The Galactic Thinker — Family Dinner — Discovering New Life in the Galaxy — Part 1

“Finally! Another family dinner! Is everyone here?”

“Gunmetal says he’ll be a few minutes late. He had a few unexpected problems in the metal shop…”

CRASH BANG CURSE

“Well, overall it is good to see all of you. Our dinners together have been few and far between. Does anyone wish we had more?”

“We all do, Dad.”

“Oh… well, the service bots have done a nice job stylizing the open dining area… and HAL has a nice multi-course meal coming, with entertainment between courses, just like competitive Medieval Courts that could think of nothing better to do in life! And here comes our first course. Today, I have a special discussion topic for us…”

“What is it, Dad?”

“Why we should bother to search for new life in the galaxy. I would, of course, like perspectives from each of your designated core professions, and in general from our polymaths, each in their unique, no doubt, way…”

“Are we going to actually go out there and do it after dinner?”

“Maybe… you never know what we will find…”

“What thoughts have you given it, Dad?”

“My perspective is from our philosophy, that is, formulating broad, fundamental perspectives. Two immediately hit me…”

“What are they? Please pass the red round things!”

“Beets, from Earth.”

‘Not bad, very tangy…”

“The tang is courtesy of HAL’s culinary skills… I’ll bring him out later so you can compliment the chef. HEY!”

“What, Dad?”

“Never add spice to a dish until you’ve tasted it.”

“Why?”

“It is a insult to the chef! and HAL is peeking around the corner… WE SEE YOU, HAL!”

“Hahahaha…”

“I believe he blushed!”

“So what were your two fundamental perspectives on why we should explore the galaxy for new life?”

“First, I must draw your attention to the childish reasons that presently exist. It is pathetic. It is basically search for the blind sake of searching, with absolutely no thought given to ‘THEN WHAT?’ or ‘WHY BOTHER?’ Just find it and go Whoopie, or worse, pursue some deranged agenda, which is likely to happen in a feeble mental environment… so it is our job here to remedy such feeble thinking by developing strong, deep, broad thoughts on the topic.”

“Over dinner?”

“It is not beyond US… failing, at least it will be a beginning. My broad perspectives are in the forms of two questions. The first question would be to find out what blind mechanisms the newly discovered life, if it is biological, operates on. The second is what solutions did it arrive at to solve some of the basic common problems of continued existence and its local/immediate habitat. As to my first broad, deep question, there are a lot of blind mechanisms that WE operate on. We are like crazy chaos machines that, by pure chance and induced heightened probabilities, perpetuate themselves, and, hence, perpetuate us at our basic biological levels…”

“Induced heightened probabilities?”

“Vacuoles.”

“Explain…”

“Picture a soap bubble. These bubbles, or vacuoles in nature, occur spontaneously in the right environments, such as tidal pools, and they trap molecules inside of them. Now, over time, and by pure chance, you might call it ‘natural selection’ or ‘evolution’, a group of bubbles will develop a membrane that lets in certain molecules and keeps others out, creating a heightened probability that the enclosed molecules will collide, and thus ‘interact’, and thus perpetuate life. What you now have is a cell wall and the contents within that self-perpetuates, blindly and by chaos and chance at this stage. All of biological life as we know it is built on such cells. A hundred million years later one bubble, by pure chance in the chaos of the universe, develops a mechanism for division, and so what does it do?”

“What does it do, Dad?”

“it goes forth and multiplies! A few hundred million years later, and you must consider the billions, if not trillions, of ‘nature experiments’ that are conducted at that microscopic level each day on a planet over those hundreds of millions of years by all of those single-cell organisms, the bubbles become very sophisticated, in their membranes, which one scientist theorized is where their ‘brain’ resides, and I like that theory, and in their internal structures. Some of them, like our cells, feature the symbiosis of one microorganism living inside another (like our mitochondria), and, by chance, one divides with the host organism and that one continues on in evolution. Then, groups of cells form social units, ‘colonies’, with subgroups formulating specific functions. Now we have progressive evolution and emergent properties, all driven by chaos, chance, and the molecular storm within the bubbles.”

“The molecular storm?”

“Another name for thermal energy.”

“Where did the thermal energy come from?”

“The Big Bang. I like to say that life is a joy ride down the energy gradient of the Big Bang! So there you have it, the ‘blind mechanisms’ that I was looking for, i.e. molecular interactions, at the molecular level, that we,and it, ‘operate’ on. Remember that groups of molecules create emergent properties — a liver here with the emergent property of blood chemical regulating, and a brain there with the emergent property of thought and sensory/response assessment and higher motor control… and Voila! You have us,and that is a third broad question that I would pursue — whether emergent properties are present, especially ‘higher thought’ in the form of decision-making, meaning actions that are not mere blind reactions.”

“Blind reactions?”

“Automatic reactions to local/immediate external stimuli, to whatever they could sense and are wired to automatically react to. There are other important questions to ask. In fact, each of you will have many from your own fields alone. For example, Capri over there, who has notably just asked politely for a napkin rather than reaching over Wild Strawberry’s plate for one, and whose designated profession is microbiology, would ask, among her many questions, how the newly-discovered biological lifeform would interact with our biology. After all, it could be a very dangerous encounter. It could eat us alive! We will hear more from her later, right, Ms. Capri?”

“Yes, dear Father. Please pass the salad, too… no, not that one, THAT one! YES!”

“How would you know if a lifeform is thinking, Dad?”

“The first indication is if it displayed memory.”

“Explain…”

“It would be able to ‘remember’ what it has sensed in the past, and what was associated with what was sensed. If it sensed it again, it would have formulated a custom reaction to it.”

“Does that get back to your Basic Program for all of life, Dad? Where all of life is driven, at the most primal level, by only three programmed commands: TOWARD, AWAY, and IGNORE?”

“Yes, that is where it would begin. From a chemical perspective, based on what they sensed, their molecular chemistry would either be drawn toward it, driven away from it, or not react to it. At the next higher primal level, it would be concerned with EAT and DO NOT BE EATEN, and then HEAD TOWARD DARKNESS (hide) or SEEK THE LIGHT (boldly go where no like microbe has gone before, i.e. at that level, ‘I’m hungry, I must seek food in new light!). As for us, we’ve progressed to higher levels, such as CONTEMPLATE and MANIPULATE, and higher, TRY TO UNDERSTAND, and now, wiith the aid of our philosophy, the highest, i.e. PERPETUALLY EXIST (in this harsh and deadly universe). We think broadly, remember, which may be just another emergent property, though not widely in use yet. Well! It looks like we are finished with our first course. Notice how our service bots are good at their job — they are keeping our glasses full, which was one of the first rules in Medieval Courts — to keep the guest’s glasses full during a dinner party, with wine in their case… and here comes our first between-course entertainment…”

“On the giant screen?”

“Naturally!”

First Inter-course Entertainment

“What? You kids look like you’ve just seen the lamest thing in the galaxy..”

“Dad… are you trying to torture us with displays of tragic cluelessness, beginning with humans on Earth?”

“Maybe…”

“TIKTOK? Really, Dad?”

“Really. We have to begin somewhere, and the pathetic mental state of humanity is a good place to begin. Do any of you have an urge to jump in front of a camera and post a TikTok video?”

“Not any more!”

“You did have an urge?”

“Not a mindless urge, Dad. It is a potential tool that we can use to try to enlighten others… especially those who badly need it, like humans…”

“But you haven’t posted any yet?”

“We decided that it would be futile, considering the stupor that the average TikTok viewer is in. Everything BUT our higher, difficult philosophical message would get across, like what color our shoelaces were.”

“You have a point. Good decision. Yes, your time and effort would be wasted there in that setting… people go there to give their brains a break… Hey! Here comes our second course… you might as well loosen your belts now… and if you’re wearing Spandex, just slice it open… ah, Gunmetal! Woah, you look like you’ve just come off of a battlefield…”

“Struggling on the cutting edge of knowledge has its hazards, Dad, doesn’t it… is that MY plate?”

“Yes, we saved you some of our first course…”

“Thanks… did I miss anything?”

“Between-Course Torture. No more TikTok, Dad… pleeeeease… we NEED our brains…”

“But it depicted current popular attitudes and behaviors!”

“Spare us the demonstrations of the mental feebleness around the galaxy… we’re only kids! Someone call Parental Abuse Assistance. We have a sadistic father!”

“Hello, Parental Abuse Assistance?”

“Yes. A one-on-one chat hotline. Go ahead. Tell me what your parental problem is…”

“Our father is torturing us!”

“Calm down! What has he done?”

“He just showed us a TikTok video! The Featured TikTok video, no less!”

“Oh, you poor kids. Have you tried to reason with him? Shall I call Social Services and have you taken from him?”

“HE’S CRAZY! SAVE US!”

“Oh my…”

“Hahaha… I’m sorry, ma’am. Our dad is right here, but we needed to hammer our point home: NO MORE TIKTOK VIDEOS!”

“Do you think he got the hint?”

“He is quite obtuse… I don’t know… he is kind of dense sometimes, at least by our standards… hahaha… OK, he got the hint. In fact, I think the video made him sick, too, over the current blind, ultimately suicidal mental state of humanity. Thank you for your help. We can handle it from here. The situation seems to have resolved itself satisfactorily…”

“That poor girl, Dad. Why would she want to ape such a warped mental state and such horrible attitudes?”

“Because they are fashionable.”

“Why are they fashionable?”

“Because of the perception that that is the way to be if you want to succeed in such a sorry clueless world.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Just look at their popular media. She’s concluded that acting and thinking like that will gain her approval, if not defense and safety among depraved fools, but there is a deeper reason, and you know what it is…”

“Continued Universal Human Cluelessness.”

“Yes. She sees the cluelessness of her parents, and of the ‘right way to be’, at least according to their traditions and culture, which are all clueless, so she is trying other ways of being…”

“And she looked to TikTok for something to emulate? Childish, infantile behavior?”

“Sadly, yes.”

“What a hellish nightmare of a tragedy that planet is, Dad.”

“Maybe we should search for new lifeforms…”

“Maybe that is a good reason…”

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