Logbook #80

“Could life be as simple as a puzzle?” mused Aditya. “Trivial as transitioning your playing piece from one point to the next? A connected, serial, monotonic existence. ‘Till at the final moment when your playing piece meets its final moment.”

His thoughts continued. “Do we advance by choosing the happiest next step? Or is it some Aristotlian summation where the next step is calculated based upon the total derived from all the previous? Happiness the goal? Or is happiness purely a perception. A consideration that we choose, either good or bad. Thus we would choose the next step based upon the aggregated, perceived accumulation to date. Whether we were really advancing to a summed happiness or not might be more a personal choice than the penultimate destination.”

While he considered parameters and influences along this line, his eyes scanned the vista in front. It was a shallow depression. Bowl shaped. Perhaps an ancient crater that’s been eroded after billions of years of ‘weathering’. He and Woof were assessing the shape for a potential greenhouse. The plan was to use it to grow a  genetically induced strain of greens. These could be planted as the Sun rose and then harvested 30 days later as the Sun set on the Moon’s horizon. With this growth cycle, the colonists could regularly get fresh produce. And they’d have plenty of time to harvest the greens, package the produce into stay-fresh containers, store it then re-energize the hydroponic solution and set seeds for the next generation. It was a very calculated, cold, taciturn life for the plants. Aditya wondered about a plant’s life. Theirs was not the existence of contemplation and eloquent dissertation as he had become used to. Would the genetically modified plant accept this vocation?

“Did plants think? Did they feel?” he wondered. He already knew that they communicated. But to what end?

He advanced past the rim and toward the centre. The bowl’s depression fit the optimal shape as designed by the architects on Earth. The depression allowed for an elliptical cross section in the vertical plane; the most stable shape according to the elementalists. In some ways, the greenhouse would be virtually independent of the Moon. Other than the Moon providing gravity so as to ensure the proper flowing of liquids, it provided little else. A number of airlocks allowed the colonists to enter and exit. But they would do the same even if the greenhouse were floating in space. But in the reaches of space there’d be no need to evolve a plant with a 30 day life cycle. There, other factors, such as the platform’s rotational rate or the distance from the Sun, would be dominant. Here at the lunar south pole, the parameters were very particular.

His feet trudged through the light regolith. Little clouds of dust blew up on every footfall. The depression seemed solid. Neither his feet nor his hand sensor detected any cracks or even any discontinuities. It was as if the bowl had been readied for a giant Eggs Benedict opportunity. Could it be that the depression had been readied for the arrival of humans? Or was the discovery of the depression purely a fortuitous opportunity? He was indeed very happy that its shape fit the desired configuration. But he wasn’t yet certain as to why. Were humans destined to continue to find opportunities as they extended into the solar system? Or were they simply making their own opportunities and deciding that the choice was good. In any case, Aditya was having a very happy time as he pondered and wandered.

AS17-147-22600
AS17-147-22600

Logbook #70

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AS17-146-22425

Le chapitre 70

“Should life have a meaning?” pondered Aditya. “Are our actions predefined, history simply like water being guided down the riverbed? Or do we have a choice? And each decision dramatically affects every object, every atom which results in ripples spreading out through the universe.”

With Aditya’s lifetime love of games and simulations he’d often consider this issue. For instance if he were destined to win the pachisi game then why bother sitting down to play? Or, if his presence was instrumental in furthering the lunar colony then should he worry about safety?

Perhaps these thoughts were caused by his present view staring straight down the hillside. A precipitous drop that showed nothing at the bottom. Nothing but perhaps the borders of Naraka.

Softly Aditya shook his head and he moved his eyes back to the horizon. Beside him was Zara. She had a smile on her face portraying both humour and concern.

“So don’t worry, we’re not going to jump in or anything.” she relayed to Aditya. She liked his cheerful, warm companionship that seemed to permeate through the spacesuit, through her and onwards. “What we have here is the smartest sphere I know. It’s a LIDAR contour plotter. We send it over the edge and aim it for the bottom. It then records a three dimensional map of the surface all the way down. Easy!” she concluded.

She knew that Aditya already knew all about the sphere. He had written many of the algorithms that had taken previous mappings and turned them into workable views on their three dimensional imager un the Hab. She was thinking that Aditya needed to return to the present from which ever realm he was so deeply involved.

“Wasn’t it one playwright who provided us the phrase ‘to be or not to be’?” invoked Aditya. “Does nobility have any effect on the game or do we simply continue on within this maelstrom of life?”

“Not sure.” replied Zara. “But we’ve only got a short time to be here so how about leaving the hard questions for a minute and help me set up the relay platform. We need to aim its transmitting antenna to the Hab and its receive antenna will extend past the edge. I don’t want to disappoint Xu if we are forced to leave this mid-way through because our suits ran out of power or air.” she cautioned.

Aditya felt his eyes relax and he turned to help Zara with constructing the platform. He knew all the risks and limitations of this exercise. He knew that while life may be predetermined he still had to make good decisions and then act on them. While his presence on the Moon may have been predetermined, it certainly hadn’t come freely. He had spent much of his life deep in the logics of mathematical theories and modeling of the real world. Moving from academia to being a practitioner on the lunar surface had pushed him to levels of concentration and consideration that he’d never known were possible.

“Sorry Aditya” he began “I had a feeling. Not really of mental wanderlust. More like an appreciation of my presence in the universe. I do find it rather curious at how most people fall into the trap of placing themselves at the centre of the universe. And then expecting the universe to unveil its grand plan to them. I just need to remind myself that I’m simply a collection of inconsequential stardust.”

“Inconsequential or not” invoked Zara “I need your collection of dust to pull that lever just a little bit further to the right. And then the universe will be all OK again.” she smiled.

Logbook #67

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AS17-133-20233

Le chapitre 67

Xu watched over Aditya’s shoulder while he contemplated his next move on the Pachisi board. His home group in Calcutta regularly convened a tournament which Aditya loved to attend. At least virtually attend. His friends had grown accustomed to the delayed information flow and would comfortably pause after each crucial move so that Aditya could absorb the significance, hear the participants speculate and then provide his own jaded commentary. As fascinating as he found it, Xu didn’t. She watched perplexed while the four players incited each other to make grandiose moves. Then each usually proceeded to do something quite different. The whole event was contrary to her internal mantra of harmony and cohesion.

She sighed then left Aditya to his devices and walked back over to the wall screen. Aptly named, this back-lit computer screen covered a rectangle about 2 metres high by 3 metres across. It was power hungry so they used it only for particular needs. Her present need was to prepare for tomorrow’s semi-annual residents’ meeting. They got quite a thrill when using the term resident and it had stuck. She keyed in the map server so the Moon’s surface terrain appeared as a series of finely detailed height contours. She toggled various overlays produced from years of optical data taken by orbiting satellites. She looked for views with the Sun at such an angle that shadows detailed the terrain without obscuring too much. It didn’t take much time to find appropriate selections; she had been mentally preparing for this presentation for quite some time.

She smoothly and gracefully spun around and again used her keyboard to raise a second map. This time the map was presented as a 3 dimensional holograph. Given that they were at the Moon’s south pole, and that the Moon was much smaller than Earth, then the holograph was extremely useful for distance perception. A perception that couldn’t be easily shown on the wall screen.

She synchronized the two displays and began toggling various overlays. One had all the structures; their infrastructure at the south pole, the old Apollo, Luna and Chang’e hardware and the ever-expanding, mysterious facility up on the north pole. With another keystroke she included the transportation and communication networks. Her last keystokes brought up a coded hatching of where they had assayed for minerals together with the relevant results. This view sharply brought up the challenges that were facing them as the map should scant markings of valuable results.

According to the displays there was precious little mineral wealth that was readily available on the nearby surface. They also knew from their digging at the Haven that, at least at that spot, there wasn’t much of interest just below the surface either. While this had been expected the lack of immediate rewards gnawed at her comfort.

Sure there were ice comets flying about the solar system that had as much water as the Indian Ocean on Earth. But that meant little to them here on the Moon. They had also been hoping for a mineral deposit much like that of the Sudbury basin in Ontario. Yet their pickaxes had not prised even a hint of a vein out of the regolith or subsurface. Unconsciously her shoulders drooped.

“Have you got some nice videos to go with those maps” spoke Aditya from across the Hab. “If we’re going to plan our family’s vacation then at least we should have an idea of what we might see when we get there.”

At the sound of his voice Xu’s shoulders happily went back into place and she let her moment of doubt fade into the grey of the display.

“I’ve heard a desire to go to Waterworld this year” she laughed “complete with towels, suntan lotion and rubber ducks.”

Aditya laughed with her. “I was hoping for something like that. Will it be for a while? Last year’s adventure at the Rocket Land amusement park seemed to be over far too quickly” he implored.

Logbook #63

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AS17-145-22177

Le chapitre 63

Desai kept working his tongue around his teeth trying to prise free the last of the ‘cricket burger’ sandwich he had for lunch. He wondered if it was their little wings that kept getting stuck. At the same time his hands moved on the computer mouse so that the on-screen cursor lined up with the white square showing on the display; a bit like an old Atari video game. He boxed in the square and paused the camera’s scanning routine. Then he slowly zoomed in to see the quarry he had been chasing at the Moon’s north pole.

Laughter erupted from Desai’s mouth and he called to Aditya “Hey get a load of this!”

Waving energetically he enticed Aditya to break from his toxicological scans.

Aditya shuffled over to Desai’s work station and responded “I see a still box with moving wheels. So what?”

“So what!? Is that all you see? ” said Desai with glee. “That box is a rover. A robot from the northern development. And it’s been in the same place for days. It’s failed!” he chortled again. “Do you know what this means?” continued Desai.

“No idea at all” replied Aditya who couldn’t see anything humorous about a stuck robot.

“Simple” Desai went on. “It’s again proven that humans are the best explorers on Earth, on the Moon or anywhere.”

“Why is that?” responded Aditya somewhat cautiously.

“It’s obvious. You’ve got to see why.” exhorted Desai. “Humans don’t get stuck. If we can’t go over an obstacle then we go around. Getting stuck is not in our genes. However, here is something stuck. What you see is hundreds of millions of dollars of machine doing absolutely nothing. And with no way of improving its lot. It’s well and truly stuck”

“But it’s only a machine” pondered Aditya. “Yes it was costly. But its cost is much less than that of a human life. With that one robot stuck then the owner can simply send another one in a few years. Or sooner if they have insurance. However, if a human gets stuck and perishes then there’s no replacement.”

“What do you mean no replacement?” queried Desai. “There are billions of little hominoids running around the Earth. Just like we did. Now think. I’m sure that a good many of them are seeking to deliberately harm others. If they are successful then there are a few less hominoids. And apparently no one’s worried enough to stop the harming. So obviously this lack of worry indicates that there are replacement hominoids a-plenty. Even if one or two had a mishap on the Moon’s surface we could rely upon many, many others wanting to fill in the gap.”

“Somehow I don’t think that so many people share your views on the value of human life” conjectured Aditya. “Yes, people accept that they will occasionally cause grievous harm to each other. Yet they do not accept a callous indifference to the loss of human life in the way you trivialized the end of the robot. Perhaps we should be more considerate of the robot’s existence. And in that we way we could more appreciate the fullness of a human life”

“That’s just down right sappy.” Desai said with a grin. “How could a robot teach humans anything about being human. We invented them. They didn’t invent us. Next you’re going to tell me to start treating our own roving robot with at least the dignity of a dog.”

“Well now that you mention it…” apologized Aditya.