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  Columnist: Micah Hanks

Image credit: Unknown, Belgium, 1990

Mankind and the other: the search for exotic intelligence

Posted on Monday, 5 August, 2013 | 0 comments
Columnist: Micah Hanks

The summation of reality, as viewed by humans like you or I, is a composition based on a strange pairing of opposites. We find certainty in our own existence and being, based on our very abilities of perception, as well as our ability to question and unravel those things we perceive. It is this process of questioning and disassembling the matter and space around us that leads to our fuller understanding of reality; and yet, the more we deconstruct and seek to understand, the more mysteries we tend to come upon, hidden away within the minutia of the quantum universe. Still, despite the many mysteries of both the micro- and macroscopic worlds, there may be no finer example in our midst today of a concept that escapes full human understanding than that enigmatic mystery known as UFOs.

The UFO presents some of us with what could be the most perplexing mystery of our age: could there be not just intelligent life "out there," but here visiting us as well? For others, UFOs may represent only an exercise in gullibility on part of the misinformed; a habitual tendency to believe in something unproven, despite the work that constitutes our consensus views toward reality and scientific potentials for alien life.

There others among us who might ride the proverbial fence on the issue just as well, rather than caving to the temptation of polarizing our worldview and accepting a stance so blind as wholly "for" or "against" an alien argument in relation to unidentified flying objects. In doing so, this does not require us to have to look at the shadowy realms of psychological phenomena, as supposed by the likes of psychologist Carl Jung and others over the years, and commit to acceptance in UFOs as being nothing more than a projection of our own inner values, although that is obviously a part of the enigma. Quite the contrary, it may be that we are indeed faced with a real and valid phenomenon, but also one which evades the explicable well enough that we have little choice in the matter, other than to accept there is something going on, and something whose unknown quantities are intriguing enough—and confusing enough—to allow wild speculation to breed.

In other words, the UFO enigma may indeed be something that has real, tangible qualities to it; however, the fact that we can't place, with certainty, what that "it" may really be has led us to suppose that the seemingly otherworldly qualities exhibited by UFOs may be just that: something not of this world.

A good question to ask ourselves as we study UFO phenomena is this: just how can we know with any certainty that UFOs must be representative of extraterrestrial visitors? There is, after all, an awful lot of evidence that something appears to be going on, at least so far as people's various claims over the years that they have witnessed incredible and seemingly exotic technologies. On the other hand, while we can observe evidence of something going on that seems a bit beyond us, is any of that evidence truly useful in determining that alien beings from another planet, star system, or even another dimensional state, are actually visiting us? Furthermore, and based even on the most skeptical premise that no truly conclusive proof of extraterrestrials may exist, can we safely assume that in the absence of proof that aliens exist, we may not still be faced with a valid phenomenon when dealing with UFOs?

The enigma cannot be afforded merely a cursory glance, and for one to understand the UFO phenomenon to the fullest—whether in support of their existence, or with skepticism toward such claims—a careful, unbiased review of the literature about them must be undertaken. In doing so, the plethora of available data would certainly seem to indicate that there is indeed something to at least a minority of reports that appear to represent highly advanced aerial technologies. But as in our logical breakdown of the phenomenon in the preceding paragraph, we might not be equipped with enough data yet that could be used to determine, without question, that Earth is being visited by physical alien beings. If this were indeed the case, and there were in fact no question about it, it would seem less likely that the mainstream scientific establishment would so frequently (and even systematically) overlook such evidence, and purposefully downplay anyone claiming to boast hard evidence of interstellar visitors. A secret so great would, after some time, have to become one that would become increasingly difficult to keep from the masses.

And thus, it's almost disheartening when we look back to review the words of Edward J. Ruppelt, who had overseen the Air Force's Project Blue Book during the years shortly after World War II; while he obviously was able to come to no definite conclusions about the greater UFO mystery, in his book The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, it was made clear by the time the conclusion rolled around that Ruppelt felt certain the UFO mystery would be solved sometime within the next few decades. Arguably, had he been told that by the present day we still would have very few definite answers regarding the strange and mysterious objects seen in our skies, he might have felt rather disheartened.

Then again, maybe it wouldn't have taken him very long at all to become utterly disenfranchised with the circumstances surrounding UFO studies; though most UFO investigators are quick to write off Ruppelt's later writings, we can't overlook the fact that he did, in fact, later revise many of his theories regarding the ongoing UFO conundrum, instead seeming to support what he felt were more obvious, prosaic explanations in the majority of instances. UFO advocates have long surmised that this change of heart—and eerily close to Ruppelt's untimely death—could have represented something more akin to coercion than mere disinterest or skepticism. In truth, it might simply have been the case that Ruppelt's opinions had truly changed; for all we know, had he lived a longer life, he indeed might have gone on to reposition himself on his philosophy toward UFOs again. What might someone like Ruppelt, after spending a few years with the Air Force chasing UFOs himself, have thought of the research of scientific minds the likes of J. Allen Hynek, who seemed to feel, after a closer examination of collected data over the next few decades following Ruppelt's death, that there was indeed something going on, the specifics of which managed to elude him as well as they had done with virtually everyone else seeking answers to the UFO mystery? In retrospect, it seems quite common for the serious scientific researchers who have come and gone to change their positions over time, occasionally drifting between belief and skepticism. But in doing so, rather than providing us with answers, it only seems to cater to the ongoing schism that exists within UFO studies: with the lack of definitive data, it seems to be all too easy for people to allow their minds to fill in the gaps, and this generally carries them down that slippery slope to the extremities where only "belief" and pure "denial" can exist.

So what, precisely, has contributed to this sort of "stalemate" that remains as a cultural barrier between humanity and the greater UFO problem? Are these craft simply so advanced that we have yet to reach technological potentials that allow us to even come near enough to glimpse their inner workings? Or is it that we've simply been going about our inquiries all wrong? Could it even be a combination of the two?

One idea that remains intriguing when paired contextually with Ufology, and yet which remains largely disassociated from he idea of advanced, unidentified aircraft, is that of a coming technological "Singularity." Defined roughly, this entails a point where humankind essentially merges with technological systems we design, which eventually leads to the creation of varieties of super-human intelligence.

Singularity has become a hot topic these days. The general concept has been around for the better part of the last century, thanks to the ideas of writers going as far back as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and more recently science fiction author Vernor Vinge. However, these days it is most often associated with inventor and transhumanist advocate Ray Kurzweil. Having emerged as the modern godfather of the Singularity movement (which many liken to being near-religious in several of its facets), Kurzweil's book The Singularity is Near represents, without question, the most thorough and comprehensive analysis of the subject to-date.

Interestingly, when we look further back at the roots of Singularity, we find references to remarkably similar concepts that appear in the work of computer scientist and UFO researcher Jacques Vallee. A 1975 essay, co authored with Vallee's associate Francois Meyer, appeared in the journal Technological Forecasting and Social Change in the year mentioned under the title "The Dynamics of Long-Term Growth". Here, the ideas expressed were very similar concepts to notions of Singularity expressed by Kurzweil and others today, so far as the long-term growth of human technological systems was greater-than exponential. Though the term "Singularity" was never used specifically, Vallee, like Kurzweil, predicted that some time in the first half of the twenty first century, we would see the rate of growth of technology begin to expand so quickly that a sort of "singular point" would be reached; Vallee feared this could have grim consequences, when paired alongside steady increases in population growth over time. Specifically, Vallee and Meyer estimated that the target year for this transitional singularity would occur in 2026, whereas in his The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil casts his forecast for what he calls "the knew of the curve" at only three years later.

As noted previously, unlike the more optimistic attitudes toward Singularity expressed by Kurzweil and many in the transhumanist camp today, Vallee and Meyer's paper is more concerned and skeptical, stating that, "the forecast of infinite growth in a finite time interval is absurd. All we can expect of these developments is that some damping effect will take place very soon. The only question is whether this will be accomplished through ‘soft regulation' or catastrophe." One could speculate as to what the authors could have meant by the use of such terms as "soft regulation" paired with "catastrophe." Are we to envision Orwellian micro-management of a populace, or perhaps long-term geo-economic collapse that would stem from issues surrounding overpopulation, combined with the poor management of our banking systems? Catastrophe might also represent such things as the harmful after-effects of an EMP weapon, or even coronal mass ejection by the Sun (the likes of which agencies like NASA and NOAA have warned might occur by around 2013). Vallee and Meyer's final statement is perhaps the most cryptic: "It is clear that the rate of growth must eventually decrease. A discussion of the mechanism through which this decrease will take place is beyond the scope of the present study." Vernor Vinge, largely credited with coining the modern use of the term "Singularity," was less nebulous when he wrote for Omni back in January 1983 that, "To write a (science fiction) story set more than a century hence, one needs a nuclear war in between … so that the world remains intelligible."

With all this discussion of dangerous and earth-quaking possibilities that could await us in the future, it is interesting that many have seemed to look to UFOs as a proverbial agent of grace, sent to Earth from lands afar to save us from ourselves. Robert Hastings, author of the book UFOs and Nukes, has noted in interviews that, while these craft indeed seem to be not only more highly-advanced than what humans are capable of producing, they are also capable of disarming our weapons systems; thus, this might be a good thing in terms of preventing wide scale destruction as a result of nuclear proliferation. Indeed, this may be the case, but we also must recognize the alternative potential here, too: what else could a technology capable of disarming our weapons systems do to us, besides rendering us virtually defenseless from an oncoming attack? Perhaps the notion of the "UFO savior" isn't all it's made out to be.

Clearly, when it comes to UFOs, we are dealing with some variety of technology that exceeds those sciences known to us today. To compare this again with Singularity, we see that The Singularity Institute has defined the term as literally representing, "the technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence." With UFOs, perhaps we are already dealing with some technological manifestation that exceeds natural human intelligence.

Let us return now to examine again the apparent lack of progress that has taken place over the decades in terms of understanding more completely the UFO enigma. To proceed further from where we stand at present, it appears that we may indeed have to revise our methodology, which up to now has largely consisted of studying past UFO reports, and trying to extract details, documents, and government files pertaining to these past occurrences. Should we instead cast our gaze in the other direction, and begin to consider whether there might be emergent technologies—perhaps even futuristic sciences in development today—that will help to bridge the proverbial gap between where we stand now, and those awe-inspiring aircraft we've pursued since the days when the literal dust of the Second World War had yet to settle? Regardless, if Kurzweil and others are right in their expectations for how science of the coming years will change humanity as we know it, there may be little that could be done in terms of preventing technological leaps that will, if anything, place us directly before the enigma known today as the UFO… and perhaps within reach of an apparent technology that far exceeds us.

The possibilities and potentials are virtually endless. And yet, in going about my own research into the potential connection between future science and the existent UFO phenomenon, as an addendum here I should note that I do find, time and time again, that people begin to view this discussion within rather simplistic terms: it is often asserted by people who read about a possible connection between technological singularity and UFO phenomenon that this concept merely represents a new way of approaching an old "pet theory": that future Earth dwellers are utilizing time machines to travel back to what would be the present day, for you or I, in order to carry out strange and serious business that often exceeds the capacities of the human mind. For all you or I might know, this very well may be the case; but sometimes, I begin to find that the interpretation of UFOs as being merely evidence of time travel is in itself fairly simplistic. Frankly, many have presumed that this is what I seek to address in my own book, The UFO Singularity, and while this is partially correct, I merely hope to present such a concept as one of many potentials that could be existent in relation to the more tangible UFO evidence out there. But in truth, there may very well be more going on here, too. What if there were even more complex potentials here, and varieties which humans could not yet fathom, with our presently limited views toward space and time? Arguably, we would require a bit more mind expansion, if not outright evolution, in order to get to a point of being able to grapple with such concepts.

Our world is indeed a strange and mysterious place, and it is clad in an involved and complex garment, woven out of great and intricate mysteries nesteled within the fabric of matter and space. The more we learn about them, the greater the depth of our reality that becomes revealed. But how long can we continue into the rolling folds and recesses of this reality before we do find pure evidence of those things we had called impossible from the outset? Perhaps the more pertinent question, in the end, is whether we will truly be surprised if we indeed discover, without question, that we are not the only intelligent life in our universe, or at very least, that our intelligence may one day begin to intersect with varieties that are quite exotic by our standards. This realization will indeed by fascinating, if not terrifying. It would be almost as troubling for us as the realization that anything so strange and foreign to us might also be more closely related to us than we could ever fathom. Perhaps, in our exhaustive search for other kinds of intelligence "out there," we will one day come to find that they were right in our midst all along, but that we simply weren't looking for them in the right places.

The Paradigm Symposium October 17th-20th, 2013, held at the historic St. Paul Union Depot, St. Paul, Minnesota. Please visit the Paradigm Symposium website for more information

Article Copyright© Micah Hanks - reproduced with permission.

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