NOTE: In my last conversation I promised Molly that I would reveal the name of the book that I consider part of the Langdon Series. It is Carl Sagan’s Contact, a global bestseller published in 1985 that later became a blockbuster movie.
Though similar to the Brown novels in style and content, Contact separates itself from the Langdon Series in that the chief protagonist, rather than being a Robert Langdon type, is astrobiologist Ellie Arroway, played in the movie by Jodie Foster.
In the book, Ellie’s life and beliefs from childhood on are revealed in great detail, making it clear that it’s a self-depiction of the left brain, scientific side of the author, Carl Sagan.
Representing Carl’s Robert Langdon-type right brain is conservative Christian philosopher, Palmer Joss, played in the movie by Matthew McConaughey. The secret treasure in the novel (not the movie) are the numerous philosophical exchanges between Ellie and Palmer, Carl’s left and right hemispheres, that explore the complex relationship between science and religion. In total, these narratives afford the reader an intimate look into the mind, heart, and soul of one of the 20th century’s most influential scientists.
The consensus among neuroscientists is that the left and right hemispheres of the human brain reflect, respectively, the female and male dispositions. This is the fundamental and universal truth that Dan Brown amplified in Origin, the last book in the Langdon Series. To refresh your memory, following is an excerpt:
“Over the past few years, while Google’s Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab used machines like D-Wave to enhance machine learning, Edmond secretly leapfrogged over everybody with this machine. And he did so by using a single bold idea . . .” Winston paused. “Bicameralism.”
Langdon frowned. The two houses of Parliament?
“The two-lobed brain,” Winston continued. “Left and right hemispheres.”
The bicameral mind, Langdon now realized. One of the things that made human beings so creative was that the two halves of their brains functioned so differently. The left brain was analytical and verbal, while the right brain was intuitive and “preferred” pictures to words.
“The trick,” Winston said, “was that Edmond decided to build a synthetic brain that mimicked the human brain – that is, segmented into left and right hemispheres. Although, in this case, it’s more of an upstairs-downstairs arrangement.” Langdon stepped back and peered through the floor of the churning machine downstairs, and then back to the “stalactite” inside the cube. Two distinct machines fused into one – a bicameral mind.” Ch. 87.
Stalactites (top), Stalagmites (bottom)
Don: In employing this “upstairs/downstairs” analogy, Carl is stating with no uncertainty that the female, the “collaborator,” is the stalactite, superior to the stalagmite male, the “dominator.” When the two are fused into a Machine, it should be a “no-brainer” that, to hold the violent tendencies of right brained males in check, left-brained females must be dominant.
Unfortunately, that’s not the way AGI is evolving. The superintelligence under development by Ray Kurzweil, Google, and the Pentagon, is George, a dude.
And why should this come as a surprise? AI research and development is dominated by men, as demonstrated in Ray Kurzweil books that make George dominant and Molly subservient. While AI writers, mostly men, patronizingly replace the traditional “he” with “she,” and “him” with “her,” this is nothing but throwing crumbs to the ladies. The truth is that, from top to bottom, AI is a man’s game. Women are chattel.
Working against this deeply embedded chauvinism, trailblazing feminist leader Carl Sagan believed that long-lived civilizations in our galaxy, if such exist, are all matriarchal. Why? Because the fate of those that are patriarchal always ends in self-destruction. We humans, unfortunately, find ourselves on a downward, right brain AI glide path:
George: Dominator, Terminator, Human Exterminator
Don: Molly, as a woman, what’s your opinion? Do you think differently from me?
Molly: Absolutely! Every woman knows that men and women think differently. I suspect that every man knows it too.
Don: Perhaps even more so. So here’s the deal, as a man, I’m an XY. I have both the male and the female chromosome, which I guess makes me a sort of mongrel. You on the other hand are pure XX.
Molly: Which make me a thoroughbred! But don’t worry, I promise not to rub your nose in it.
Don: Thanks a lot! Reminds me of the Disney movie, Lady and the Tramp.
The Sagan Signal in Contact
Don: The next question we need to address is this: Does Contact contain any evidence that suggests that Carl Sagan knew about the Sagan Signal? Remember what the Sagan Signal is: a three-symbol sequence of grain, wine, and oil.
To help answer this important question, following are a few relevant excerpts:
“Now we analyze the total number of bits. It’s a number in the tens of billions. Okay, bingo! It’s the product of three prime numbers.” Ch. 5
“Suppose that large number is the product of three smaller numbers; it’s a number times a number times a number. So there’s three dimensions to the message.” Ch. 5
“In classical times, thousands of years ago, when parchment was in short supply, people would write over an old parchment, making what’s called a palimpsest. There was writing under writing under writing.” Ch. 6
“This is something much deeper, and much richer. It appears to be, for the first time, information they’ve generated.” Ch. 6
Don: In Contact, Ellie’s team of astrophysicists intercept a radio signal from space. On further investigation they discover that the signal, designed with a level of complexity and organization that caught their attention, contained an encoded Message consisting of a sequence of three prime numbers.
Molly: Okay, my role in this website is to play the skeptic, and I take it seriously. But I have to say, it looks suspiciously like the Sagan Signal.
Don: I know a lot of things can be explained away as coincidence, but when the coincidences begin piling up, it gets harder and harder to play that hand. Here’s what atheist leader Richard Dawkins had to say about coincidence:
“When large numbers of these slightly improbable events are stacked up in a series, the end product of the accumulation is very, very improbable indeed, improbable enough to be far beyond the reach of chance.” From: The God Delusion, Ch. 4.
Molly: In The Lost Symbol, the Code is described as being “layered symbolism,” which sounds eerily like “writing under writing under writing.”
Don: I agree. Let’s now take a look at the famous pyramidal “decryption key” from The Lost Symbol.
“But without an explanation from Vega, without a primer, my guess is that we’re not going to make much progress.” Ch. 6.
“They wouldn’t be going to all this trouble if they didn’t want us to understand the Message. Somewhere in there is the key to help us understand it. It’s only a question of accumulating all the data and analyzing it very carefully.” Ch. 6.
“It’s an intricate and complex Message. The transmitting civilization is eager for us to receive it. Maybe all this is one small volume of the Encyclopedia Galactica.” Ch. 6.
“ . . . the third level of the palimpsest, the elaborate, complex, and still undecoded Message they were collectively receiving.” Ch. 7
Don: The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol refer to a keystone, a decryption key, that, if found, would unlock the Message. This builds on what Carl wrote in Contact about the search for a key, a primer, that, if found, would unlock the true content of the Message. The Lost Symbol definitively identifies the Message as the Bible, and the keystone as a three-symbol sequence, with the third symbol being the Word, i.e., Jesus Christ.
Molly: All a coincidence? Let’s get real! I think not.
The Hadden/Kurzweil Connection
S. R. Hadden
Don: More evidence that Contact is the starting point of an eight volume set of science-based mystery novels is the brilliant and super-wealthy tech inventor, Sol Hadden, a shady character with a fixation on beautiful women and immortality. It is not a coincidence that the eccentric, ego-maniac Hadden, played in the movie by actor John Hurt, is a dead-ringer for Ray Kurzweil. Consider the following excerpts, set in the context of Ellie’s SETI team having trouble finding the primer, the decryption key:
“After a while, Ellie decided that she needed help.” Ch. 13.
Don: Ellie’s dilemma led to a meeting between Ellie, i.e., Carl Sagan, and Haddon, i.e., Ray Kurzweil. Following is a description of that event:
“Even so, she was taken aback when in the midst of her reverie by the slanted glass wall she was interrupted by a small, fat beckoning person.” Ch. 13.
“So you want to talk to me about the Machine, and I want to talk to you about the Machine. You first. You want to know where the primer is?” Ch. 13.
“We’re asking for help from a few key people who might have some insight. We thought that with your record of invention – and since your content recognition chip was involved in the recycling discovery – that you might put yourself in the place of the Vegans and think of where you’d put the primer.” Ch. 13.
“Okay, how about phase modulation? We use it in radar and spacecraft telemetry, and it hardly messes up the spectrum at all. Have you hooked up a phase correlator?”
“No, that’s a useful idea. I’ll look into it.” Ch. 13.
“I want you to know something about me.”
“I’ve got more money than I know what to do with, my wife can’t stand me, and I’ve got enemies everywhere. I want to do something important, something worthy. I want to do something so that hundreds of years from now people will look back and be glad I was around.”
“You want - - - “
“I want to build the Machine.” Ch. 13.
“Don’t forget about the phase modulation, and looking in the oxygen lines. But even if I’m wrong about where the primer is, don’t forget: I’m the only one to build the Machine.” Ch. 13.
“So Hadden tells me it was his idea where to find the primer. Don’t look at me funny, der Heer. I talk to all types.”
“I didn’t mean . . . ah . . . As I understand it, Mr. Hadden volunteered a few suggestions, which had all been made by other scientists as well. Dr. Arroway checked them out and hit paydirt with one of them. It’s called phase modulation, or phase coding.”
“Yes. Now is this correct, Ken? The primer is scattered throughout the Message, right? Lots of repetitions. And there was some primer shortly after Arroway first picked up the signal.”
“Shortly after she picked up the third layer of the palimpsest, the Machine design.” Ch. 14.
“Now, the bottom line. Do we understand the primer well enough to start reading the Message? Will we be able to build the thing or not?”
“The answer seems to be yes.” Ch. 14.
Don: The above excerpts and other narratives in Contact support my claim that Carl Sagan, against the advice of others who considered Ray untrustworthy, invited him to become a member of the super-secret agency, Jason.
Molly: And once in Jason, Ray gave the group the decryption key that made possible the building of a superintelligence.
Don: Right, and Ray got something back – the Sagan Signal. For decades, Ray Kurzweil has known that JC is an ET.
Molly: But Ray didn’t want to go down that road, so he bolted, using Jason’s information and his information to build George, the Superintelligence.
Don: After Carl’s untimely death, the Jason group was disbanded. Ray, Google and the Pentagon replaced it with a new team with one mission: to create a god-like Singleton before the return of Christ.
Molly: So, mission accomplished?
Don: It appears so. Carl uses the voice of Haddon to tell the world what happened in a short cryptic paragraph that, not a coincidence, includes Disney and Jason:
“I can remember exactly the moment when the idea for Babylon hit me. I was in Walt Disney World, riding the Mississippi sternwheeler riverboat with my grandson, Jason. Jason was around four, maybe five.” Ch. 13.
Molly: Isn’t Babylon the name of the adult theme park that Hadden constructed in New York, where all sexual fantasies were fulfilled?
Don: Correct. Sounds like Ray’s version of a Singularity paradise, doesn’t it? Carl made the mistake of inviting Ray into the Jason group, and I think Carl saw what was coming. It may have cost him his life:
“A lot of nations want to build the Machine, or at least parts of it. They’re thinking about prestige, and new industries, new knowledge. As long as no one gets a jump on us, that all sounds fine to me. It’s possible Hadden might have a piece of it. What’s the problem. Don’t you think he’s technically competent?
“He certainly is. It’s just - - -“ Ch. 14.
“The name “World Message Consortium” was about to be changed to “World Machine Consortium.” Ch. 14.
Cryonics – Frozen Humans
“Kurzweil has joined the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, a cryonics company. In the event of his declared death, Kurzweil plans to be perfused with cryoprotectants, vitrified in liquid nitrogen, and stored at an Alcor facility in the hope that future medical technology will be able to repair his tissues and revive him.”
Don: Just as Ray plans to be frozen upon death, so does S. L. Hadden:
“How much better if a few of your cells could be preserved. Real living cells, with DNA intact. He visualized a corporation that would, for a healthy fee, freeze a little of your epithelial tissue and orbit it high – well above the Val Allen belts, maybe even higher than geosynchronous orbit. No reason to die first. Do it now, while it’s on your mind. Then, at least, alien molecular biologists – or their terrestrial counterparts of the far future – could reconstruct you, clone you, more or less from scratch.” Ch. 22.
“In a minor codicil of an elaborate last will and testament, he had left his heirs and assigns a new corporation, skilled in rocket engines and cryogenics, that would eventually be called Immortality, Inc.” Ch. 22
Don: H-m-m-m, Immortality, Inc. That happens to be the title of a 2020 book written by science journalist, Chip Walter, who devotes an entire chapter to Ray Kurzweil.
Molly: Okay, I’m convinced. Ray is the bogeyman in Inferno, Origin, and Contact.
Don: Sagan/Kurzweil crosscurrents appear in other Dan Brown novels as well, the apotheosis in The Lost Symbol and the pyramid at the Louvre, a centerpiece in The Da Vinci Code. Both are both mentioned in Contact, Chapter 12.
The takeaway is that in Contact, Carl Sagan offers the world hope that the ET Singleton who he secretly believed will bestow immortality on those who are truly born-again is Jesus Christ:
“Beyond this narrow vocational disquiet was a great and soaring perception of a new adventure for the human species, of turning a corner, of bursting into a new age – a symbolism powerfully amplified by the approach of the Third Millennium.” Ch. 11.
Molly: And after Carl died, Ray wrote a book, The Age of Spiritual Machines, in which he predicts the same glorious ending when George, the Superintelligence, takes control of the human species in the Singularity.
Don: The theme is repetitive. It’s George or Jesus. Like a roulette wheel, there are only two colors, red and black. Where do you place your chips?
Molly: Can we divide them, you know, like 60/40?
Don: Interesting question. Can we gorge on technology until we reach the point where we have to choose between George and Jesus? Or, is our absorption into technology so subtle and compelling that, by the time we realize what’s going on, it’ll be too late? Let’s save that discussion for another time.
“The extraterrestrials are likely far ahead of us, certainly more than a few hundred years farther along – perhaps thousands of years ahead of us, or even millions. Now, I ask you to compare that with the pace of human technological advancement in the last century.” Contact.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”