“THE GREATEST OF ALL THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF 20TH-CENTURY SCIENCE has been the discovery of human ignorance.” Lewis Thomas, Lives of a Cell. “OUR IGNORANCE, OF COURSE, HAS ALWAYS BEEN WITH US, AND ALWAYS WILL BE. What is new is our awareness of it, our awakening to its fathomless dimensions, and it is this, more than anything else, that marks the coming of age of our species.” Timothy Ferris, Coming of Age in the Milky Way.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Starship PLATO

THOUGHT EXPERIMENT:
Let’s say that you and your family and friends are living aboard a spaceship; you were born aboard the ship and have lived there all your lives. The ship is a starship called the Plato. It left home eons ago and traveled to many distant worlds seeking adventures and knowledge, and now it’s returned to its home planet to report everything the people aboard have experienced.
But something has gone terribly wrong. The ship has been traveling for so long that its passengers have forgotten where they came from. They think the ship is the real world—the only world!
The ship is actually orbiting Earth, its home planet from where it began its voyages of discovery. It’s been orbiting Earth for generations because no one aboard remembers how to get off the ship and get down to Earth—to the real home. All the unused shuttles for returning home are stored in a forgotten cargo bay, covered in thick shrouds of dust.
Every once in a while, ambassadors from the planet’s surface visit the ship to check up on the passengers and try to help them. Mostly, they tell the passengers about the real world. But because the visitors are big and healthy—they’ve been living in the sunlight and fresh air—they always seem like giants. The people on the ship don’t realize these visitors are just healthier versions of themselves: fellow Earthlings! Most of the people on the ship think the visitors are angels or gods.

One day, a beautiful woman comes to visit you from Earth (let’s say her name is Sophia). Sophia tells you how to board a shuttle to get down to Earth. Following her guidance you find the passageway that leads to the bay with the shuttle—and you get aboard and it takes you down to the planet.
Oh, the open sky, the sun, the fresh air—it’s unbelievably free and bright! No walls! Your heart breaks from the beauty. And the people on the planet welcome you with open arms, as their own long-lost child.
But… You can’t bear to stay, because you remember all your friends and family still aboard the ship. You’ve got to go back to tell them the good news! You’ve got to get them off that cramped tin can they think is the real world!
So you go back.
Now what do you SAY?
How can you tell them about “OPEN SKY”?

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