Monday, December 10, 2012

Spacemas Preparations and an Unexpected Social Psychology Experiment

As many of you know, I'm going on a trip over Christmas to visit Spacetweeps (people I've met via Twitter and with whom I've attended space-related activities) in the EU and Turkey. The associated celebrations with said Spacetweeps will be referred to as Spacemas (thank you Jen for inventing that term).

In the process of getting gifts for various of the Spacetweeps with whom I have become close (as a result of attending the first European Space Agency social media event in September 2011 and subsequently suggesting and sponsoring SpaceUp Europe) I bought several Christmas gifts. This, in and of itself, is not news.

What was interesting, however, happened when I thought about including some of my American tweeps on the gift list. I was surprised to get, "Please don't bother, thank you for the thought." as a response.

Have we become so materialistic, so focused on the economic "equality" in gift exchange - don't get me a present so I don't have to get one for you - that we can't even enjoy sharing good fortune/cheer and be gracious about it?

Anyway, here is a nice picture from the first Spacemas gathering with Jen, Andy, Abbie, and Chris in Cocoa Beach!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

On being "alive" in a cybernetic/robotic/symbiotic future.

The notion of created entities exhibiting behaviors that bring to mind the concept of being "alive" have existed in fiction for some time (e.g. Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" or in a more "modern" vein Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot"). A more subtle type of created entity exists today beyond mechanical cybernetics or robotics, but entities that can be virtually alive, as characters in games, cyber-worlds, or online-networks.

The inter-actions and relationships we have with such entities is as real as with a live human, for whom such virtual presentations are an avatar. As such, the notion of what it means to be "alive", in some sense, needs to be revisited, in much the same vein as Descartes observation, "cogito, ergo sum." By this I mean a phrase such as, "I interact, therefor I am" or "ego penitus, ergo sum."

My good friend Camilla Corona SDO has been criticized, in spite of inspiring and exciting people about space and science around the world, of being a "dead rubber chicken." Au contraire, I say, she is alive as you or I. I would compare her work and record of accomplishment against any who choose to cast a stone... How many of you have been the subject of a Wired magazine article, after all: "How a Rubber Chicken Became a NASA Celebrity"