Social Networks, Nanobots, and the Dignity of the Human Person

We just recently took part in a two-day symposium here at the seminary looking at the place of technology and social media in our lives, what it means for our ministries, and the impact that it may have on our future. While I hope to write a longer post in the coming days regarding the symposium, I will say that we covered many topics with our presenters, Sr. Mary Timothy Fokes, FSE, and Fr. William Holtzinger of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, ranging from social networking to nanotechnology to artificial intelligence, and even the integration of technology and the human mind itself. I just stumbled upon this article focusing on a recent interview of Ray Kurzweil by Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the authors from which Sr. Timothy derived her research. Fascinating and thought provoking…

From the article:

When I talk about computers reaching human levels of intelligence, I’m not talking about logical intelligence…It is being funny, and expressing a loving sentiment… That is the cutting edge of human intelligence.

The question with which we will be faced: how do we maintain the dignity of the human person in this rapidly evolving world and what can we personally do to achieve this goal, no matter what the technology? I am certainly not saying there is no answer to this question, I am simply saying that we need to keep it at the forefront as we develop these technologies!

Be sure to check out the article and accompanying video of the interview with Kurzweil and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson!


Stephen Colbert, Brian Greene, and Gravity Waves

I know I am a bit late in posting this, but last month, Albert Einstein was proven correct once again (but who’s really surprised at that?): gravitational waves were detected by LIGO, he Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory. This is a huge discovery for the field of physics, one that promises to send ripples through science for decades to come (pun intended).

The waves detected by LIGO are the result of two black holes rotating around each other, leading to an eventual merger. But what does all of this mean? If you recall from high school physics, Einstein said in his general theory of relativity that space-time was similar to a giant rubber sheet. Gravity then is simply the various heavenly bodies resting on that sheet, causing indentations, or distorting the fabric of space-time itself. Einstein predicted further that when two massive bodies rotate around each other, ripples would then be sent out in space-time, similar to the ripples you see in a pond when you skip a rock. These waves are important for the same reason that we study seismic activity in the Earth: as seismic waves in the Earth allow us to form a picture of the interior of our planet, so too would these gravitational waves allow us to study areas of the universe that we are otherwise unable to observe.

But don’t take my word for it; let an actual astrophysicist, Brian Green of Elegant Universe fame, explain the whole thing, with a bit of help from Stephen Colbert:

Looking forward to the discoveries to come in the years ahead!