Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The Future Society - continued

Sci-Fi movies are known to dramatize events. However, most sci-fi movies are based on a scientific premise; that's why we call them "science fiction". It's fiction but it's based on science. Sci-fi movies is our imagination but this imagination is extremely important because it reflects humanity's intuition about what the future would be like and intuition reflects the truth very often.

Recently we all watched the videotaped beheading of Nick Berg by Islamic fundamentalists. In the future, humans will be able to regrow lost organs. It might take millenia of human evolution to fully achieve this but there's no question in my mind that if we live long enough, our bodies will become smart enough to regenerate lost limbs and the like, not only through technological mechanisms but even through biological mechanisms. If someone falls and breaks a bone, the bone will heal very quickly. If someone loses a leg in a suicide bombing, the leg will literally regrow (although this will take a longer time then a simple bone fracture). Eye vision will adapt to quick and excessive reading. People will be capable of reading an entire book in a short period and the eyesight will be specifically adapted to do this - it won't negatively affect vision as is common nowadays.

Over the last couple million years, our physical aptitudes have languished behind while our mental and intellectual aptitudes have progressed exponentially. I foresee an era when there will not be that much technological or intellectual advances but there will be many physical advances (much like the regeneration capability discussed above). For example, humans will become stronger and they will be able to walk/run quicker. They will talk and react quicker. We will live longer and enjoy life more.

On the other hand, as hinted in previous posts, our development will be longer. For example, a typical human will live 200 years. He will not complete adolescence until about 30 and then a good higher education (comparable to a contemporary Phd) will take 20 years to finish -not because we're slow to learn- on the contrary we're quick learners. There's just going to be a tremendous volume of material to cover. A good psychologist will have to know everything -every single scientific field- and then be highly specialized in his field. Also, note that future societies will have to learn the same history we're learning PLUS everything that has transpired from our generation until theirs. Of course, there will be highly sophisticated methods of learning, but no matter how sophisticated, it takes time. Humans will then marry at the age 50 and enjoy 100 happy years until reaching 150 which will be the equivalent of the contemporary age 60-70.

Future humans will not wear any clothes. Clothes is mostly worn due to sexual inhibitions and for physical protection. But in the future, we will shed our primitive inhibitions and we will develop sophisticated skin mechanisms to deal with heat and cold. In the summer our skin will become porous and allow air circulation to cool us and in the winter our skin will toughen up and shield us from the cold.

Of course, it's needless to say, that our climate will be entirely different. So the perception of heat and cold in the future will not be the same as our

Monday, May 03, 2004

Olam Haba - The world to Come

There is no reference to Olam Haba in the Scriptures. In the Jewish religion, we first find those references in the "Mishna". The Mishna is a compilation of Jewish law divided into many tractates, each of which deals with a specific topic. Originally, Jewish law was developed and passed down to future generations by word of mouth only. Towards the end of the second temple, The Rabbi's realized the need to write everything down and so a massive project was initiated which resulted in the compilation of the Mishna. As such, the Mishna deals with many aspects of Jewish law that are not relevant in post-temple days (not "Nogea bizman hazeh").

We, thus, see that the invention of the idea of the after life coincides with the Zman Hamishna which was painful a era in Jewish History compared to previous eras. The days of the Mishkan and the first Temple were successful and mostly victorious days for the Hebrew and -later- Jews. Towards the end of the second Temple, Jews were Roman subjects and they were being heavily taxed and periodically persecuted. Although the Romans did eventually realize that the Jews were too stubborn to try to get them to worship the Roman gods and thus granted the Jews a special exemption from the standard rule that all Roman subjects must worship the Roman gods, the Romans did still have a say in many aspects of Jewish life. The Roman governor had a big say on many issues and it was apparent that Jewish independence would not last very much longer.

These hardships posed the question that many intelligent people have asked throughout the generations all over the world. Why do people suffer? Why do we see "righteous" people suffering and living low-key, painful lives while the "wicked" are exuberant and enjoying life to its fullest? This Phenomenon has been observed by all intelligent people in virtually every society. However, at a time when an entire people is going through torment and is subject to the rule of a foreign nation, then the question becomes universal to the subjected nation. Now there is no difference between the rich and the poor, because they are all subjects and no one is really enjoying life even if they are as good and righteous as they can possibly be.

Could it be that the right is not really right? We somehow feel instinctively that it's wrong to kill, it's wrong to steal, it's wrong to commit adultery. We feel very strongly that those deeds are deplorable and those who commit them should be punished. On the other hand, we strongly feel that virtuous people should be rewarded. It's a feeling only, but we can't imagine it any other way! How is it possible that we should be punished for doing the right thing? It just goes against common sense!

This has spurred the idea of the after life. Olam Haba merely refers to a world that we experience spiritually after we die. Since our bodies are known to disintegrate after we die, this "life" can exist in spirit only. In this future world experienced by our spirits after we die, all records are set straight. The righteous get would they deserve: peace, tranquility and prosperity and the wicked get what they deserve: torment, suffering and eternal damnation! The "Olam Haba" theory is therefore quite sophisticated in its assumptions. It predicts quite a bit; yet, it cannot possibly be proved or disproved because it is based on the assumption that each human being possesses a "soul" or spirit that lives on after the physical body dies. The human spirit is intangible. Olam Haba can therefore not be proven to exist like you prove a scientific theory which involves physical matter that can be measured and quantified. Yet, it cannot be disproved either. That's because every theory must have a scientific proof in order for there to possibly be disproof.

Still, The Rabbi's in the Zman Hamishna felt compelled to support the idea of the soul and the afterlife even though there was no physical observation that indicated its existence. The primary motive for this theory was simply the observation that the righteous are suffering and the wicked are prospering. This observation alone stirred up enough of a paradox in the minds of Jewish intellectuals and theists of the day, to compel them to come up with the idea of the soul and afterlife.

The two-stage model: Work and Pay

We see this in many aspects of life. People "work", which by definition involves acts that are not necessarily pleasurable. Then, AFTER they are done with the work, they get paid and get to enjoy themselves with the money just earned. The work is a means to an end. It's not an end by itself. Life is full of such examples and the idea of Olam Haba is based on this model. Work in this world and get to reap the benefits in the world to come. This concept is very well articulated in a Mishna in Avos "This world is analogous to a vestibule; prepare yourself in the vestibule so that you may enter the main hall". In other words, you can't expect to see bread in front of your table if you sit idly all day. Everyone understands and accepts the fact that they must toil the earth, seed the crop, water it, tend it, protect it from insects etc... and then harvest it and go through many more activities and hassles before it is finally turned into an edible product.

The Olam Haba theory is closely linked to the work-pay model. According to the Olam Haba theory, work is done in this life and the reward occurs in the afterlife and in the afterlife ONLY. There is no real reward in this world although there is some benefit. Why do the wicked prosper in this life? There are various explanations for this, but I'm not going to go into this because it's off topic. The bottom line is that his work-pay model is true and it is the explanation of why people suffer in this life.

An Alternative Theory to Explain the Suffering of the Righteous

As we have emphasized earlier, Olam haba is not a physical observation. Rather, it's a religious belief. It can NOT be proven because it does not involve anything that can be measured by the physical senses. Anyone who knows the scientific model (taught in grade school) knows that in order for a theory to become law, it must involve specific "predictions" and these predictions must be observed and measured REPEATEDLY so that it is verified that the cause and effect are related. Obviously, there is no way that Olam Haba or the human spirit can be observed. So we are left with a prediction and belief system ONLY.

Modern science reveals many things that seam to suggest that there is no such thing as a human spirit. For one, we now know that the human and the animal species are closely related. Many biological, behavioral and mental processes occur in the human and beast alike. Therefore, if we believe in spirits and the afterlife, the beast should have one too. Yet, we don't see any of the righteous suffering and wicked prosperity phenomena in animals and no theologian has ever suggested that animals experience an afterlife.

In the days of the Mishna, it was assumed that high up there in the sky there is a "pure" place (physically) where the spirits reside and they experience joy or torture depending on whether they were righteous or evil during their earthy life. This physical place is now known not to exist. Modern science has revealed that the "sky" is nothing but an area that is far far from earth and differentiated by space that has a different chemical content. But the basic physical, chemical and biological laws that govern our solar system and planet govern all other stars, galaxies and planets throughout the universe (for all we know). What is most important to our discussion is that these stars and "heavenly bodies" are really physical bodies just like our planet and star; the stars are not gods and they are not spiritual beings. In light of this, it is hard to imagine where, physically, the spirits exist and also how their existence is defined biologically.

Another problem with the Olam Haba theory: if all humans have a unique soul which lives on forever (at least in the case of the righteous one), wouldn't there eventually be too many souls? Think about it! Every righteous person that ever existed and that ever will exist possesses an individual soul that will live on forever. This system adds billions of individual souls to the soul base every generation. It's not the physical space of where to place them that is the problem. The problem, rather, is the dynamic and tremendous growth that is involved here, which is just illogical.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Discussion: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

This article will discuss the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and we will try to predict the outcome.

Online articles today reported the historical decision by the Bush Administration to endorse all major Israeli settlements in the West Bank where 230,000 reside. The bush Administraation also decided, after meeting with Sharon, to endorse Sharon's unilateral pullout from Gaza and to deny the Palestinian claim to the "right to return".

It seems that the media is surprised at these seemingly radical shifts in American Mideast policy, but I see it as natural. I am usually critical of Bush policy but I fuly apporve of this. It's totally unrealistic to think that over 200,000 Israeli's living in their sttlements for three decades now will uproot as a price for "peace". Not only have the Palestinians demonstrated their unwillingness to make peace with Israils, but even if they do want peace, why would the Israeli's be willing to make such a huge concession? It's like asking a millionaire to give away half his assets to charity... It's just not happening. The Israelis have no natural incentive to make such huge concessions and any attempts to get them to make such concessions through unnatural incentives -such as economic incentives- are doomed to failure. The Israeli will to remain there is too big and the Internationonal community does not have enough of an incentive to try to overcome the Israeli will.

What I am saying is "be realistic!". The sooner the EU, Arabs in general, and the Palestinians in particular realize that the Israeli settlements are there to stay, the sooner they will be able to move on with life psychologically and phyysically in a manner that is to their very own benefit. Living in a delusion is NEVER beneficial to anyone. It does not matter whether your hopes are justified or not. One must accept the realities of this life. I deserve more money and more comforts than I have, but I'm not going to squander my money in the next several weeks or go rob a bank because I believe (I really do...) that my fellow humans have "wronged" me.

The same applies to the Palestinian aspiration to return to Isreal. There are many Palestinians living in Israel already and many more commute to Israel to work. This is pretty much the limit of what Israel can take without having its very identity erased. Israel was created several decades ego with the idea of being the homeland for Jews. While this idea might not be very relevant in 200-300 years from now (when Jews will be mostly assimilated and they will not be persecuted or have any need for a homeland), the idea of a Jewish homeland is crucial to all Jews of our generation due to the Holocaust. Isrealis can therefore not allow millions of Palestinians to deluge their state and thus eliminate the Jewish character of Israel. A small-scale. selective return is extremely hard to implement and since it's only selective it doesn't solve the problem on the Palestinian end anyway, so what's the point?

I am therefore very glad that the US has come to realize these important concepts and I am looking forward to see how events will unfold now and I am sure that the International community will gradually come to concur with the US policy in this regard.


Our prediction is as follows:

2005: The Israeli border fence is completed. Palestinians cannot enter Israel without passing an Israeli check-point. All palestinians working in Israel require special permits which they can only obtain after undergoing a security background check. The border fence virtually eliminates the suicide bombing now common in Israel.

The border fence also indirectly renders everything outside the fence "palestinian territory" partially or fully. Most of the area outside the fence will be under full Palestinian control immediately. Some areas will be held on to by the Israeli military ONLY for security purposes and on a temporary basis (as long as the security is required).

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah are veyr popular in Palestine. The Palestinian Authortiy is still in ruins after 3+ years of Intifadah.

2007: Arafat is probably dead. The 2000-2004 intifada is now over. A new Palestinian state emerges along with a radical palestinian leadership. It's a colaition among the extremist groups Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah who have become very popular during the Intifada years. They run the newly created Palestinian State. The Palestinian State is in a state of "truce" with Israel. There is no major active fighting going on but there is no political contact among the two states. Palestinians without working permits are not allowed to visit Israel and Israelis are not allowed to visit Palestine.

Israel control the borders of the new Palestinian state and is mostly concerned that the Palestinians do not acquire long range weapons (missiles or sophisticated rockets that can be launched from a distance). Israelis do not care much about Palestinian acquistion of guns etc... now that they cannot enter Israel. Radical Palestinians occasionally manage to infiltrate Israel and launch an attack (mostly suicidal) or get an Israeli Arab to do it. Israeli reprisals are minor and inconsequential since the attacks are infrequent as well.

The Palestinian government mostly turns a blind eye towards those seeking to attack Israel, but the state (including hamas, Islamic Jihad and fatah) is officially in a "truce" state. Palestinians foster hatred towards Israelis among their youth.

2010: The palestinian state consolidates politically. It begins to develop economically. Other countries invest in it and International trade flourishes. Focus is now on economic development and education that brings about better jobs as a means to improve their lives and also to provide a better footing in its conflict with Israel.

The Palestinian government is now concentrating, with international help, on building new projects, such as malls, theaters, residential complexes etc... It tries to create jobs and prevent the need for palestinians to have to commute to Israel to work. It places major emphasis on secular education, the kind of eucation that brings about a good-paying job.

Attacks on Israel are now strictly prohibited by the government and it is for the most part enforced. This is not because they don't hate Israel. It's just becasue they seek to avoid the Israeli retaliation militarilly and/or economically that could result in the interruption of their economic progress. A real truce now exists between the two countries, but there are now official political contacts.

2018: Low-level and eventuall high-level political contacts are established between Palestine and Israel. The states are now officially in peace. Palestinians are now allowed to visit Israel and vice versa. The two states now engage in trade and Israel is helping the Palestininas build themselves up.

Student exchanges and other projects are designed to foster peace and mutual understanding. The Palestinian government now strictly prohibits attacks against Israelis. Israelis can safely travel in Palestine. Hatred against Israel is no longer a major rhetoric and educational objective among the palestinian youth.

2035: The wall comes down!! No, not literally... the border still exists between the two states but a new generation of Palestinians emerges who did not know the Intifada. They are "enlightened" and totally critical of the older generation and the way they handled the Israeli conflict. The young enlightened generation slowly takes control of government positions and they promulgate new ideas and laws. Islam is no longer the las of the land. The law is now completely secular. Monuments and honors attributed to early palestinian figures such as arafat are now removed or downgraded as these figures are considered "primitive", too radical and narrow-minded.

The Israeli-Palesinian physical conflict virtually does not exist any longer. Even the older generation does not advocate physical force any longer.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Before we discuss our predictions for various future ages, I will explain the premise on which most of these ideas are based.

I am a strong believer in change. I believe that every single thing in this universe CONSTANTLY changes. This applies not only to physical objects and individual biological organisms, but this also applies to much more subtle things like the human mental state, the societal structure, religions, politics, economics etc...

Of course, I believe in evolution. Therefore, any specific species changes over time as well. If they are going to survive, they must adapt to nature. But if nature is constant, then why is there a need to adapt to nature? Why wouldn't the same biological characteristics that allowed a given species to thrive in the last decade, allow it to thrive in the current decade? We must therefore conclude that nature changes as well.

What propels this comprehensive metamorphosis? Precisely where and when does it start and what triggers it? This is a very tough question. I have given it lots of thought and I have yet to come up with a definitive answer. But I strongly suspect that this is one of those things that we will NEVER be able to answer conclusively due to their extremely subtle nature. I will dwell on this topic more in a later post.

For now, let's just understand that my predictions are based on the concept that EVERYTHING constantly changes, not just us humans and our puny little society.

Also, our predictions are based on the idea that change occurs is a two-cycle process. There is a "progressive period" during which change occurs rapidly in a radical and unexpected manner. And then there is a "regressive period" during which change is absorbed and fully adopted by the object in which it occurred. Each of these periods can be further subdivided into their own progressive/regressive periods even though in general we will observe only one of these characteristics over the given time period.

For example, we have lived the last 200 years in America in a progressive era. There was never a time when all scientific and social change came to a halt. However, there have been times that were more progressive than others. In 1893, the economic depression signaled a "regressive sub period". Later, at the start of the 20th century the official progressive era commenced. Then there was another regressive period during the Great Depression of 1929 and then the progressive era (at least economically) during WWII.

The Future is not known to us but as intellectual human beings we can make educated guesses about what society in general would be like in the future. It's common sense, for example, that humans will still dominate this planet in 2 years from now, they will have still have two eyes and two ears, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will still exist and all living cells will still undergo mitosis. The real question is whether the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will still exist in 100 years from now, whether money will still be the primary method of exchanging goods and services in 500 years form now, whether humans will still look and act the was they do now in 5,000 years from now and finally whether the human race and this entire planet will even exist in a million years from now.

We will try in this blog to answer these question to the best of our ability.