At odd moments during evening strolls through the deserted, snow-covered streets of that tourist town, we thought of a number of new plots, including those of the future Space Mowgli and the future Roadside Picnic.
We kept a journal of our discussions, and the very first entry looks like this:

… A monkey and a tin can. Thirty years after the alien visit, the remains of the junk they left behind are at the center of quests and adventures, investigations and misfortunes. The growth of superstition, a department attempting to assume power through owning the junk, an organization seeking to destroy it (knowledge fallen from the sky is useless and pernicious; any discovery could only lead to evil applications). Prospectors revered as wizards. A decline in the stature of science. Abandoned ecosystems (an almost dead battery), reanimated corpses from a wide variety of time periods…

Interpretations of corpses as cyborgs for investigating earthlings, and of the Sphere—as some kind of bionic device which detects biological currents

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So are we alone? Well, there is one other possibility, at this point. I’ve lately been trumpeting my revision of Clarke’s Law (which originally said ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’). My revision says that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from Nature. (Astute readers will recognize this as a refinement and further advancement of my argument in Permanence.) Basically, either advanced alien civilizations don’t exist, or we can’t see them because they are indistinguishable from natural systems. I vote for the latter. This vote has consequences. If the Fermi Paradox is a profound question, then this answer is equally profound. It amounts to saying that the universe provides us with a picture of the ultimate end-point of technological development. In the Great Silence, we see the future of technology, and it lies in achieving greater and greater efficiencies, until our machines approach the thermodynamic equilibria of their environment, and our economics is replaced by an ecology where nothing is wasted. After all, SETI is essentially a search for technological waste products: waste heat, waste light, waste electromagnetic signals. We merely have to posit that successful civilizations don’t produce such waste, and the failure of SETI is explained. And as to why we haven’t found any alien artifacts in our solar system, well, maybe we don’t know what to look for. Wiley cites Freitas as having come up with this basic idea; I’m prepared to take it much further, however. Elsewhere I’ve talked about this particular long-term scenario for the future, an idea I call The Rewilding. Now normally one can’t look into the future; in the case of the long-term evolution of technological civilization, however, that is precisely what astronomy allows us to do. And here’s the thing: the Rewilding model predicts a universe that looks like ours–one that appears empty. The datum that we tend to refer to as ‘the Great Silence’ also provides the falsification of certain other models of technological development. For instance, products of traditionally ‘advanced’ technological civilizations, such as Dyson spheres, should be visible to us from Earth. No comprehensive search has been done, to my knowledge, but no candidate objects have been stumbled upon in the course of normal astronomy. The Matrioshka brains, the vast computronium complexes that harvest all the resources of a stellar system… we’re just not seeing them. The evidence for that model of the future is lacking. If we learn how life came to exist on Earth, and if it turns out to be a common or likely development, then the evidence for a future in which artificial and natural systems are indistinguishable is provided by the Great Silence itself.

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Roll Your Own Culture, a chat with Gordon White of A free wheeling chat with gordonwhite of on building your own reality map. Drawing upon chaos magic, gnosticism, and the strength of fictional works. Looking at topics such as the billionaire world view, the Secret Space Program, Nazi Science and the Nazi International. […]

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With Farm Robotics, the Cows Decide When It’s Milking Time –

“It just clicked,” said Susan Borden, Tom Borden’s 24-year-old daughter. “One day we came in and they had started milking themselves.”

Sure enough, on a recent Friday, the Bordens stood watch as cows lined up in front of the closet-size devices; each quietly allowed the machine to wash and scan its underbelly with lasers before attaching mechanical milk cups.

The cows ate the whole time, then moved along when the machine was finished. Nearby, another new device, a Roomba-style robot, pushed feed toward cows who lounged in a pen or lay on straw mats.

“We’re the most disruptive thing in here,” Mr. Borden said.

How do you fund deextinction and the rewilding of ecosystems forward to their next-natural state? What if you can make it pay for itself?

What if you can farm the rewilding with robots???

Why choose between domestication and the wild, that is so twentieth century binary thinking man. Embrace the xor!

Ride that paleo diet wave, and that suburban quest for authenticity via cable tv gurus: sell Auroch milk for $20 a litre in Williamsburg and to the greater citizens of Portlandia!

The first Boskarin cattle have now been released in the Velebit mountains. Part of the Taurus program to resurrect Europe’s only recently extinct ancient cattle:

The aurochs stands at the very roots of the whole idea of our continent but was sadly driven to its extinction by man. Luckily, it can also be brought back by man. In 2008, the Taurus Foundation decided to give the re-breeding of the aurochs a serious try. It has since grown into a joint effort together with Rewilding Europe and the Dutch organization ARK Nature. The end result will look like an aurochs, live like an aurochs, behave, eat, mate, defecate and eventually die like an aurochs. For the time being, this animal will be called the Tauros, the Greek word for the bull.

It’s 2017, and Oprah is saying: forget Quinoa, forget the ancient grains and antioxidant berries from the Amazon, try the milk of recently resurrected pre-domesticated cattle. The real, true superfoods harness the power of the palaeolithic, that Ice Age hardiness imbued unto you!

“Rumour has it this is what Cleopatra really bathed in,” the signs on the spas say.

Flown in by drones direct from the biomemetic milking stations built by anthropology majoring makers trained in augmented reality set design and custom blinds.

Untouched by a single human hand. Unseen by a single human eye. Reveal in the Authenticity consumers! Drink it in.

For an extra $99.99 you can have it tweaked with custom gut biota to cure all your ails.

And for 9,000 Euro you can have your own personal herd, visible to all your “friends” on Facebook via our special Farmville plugin.

It’s 2022 and the herds are now big enough to offer safaris for corporate retreats, buck’s nights and any other manner of escape. 

Armed only flint knives chipped with the very finest rocks. Wearing only hare-skin loincloths. Juiced up with Neanderthal DNA temporarily spliced in by harmless virii. They hunt their food for the year on foot and gather tales enough to entertain the crowds at their neighbourhood barbecues. Watched over by fleets of robot medics, ready to resurrect them or repair any injury.

We get a restored ecosystem, a better gardened planet, and they get… fed body, soul and hyperego.

— don’t you just love it when a future path into a better gardened Earth practically writes itself?

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University of Canterbury ecologist Professor Jason Tylianakis says no study has explicitly tested whether exotic species fill the roles left by declining native species.

“A collaborative research project between scientists at the University of Canterbury and the University of Oviedo, Spain, has examined the role of exotic birds in dispersing the seeds of native New Zealand trees and shrubs.

“Many fruiting plants require birds to carry their seeds to new locations and drive the persistence and recovery of native forests.

“New Zealand fruit-feeding birds have historically suffered a strong decline but the country has also gained new fruit-eaters in the form of introduced European birds, such as blackbirds and song thrushes.’’

The Canterbury researchers studied the network of feeding interactions between different species of plants and birds in the North and South islands. They found that the intermediate body and beak size of exotic birds allowed them to feed on a great variety of different fruits.

This allowed the birds to disperse seeds of plant species that were not eaten by native birds at any given location and helped to stabilise seed dispersal across a whole range of plants.

Without introduced species, many native plants would not have their fruits eaten and their seeds would simply fall to the ground below the tree.

Another Canterbury biological sciences researcher, Dr Daniel Stouffer, says exotic species were less discriminating in their fruit consumption patterns.

“Native fruit-eaters have developed strong affinities for or against consumption of native fruit species making our native communities vulnerable to loss of key bird species. However, the exotic species are more than happy to make equal use of all the fruits available, thereby spreading their benefit more widely.’’

Professor Tylianakis says people often consider invasions by non-native species as always being harmful.

“However, many of our native species have already become extinct and sometimes we need new species to fill their role. Although they often do harm, we can’t always assume that non-native species are the bad guys in our constantly changing eco-systems,” Professor Tylianakis says.

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The researchers scoured the ancient mud samples for fossilized fungus spores, pollen, and plant remains. At all three of their sample sites, they found “dung-affiliated” fungi—species that grow on the droppings of herbivores. This was a clue that a large plant-eater used to live and poop at those spots. Judging by radiocarbon dating, the animal had lived in the bogs for thousands of years, but disappeared around 500 years ago. Dung-rich areas were also full of plant pollen, as from the gut of a grazer. All signs pointed to the Galapagos tortoise, the only large herbivore around. (There’s also an “extinct giant rice rat” that could have left enough dung, the authors note, but it wasn’t known to hang out in swamps.)

When the researchers collected fresh tortoise dung and examined it in the lab, they saw similar patterns of fungus to those in their ancient samples. The same was true of sediment samples taken from a pond where tortoises still live today.

At the same time the dung fungi disappeared, about 500 years ago, certain plant species disappeared from the dirt samples too. The plants that vanished were those that prefer a muddy, churned-up environment—like the home tortoises would have provided as they trampled and sloshed through a wetland. Some of these plant species are now rare or extinct in the Galapagos.

All this evidence added up to tell a story: Tortoises used to cover Santa Cruz Island, from the coasts to the highlands. At the top of the island they wallowed in wetlands with open ponds or lakes. Here they drank, grazed on plants, and kept their bodies cool. Then, around the time humans settled on the island, the turtles left the highlands. It’s still not clear why—their reduced numbers from hunting may have meant less competition from other tortoises, and thus less need to travel for water. There might also have been a shift in the island’s climate that  discouraged tortoises from hiking the volcano.

As tortoises left the wetlands, they filled in and became peat bogs dense enough to walk on. Other plant species that had lived there were choked out. Open, freshwater wetlands became rare all across the Galapagos. Charcoal found in the soil samples suggests that as tortoises munched away less of Santa Cruz’s plant material, fires may have become more common too.

Today humans are bringing tortoises back to the islands—though with 5 of the original 14  subspecies now extinct, those tortoises aren’t always the same ones that lived there in the past. The results at Santa Cruz show that just replacing the missing animals won’t turn back the clock. Globally, Froyd says, “we may be missing some of the impacts that past loss of large herbivores has had on ecosystems.”

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If rewilders are successful, thousands of years from now our descendants may think of African lions roaming American plains as “natural” too.

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Are We Ready To Hack The Animal Kingdom? : NPR   

Are We Ready To Hack The Animal Kingdom? : NPR   

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In a future Serengeti, illegal poaching continues to deplete the wildlife population, but conservationists have extraordinary new tools to protect endangered animals: robots that take the forms of those animals to blend in with the wildlife and capture poachers.

Artist Robert Chews Big Five series of illustrations imagine a network of wildlife rangers and the animal inspired robots they use in an attempt to make poaching a thing of the past. (Although one illustration reveals that the poachers have fearsome robots of their own.) He frequently adds companion drawings showing off the features of his robots, and usually includes short blurbs about the roles of the robots, including this one about the White-Back Vulture robots:

Vultures patrol protection zones providing aerial recon and basic first aid capabilities. Their main job is to locate recently poached animals and mark them for investigation. If anti-poaching units are in the area the Vulture can land near the corpse of the animal and protect the body from consumption by other animals. Compartments in the wings and the chest area house basic first aid supplies to aid in field operations. These include bandages, tourniquets, antivenom, antiseptics, resuscitators, field rations, and water among other things. Another function is to transport DNA samples of poached animals quickly and efficiently for analysis to help keep records up to date about the remaining animal populations.Vultures also serve as locators for tagged ivory and rhino horn. By locating signals from planted GPS units Vultures can help anti-poaching units and law enforcement locate the contraband and hopefully the poachers as well.

Overall the Vulture units serve as aerial watchdogs as well as CSI. Though they are non-combatant’s their auxiliary functions aid greatly in field operations.


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