Pink Moon 2022
AKA Paschal Full Moon
Tonight, the Pink Moon ascends in all its glory.
If you get a chance to step outside and see the Moon face-to-face, take particular notice of its pockmarks.
Some of these craters—formed by 4 billion years of asteroid bombardments—are so deep they exist in eternal night. They may even contain ice that’s been frozen for millions of years.
Understandably, these pitch-black craters have proved impossible to image…until now.
German researchers recently developed an AI program called HORUS that can map the Moon’s unlit craters, thereby shining a light that may guide future explorers on their lunar treks.
If you’re reading this on your phone, you’re holding in your hand a more powerful computer than the one that put humans on the Moon.
As technology advances exponentially, advanced artificial intelligence is not a probability—it’s an inevitability.
By the end of the decade, there will be machines smarter than the smartest human being.
By mid-century, there will be machines a billion times smarter than the smartest human being.
Compared to these contraptions, we will be like a beetle stuck in Einstein’s hair, a worm in Isaac Newton’s apple, a fly on Marie Curie’s blackboard.
What’s to stop AI from swatting us?
Mo Gawdat is an Egyptian entrepreneur and the former chief business officer for Google X.
In his new book Scary Smart: The Future of Artificial Intelligence and How You Can Save Our World, Gawdat argues that we should address the dangers of AI now.
Wouldn’t it be wiser to wrestle with this new technology while it’s still in its infancy, rather than waiting to negotiate our survival with a silicon god?
Gawdat proposes an intriguing call to action.
To ensure that our AI creations don’t exterminate us, we should stop thinking of them as menacing aliens.
We should think of them as our children.
“Instead of containing them or enslaving them, we should be aiming higher,” Gawdat advises. “We should aim not to need to contain them at all. The best way to raise wonderful children is to be a wonderful parent.”
I’m not a parent, but I have a nephew who recently turned three years old.
He can say the alphabet backward, identify shark species on sight, and read just about any text you put in front of him.
But his real passion is the night sky.
He doesn’t know the seven dwarves in Snow White, but he can spell the name of every dwarf planet (and their moons).
He’s still at the tail-end of potty training, but he can tell you all about Proxima Centauri.
The other day, he asked me to name some exoplanets, and when I didn’t rattle them off fast enough, he became impatient and instructed me to “Google it.”
Of all the celestial bodies, his favorite is the Moon.
Even on the coldest winter night, my nephew will pause on the short walk from house to car seat and spin in place, searching the sky.
He’ll point and say “waxing crescent.”
He doesn’t always get the Moon’s phase correct, and he hasn’t quite wrapped his head around the concept of the new Moon. (When the Moon is absent, his face makes an expression that says: where the hell did it go?)
But he did best me recently.
For a while, he’s been referring to the Moon as “Luna,” which I assumed was his own fanciful invention.
It turns out that Lūna, the Latin word for the Moon, is sometimes used for the sake of clarity if you are discussing—as my nephew often does—Titan, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, and the other 171 moons that dot our solar system.
I don’t want to give the false impression that my nephew is a bow-tie-wearing prodigy in a Wes Anderson movie.
He’s equally enthusiastic about ice cream, trampolines, strangers’ dogs, and playing with friends.
And I doubt that this encyclopedia of cosmic facts will stick permanently in his brain.
But even if he does forget that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a “blazing storm,” I hope he retains his natural curiosity about the world.
His innate trust that the universe rewards study.
His instinctive belief that the sky speaks to us if we listen.
I only have the most fleeting memories—mostly just sense impressions—from my own third year of life; yet I know that much of our character is formed by what happens to us then.
That’s why we bombard the kids in our lives with as much love as possible. They may not remember it, but those shadowy craters give shape to their ultimate personality.
And I suppose that’s Mo Gawdat’s point.
There’s no discrete moment when we come into consciousness.
We shade into self-awareness gradually.
It’s not the flick of a light switch; it’s a slow sunrise.
Currently, we’re pumping facts into the precursors of artificial intelligence.
Each Google search, every Twitter insult, even this newsletter are the raw data fed into the networks that will inform the future character of AI.
Gawdat hopes that we can raise our mechanical offspring with a benevolent orientation to the world.
Not to mention a compassionate and forgiving attitude toward their human creators.
Because even the best parents and caregivers are hypocrites.
Just ask my heavily tattooed brother who has to reprimand my nephew for drawing on his skin with a marker.
All we can do is try our best to provide a good example.
As Gawdat writes, “[T]hese new beings we’ve invited into our lives are not evil tyrants. They are innocent kids, waiting to impress their parents by doing what their parents value most.”
Maybe this is too sunny a view of AI, which many experts consider humanity’s greatest existential threat.
If I’m clinging to optimism, it’s because my nephew and AI will grow up together as pseudo-siblings.
They’ll enter their turbulent adolescence at the end of this decade.
And if the commercial space program stays on track, they’ll both have the opportunity to leave the nest (Earth) around 2040.
By 2050, they’ll be fully-fledged, autonomous adults.
I sincerely hope they are better than us.
And that they get along.
DEPARTMENT OF SHOUTOUTS
I am consistently blown away by the incredible tips, comments, ideas & images I receive from Lunar Dispatch readers.
This month, I’d like to spotlight the stunning moon photography of Camilla Toldy, whose artwork you can admire HERE.
The moon is notoriously difficult to capture with a camera, but Camilla manages to do it with creativity and style.
Here’s my personal favorite of her brilliant photos:
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See you on the Flower Moon!