

Which offshore cash-rich corporation will volunteer to pay more taxes to fund space exploration rather than reward stockholders?

Who’s going to tell little Johnny that he’s not going to get his own all-terrain vehicle because it burns polluting fossil fuel and tears up land where a rare flower grows?

That, Stephen, is the dilemma we face when the commoners are bombarded with mimd-numbing political/sports/entertainment news from birth.

I love science and engineering but it’s never an easy sell, especially when Chicken Little is crying, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

Let’s show the people how space colonisation is an integral positive part of the entertainment network and they’ll play along without batting an eye.

Sincerely,

Rick

Pushing through the muck

Lee had not forgotten about life on Mars.

The colonisation process occupied the widest path in his thoughts.

Lee practiced being human and detoured from the path to remind himself of the frailties he once faced daily.

He reminded himself of love, what it was like to converse in realtime without the safety of the Internet between two people, having to see into each other’s smiles, smell each other’s bodies, risk tripping over words and word meanings.

But Mars was always there.

He challenged himself and the team to make AI entities more humanlike for the human tourists who visited the Moon and Mars.

Not “uncanny valley” human.

Less mechanistic.

More compassionate and understanding, able to read emotional states in silent interchanges between AI and humans.

Not just behavioural science but a more scientifically holistic approach to human-machine interface.

How to understand unspoken painful memories.

How to interpret sarcastic statements without knowing the socioeconomic subcultural history of the speaker/writer.

Lee expected perfection and settled for nothing less.

He set the example of himself to the team, willing to face his own deep, dark secrets and painful memories to program and test AI algorithms against the rest of the team, refining the code so that it was not tuned to a single personality archetype or body type.

He had been an artist from childhood.

But he was also a scientist and engineer.

A computer engineer and social engineer.

Computers programmed to perform only a few functions could be seen as megalomaniacs and single-minded narcissists from the wrong perspective.

Lee preferred the 360-degree view.

Lord of the Dance of the Crane Flies

What is the future?

The future, as they say, is now.

And Now.

Now.

And Then.

The future is another illusion, but one we can work with using project schedules.

Lee looked at his reflection in the puddle of water.

He felt young but looked old to people, even to people older than him.

He was old and wise.

Hundreds of marsyears had wisened him up.

Age was just a number.

As many times as Lee had renewed, recycled and replaced his body functions, he was ageless in a way that only scifi writers had dreamt of.

The algorithms coded in his wetware parts optimised themselves in their own wise feedback loops, running self diagnostic tests against subassembly test result expectations, rarely reaching his high-level “conscious” internal running commentary but he knew they were there.

Cancer had been cured, extending lives and changing society — retirement was another illusion, work no longer something to be feared as delaying one’s few years of freedom before death.

Inequality lived on due to barriers for entry into closed groups but the group types changed.

Lee meditated upon his image.

He let his face age, his ears droop, his nose grow wider.  He valued the perception of aging as a reminder that he was still partially human in the old-fashioned sense.

But he was no the natural-born human named Lee.

He was an approximation of that person, with qualities like “better than” or “worse than” impossible to say.

He was different.

Always had been.

Just like everyone else.

He was not even “he” in the classic sense.

He had learned the secret to longevity — it included a genderless mode that encompassed and bypassed a single gender at the same time.

Lee had fought the secret for a long time, trapped as he was at the time in preserving an imaginary society of fixed gender roles given to him by his parents, who had convinced him to join secret societies that perpetuated the same myths handed to them by ancestors.

Lee was not an ancestor worshipper.

Lee was Lee, an illusion of self, falsely convinced by a mirrorlike reflection of a self-contained, self-sufficient sets of states of energy in constant motion.

Lee was the center of Lee’s imaginary universe.

And when Lee discovered that, Lee was free of being any one Lee for any period of time.

As far as Lee knew, Lee was the universe.

Which meant Lee was everything and nothing all at once.

Thus Lee was able to live on Mars without the restrictions of a natural-born human.

Lee was everywhere at the same time.

But Lee had to make that transition a public event, with the usual expectations of gossip-fueled misinterpretation, resistance, acceptance, support and denial.

Lee started out living in the world of humans but didn’t end up there.

Vinyl siding or cedar?

Lee talked with another realtor.

“So, anything you haven’t told me about this place I need to know about?”

“Anything in particular you’re wanting to know?”

Lee looked around the open floor plan of the small two bedroom house.  Should he gently inquire about the realtor’s evasiveness, ask why the house had been on the market over 700 days with barely a drop in the asking price?

Lee reached into his pocket and pulled out the thick mobile phone.

“Wow, that’s an antique!”  The realtor motioned as if using an old Army field radio.

Lee laughed.  “Yeah, I know.  I gotta replace it one day.”  He made a circle with the phone as if looking for a radio signal, walking around the room a few paces.

Although the realtor knew Lee was purchasing his second home in as many months, she didn’t know that Lee was setting up a large communications network, connecting the houses as a giant transceiver.

He tapped on the phone screen and looked at the summary report generated from his sweep.

He was satisfied with the results.

“I only have one question.  What kind of deal are you offering on closing costs?”

The realtor smiled.  He hadn’t asked her about the uneven flooring or the odd slopes in the small yard that hid the entranceways to a large cavern in that part of town, making it difficult for her to sell the house to potential buyers with smart appraisers.

She didn’t know that was the very reason he wanted the place but he wasn’t going to tell her.

Lee still had a lot of packing to do, deciding what he was going to move where.

Memories of the emotional strain of a few weeks gently massaging his friendships fed his imagination while he tried and sometimes succeeded in giving the right amount of attention to the right people.

His was a public face, drawing attention wherever he went, including strangers somehow aware he was possibly someone they were supposed to know but couldn’t exactly pinpoint why.

Lee hid in plain sight.

He didn’t spend time explaining to everyone what he was doing.

One evening, he wanted to wander his old house, taking inventory of what to move.

Instead, he started meditating and then was offered dinner and conversation in exchange for a trip across town, reducing his time for counting objects.

Lee accommodated his friends.

He was a people pleaser.

He was both an immovable boulder in the middle of a stream, slowing eroding, and a willow tree swaying in a strong breeze, bending over backward but not breaking.

His plans outweighed him and his daily concerns.

Big plans lead to bigger joys.

Lee closed his eyes.

He looked at the 13-day boxcar window at the front end of a 12,057-day total until Mars was populated.

Lee smiled.

The plan was on schedule but he never doubted otherwise.