Shoulda been a tweet: Fermi and Portland

Hi. I hope everyone is well. I loved seeing those overcast skies and a little bit of rain today in Seattle.

I remember reading about Fermi’s Paradox a few years ago. It blew my mind. Fermi was a big brain physicist. I guess he and his fellow big brains were talking about matters of the universe over lunch one day (I can relate), and Fermi asked something along the lines of Where is Everybody?

His where is everybody is much different than my where is everybody, as if I’d arrived at a party early and was confused. Which would never happen. This introvert does not like parties, and if I go to one, I sure as hell don’t arrive early. I arrive late, make a couple of rounds, awkwardly visit the food table several times, and then leave as I’m pretending to look for the bathroom.

Fermi. Here’s a small brain primer. There are a shit ton of stars and planets out there. Even the most conservative estimates suggest that a bunch of those planets would be similar to ours. Some of them are so much older than our rock that we should have heard from them by now. So where is everybody?

That observation prompted more big brain thinking. Are we cosmically unique in having climbed out of the primordial stew, or is there some built in boundary, obstacle, or enlightened awareness that prevents intelligent life from making the jump to interstellar colonization? If it’s a civilization ending obstacle, have we passed it, or is it in our future? (Uhhm, looking around in 2020, the answer seems obvious to me.)

Anyways, it’s a fascinating topic. And I somehow stumbled on a Substack podcast talking to the writer whose blog exploded as the result of his awesome post about the topic. Tim Urban of Wait But Why. He’s not a one hit wonder, he developed a following of millions for consistently good writing, peppered with sketches. But the Fermi post is one of his most popular, and it’s excellent.

Shoulda been a tweet bonus round – Charlie Warzel asks Robert Evans about the protests in Portland. Excellent interview. Took me right back to Capitol Hill in early June, but Portland sounds way more intense. Note – we’re in a pandemic that is being handled terribly by the government. It’s more than ok to see to your mental health by not reading every article about scary shit, so you might want to skip that article. But if/when you’re ready, it’s excellent. If you’re not upset by the idea of over-militarized federal agents driving around Portland in unmarked vehicles and detaining people, I can’t imagine we’d agree on very much.

I clicked on that article initially because I saw the connection to Bellingcat. They get a lot of praise, but they also have a lot of very suspicious critics. I’m wary of some of their critics, but I’m also wary of Bellingcat. But it wasn’t the narrative I was expecting. It was very interesting hearing Robert Evans’ (vote – Evans’s?) thoughts on the protests, the police, and the federal angle.

A little off-topic. Apple, I know your organization secretly reads my blog religiously. I read recently that you added a Siri quick command to help people film arrests or police interaction. But what happens if the phone gets confiscated or broken and the person doesn’t have automatic cloud uploady things in place? I think you should create a dedicated server. All someone has to do is say “Siri arrest” for the video to roll and upload to that server space. Tim Cook, if you’d like to discuss this further, give me a shout. I’m kind of an idea guy.