are we the only earth?

According to a recent TED lecture by astronomer Dimitar Sasselov, there may be other planets capable of sustaining higher forms of life. And they’re not in some far off place, they’re right here in our own Milky Way galaxy.

Check it out.

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is there digital life after death?

my friend randy coppinger posed this interesting question:

Scott Brown on Managing Your Digital Remainssure, people of many faiths have made arrangements for their soul after the death of their earthly body. likewise, many folks create a last will or trust to look after their physical remains. but what preparations have we made for the afterlife of our cyber-presence? is there digital life after death, and if so, who controls it?

thankfully, scott brown addressed this very question in a recent article in wired magazine.

Our local, carbon-based “hard drives” may fail, but vestiges of our inimitable selves will remain ambient and accessible long after we log off this mortal coil.

This distributed deathlessness means we’ll all need a little cleanup on Aisle Me. The aspects of life we archive online, be they valuable, heritable, or simply embarrassing, require posthumous management (and, in some cases, eradication) lest our friends and loved ones and executors be embarrassed or inconvenienced by our lingering digital detritus, a trash-strewn wake of left-behind liabilities.

apparently, there are companies who will look after your digital remains after your physical body ceases to be.

it’s the online equivalent of the old mob/spy trick: ‘if you kill me, and i don’t input the secret code every 12 hours, [whatever you’re looking for] gets sent to the cia, etc.’ basically, after you kick the bucket, your failure to respond to email alerts triggers a series of bots, which go to your online accounts, insert your passwords, and process the transfers or deletions of all your online assets and accounts.

At least three companies — AssetLock.net, Legacy Locker, and the charmingly named Deathswitch.com — have arisen to keep customers’ passwords, usernames, final messages, and so on in a virtual safe-deposit box. After you’re gone, these companies carry out last wishes, alert friends, give account access to various designated beneficiaries, and generally parse out and pass on your online assets.

clever. why didn’t i think of this?

now, what would be more clever than a service that deletes your online accounts? i’ll tell you: a process that makes one’s online presence the primary, permanent presence, somewhat like the end of avatar.

here’s how it would work: when you’re about to die, you trigger the transfer. your thoughts and memories in real life get scanned and transferred to your online life (much like second life), and you live eternally in there. who knows, maybe we’ll have that ability someday and we can combat the ‘rise of the machines’ by becoming the machines.

fantasy, i know. perhaps i’ll stick to the less fantastic vision of living forever in a paradise with other, like-minded, disembodied, immortal souls.

god does not have a plan for your life

i’ll get beat up by evangelicals for this, but here goes…

god does not have a plan for your life. not for yours, not for mine. that’s not how god works, and we need to stop thinking that way as soon as possible. there may be some grand design, which by design must have some fixed end, but i am certainly not the center of it, and the decisions i make in between beginning and end are by no means predetermined. we should therefore do the best we can with what we’ve been given, wherever we are.

perhaps god has a plan in general. maybe. but then again, maybe not. but that point is moot. christians need to stop thinking of following jesus and christianity as if following some organizational chart or systematized plan. lose the notion of ‘steps to salvation’. there is no ‘sacred path’. and if there is some cosmic order to life, it is governed by physics and the free-will choices we make, and not by some divine plan that controls our mind and governs us.

the bible offers ways to act, ways to serve, and ways to live that bring us into accordance with what the faithful understand to be god’s prescribed way of living. we are asked to make decisions, and to make good ones. we are asked to be loving neighbors and faithful servants, regardless of the circumstances, and regardless of the faith, race, gender, or socio-economic makeup of others.

sometimes, two choices are set before us, and one decision is clearly beneficial, while the other is clearly harmful. these choices are easy to make. but other times, we may be presented with two or three equally good options. in these cases, god does not lead you to make one decision over the other, and he certainly does not choose for you! the choice is ours and ours alone. god only asks that the faithful consider his instructions, namely, to treat all peoples with kindness whatever they decide and wherever they go.

the will of god certainly does not revolve around us. christians need to stop thinking this way. and yes, it is a product of this whole ‘personal jesus’ movement, which focuses solely on the individual consumer christian, and all too often neglects the larger community that jesus specifically asked his followers to serve, namely, the poor, the oppressed, and the neglected.

why do christians do this? perhaps it is to avoid responsibility for their decisions by claiming divine sanction for their choices. that is to say, christians may argue, “i was supposed to change careers because that is part of god’s plan for my life.” or perhaps, “i am supposed to move to a new town because it is a part of god’s plan for my life.”

but this kind of thinking causes a potential dilemma to the “god-has-a-plan-for-my-life christian”. specifically, what happens when the decision ultimately proves to be a bad one? what happens when the girl leaves, or the move is a disaster, or the job gets laid off? did god make a wrong choice? this kind of thinking usually results in the “god-has-a-plan-for-my-life christian” left wondering, “but god led me here,” which is a far less crackpot way of saying, “god told me to do it.”

what is worse, there is often a stubborn rationality that follows a decision that did not go as planned. unfortunately, many “god-has-a-plan-for-my-life christians” attempt to (mis)use their own misguided understanding of god’s will in a desperate attempt to guilt others into doing what they want. for instance, imagine the engaged man whose fiancée broke off their engagement. he truly believed that she was a part of god’s plan for his life. when she left, he tells her, “but god wants us together.” later, in retrospect, the man realizes that he was simply abusing his understanding of ‘god’s will’ to guilt a girl into staying with him.

this is the problem with the misguided notion that ‘god has a plan for my life’. it is essentially a forfeiture of responsibility, a trait so common among christians seeking an excuse for their selfish actions, a pardon their misdeeds, and an explanation for their failed relationships.

stop acting like every decision you make is a right or wrong one, black or white, for there is so much color in the world, and several shades of gray. jump out and embrace life. make good decisions. if you are of faith, bring god’s prescribed way of living into your life. god does not live our lives for us. he is not the micromanaging trail guide telling us which way to turn in the forest. for the faithful, he is more like the compass pointing us in the correct general direction. the individual paths we choose are our decisions, and ours alone. god simply asks that we head the right direction, and help others along the way.

it is not about god’s plan for you. it is about your participation in his world. he asks the faithful to make wise decisions, and asks them to bring him with wherever they go, whatever they choose. he does not make the decisions, he just wants to come along.

god does not have a plan for your life. your life is yours to live. stop worrying about life after death, and start living the life you have now. if you live it well, the afterlife will take care of itself.

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