Timeline of the Far Future

Jason Kottke:

The timeline of the far future artice is far from the longest page on Wikipedia, but it might take you several hours to get through because it contains so many enticing detours. What's Pangaea Ultima? Oooh, Roche limit! The Degenerate Era, Poincaré recurrence time, the Big Rip scenario, the cosmic light horizon, the list goes on and on. And the article itself is a trove of fascinating facts and eye-popping phrases. Here are a few of my favorites. (Keep in mind that the universe is only 13.75 billion years old. Unless we're living in a computer simulation.)

As I said yesterday, this is a bottomless pit of greatness.

I'm currently engrossed in the 'Toba Catastrophe Theory,' an offshoot of Supervolcanoes. Unbelievably interesting stuff.

"Hanging Up On iPhone"

Stephen Hackett:

I — like most people I observe in waiting rooms and in line at Starbucks — kill little bits of time with my head down, the glow of my smartphone lighting up my face. Twitter, App.net, Google Reader, Instagram, Email, iMessage, Tumblr and more wedge their way in to my life in little two-minute increments throughout the day.

I’m tired of it. So I’m fighting back — by retreating. I’m giving up my iPhone — my daily life partner for almost five years.

There is a distinct (and somewhat odd) sentiment of apprehension on the Internet toward personal experimentation.

Whether it's giving up an addictive smartphone or something rather more significant like, say, the Internet, onlookers seem to trip over themselves to decry and question the personal intentions of these individuals.

The most common oppositional argument I've heard is that the Internet and smartphones are simply not going to vanish. They are pieces of technology that are woven deeply into our society, and they will be carried with us — in some form or another — into the future. Thus, forgoing the usage of either is an effort in antiquated futility.

Although there's certainly merit to this perspective, I tend to think it callously overlooks and undermines the positivity within psychological exploration. Furthermore, without understanding the ramifications of the technological trajectory we’re following, how might we come to existentially comprehend our reliance upon technology?

Arguably these experiments of self-deprivation need not be published and shared exhaustively on the Internet, but, in my eyes, I think the lessons learned are of the utmost cultural significance to all of us.

Perhaps you disagree with Stephen about the pitfalls of carrying a smartphone with you at all times, but that's not to say that his findings shall be of little interest to you. Equally, whether he fails or succeeds, the results remain irrevocably meaningful.

Stephen, much like Paul Miller, is attempting to explore the technological trajectory we've collectively chosen to follow from an intensely personal perspective. And yet, much unlike Paul Miller, Stephen has sustained his ties to the technology he relies upon for the sake of realism.

Rather than simply blinding himself to an inevitable societal movement, Stephen is simply removing one item of technology from his life for one year. Yes, he will have a cellular iPad, a Mac, and a cellphone, but he will just not have an iPhone.

Moderate as that may appear, I consider it far more of a pragmatic experiment than others in this community.

So, for Stephen, I wish him all the best. Although there are alternative ways to explore the poison of technology, Stephen has chosen his own personal path, and it's certainly not my place to question his private thought and learning process.

I suspect that, regardless of the negativity swirling around his experiment, Stephen's findings will ultimately prove to be valuable to even the most staunch of his opponents. And, irrespective of how long the experiment lasts, I applaud Stephen for taking the bold step to challenge one of the most accepted and self-reliant elements of his day-to-day life.

For more information about his experiment, visit 512Pixels.

The Morality, Pitfalls, and Questions of Neuro-Enhancing Drugs

Adderall

Trent Wolbe:

Evolution is a nice, big idea. It connotes the glacial pace of an unmeditated act unfolding upon species, concepts, and ecosystems. It certainly doesn’t usually get branded as a feeling. But a couple months ago I felt this thing. Maybe a little like what a mommy feels when her fetus kicks the wall crossed with how the baby feels when it gets its pre-K diploma, and the best word I can come up with for it is evolution. Not the glacial kind, but the real-time, Matrix-flavored kind. I was too busy barreling through the wicked pipe of a 30-milligram Adderall to think about it much when it happened, though. Half an hour into my sunrise dose, I logged into Lynda.com, the extraordinarily put-together training site used by corporate operations to keep their employees up on hot software trends. As an avid Monday Night Football chyron fan, I had promised myself for years that I would learn After Effects as soon as I had the free time; the chemical wave pushed me through an especially potent laziness that has always kept me from becoming the motion graphics expert I knew I wanted to be.

In many respects, the evidently widespread fascination with Adderall (and neuro-enhancers in general) stems from the indication that current chemicals can be mixed in such a fashion that induces a state of consciousness in which productivity is honed to a bleeding-edge of capability. Feeling unproductive, tired, and distracted? Take thirty milligrams of Adderall and watch mountains of work dissolve before your pin-pointed eyes.

The experience is nothing short of revelatory. Previously encumbered by the bounds of your fallible human brain, Adderall highlights the scientific potential to unlock and whittle the human experience into whatever shape a person may desire. And yet, for all of the possibility, there are questions of endless importance that require answering: what side-effects might such enhancement pose for growing minds? What disruption might occur to our evolutionary process if the population becomes increasingly chemical-dependent? Are the benefits truly deserving of the cost — both financial and physiological?

In my eyes, the rise of Adderall poses many of the same troubles as the introduction of calculators into the classroom. With the ubiquity of tools capable of solving complex mathematic equations with little human intervention, the learning mind foregoes the historically necessary process of logical discernment. Without careful regulation, the learning mind can become dependent upon such tools — their minds incapable of contending with such complexity without help. Such is the concern with Adderall, insofar as its usage enables far greater human capability for intellectual work.

Although built for sufferers of A.D.H.D., Adderall — in my opinion — warrants sincere and balanced discussion. Technology enhancing the tangible human experience is becoming the primary goal of the industry, and I doubt it’s long before such experiential enhancements extend to the brain itself. Beyond the questions of morality, the scientific potential for human improvement is truly boundless. Just as we encourage the process of rapid innovation in the consumer and medical spheres, it’s fair to ask why this process should not extend to the human mind. Equally, it’s fair to recognize and discuss the evident human penchant toward cheating our environment.

Raising a great many of these important questions regarding the state of our digitally-distracted society, the morality of chemical performance enhancing drugs, and the potential danger such substances may pose to our evolutionary processes, Wolbe’s personal treatise into his Adderall addiction provides for an utterly riveting read. Equally, I would suggest Margaret Talbot’s 2009 piece for the New Yorker entitled, ‘The underground world of “neuro-enhancing” drugs.’

"This Is How You Live at the Bottom of the Ocean"

Aquarius

Brian Lam:

You can see it from the surface of the water: a blue outline 50 feet down. Aquarius. The last undersea base. Diving down to it is like falling slowly into another world.

I wish I could live there. The fish would be my neighbors. The sky would always be blue—if a little wet. And, instead of a stroll, I’d just go for a swim. This Saturday, I watched Aquanauts move in. And then it was my turn. I threw on my gear and hit the water.

An endlessly fascinating look at the Aquarius base from Mr. Lam.

Post-Gizmodo, Brian Lam has evidently embarked upon a significant period of self-discovery. Focusing upon all that is dear to him — particularly the ocean — Lam has assumed a notably affable role within the technological community. Stepping back from the dramatic landscape, Lam has become a voice of sound reason and guidance for even the most unlikely of scenarios.

Given the over-excited nature of the technology writing community, Lam has established himself as an agent of the utmost importance for the sustenance of level-headed, and contextually informed viewpoints.

For more, Lam was interviewed by GigaOM regarding his latest shift in tone, passion, and attitude.