Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters

I really enjoy good documentries, and recently I had the chance to watch "Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters". I was slightly skeptical at first, mainly thinking it would be dry and uninteresting. It is about Tetris after all, a game that is definitely more fun to play than it is watch.

A little background: I've loved Tetris for about as long as I can remember. As a child of the 80s, the game is as old as I am. I've gone though several periods of intense devotion to the game at various times in my life, although I've definitely spent more time off than I have playing. The game fascinates me, both as a puzzle and as a brain manipulation instrument. There have been several studies done on Tetris, ranging from its suppression of PTSD to its effect on sleep.

Ecstasy of Order has really good reviews, which pushed me through my skepticism and got me watching. Even though it is about a simple game, Ecstasy has a very compelling human interest side that kept me invested. It also shares a lot of technical, historical, and scientific information about the game, making it interesting for the Tetris addict.

Overall, I thought it was an extremely good, well thought out documentary. I'd recommend it to anyone, not just those interested in the game. Its free to watch at the link above, so head on over and give it a view. Let me know what you think if you do!

Love life,
ZW

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The "day to day" update.

I just realized it's been awhile since my last blog post, so I figured now might be a good time to update you on what I've been up to lately:

Breakers of the Dawn: Breakers has been my primary focus as of late. I have myself on a pretty intense deadline, considering all my other obligations. Most of my free time is spent editing, and I'm about 30-40% done with this current edit. I'm hoping to have the book ready for publishing around February of 2014, which feels far away, but will be here quickly. I'll announce a more definitive release date once I have a better idea of exactly how long the last steps will take.

PASF Project: PASF is definitely on the back burner for now. I think the plot is really good, but with all my focus on Breakers at the moment, it's pretty much impossible to work on PASF. I'll definitely be coming back to it at some point. It's far too compelling not too.

Other writing projects: Recently I just finished up a short story that my day job employer serialized in their newsletter. It is a fairly specialized science fiction short that is centered around rock climbing. Overall I'm really happy with how it turned out and I received a lot of good feedback about it. Since it is so climbing focused, the target audience is fairly small, but I think there is a chance that one of the climbing magazines might be interested in it.

Outside of writing: I've been climbing a lot lately, as always. Sarah and I have a big trip to the Red River Gorge coming up in a little less than 2 months, so I'm definitely excited about that. It's one of my favorite places to climb. I've been biking more lately, trying to get my cardio up, plus it's an enjoyable way to explore the city.

Overall I've been keeping busy. Life is enjoyable and I feel like I'm making good progress on my goals. Good times!

A picture I snapped on a recent climbing trip in Rocky Mountain National Park.


Love life,
ZW


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Motivation, Discipline, and a Goal


Last week I had the awesome opportunity to visit EAA's AirVenture 2013 in Oshkosh, WI. It was an action packed week that spurred my imagination and inspiration. While most of the event was focused on atmospheric aviation, there was a good portion devoted to space and future technology.

One of my favorite presentations was by Dr. Jerry Cockrell, a psychologist and airline pilot. His speech was entertaining, engaging, and informative. The core of the message was how to be successful, and Dr. Cockrell was very succinct: motivation, discipline, and a goal. This really hit home for me, mainly because it put into words something I have been thinking for awhile. Having a successful professional state it was very encouraging!

Looking at my own life, the goal is probably the easiest, but I tend to set big goals and neglect the smaller goals to get myself there (something I'm trying to fix). My motivation is usually always high, although there are times that I have to work on that. Discipline is my weakest aspect, requiring the most effort. The really cool thing about the three aspect approach to success is how synergistic they are to each other. If one is lacking, another will help boost it up. I've seen it work in my life.

AirVenture was a great experience. It was awesome to be around people that shared similar views as myself in reguard to space exploration and science. I gained many ideas to incorporate into my writing, and I look forward to seeing where they take me!

Love life,
ZW

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Extra-Terrestrial Artificial Intelligence

Recently I read a short article on the likelihood of humans coming in contact with extra-terrestrial artificial intelligence. The premise is that if we do find intelligent life in the Universe, most likely it will be post-biological in origin. In other words, alien artificial intelligence. This provoked me to do more reading and I can across this article on the evolution of intelligence. Both pieces are very interesting and I recommend them.

To me, these posts bring up some interesting questions. Is life, by definition, biological? At what point does artificial intelligence cease to be artificial? Would it be so bad if human 1.0 was replaced with human 2.0?

I think we will see the growth of earth based AI in our lifetime, perhaps maybe even be contacted by alien AI. Obviously there are a lot of deep seated fears about being replaced or subjugated by machines, the Terminator series being one of the major stories that explore this. I, Robot, Battlestar Galactica, and numerous books also cover this same topic. Ever since there has been the idea of robots, there has been the thought that the robots might revolt and take over. Now that there is artificial intelligence, those fears have become exponential. Now "they" can be smarter as well as stronger than us.

So what does this mean for humanity, who seems to be creating its own replacement? It means change. Perhaps someday AI will be the dominate intelligence on Earth, having replaced homo sapiens just as homo sapiens replaced Homo heidelbergensis and other previous intelligent ancestors. Maybe we will coexist along with the AI. Or perhaps we will integrate with or become the AI, intriguing possibilities.

At any rate, I think we are headed to a point in history where we will be faced with major decisions regarding AI, whether it is Earth based or extra-terrestrial. To fear these decisions is foolish. Facing the future with a clear mind and logic is best. Change is not the worst thing. Life builds on what came before it. And if that means we become "machines", than so be it. It would definitely make space exploration and colonization easier!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mars One, Part One

Recently, Bas Lansdorp , the CEO of Mars One, wrote an interesting article on Space.com about the risks of radiation for humans traveling to Mars. For those of you who haven't heard of Mars One, it is an organization that intends to send humans on a one way colonization trip to Mars by 2023.

Understandably, the attempt faces numerous technical challenges, one of which is radiation. Bas Lansdorp does a good job explaining how the mission would deal with the issue, which bolsters my hope that it might actually work.

I've had ups and downs with my feelings towards Mars One. I think their goal is admirable. Its a small step towards attaining the stars, which for me, as a sci-fi writer and dreamer, is very exciting and nesscescary for the human race. Colonizing the solar system is a good first step in the pusuit of the stars, but to my mind, the Moon might be a better place to start. Also, Mars One's method of funding (advertising revenue gained through a reality TV broadcast of the mission), sort of disgusts me. Should the progress of the human race be funded by Pepsi, Sprint, GoDaddy.com, and whoever else decides to drop enough cash to forward their corporate image on the backs of brave pioneers? Is the colonization of Mars on the same level as the Super Bowl?

At times, the whole thing has smelled like a scam or hoax to me. I still hold out hope however, hope it's real and hope they make it happen. It seems too good to be true: Mars in my lifetime.

They opened the application process for astronauts a couple months back and I decided to apply. When I went to the application page, it informed me there was a $38 application fee. This immediately turned me off. My internal scam alarm sounded and I decided not to go forward with it. Plenty of people have applied and made donations, so if it is a scam, it's one that people want to believe in.

Which leads me to another thought: If it gets people thinking and dreaming about space like we did during the race for the Moon and inspires a new generation of engineers and innovators to think about the stars, then perhaps its worth the money.

There are a lot of challenges facing humanity on Earth at this point in history, but being too nearsighted and ignoring the future has dangers of its own. Extinction, via asteroid impact, is a very real possibility if our entire species is on one planet.

I have more to say about Mars One, so I think I'll have another post or two dedicated to it. In the meanwhile, I'd love to know your thoughts about it!

Love life,
ZW

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Our Relationship to the Earth

Lately, I have been pondering the relationship that humans (as a whole) have with the Earth. I find the subject very interesting, mainly because it seems that there is such a broad spectrum of opinion on the issue. Some people don't think about the life around them at all, how they are part of a massive ecosystem, how their actions effect the world around them. Others devote themselves to fighting this mindset and actions by any means possible. Some humans destroy rain forests for profit, while others chain themselves to trees to prevent their destruction. And then you have everyone else who falls somewhere in between on the spectrum.

The single most important thing that both sides need to realize is that humans ARE animals. We evolved to our position today through a relationship with all the other animals and organisms on this planet. We are not better than any other animal, we are simply different in certain ways. This does not give us the right to disrespect or destroy another species. It also doesn't mean we have to elevate the animal kingdom above human kind. You don't see any animal, other than humans, exterminating another species or harming itself to protect the Earth or another species. Humans, as a whole, have far more power than any other animal. This means we have a greater responsibility. We can't just do what we want and not care. We have to respect the life around us.

But what is respect? Is respect not eating meat? Is it never taking another animal life? There is a danger of going too far with respect and not respecting one's self or one's species. If you take a cue from the animals that live around us, respect is doing what evolution designed us to do. We are omnivores, have been for quite some time. We no longer hunt (at least not how we once did), but our bodies have not yet evolved to exclusively eat veggies or processed food.

So how do you respectfully kill and eat another animal?  Do you have to hunt it or can it be livestock? If a cow lives a full life, gets to eat grass, gets to reproduce, and dies to feed a predator, does it really make a difference if that predator is a human rather than a mountain lion? We have the ability to kill livestock in a much more humane way than any lion could, but many reports say we don't. That's sad.

Think about how your actions impact the world around you. Yes, maybe squishing that spider or killing that snake in your yard isn't a big deal in the overall scheme of global life, but what if you and the 7 billion other people on earth do the same thing. Driving your car when you could bike to work doesn't seem to have much impact, but think about that pollution multiplied by the 300 million others who live in the US. It all adds up.

Don't feel judged. But I would encourage you to focus your attitude and awareness. Realize that one person does make a difference. Foster an attitude of respect to the other animals (both human and other species alike) around you. Our relationship to the Earth is one of the main deciding factors of the quality of life for both ourselves and future generations. Maybe if more of us can be thoughtful of the Earth and it's inhabitants, we'll make it to the Utopian sci-fi future, and not the dystopian one.

Love life,
ZW

Friday, July 5, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

Just a quick post to tell all my U.S. readers happy belated Independence Day! I spent the day climbing with my girlfriend Sarah and celebrating with her family. We both climbed really hard and had a great day. After the holiday weekend, it's back to pushing hard with editing and other writing projects!

Check out this word cloud for a preview of Breakers of the Dawn.