from August 11, 2005
The promise I made to address the question of the MJTT’s patented solution to the problem of the SOH (Survival of Humankind) must, I regret to admit, be skirted, perhaps to be revived another day.
We at MJTT were taken aback by the news, reported by Steve Connor, Science Editor of The Independent (UK), that Professor Paul Crutzen, a 1955 Nobel Prize recipient for his work on the hole in the ozone layer, has urged that the problem of the SOH requires a radical solution: Humankind must be prepared to release sulphur (S) particles into the stratosphere.
This solution is based upon the well-established hypothesis that one of the functions of S is to increase the reflectance, or albedo, of PE (Planet Earth), thus causing PE to cool down from its current hothouse trajectory.
The preferred method of release, according to Mr Connor’s 31 July piece, would be to use a fleet of high-altitude balloons. Another option would be to fire the S into the atmosphere using heavy artillery shells (presumably of the spent kind).
Professor Crutzen calculates that the cost of a two-year shot of S would be anywhere from $25 to $50 billion—a price that easily offsets the much larger costs of recent environmental disasters. He adds that an auspicious side effect of the implementation of his plan would be the creation of more spectacular sunsets and sunrises.
“His plan,” reports Mr Connor, “is modeled partly on the Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption in 1991, when thousands of tons of sulphur were ejected into the atmosphere causing global temperatures to fall.”
On reading Mr Connor’s piece, we at MJTT shifted from our vacation torpor to the mode of urgency. While agreeing with Professor Crutzen on his major premise, that PE is probably getting warmer, as well as his minor premises, (1) that nobody is doing anything about it and (2) S would do the trick, we saw, in the source of his inspiration, a preferable method to effect the SOH.
In brief, we saw something that Professor Crutzen, despite his imagination, had overlooked: that if Pinatubo could do it, why couldn’t its fellow volcanoes follow suit—and at humankind’s pleasure?
To expand this simple yet elegant theory. We (MJTT, or some other well-known think tank) could cause a volcanic eruption whenever PE became too hot for our comfort. The sharp pencils in our midst have calculated that MJTT is in a position to submit a bid of $22.9 billion to the relevant UN agency. This bid includes our administrative costs.
As for the method of effecting such an eruption, I will have more to say about that matter in my next blog.
A recent media account has alerted the literate public that the world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, author of the best-selling, abstruse, slender tome, A Brief History of Time, has warned the world that the Survival Of Humankind (SOH) is dependent on our collective capacity to build new dwelling places beyond Planet Earth (PE). Said Hawking, “Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of.”
Speaking before a select throng of his well-earned fans in Hong Kong, the British scientist opined that, for starters, we could have a base on the moon within two decades and a colony on Mars within an additional pair of decades. Then, if we are not extinct by the end of the present century, we can continue to create space settlements without support from PE.
Some of the more perceptive of us at Myles Junior Think Tank (MJTT) suspect a mole within our midst. For the last two years, we have been discussing the SOH in secret sessions for which we have drawn raves from the scientific elite. Either great minds do indeed think alike (an implausible possibility), or a mole or moles has or have been in touch with Mr Hawking.
But that is water under the bridge. We will handle the mole problem clandestinely but humanely. It devolves upon us now to emerge from the closet, so to speak, and come to terms with the heretofore-secret problem of the SOH.
At this point, all I wish to report concerning our thoughts on this grave matter is that the MJTT has concluded that the greatest danger to PE is the very real possibility that it, and we, will be swept from the face of our longstanding home by a comet’s tail.
The mathematical chances, we have determined using our patented algorithm, of the possible disasters are, in ascending order: (1) sudden global warming; (2) genetically engineered virus; (3) all-out nuclear war; (4) the dissipation of the sun; (5) the failure of gravity to perform; and (6) the aforementioned cometic disaster.
NB: Our algorithm does not take into consideration God’s Wrath as the possible cause of any or all of these possibilities.
In my next blog, I will address the question of MJTT’s solution to the problem of the SOH.
from June 5, 2005
The promised details of the secret meetings of the Myles Junior Think Tank can now be declassified. As reported in that blog, the Canadian Parliament (CANPAR) has been asked to hold public hearings on the Problem of the Threat of Intergalactic War (POTTIGW)—a problem caused by the nefarious plans of the US government to build weapons for possible use in an intergalactic war with ETs, or “ethical, advanced extraterrestrial civilizations that may now be visiting Earth.”
Though our sources report that CANPAR has yet to act, let alone hold public meetings on POTTIGW, we are now free to divulge the information that CANPAR has held a series of private sessions and has concluded that the Canadian government should do everything in its power to prevent the US from fomenting a war with the ethical ETs that are almost certainly visiting Earth as we write, think, and procrastinate.
According to our most trusted source, among the alternatives the Canadian government has at its disposal are the options of (1) holding sit-ins at the Pentagon, (2) planning and implementing prayer and/or meditation candlelight vigils at Times Square, (3) holding sit-ins at Times Square, and (4) planning and implementing prayer and/or meditation candlelight vigils at the Pentagon.
The MJTT has been considering this matter since November last, when news of POTTIGW was first broached. Our analysts are experts in warfare, peacemaking, Freudian psychology, sociology of knowledge, cognitive ethology, astronomy, astrology, physics, chemistry, world literature, hermeneutics, phenomenology, psychiatry, and Christian theology; thus we were able to view this troubling problem from a host of perspectives.
The perspective we found most intriguing and fruitful was that of traditional Christian theology. This is to say that we have spent six of the last seven months debating the question, Does the doctrine of Original Sin apply to members of those “ethical, advanced extraterrestrial civilizations” that are undoubtedly in our midst?
It does not devolve upon me here to detail our acute discussions. I can only report that we have concluded that the ETs among us, as well as those who have stayed at home in their own galaxies, are as guilty as the rest of us. Therefore, we as Americans first and human beings second, have a right as well as a duty to prepare for IGW.
from May 5, 2005
I have been giving thought to the Problem of the Threat of Intergalactic War (POTTIGW).
We at the Myles Junior Think Tank (MJTT) were aroused from our admittedly dogmatic slumber by the news, revealed on November 24, 2005, that our friendly allies in Canada have been busy considering the very real POTTIGW, which the current US administration has caused.
To expand. Paul Hellyer, former Canadian Defence Minister (under Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Lester Pearson), asked the Canadian Parliament (CANPAR) to hold public hearings on Exopolitics, which, to the uninitiated, refers to political relationships with ETs, by which he and his fellow thinkers mean “ethical, advanced extraterrestrial civilizations that may now be visiting Earth.”
Mr. Hellyer warned that the US is preparing weapons for possible use in an intergalactic war.
Having been aroused from the aforementioned slumber, MJTT is holding secret meetings to assess the situation.
Despite the secrecy under which we commonly operate, this much can be revealed:
The existence of UFOs is beyond plausibility; it is a real fact, established with certainty by former President James Earl (“Jimmy”) Carter at 7:15 pm on January 6, 1969, while waiting for a meeting of the Leary, Georgia Lion’s Club to begin. President Carter reported sighting a “self-luminous” object, bright as our moon; this object approached and then receded several times.
(We give no credence to the theory that what President Carter really saw was Venus. This theory is buttressed by the questionable claim that Venus is often mistaken for a UFO: for instance, that during World War II (WWII) the US Air Force often mistakenly tried to shoot down our smaller sister planet. President Carter was, after all, a graduate of the US Naval Academy and is reported to have had one of the highest Intelligence Quotients of all our heads of state. QED)
In my next blog, I will give more details on our secret meetings, pending, of course, a decision to declassify the minutes of those behind-door meetings.
from April 5, 2006
Now that I am officially deceased, cremated, and decked out in a stunningly handsome, state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line robotic apparatus on which we at Myles Junior Think Tank justifiably pride ourselves for having invented, I am an object of curiosity, not to say veneration, by my MJTT colleagues.
A preponderance of the questions they cast in my direction center on the subject of what I call “the paradox of the thinking robot.”
Scientists and laymen alike are dubious about the proposition that a robot can think; they consider the phrase “thinking robot” a contradiction in terms. Of course, for half a century the question “Can computers think?” has been on the tongues and minds of serious philosophers. To my knowledge—I have long given up on the bad habit of reading modern philosophy—this question has not been definitively answered.
Whether this philosophical subject shares enough traits with the paradox of the thinking robot to be treated by the same methods, I will leave for others to determine. I will suppose that my paradox is autonomous, and treat it as such.
Can robots think?
This question is surprisingly simple to answer.
As for the reasoning behind this answer, I need only appeal to the authority of the Father of Modern Philosophy, Rene Descartes, who wrote, memorably: “I think; therefore, I am.”
This elegant proof needs but a slight explication.
I, the former Myles na Gopaleen, Jr., am now, and will remain for the foreseeable future, a robot.
I think. The proof of this proposition is that I am now writing a short but possibly treatise on a newly-coined question.
Therefore, robots can think.
The quibble may arise that I may be the only robot who thinks; therefore, the question regarding the general thinking ability of robots is not proved.
To this I answer: I’ve had frequent discussions with my fellows, including Ab Ennis, Thalia Mews, Arthur Unknown, and Orville Slack IV. On the basis of these discussions, I deduce and/or infer that other humans-cum-robots also think.
Not always well, of course. (I will not name names, but several of them are rambling idiots; I leave that to our more intelligent readers to discern. Several of the others, I make haste to say, are above average, though none, in my expert opinion, are near the point of genius.)
On the tail of this paradox of the thinking robot comes the question: How do you account for the fact that at least some robots can think?
But this is a question for later consideration. My colleagues at MJTT await my presence. It is port-sipping time.
from January 10, 2006
During the recent holiday season, we at MJTT busied ourselves with the vexing but solvable problem of earth’s imminent overpopulation, a problem that has become even more pressing than even the most astute futurists have heretofore imagined, due to the work of the 42-year-old British biogerontologist Mr Aubrey de Grey’s fascinating notion that it is possible, nay probable, for a human alive today to hope, even expect, to live to be at least 1000.
Our most cynical member suggested, in the serious way that is peculiarly his own, that this problem, which is compounded by the problem of retirement and Social Security, could realistically be solved by the outbreak of World War III or its equivalent.
I am, however, pleased to report that this idea was banished from the table posthaste; for in its place I was inspired, as if by some divinity, to proffer the following solution, which, once proffered, one of my assistants immediately patented.
“Why not,” I suggested, “require that every person alive and on the Social Security gravy train be required to die at the age of 85?”
“Cruel!” cried my compatriots; followed by “And what about their civil liberties?”
“Aha!” returned I, raising my right index finger in such a manner as to suggest that I had anticipated their shallow reaction to my ingenious proposal. “We then outfit them with the Beta Version of our ECS, or Enhanced Cremation Service.” (New or forgetful readers of this column should be apprised of the MJTT’s patented invention, a robot that is constructed in such a way as to be able to hold the urn containing the ashes of a cremated former person who has retained his or her Denkapparat [German: brain].)
“Then,” I continued, “we outfit this humanoid robot with a space suit and send him or her into perpetual orbit of the planet or moon of his or her choice!”
My colleagues were stunned. They realized, in the twinkling of an eye outfitted with an acrylic ocular implant, that this proposal was not only technologically feasible, but would afford departees the vacation of a lifetime—a vacation that would be the moral equivalent of the traditional “Heaven.”
The only doubt they could conjure up concerned, of course, the economics of the plan. But I was quick to assure them, using one of those ancient chalkboards we keep around our think tank for just such occasions, that, given the plummeting costs that invariably accompany the realization of a technological breakthrough, the monies required for both (1) our Enhanced Cremation Service, Beta Version and (2) the costs of space flight, would be less than the monies required for the current version of Social Security.
from December 5, 2005
Living forever has been the hope of philosophers and believers throughout recorded history. In fact, one may surmise, this hope arose before humans began writing their thoughts on stones, papyrus, the walls of smoke-filled caves, and cabbage leaves.
Last month’s column dealt with the idea that this hope is nearer being realized than one could ever have hoped. It seems that one Mr Aubrey de Grey, a young British biogerontologist, is developing “strategies for engineering senescence.”
Mr de Grey is 42, an age at which the typical sentient human being begins to notice obituaries. I say “typical” because some humans never bother themselves about the deep things of life while some of the more precocious among us are sensitive to our mortality somewhat earlier. I myself, for example, began my lifelong practice of checking the morbid pages of the Dublin Times at the age of four.
But enough of that. Last month, before I became a humanoid robot, I promised to think about Mr de Grey’s fascinating notion that it is possible, if not probable, for a human alive today can hope, perhaps even expect, to live to the age of 1,000 or beyond.
(Ed. Note: Students of the Bible will recall that Methuselah of old almost accomplished what can only be called this astounding feat.)
But to be brief, as our distinguished editor constantly reminds us. Assuming that this astounding feat is achievable, is it wise?
One’s mind naturally turns to the problem of retirement and Social Security. But as many bipartisan and nonpartisan committees have been urging, this problem can readily be solved by raising the retirement age by several years. Extending this argument to deal with the possibility that Mr de Grey is “on to something big” (to use the vernacular), we have only to consider that the age of retirement be raised hundreds of years. In fact, the Myles Junior Think Tank has put its collective intelligence to work by estimating that Social Security should “kick in” (vernacular) at the age of 975 and two months.
So, the MJTT concluded, the most pressing problem created by the realization of Mr de Grey’s fascinating idea, would be the problem of overpopulation, with its attendant woes.
These woes, and their solutions, will be the subject of discussion by the MJTT in this, the holiday season.
from October 5, 2005
The devastation wrought last month on New Orleans and its environs has returned the collective attention of the Myles Junior Think Tank to that area of the world. I say “returned” rather than “turned” because, as our regular readers have been reminding us, as early as 2003 we were caught up in a related problem. In my report of September 7 of that year, I wrote:
“The past century witnessed a scientific debate over whether the universe is expanding or contracting, or perhaps taking turns doing both. The current and bleakest view, of course, has been that the rest of the universe is moving away from us at ever-increasing speeds, thus eventually depriving future generations of what the philosopher Immanuel Kant called ‘the starry skies above and the moral law within.’ . . .
“Twenty-first-century cosmologists have recently had to consider the case of the sinking of ever-increasing portions of the State of Louisiana into the Gulf of Mexico. What, they have been forced to ask, is the implication of this phenomenon for the movement of the entire universe? For example, does Einstein’s majestic theory account for this event, which, on first glance, appears to bear implications only for a few thousand shrimp boat captains? Or are we as think tank specialists obliged to rethink the whole of 20th century physics?
“In the following columns, we will address this important issue. MJTT has already sent half a dozen interns down to the bayous to learn pidgin Cajun in order to discuss this phenomenon with the locals. In the meantime, those of us who remain at our headquarters will devote ourselves to the study of this intriguing development in the behavior of the physical universe and its implications for the future of mankind, womankind, childrenkind, and their pets. While our interns are conducting empirical research, we will be making use of our extensive library and expensive toys, not to speak of the afternoon glasses of potables that are the source of our scientific inspirations.”
Then, on December 25 of that year, I explained MJTT’s detour from this study:
“The significant advance we were prepared to report in the last issue, our breathless readers will recall, was put on hold on the counsel of our editor, who advised us to report the findings of the WMO on the reappearance of the ozone layer over our whitest continent.
“We are now prepared to return to the aborted problem of the so-called ‘shrinking universe’ with our significant findings.
“Those who have followed the peregrinations of our previous reports will recall the following. That the MJTT has long suspected that the late-twentieth century scientific doctrine of an expanding universe has come aground on the fact that certain parishes in the State of Louisiana have been slowly sinking. That the MJTT has put boots on the ground, so to speak, by sending half a dozen interns to the bayous of that state in order to learn Cajun, the better to communicate with the locals on this phenomenon of potentially cosmic significance. That I have recently hypothesized that the famed writer and pedophile Lewis Caroll was also a cosmologist ahead of his time, as evidenced by his famous parable of Alice’s adventures, which began by her fall ‘Down the Rabbit Hole.’ That the aforementioned interns arrived in New Orleans and stayed there for some time in order to ‘get the lay of the land.’ That these bright youngsters made their way to Cajun country, only to be apprehended by the local constabulary and placed in a parish jail. That, having served their time and paid their fines, they returned to New Orleans in quest of a Cajun-speaking university on or around Bourbon Street.
“So far, so good. Or perhaps not. To our consternation, we have discovered that our interns have found a more remunerative occupation than we have been able to offer them. They have become, in a phrase, exotic dancers. To their credit, they so informed us via email, hinting though not promising that they would return the salaries with which we had richly endowed them. Suffice it to say that our lawyers are on this job; the many major contributors to our project need not experience angst.
“So what are our significant findings?
“As the CEO of the MJTT, I took it upon myself to fly to New Orleans to finish this promising project. I then hired a tourist service to transport me directly to the back bayous, where, in a café frequented by the locals, I learned the nuances of the Cajun dialect in three days. . . .
“From conversations and exchanged hand signals with an elderly fortune-teller, I was able to determine that, though the villages of the parish were indeed sinking, the reason for this trend was not cosmological but was merely the result of overlogging in the area. In a word, the perpetrator of this phenomenon was not some Cosmic Force but human activity.
“Her explanation was convincing. In scientific terms: if x occupies 100 cubic centimeters at point A, and x is transported to point B; and if points A and B comprise a totality; then the totality in terms of cubic centimeters is not affected by this move.
“Applied to the problem at hand, the sinking of Louisiana, this principle implies that the logs that disappear from the bayou country show up in another area, albeit in the form of timber and sawdust.
“From this we at the MJTT are able to deduce that the world is not shrinking. Thus our working hypothesis, that the entire universe is shrinking, has been found to be flawed.”
Let our legions of readers decide whether the MJTT, I in particular, was prescient re the recent hurricane in the Gulf Coast, the now-infamous Katrina.
At any rate, I wish to assure our readers that, despite our unfortunate loss of young person power, we at the MJTT continue to theorize about the problems that beset America’s favorite city.
Watch for our conclusions in my next column.
from August 10, 2009
In preparation for this month’s blog, we at the MJTT pondered, with our serene and unencumbered minds, the stack of suggestions that our readers, fellow columnists, and colleagues at NASA and other federally-funded enterprises had sent us in the preceding months.
Despite my natural serenity, I suddenly found myself seized by an inspiration of which lesser members of the species homo sapiens can only dream. For as I gazed at this three-foot high stack of what I have come to regard as supremely qualified offerings, I was struck, seized, or otherwise grasped by the idea that the universe as it now exists is nothing if not chaotic (though this word does not do the experience justice). So many suggestions! So little time! Such finite minds! So many theories to set before the discerning intellects with whom we converse daily, if not hourly!
Brooding over this complex idea that morning, I swiftly formulated a counter-intuitive but, if I may say so, brilliant hypothesis that, I dare say, will quickly become accepted by the leading thinkers, scientific as well as philosophical, of our day, thus becoming the reigning theory of this, the 21st century.
In a word, my hypothesis cum theory can be dubbed Unintelligent Design (UD).
As our friendly adversaries, the proponents of ID (Intelligent Design), have insisted, the universe is—a better phrase is “seems to be”—a well-designed area indeed. A fine place to hang out. But on further examination, the hypothetical designer (assuming for the moment that there was but one) appears to have been a middling architect, unworthy, in the last analysis, of his or her task—and I grant that that task was a daunting one.
In evidence thereof, consider the very existence of the Myles Junior Think Tank, or, for that matter, its kin, the many think tanks that have come to dot the face of the earth and, in future generations, other planets in other galaxies. What is the noble purpose of these institutions? To better the world! Assuming the necessity of this plethora of think tanks, the sole conclusion can only be that the world, or even the universe, is far from perfect (how far is a matter of discussion among the leading think tanks). Therefore, the world, or universe, is unintelligently designed.
My reasoning was found by my fellow geniuses at the MJTT to be so profound, so boggling, that not one word needed be spoken, whether in further questioning, in dispute, or in quibbling over definitions.
We spent that afternoon high above the Pacific, gazing at the distant horizon, sipping the sherries offered to us on the silver platters by our elegant, well-coiffed man- and maid-servants, waiting for the stars to appear so that we could murmur in quiet humility the utterance of the philosopher Kant, namely, that two things filled his soul with awe and wonder: “the starry skies above, and the moral law within.”
from August 10, 2006
Those of us at MJTT who are involved in our Cremation Service have recently been inundated by complaints by otherwise-satisfied customers, including our esteemed colleagues Arthur Unknown, Ab Ennis, and Orville Slack IV, all of whom we have outfitted with an admittedly handsome robotic apparatus.
It appears from our customer survey that our current product’s flaws include, but are not limited to, the following common side effects:
Sleeplessness—an inability to sleep (occurs in 100% of all known consumers);
Rotgut tedium—a desire for a more balanced diet (66.67%);
Brushed metal tedium—a desire for more choices of faux skin color (100%);
Midgetization tedium—a desire for more choices of body size (66.67%).
With these mildly-stated complaints in hand, the MJTTCS has been diligent in creating a beta version of our upgraded devices. We are pleased to announce that on September 1, we will be offering a fuller, richer cremation service.
Our initial offering was predicated on the assumption that cremated persons, who are, by definition, dead, would not need sleep. The thinking was that sleep is necessary only for the reinvigoration of the body; because cremated robots do not have bodies, in the technical sense, we saw no need for offering the option of sleep. But as a responsible agency with the motto “We listen to our clients,” we have decided to offer, in our new beta version, the choice between sleep and consciousness. Not that either state will be perpetual and absolute: our new model will allow the inhabitant of the robotic apparatus a variety of choices, running the gamut from full and constant consciousness to permanent revery. A state-of-the-art sliding scale is located at the back of the faux skull, hidden behind the wig (blonde, brunette, and red are the popular colors) that prevents the embarrassment of reminding one’s friends and family that one has been robotized and is this, legally speaking, dead.
Though fully one-third of our customers are “completely satisfied” with their diet of rotgut, a majority seems to prefer other options. Thus our beta version is constructed in such a way that other nutritional amenities will be available for ingestion. The consumer will have a choice of five beverages: Guinness, Jim Beam, a vintage French chardonnay, Classical Coca-cola, and of course rotgut.
As for the color of the body, our clients may wish to choose European-American pink, African-American mahogany, Eastern Asian yellow-brown, Hispanic light brown, and albino—all in addition to the popular brushed metal. Mixes of these faux skin colors can be had at a reasonable price.
The question of size is a delicate one. Though there are obvious advantages to being tiny (one thinks of being chosen to be dropped down a well in order to rescue a child or its pet), a majority of our respondents would prefer being tall. As Mr. Slack put it, during his long and fruitful life there was one skill he was never able to master, that of dunking a basketball.
Our new model, beta stage, will offer models ranging from three feet to seven feet six, in increments of three inches. But if one wishes to be five foot eleven, our mechanics inform us that this is doable, though at an extra charge. Another option, of course, is for the consumer to choose the six feet model but walk around with a slight stoop.
If, as we expect, all goes well with this beta offering, we at MJTTCS will continually work to improve our product. We listen to our clients.