159 points by myth_drannon 9 days ago
What an outstanding example of positive second order effects from the advance of technology - in this case, drones. This project might not even be possible without the advent of cheap consumer quadcopters. I love it.
With all the negativity about tech sometimes, it's lovely to see a genuinely positive use.
You know, the whaling industry looks like it could use a disruption - drones with harpoons, coming to you YC Summer 2020!
Closely related (the only extant members of Monodontidae), very vocals and imitators and probably loosely similar languages. Babies are also similar in shape and colour.
I bet they think they're special for finding a unicorn.
Good luck finding somebody paying them 1b in raw fish...
They probably just think he's an ugly Beluga.
Or a very pretty one.
this is making me think so much
Maybe they think he is their king, like from that one episode of Dinosaurs.
unicorns are real, they live in the sea
I might be alone here on HN to think humans are just an intelligent virus that is gradually destroying a very beautiful harmonious life structure called the planet earth.
Our only redemption might be devising some system of protecting the planet from a future catastrophic meteoric collision.
Picture a peaceful forest. Tall trees, underbrush, sun-dappled leaves, the smell of loam on the gentle breeze. A rustle in the distance. You feel at peace, and harmony surrounds you.
This peaceful scene is an endless orgy of violence, death, and deceit as living things work constantly against one another. Animals stalk prey as plants wage chemical warfare against plants and animals alike. Creatures pretend to be other creatures, and plants pretend to be insects in order to attract them for selfish reasons.
"Harmonious" is not a word everyone would use to describe nature red in tooth and claw.
>This peaceful scene is an endless orgy of violence, death, and deceit as living things work constantly against one another.
That's part of the harmony. Harmony ends when one of these organism takes over, it destroys the entire ecology and in the process it ultimately destroys itself.
You mean like the untold number of bacterial and viral infections with the ability to kill their hosts?
Plenty of animals and plants alter their environment to the detrinent of others.
Trees are tall and shady in order to reduce the sunlight in the environment and starve nearby plants to death at absurd individual expense: it takes a lot of nutrients to make those trunks that serve no purpose other than spite.
Beavers construct big dams to turn meadows into swampland, often clearing out the local plant life. I know from personal experience that operating a large farm in a wooded area is a constant battle of construction and destruction against the beavers.
Yeah, humans are better at altering the environment than most everything else, but altering the environment at the expense of other life is hardly unnatural.
> Plenty of animals and plants alter their environment to the detriment of others.
Definite case in point: photosynthesizing organisms (green plants, algae, etc.)
We know that the Earth had a large-scale anaerobic ecosystem before the advent of photosynthesis. While anaerobic organisms still exist, they're only found in very narrow niches. >99% of them were wiped out, root and branch, apparently killed off by rising oxygen levels (oxygen is a poison to them).
Why must anything be harmonious? Why do you think there's any one way "nature" is supposed to be. Natural is as natural does. Everything we do is part of the natural process of the universe. Wiping out all life on Earth or increasing biodiversity and everything in between are all perfectly valid outcomes because there is no intended course or outcome.
> Why must [nature] be harmonious?
Because if it's not harmonius is collapses. And we all die.
But yes, there's no real reason for it to be harmonius, just like there's no real reason humans (or any other life form on Earth) need to exist.
This cycle of "harmony" is futile and not a constant state that would exist without humans, unless any organism within that cycle recognises that it's simply an evolutionary race to the top as we have, with the reward being dominion over their respective territory. Only until some cosmic entity comes and ends it, or an extinction event occurs, putting the slate clean again for any traces of life left to begin the evolutionary race, repeating until that harmonious life as we see it can no longer exist.
The answer is obvious conservation until we as a species are immune to single planitary extinctions, but the romanticised view of our worlds ecology as some living entity, rather than a number of organisms interacting independently and adapting doesn't give a clear objective of what we should be doing and more importantly why.
Maybe be "opposing forces matched in equilibrium" is more accurate than harmonious.
There is equilibrium in short time scales but none in longer timescales that are normal to the lifetime of a planet. Perhaps the primordial soup might've seemed like equilibrium to an non-temporal objective observer.
Nevertheless, the ecology you describe has sense of harmony in the way it is self balancing; humans are quite anomalous in that respect.
In nature a species population usually self correct and balance through either becoming prey or resource depletion (their prey). We can too easily protect ourselves from any potential natural predators (technology) and have found more and more ways to exploit the earth to allow unsustainable growth (technology). Modern humans are quite unbalanced and inharmonious... This point of view is also interesting when considering our predecessors, tribes who lived in the forests, not Mayan civilisation or whatever, but tribes, they leave no trace because everything they take or make is of the forest and goes back into the ground just like every other part of the ecosystem - they were the only harmonious humans and there still are small numbers of tribes who live like this.
Around 2.5 billion years ago, cyanobacteria caused the Oxygen Catastrophe (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Oxygenation_Event) and is generally regarded to have killed off nearly all life, as well as triggering the Huronian glaciation lasting some 300 million years.
We are not unique in our ability to overwhelm ecosystems. It's true that as intelligent life we should be far, far more aware of our actions.
> We are not unique in our ability to overwhelm ecosystems.
We are not unique in that respect, but we are unique magnitude and consistency, we aren't an "event" like others, we are an adaptive species.
The cyanobacteria literally terraformed thr planet so that it's habitable animal life. If only we could do the same!
> Nevertheless, the ecology you describe has sense of harmony in the way it is self balancing; humans are quite anomalous in that respect.
I don't think so, on any long time scale. We just think it's in perfect harmonious balance because we've only been observing it for a the blink of a gnat's eye. Longer time scales are an endless succession boom and bust as some creatures fail and dying, others succeed and breed out of control until they wipe others out (and eventually themselves).
The view that nature is somehow wise and benevolent is only possible for us at all because we've won the game so thoroughly that nature, almost never happens /to/ us.
> I don't think so, on any long time scale. We just think it's in perfect harmonious balance because we've only been observing it for a the blink of a gnat's eye
I didn't say it was perfect, on the contrary all of the models used to describe ecological systems exhibit some degree of chaos, but the important part is they are periodic, they all oscillate in some way and eventually recover one way or another - I suppose you could argue humans just haven't reached some tipping point yet, we haven't completed "one period", but unlike other species we keep inventing ways to escape that. This is the difference I'm pointing out, I thought it was pretty obvious.
> The view that nature is somehow wise and benevolent is only possible for us at all because we've won the game so thoroughly that nature, almost never happens /to/ us.
I realise that by mentioning tribes and forests I seem to have tripped some "save the world" alarms, to clarify that is what I intended to imply - i'm not an environmentalist. Your statement is not my view, I don't think nature is benevolent, nature is nature its neutral and of course we are part of it, but it's not exactly hard to argue that humans stick out like a sore thumb from the rest, we are in the position of resource depletion in classic models but we really take it up a few orders of magnitude in severity because we have so many tricks to exploit the system.
> his point of view is also interesting when considering our predecessors, tribes who lived in the forests, not Mayan civilisation or whatever, but tribes, they leave no trace because everything they take or make is of the forest and goes back into the ground just like every other part of the ecosystem - they were the only harmonious humans and there still are small numbers of tribes who live like this.
No. It doesn't require civilization to do this.
Virtually all of the North American megafauna were wiped out within a very short time after the first paleo-Indians arrived.
Thank you for reinventing the notion of original sin.
If you're going to promote religious beliefs, at least couch them in religious terms.
Sorry it's not to your taste, but i don't see how pointing out a couple of facts about how humans substantially differ to other species from an ecological perspective is religious.
I read 'inharmonious' to be a value judgement -- I suppose it can have an objective meaning. I apologize if I misunderstood you.
And yet I can't help reading your comment as if you are proscribing how things should be, rather than simply describing how they are. But again, I may be misreading you, so apologies.
No worries, the internet makes it so easy to read things into other peoples words, i'm no exception.
Even grass and trees are locked into a eternal war for ground and light. Forrest and savannash are no way for nature to show of how diverse she can be. They are warzones, showing who has one, and the creatures who dwell in those spaces are - willing or unwilling soldiers to be thrown into the fire for another small victory.
i struggle to find a definition of virus that applies to us and not also every other species on the planet.. consume, multiply, destroy.. all species are trying their best to do these things, sure we are better at it, but we're also the only species that might be capable of refraining from these natural urges.
> but we're also the only species that might be capable of refraining from these natural urges.
We might be able to but there is relatively little evidence of that actually being the case. Theoretically we are perfectly cable of reasoning over 100's of years of time but in practice our life-span is the only thing that we seem to care about.
Probably because we are still animals and are driven primarily by the same impulses as other animals. It takes intent, awareness and conscious effort to rise above these impulses, and it provides little to no benefit to the individual.
Or in other words, it's an instance of the tragedy of the commons, where the "commons" is the future of our species and the planet.
>a very beautiful harmonious life structure called the planet earth
Harmonious ? There have been multiple extinction events in the history, things go out of balance all the time.
Not in the same rate after an advancement of mankind.
I'm not so sure. How many species went extinct in the first couple years right after the asteroids impact?
Or in the greatest pollution event ever - when plants filled this atmosphere with oxygen. The poor obligate anaerobic organisms never stood a chance, they were massively exterminated.
That lovely harmonious structure where lions kill cubs because they want to impregnate the mother, where bugs literally stab-rape others to procreate and where animals regularly die of hunger because the predator-prey cycle is at a predator low?
It seems great if you're only looking at the nice parts.
That's part of the ecosystem. The lion kills the cubs because he wants his DNA to survive. The lion kills and hunts to eat, but the lion doesn't kill the entire living creatures in Serengeti or elsewhere to later die himself from hunger.
Our ultimate differentiating evolutionary trait is our intelligence. Which has enabled us to adopt, but this trait has become an unchecked strength. We do not have the ability to control ourselves nor the nature is able to contain us. We're an out of control virus about to destroy its host.
> The lion kills and hunts to eat, but the lion doesn't kill the entire living creatures in Serengeti or elsewhere to later die himself from hunger.
I don't know about lions, but their cousins the lynx absolutely do kill off so many hares that they die of hunger. The hare population then rebounds, followed by a rebound in the lynx population. It's one of the most famous cycles in ecology.
I would not be at all surprised to learn that a similar predator/prey population cycle holds true for lions.
If you're interested in the math:
This is the argument put forward by Daniel Quinn in Ishmael. Either way, it depends on your reality tunnel. None of this has any inherent meaning other than the meaning we attach to it. Life and the lack of life is equally "harmonious".
You can't have it both ways -- if we're a virus, then the universe is meaningless and frankly who cares about harmony, balance and esthetics.
But if you want to make value judgements -- which you seem to want to -- I'm curious from whence your values come? Is your love of harmony, beauty and balance objectively different than a fly's love of a turd?
I think your view doesn't make sense to me because of that old question: How can there be anything "beautiful" or harmonious" without humans being around and observing those beautiful or harmonious structures in nature?
In a cold vast universe without sentient life, is there really a difference between a tree and a rock on mars if there is nobody to judge?
Edit: To add to that: Starting from the aforementioned viewpoint I think that saving the planet and preserving the environment is really important.. for us humans! There is no inherent value in having 100 species or 1000 species in a forest, it's simply important because if 900 species die, there might be changes in the ecosystem that affect us in the long run. Or the forest might be less beautiful/harmonious. I have a hard time to see any inherent value in nature, because again: what difference is there between a rose and some dark asteroid?
How do you even know that we’re the only species with a sense of esthetics and able to appreciate beauty and harmony? I wouldn’t be surprised if elephants, dolphins, other primates, and certain species of birds have some intellectual capacity for it.
Even if that were true, that there is no sentient/intelligent life other than us to recognise beauty and harmony, it still wouldn't give us the right to destroy it. At least until we have the knowledge and ability to recreate all of what we have destroyed. Maybe not even then.
But why wouldn't it give us the "right" to destroy it? Is there a "right and wrong" without any sentient life making an ethical choice?
This is religion.
Either the universe doesn't give a damn about your esthetics, or it does. I'd be curious as why you think it does?
(Full disclosure - I believe it does, but I'm also a believer in an organized religion.)
Speaking of which. My little theory is that human is innovation without evolution. It's useful long term: to save the planet from an asteroid.
Look, Jimmy, if you’re gonna keep playing with us you have got to stop poking everyone with that thing!
Liz Climo drew a comic about this: https://me.me/i/no-dont-pass-it-to-larry-memes-conm-dont-pas...