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Author Topic: Consciousness  (Read 8161 times)
FirstAscent
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March 03, 2012, 07:14:15 PM
 #81

If a transporter was proven to exactly replicate the mind as it was, I would use it. My perceived reality has been proven to be stable thus far and I would trust it in this circumstance.

So you would submit yourself to being killed, and allow a replica of yourself which contains the exact memories and brain structure to be created to replace yourself?

How can you prove my perception was destroyed and not reincarnated to the replica?

How can we deduce which latter event is more probable?

Consider the following two scenarios:

1. You step into the transporter room and your body is scanned at the molecular level and you are recreated somewhere else. Only problem is, the machine failed to actually destroy your body at this location. A service technician approaches you and says: "Sir, a minor glitch occurred. If you could come this way we'll manually finish the process..."

2. You step into the transporter room and your body is scanned at the molecular level and you are recreated not once, but three different times in three different locations. Clearly, you, the person who stepped into the transporter room, can't be all three of the newly created individuals. Granted, from their perspective, each of the three are you and fully believes in the success of the transportation process, but logically, at the very most, you are only one of them, and the other two are not. It makes further sense that you are in fact none of them, and are in fact, dead, forever, and not experiencing the world at all.

Answer: Pauli exclusion principle in quantum mechanics.

And what, exactly? What is your point?
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March 03, 2012, 11:42:19 PM
 #82

I have no idea either.
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March 07, 2012, 04:18:16 AM
 #83

So I've been watching and reading Penrose and/or Hameroff, and I've been somewhat fond of what they've been saying, but in my most recent foray into their ideas, it seems I'm hearing them say exactly what I suspect. It's this:

Consciousness (or more precisely qualia) is a fundamental component of the Universe. Even more specifically, they're saying (and I've said this as well in conversations with others), a conscious moment, or at least the fundamental building block of a conscious moment is the collapse of the quantum wave function.

So there you have it.
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March 07, 2012, 07:55:31 PM
 #84

So I've been watching and reading Penrose and/or Hameroff, and I've been somewhat fond of what they've been saying, but in my most recent foray into their ideas, it seems I'm hearing them say exactly what I suspect. It's this:

Consciousness (or more precisely qualia) is a fundamental component of the Universe. Even more specifically, they're saying (and I've said this as well in conversations with others), a conscious moment, or at least the fundamental building block of a conscious moment is the collapse of the quantum wave function.

So there you have it.
I think Stuart Hammeroff is on to something big, something that not only explains the conscious state but also what life is.  I simplify his theory like this. Living things use structures in the cytoskeleton to create a quantum state of superposition. This allows a momentary sidestep around decay, a sort of trick that puts effect ahead of cause. When the wave collapses the "live state" is maintained by knowing the most advantageous outcome.
This basic research so important. As a biology teacher I talk a lot about life. But I can't tell my students the difference between a dead bird and a live bird. So, WTF do I know?
All my physicist friends talk about a unified theory that includes the very big and the very small. To my mind any unified theory MUST include an explanation of what life and consciousness are. If you cant explain that, you have only a piece of a picture.   

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March 07, 2012, 11:02:29 PM
 #85

Isn't life just a long string of chemical chain reactions causing other chemical chain reaction causing other chemical chain reaction causing other chain reactions ect..? And death would then be simply the end of a string of these chain reactions that run out of some sort of fuel..?

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March 08, 2012, 01:46:45 AM
 #86


Another thought experiment that interests me:

Imagine you are about to be subjected to horrible torture for days or weeks on end.  At the conclusion of the torture all memory of the event will be wiped.  Knowing this, should you be scared or apprehensive going in?  If so, why?  What parallels can we draw from this to portions or the entirety of our experience in life?

You don't need a thought experiment for this. Take some Versed and do something scary. Go get your wisdom teeth pulled. You should have existential anxiety about your self being harmed whether you will have memory of the harmful events or not. Lacking memory of these events will cause you to have additional uncertainty about how much harm was actually done. This is especially true if there is little physical evidence of the harm. Maybe you said something terrible (betrayed someone) but can't remember it? You now have to rely on external information about yourself for that period of time, putting you at a disadvantage to others.

Hmm good point.  However the question was should not would.  The theoretical scenario was meant to frame what we consider to matter against a reality where this is likely meaningless.  All our memories and experiences end and disappear eventually, every good or bad feeling/experience ends.  I logically understand this, and yet it isn't fully internalized since I don't want to die, I want more good experiences and want less bad etc.  There isn't really an "answer" or anything to figure out, just interesting I to contemplate I think.
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March 08, 2012, 01:59:11 AM
 #87

So I've been watching and reading Penrose and/or Hameroff, and I've been somewhat fond of what they've been saying, but in my most recent foray into their ideas, it seems I'm hearing them say exactly what I suspect. It's this:

Consciousness (or more precisely qualia) is a fundamental component of the Universe. Even more specifically, they're saying (and I've said this as well in conversations with others), a conscious moment, or at least the fundamental building block of a conscious moment is the collapse of the quantum wave function.

So there you have it.

In Quantum Mechanics have they pinpointed under which scenarios the wave collapses?  Sorry I haven't done my research, but I do recall the double slit test where results retrieved indicate wave collapse only occurs when the photons are "observed".  Do you know of any sources that dig into what types of observation is required to collapse the wave?  If a camera records the photons does that collapse the wave or does something with "awareness" have to review the recordings for this to happen?  Can the question even be answered?

I'll google around about this but thought you might have some good insight since it seems you've done lots of research on this already.
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March 08, 2012, 02:12:37 AM
 #88

So I've been watching and reading Penrose and/or Hameroff, and I've been somewhat fond of what they've been saying, but in my most recent foray into their ideas, it seems I'm hearing them say exactly what I suspect. It's this:

Consciousness (or more precisely qualia) is a fundamental component of the Universe. Even more specifically, they're saying (and I've said this as well in conversations with others), a conscious moment, or at least the fundamental building block of a conscious moment is the collapse of the quantum wave function.

So there you have it.
I think Stuart Hammeroff is on to something big, something that not only explains the conscious state but also what life is.  I simplify his theory like this. Living things use structures in the cytoskeleton to create a quantum state of superposition. This allows a momentary sidestep around decay, a sort of trick that puts effect ahead of cause. When the wave collapses the "live state" is maintained by knowing the most advantageous outcome.
This basic research so important. As a biology teacher I talk a lot about life. But I can't tell my students the difference between a dead bird and a live bird. So, WTF do I know?
All my physicist friends talk about a unified theory that includes the very big and the very small. To my mind any unified theory MUST include an explanation of what life and consciousness are. If you cant explain that, you have only a piece of a picture.   

Can you expand on why you find this difficult to explain?
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March 08, 2012, 02:36:35 AM
 #89

So I've been watching and reading Penrose and/or Hameroff, and I've been somewhat fond of what they've been saying, but in my most recent foray into their ideas, it seems I'm hearing them say exactly what I suspect. It's this:

Consciousness (or more precisely qualia) is a fundamental component of the Universe. Even more specifically, they're saying (and I've said this as well in conversations with others), a conscious moment, or at least the fundamental building block of a conscious moment is the collapse of the quantum wave function.

So there you have it.

In Quantum Mechanics have they pinpointed under which scenarios the wave collapses?  Sorry I haven't done my research, but I do recall the double slit test where results retrieved indicate wave collapse only occurs when the photons are "observed".  Do you know of any sources that dig into what types of observation is required to collapse the wave?  If a camera records the photons does that collapse the wave or does something with "awareness" have to review the recordings for this to happen?  Can the question even be answered?

I'll google around about this but thought you might have some good insight since it seems you've done lots of research on this already.

"Observation" means to measure, which, in the most primitive form, I believe means to bounce a photon off of it (something like that). That's why to observe means to disrupt, because you have to interact with it.

But it's a little more complex that that. My take from it all is not to get hung up on a conscious being observing, and not to confuse that issue with the discussion here.

It's funny though, if you think of waves as intangible things, and particles as tangible things, and the interaction of particles as collapsing the waves, then what that means is things don't finitely exist unless interacted with, and I'm saying that wave collapse is the fundamental building block of consciousness, which is to say that existence (particles) vs. hypothetically existing (waves), is the building block of consciousness.

Something like that.
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March 08, 2012, 08:16:20 AM
 #90

So I've been watching and reading Penrose and/or Hameroff, and I've been somewhat fond of what they've been saying, but in my most recent foray into their ideas, it seems I'm hearing them say exactly what I suspect. It's this:

Consciousness (or more precisely qualia) is a fundamental component of the Universe. Even more specifically, they're saying (and I've said this as well in conversations with others), a conscious moment, or at least the fundamental building block of a conscious moment is the collapse of the quantum wave function.

So there you have it.

In Quantum Mechanics have they pinpointed under which scenarios the wave collapses?  Sorry I haven't done my research, but I do recall the double slit test where results retrieved indicate wave collapse only occurs when the photons are "observed".  Do you know of any sources that dig into what types of observation is required to collapse the wave?  If a camera records the photons does that collapse the wave or does something with "awareness" have to review the recordings for this to happen?  Can the question even be answered?

I'll google around about this but thought you might have some good insight since it seems you've done lots of research on this already.

"Observation" means to measure, which, in the most primitive form, I believe means to bounce a photon off of it (something like that). That's why to observe means to disrupt, because you have to interact with it.

But it's a little more complex that that. My take from it all is not to get hung up on a conscious being observing, and not to confuse that issue with the discussion here.

It's funny though, if you think of waves as intangible things, and particles as tangible things, and the interaction of particles as collapsing the waves, then what that means is things don't finitely exist unless interacted with, and I'm saying that wave collapse is the fundamental building block of consciousness, which is to say that existence (particles) vs. hypothetically existing (waves), is the building block of consciousness.

Something like that.

Interesting, thanks.  I've read that "objects" in super-position are able to stay in that state of potentially existing in many forms or places until they become entangled with "objects" in one position (wave has collapsed) known as decoherence I believe.  Which sounds essentially identical to what you're saying.  Makes some kind of crazy sense I suppose. 

To observe (or bounce a photon off) an "object" and collapse it's wave, requires that the observing photon is already collapsed, and the photon that "observed" that photon was already collapsed and so on (I am assuming 2 wave photons can interact and interfere without their waves collapsing).  This leaves me to wonder at what point the "first" wave collapsed, if a first wave collapsed, exactly what new criteria was present, and if we could consider this the beginning of awareness in our universe (or the beginning of the universe itself?). 

Did the Big Bang involve collapsed particles?  If so, what kind of observation was present?  We know that the double slit "delayed choice" experiment "demonstrates that extracting "which path" information after a particle passes through the slits can seem to retroactively alter its previous behavior at the slits".   Does the past exist as the past because it happened in the past or because it had to have "happened" for the current wave collapse state to exist, which came first or does it even make sense to ask the question in reference to our perception of time at all?

It seems to me that better understanding the exact entanglement or measurement required to collapse the wave would be an important and crucial piece of potentially understanding what consciousness is.

Might waves be able to collapse dependent on (or arbitrarily for) the observer?  Perhaps we all share and are entangled in the same collapsed wave state, with others sharing other collapsed wave states, could this make up a multi-verse?  Or does referencing the existence of an object in relation to other objects destroy it's ability to still potentially exist in other states?

I guess all this is a bit like asking "if a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it does it make a sound?" and answering with "if nobody is around to observe it the tree may not exist as a tree at all in first place".  Of course that's a hard thing to test and prove obviously.
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March 08, 2012, 03:17:18 PM
 #91

After some more research it sounds like the prevailing wisdom is that collapse happens independent of consciousness.  However it seems that there is still contention regarding the issue.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mind%E2%80%93body_problem

http://arxiv.org/ftp/quant-ph/papers/0509/0509042.pdf

http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=507154
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March 08, 2012, 04:24:29 PM
 #92

Isn't life just a long string of chemical chain reactions causing other chemical chain reaction causing other chemical chain reaction causing other chain reactions ect..? And death would then be simply the end of a string of these chain reactions that run out of some sort of fuel..?
Can you expand on why you find this difficult to explain?


That's what I learned in school. However life's secret chemical formula has yet to be discovered and the whole theory is under increasing attack. There is something missing from that concept and even thermodynamic law comes into question when you posit a chemical reaction that does not seem to be subject to entropy.
It may still turn out to be a runaway chemical reaction. It's just not known. The only thing that seems clear is that once upon a time a molecule became alive, and it still is.  It has diversified and now includes potatoes, giraffes, mushrooms, germs, and you.  No one has ever been able to reproduce this phenomena, or even explain it. Does it happen all the time in the universe? Does it always lead to consciousness? Is consciousness even in our bodies, or do living thing just tune into it?
These questions may not be answered until we can create life from non-living material.

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March 08, 2012, 05:18:51 PM
 #93

Hmmm have you heard about the synthetic cell? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyAOepIU6uo

Plus aren't you incorrectly describing how life is theorized came to be by saying "a molecule became alive" but rather that once upon a time certain molecules started chain reacting with each other and they still do today?

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March 08, 2012, 07:40:15 PM
 #94

Hmmm have you heard about the synthetic cell? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyAOepIU6uo

Plus aren't you incorrectly describing how life is theorized came to be by saying "a molecule became alive" but rather that once upon a time certain molecules started chain reacting with each other and they still do today?
Well, Venter's project did not create life from non life. He created a molecule that, like DNA, can be read by a living cell. This synthetic DNA is then placed into the body of an already living organism. As the code is transcribed a hybridized organism is created. Kinda cool, but not a true second Genesis.
As to your other point, your right. "A molecule became alive", may be to crude a description. But a chain reaction is also not sufficient to explain what is going on. One of Hammeroff's interesting observations is finding "ordered" water in the cells of plants. Quantum effects can create ordered water and could be responsible. I can't defend all this research, it is just to early to know what is being discovered. This rabbit hole could be very deep indeed.

Here is something to think about. You probably learned in school that you think with your brain. signals are sent along neurons and processed by vast arrays of cells. That makes sense, but it can not be entirely correct. Consider the amoeba. It is a single celled organism with no neurons at all. Yet under my microscope I can watch them hunt, avoid things, even make choices about what to do next. How?

F#(K if I know???
 

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March 08, 2012, 08:57:52 PM
 #95

Consider the amoeba. It is a single celled organism with no neurons at all. Yet under my microscope I can watch them hunt, avoid things, even make choices about what to do next. How?

Well aren't basically the molecules inside the Amoeba reacting with molecules in it's environment? Btw I'm a huge layman when it comes to biology and chemistry and I basically know only as much as I was taught about it in school and seen a documentary or read an article since..

I did however understand what that synthetic cell really was or how it was made but still to me it shows one important thing which is that the crucial molecules needed for life are nothing more than the right chemicals organized in the right way. I wished this stuff was open source and freely shared, I'd bet we'd have a lot of answers very fast.

Also, did you see this TED talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMrzdk_YnYY To me it was really really revealing as to how we should think about consciousness. It gets especially interesting from the 11min mark forward.

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March 08, 2012, 09:29:31 PM
 #96

Consider the amoeba. It is a single celled organism with no neurons at all. Yet under my microscope I can watch them hunt, avoid things, even make choices about what to do next. How?

Well aren't basically the molecules inside the Amoeba reacting with molecules in it's environment? Btw I'm a huge layman when it comes to biology and chemistry and I basically know only as much as I was taught about it in school and seen a documentary or read an article since..

I did however understand what that synthetic cell really was or how it was made but still to me it shows one important thing which is that the crucial molecules needed for life are nothing more than the right chemicals organized in the right way. I wished this stuff was open source and freely shared, I'd bet we'd have a lot of answers very fast.

Also, did you see this TED talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMrzdk_YnYY To me it was really really revealing as to how we should think about consciousness. It gets especially interesting from the 11min mark forward.
Even a PhD. in biochemistry would not answer our questions. That is what I like about this topic. The true, spooky unknown. I'll have to watch that video when I get home. Thanks for linking to it! Cheesy
If we did succeed in making a living thing, it might be only the second time such an event has ever happened in the history of the universe. Or it may happen in every solar system.  Shocked

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March 09, 2012, 02:20:25 AM
 #97

I think it's most likely life arose multiple times independantly on the early earth, but then one form was best and completely out-competed the others for resources. I've got no data for that though.


Here is something to think about. You probably learned in school that you think with your brain. signals are sent along neurons and processed by vast arrays of cells. That makes sense, but it can not be entirely correct. Consider the amoeba. It is a single celled organism with no neurons at all. Yet under my microscope I can watch them hunt, avoid things, even make choices about what to do next. How?

F#(K if I know???
 

Amoebas will move along chemical gradients towards food and away from deleterious stimuli. Their responses to these things are pretty much (ignoring epigenetics for now) hard coded in their DNA. They have receptors on their surface that change conformation in response to binding external molecules, the internal portion of the receptor then has a different most stable conformation and thus begins a chain of reactions (with all sorts of feedbacks) that alter the cytoskeleton giving movement. This is well known, so what exactly are you looking for an explanation for?
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March 09, 2012, 03:06:06 PM
 #98

I think it's most likely life arose multiple times independantly on the early earth, but then one form was best and completely out-competed the others for resources. I've got no data for that though.


Here is something to think about. You probably learned in school that you think with your brain. signals are sent along neurons and processed by vast arrays of cells. That makes sense, but it can not be entirely correct. Consider the amoeba. It is a single celled organism with no neurons at all. Yet under my microscope I can watch them hunt, avoid things, even make choices about what to do next. How?

F#(K if I know???
 

Amoebas will move along chemical gradients towards food and away from deleterious stimuli. Their responses to these things are pretty much (ignoring epigenetics for now) hard coded in their DNA. They have receptors on their surface that change conformation in response to binding external molecules, the internal portion of the receptor then has a different most stable conformation and thus begins a chain of reactions (with all sorts of feedbacks) that alter the cytoskeleton giving movement. This is well known, so what exactly are you looking for an explanation for?
I also doubt that life on Earth is a One-off. Since planets and stars everywhere look similar, why should life here be special? Maybe it did not even start here.
What I want to know about the amoeba is... Is it conscious? Or perhaps, when is the benchmark of consciousness crossed? A human is clearly conscious, an amoeba could be considered to be; but what about a chemical reaction? My guess is that consciousness and what makes something alive are closely related. 
P.S. Don't get me started on the epigenome! Wow, there a lot of undiscovered knowledge on that topic!

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March 09, 2012, 03:38:31 PM
 #99

Did you watch that video yet?

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March 09, 2012, 05:10:07 PM
 #100

I think it's most likely life arose multiple times independantly on the early earth, but then one form was best and completely out-competed the others for resources. I've got no data for that though.


Here is something to think about. You probably learned in school that you think with your brain. signals are sent along neurons and processed by vast arrays of cells. That makes sense, but it can not be entirely correct. Consider the amoeba. It is a single celled organism with no neurons at all. Yet under my microscope I can watch them hunt, avoid things, even make choices about what to do next. How?

F#(K if I know???
 

Amoebas will move along chemical gradients towards food and away from deleterious stimuli. Their responses to these things are pretty much (ignoring epigenetics for now) hard coded in their DNA. They have receptors on their surface that change conformation in response to binding external molecules, the internal portion of the receptor then has a different most stable conformation and thus begins a chain of reactions (with all sorts of feedbacks) that alter the cytoskeleton giving movement. This is well known, so what exactly are you looking for an explanation for?
I also doubt that life on Earth is a One-off. Since planets and stars everywhere look similar, why should life here be special? Maybe it did not even start here.
What I want to know about the amoeba is... Is it conscious? Or perhaps, when is the benchmark of consciousness crossed? A human is clearly conscious, an amoeba could be considered to be; but what about a chemical reaction? My guess is that consciousness and what makes something alive are closely related.  
P.S. Don't get me started on the epigenome! Wow, there a lot of undiscovered knowledge on that topic!

You might find the Centauri-dreams blog interesting. Not necessarily today's blog entry, but as a whole. It discusses the Fermi Paradox, the Drake equation, search for extrasolar planets, search for life in the oceans of Jupiter's moons, interstellar probes, Dyson spheres, life, etc. Read it, search it, and so on.

http://www.centauri-dreams.org/

Now, regarding life in the Universe, consider the possibilities:

1. Many different kinds of life are bound to happen, given a primordial soup.
2. Just DNA life is bound to happen, given a primordial soup.

Or consider possibility three:

3. Given 500 billion galaxies, each having 100 billion stars, where it seems reasonable that a very large fraction of those stars (born out by the Kepler telescope's results) have rocky Earth sized planets in the habitable zone with liquid water, and most of those planets having a primordial soup at some point, and all those chemical reactions, that even so, the chance of the right sequence of molecular chain reactions happening to give rise to the precursor of life still turns out to be a million to one in this Universe.

Let me rephrase option 3 a little so you understand exactly what I'm saying: the molecular chain reaction to create life in this Universe happened just once, and it was a million to one against it for the entire life of the Universe. Conclusion: if you buy into option 3, life only exists on Earth, and it was a fluke.

Now, is option 3 unreasonable? No! Theories in cosmology predict that there are millions of Universes, so in at least one of them, life could've arisen once, and naturally we will be the ones witnessing it, because obviously we wouldn't be in one of those Universes where life didn't arise.

Do I believe in option 3? I consider it a possibility. I also consider option 1 and 2 possibilities.

Here's a very sobering thought, though. If we're all descendants from the same species of microscopic DNA based life, then it seems that it only happened once. Why aren't there other descendants from other primordial microscopic forms of life on Earth?

Now, let's move on to the second part: intelligent life and the possibilities.

1. Life is common in the Universe, but technology wielding life is a fluke.
2. Life is common in the Universe, and technology wielding life is common, but they never survive long enough to migrate throughout their home galaxy.
3. Life is common in the Universe, and technology wielding life is common, and they have spread through their home galaxy in a diaspora.

Consider 3. Where are they? It can be shown that even if near light speed is never obtainable, it should only take about a million years for a space faring civilization to spread throughout the galaxy. Where are they?

Let's consider the methods:

1. Superluminal speed is possible, and they can go anywhere, anytime.
2. Only a fraction of light speed is possible, and it would take several million years to traverse the galaxy. In this case, it would be about 50 years between the stars. Assuming colonies are setup along the way, they should still be here, unless their civilization fizzled. Remember, the key point is, other space faring civilizations would not necessarily have arisen coincident in time with ours. Presumably, many have arisen billions of years ago.
3. Even a moderate fraction of light speed is not possible. Consider our technology. Our fastest spacecraft would require something like 70,000 years to reach the nearest star, and it's only 4.5 light years away, as opposed to stars in our own galaxy that are nearly a hundred thousand light years away. Still, consider generation ships migrating outwards, or utilizing the resources in the Oort Cloud to hop our away across the void between the stars the way the Pacific Islands were colonized.

Do you wish to read an interesting book on the subject? Consider these two:

Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization by Robert Zubrin
Interstellar Migrations and the Human Experience
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