"At a certain point, you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world, Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive. You empty yourself and wait, listening. After a time you hear it: there is nothing there. There is nothing but those things only, those created objects, discrete, growing or holding, or swaying, being rained on or raining, held, flooding or ebbing, standing, or spread. You feel the world's word as a tension, a hum, a single chorused note everywhere the same. This is it: this hum is the silence. Nature does utter a peep - just this one. The birds and insects, the meadows and swamps and rivers and stones and mountains and clouds: they all do it; they all don't do it. There is a vibrancy to the silence, a suppression, as if someone were gagging the world. But you wait, you give your life's length to listening, and nothing happens. The ice rolls up, the ice rolls back, and still that single note obtains. The tension, or lack of it, is intolerable. The silence is not actually suppression: instead, it is all there is."
"Paul uncovered his eyes, and looked around the room. Away from a few dazzling patches of direct sunshine, everything glowed softly in the diffuse light: the matte white brick walls, the imitation (imitation) mahogany furniture; even the posters — Bosch, Dali, Ernst, and Giger — looked harmless, domesticated. Wherever he turned his gaze (if nowhere else), the simulation was utterly convincing; the spotlight of his attention made it so. Hypothetical light rays were being traced backwards from individual rod and cone cells on his simulated retinas, and projected out into the virtual environment to determine exactly what needed to be computed: a lot of detail near the centre of his vision, much less towards the periphery. Objects out of sight didn’t “vanish” entirely, if they influenced the ambient light, but Paul knew that the calculations would rarely be pursued beyond the crudest first-order approximations: Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights reduced to an average reflectance value, a single grey rectangle — because once his back was turned, any more detail would have been wasted. Everything in the room was as finely resolved, at any given moment, as it needed to be to fool him — no more, no less.
Paul closed his eyes and turned his face to the sun. In spite of everything, it was hard not to take solace from the warmth flooding onto his skin. He stretched the muscles in his arms, his shoulders, his back -- and it felt like he was reaching out from the "self" in his virtual skull to all his mathematical flesh, imprinting the nebulous data with meaning; binding it all together, staking some kind of claim.
Existence was beginning to seduce him. He let himself surrender for a moment to a visceral sense of identity which drowned out all his pale mental images of optical processors, all his abstract reflections on the software's approximations and short-cuts. This body didn't want to evaporate. This body didn't want to bale out. It didn't much care that there was another - "more real" - version of itself elsewhere. It wanted to retain its wholeness. It wanted to endure."
"I picture the vast realm of the sciences as an immense landscape scattered with patches of dark and light. The goal towards which we must work is either to extend the boundaries of the patches of light, or to increase their number. One of these tasks falls to the creative genius; the other requires a sort of sagacity combined with perfectionism."
"The sea refreshes our imagination because it does not make us think of human life; yet it rejoices the soul, because, like the soul, it is an infinite and impotent striving, a strength that is ceaselessly broken by falls, an eternal and exquisite lament. The sea thus enchants us like music, which, unlike language, never bears the traces of things, never tells us anything about human beings, but imitates the stirrings of the soul. Sweeping up with the waves of those movements, plunging back with them, the heart thus forgets its own failures and finds solace in an intimate harmony between its own sadness and the sea’s sadness, which merges the sea’s destiny with the destinies of all things."
"We now know that complexity arises in a middle ground—often at the order–disorder border. Natural systems that evolve with and learn from interaction with their immediate environment exhibit both structural order and dynamical chaos. Order is the foundation of communication between elements at any level of organization, whether that refers to a population of neurons, bees or humans. For an organism order is the distillation of regularities abstracted from observations. An organism’s very form is a functional manifestation of its ancestor’s evolutionary and its own developmental memories.
A completely ordered universe, however, would be dead. Chaos is necessary for life. Behavioural diversity, to take an example, is fundamental to an organism’s survival. No organism can model the environment in its entirety. Approximation becomes essential to any system with finite resources. Chaos, as we now understand it, is the dynamical mechanism by which nature develops constrained and useful randomness. From it follow diversity and the ability to anticipate the uncertain future.
There is a tendency, whose laws we are beginning to comprehend, for natural systems to balance order and chaos, to move to the interface between predictability and uncertainty. The result is increased structural complexity. This often appears as a change in a system’s intrinsic computational capability. The present state of evolutionary progress indicates that one needs to go even further and postulate a force that drives in time towards successively more sophisticated and qualitatively different intrinsic computation. We can look back to times in which there were no systems that attempted to model themselves, as we do now. This is certainly one of the outstanding puzzles: how can lifeless and disorganized matter exhibit such a drive? The question goes to the heart of many disciplines, ranging from philosophy and cognitive science to evolutionary and developmental biology and particle astrophysics. The dynamics of chaos, the appearance of pattern and organization, and the complexity quantified by computation will be inseparable components in its resolution."
"We know, but cannot grasp, that above and below, beyond the limits of perception or imagination, thousands of millions of simultaneous transformations are at work, interlinked like a musical score by mathematical counterpoint ...a symphony ...but we lack the ears to hear it."
"Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. . . If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn't we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe it's as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can't explain his to us, and we can't explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown in communication ... and there is the real illness."
"Can we perceive those inorganic beings, don Juan?" I asked. "We certainly can," he replied. "Sorcerers do it at will. Average people do it, but they don't realize that they're doing it because they are not conscious of the existence of a twin world. When they think of a twin world, they enter into all kinds of mental masturbation, but it has never occurred to them that their fantasies have their origin in a subliminal knowledge that all of us have: that we are not alone."
As for us, everything has not been written; we are not turning into phantoms. We walk the corridors, searching the shelves and rearranging them, looking for lines of meaning amid leagues of cacophony and incoherence, reading the history of the past and our future, collecting our thoughts and collecting the thoughts of others, and every so often glimpsing mirrors, in which we may recognize creatures of the information."
"Dreams, as we all know, are very curious things: certain incidents in them are presented with quite uncanny vividness, each detail executed with the finishing touch of a jeweller, while others you leap across as though entirely unaware of, for instance, space and time. Dreams seem to be induced not by reason but by desire, not by the head but by the heart, and yet what clever tricks my reason has sometimes played on me in dreams!"
"There is no logical necessity for the existence of a unique direction of total time; whether there is only one time direction, or whether time directions alternate, depends on the shape of the entropy curve plotted by the universe."
These antique fables, nor these fairy toys. Lovers and madmen have such seething brains, Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends. The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact: One sees more devils than vast hell can hold, That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic, Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt: The poet's eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
... And as imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing A local habitation and a name.
... Such tricks hath strong imagination, That if it would but apprehend some joy, It comprehends some bringer of that joy; Or in the night, imagining some fear, How easy is a bush supposed a bear!"
"Terraforming Mars is a primary goal for the twenty-second century. But scientists are looking beyond Mars as well. The most exciting prospects may be the moons of the gas giants, including Europa, a moon of Jupiter, and Titan, a moon of Saturn. The moons of gas giants were once thought to be barren hunks of rock that were all alike, but they are now seen as unique wonderlands, each with its own array of geysers, oceans, canyons, and atmospheric lights. These moons are now being eyed as future habitats for human life."
"He could not feel that they were an island of life journeying through an abyss of death. He felt almost the opposite--that life was waiting outside the little iron egg-shell in which they rode, ready at any moment to break in, and that, if it killed them, it would kill them by excess of its vitality. He hoped passionately that if they were to perish they would perish by the "unbodying" of the space-ship and not by suffocation within it. To be let out, to be free, to dissolve into the ocean of eternal noon, seemed to him at certain moments a consummation even more desirable than their return to Earth. And if he had felt some such lift of the heart when first he passed through heaven on their outward journey, he felt it now tenfold, for now he was convinced that the abyss was full of life in the most literal sense, full of living creatures."