Future of Exploration: Great Ages of Exploration and Discovery
MINDELL: Our first panel is historical look at exploration. And I'll just say by a few words of introduction that we are first on the agenda partly because we're talking about things that are chronologically earliest, but not necessarily because we're about looking backward. And I really hope that this panel will introduce and help frame further some of those questions that Dave will lay out that could be things that we take up throughout the next two days.
It's my great pleasure to introduce our first speaker. Professor Stephen Pyne, who is Regent's professor at Arizona State University. He's a MacArthur fellow. He's written more than 20 books. Many, in fact probably most of them, about the ecology, history, and management of fire, which has something to do with space travel, although mostly on earth.
And I'm particularly pleased to have Steve here, not least because about last summer when we were first beginning to look at our panels and potential speakers for the colloquium or the symposium, we were on a conference call. And I was talking to David and the rest of the organizing committee, and I said I have this paper by Steve Pyne at Arizona State that I assign in all of my classes about think how we should think about exploration and how we should think about space exploration in the context of the history of exploration. It's a great paper. It's by far the best historical treatment of the topic. I wonder what Steve's up to these days.
And I looked online at his website, and sure enough found that he was just about to publish a book on the Voyager expeditions two days later. And so it was one of those wonderful new electronic moments. I instantly ordered it on Amazon and had it on my iPad two days later.
And it's really this remarkable book about the Voyager expeditions, and how they relate in a really a deep way, not in a superficial way, to a longer story of exploration. And I think that's what Steve will talk about today. So my pleasure to introduce Steve Pyne.
PYNE: Well, good morning. I am indeed a historian of exploration, which I understand to be a cultural activity. And I'm particularly interested in how one culture, Western civilization, used and even institutionalized exploration to learn about a wider world. Is this on? There we go.
It would be useful to have some sort of index to understand the larger parameters of exploration. So a very convenient one actually is offered by discovery of Pacific Islands. We know the date, who did it. There's no problem of contamination by prior discovery, as there is in the Atlantic. And this is what it looks like if you graph by 50-year increments.
So the first people end, and across the Pacific as they move around, they discover lots of islands. Then it falls off because they found the routes that interested them and they're not looking anymore. But then in the middle of the 18th century something happens. The whole process rekindles and suddenly lots of islands are discovered in great bunches.
Clearly, people are going different places. But they're also looking with new eyes, in effect, they're looking for islands and finding them. And then again it crashes.
And then I propose more recently, the latter half of the 20th century, a whole new stack of islands are discovered. And you might ask well, where did all these come from? Surely Cook and the boys were better at it than this. And the reason that these are islands, which have eroded or subsided and are now beneath the waters. To access them, you need remote sensing, you need underwater vehicles, you need other devices that were inaccessible.
Well conveniently, this falls out into three fairly distinct periods. Can we do anything more than that? If you do a simple exercise like count expeditions-- no waiting. Nothing sophisticated at all. Just count in standard chronicles and depositories-- the number of expeditions looks like this.
And so one sees this huge spike. What William Goetzmann called a Second Great Age of Discovery. This monadnock, rising up and then falling down.
And I suggest that we can in fact map three ages broadly on to this chronicle. Each age has its own particular places that interested it. It belonged in its own intellectual syndrome. Its way of looking at the world.
It had its own rivalries and motivations. It had its own sort of moral drama, which centers on the concept of some kind of encounter. And in a sense, it has its own grand gesture. What this age thought of as its most complete expression of itself.
So I'm going to suggest that the three ages map out roughly like this. And then suggest how we might compare it. If we look at the first stage, which is really the Great Voyages of the Renaissance, its particular realm was the World Sea. It discovered that all the seas of the world could be connected, found ways to connect them, and to join all these different maritime civilizations.
Intellectual context was the Renaissance. A new era of learning, based first on the revival of ancient learning, but then the promise of what we would come to think of as modern science. A way of literally sailing beyond the realms of that inherited learning, and discover new worlds of understanding. And this is the frontispiece for Francis Bacon's Novum Organum. And he's using the voyage of discovery as a metaphor.
We are sailing beyond the pillars of Hercules. That is, the realm of the ancient world and the learning that we inherited. And we're going to find new ways.
But it's important to recognize that science and exploration are on parallel tracks here. The rivalries, Spain and Portugal, fighting it out. Projecting that quarrel overseas. Portugal really established the basic paradigm for exploration.
The others would sort of poach on it. Nibble at the margins. The grand gesture, I think, is circumnavigation. Actually going around and connecting all the world seas.
In the moral drama, the expansion of Europe, the encounter with peoples with fundamentally different views of the world than Europe. People who are not recorded in ancient geographies or histories. People not in the Bible. People beyond the realm of understanding.
And then it settles down. Exploration quiets. There is a little intellectual interest. In fact, in early 18th century, exploration as an object of criticism. It's an object of ridicule. There is really very little activity.
The point of exploration, to find routes to the east, establish trade was accomplished. There was really no reason to continue. But in fact, by the latter part of the 18th century, it is reviving. Again, Goetzmann's idea of a Second Age of Discovery. In this case, there are new motivations, but part of it is a bonding to modern science, which has given us many of our classic visions of exploration.
It shifts from the sea itself or the coastlines into the continents. The larger intellectual setting is the Enlightenment, not just as a vehicle for gathering data and doing science, but that whole sort of rationalizing impulse that filters through the society and engages lots of elements of the larger culture take an interest in exploration. The missionary drops out of the picture now as an active explorer, replaced by the naturalist. And here Charles Wilson Peale's famous self portrait of himself in his museum. Pulling back the curtains of darkness, letting the light of reason shine on all the things collected from that outside world.
The rivalry, Britain and France, in effect, starting a new second Hundred Years' War. Particularly in overseas colonies and the Pacific-- somebody actually produced this graph on the density of exploration. And you can see this sort of slow period, and then the dominance of Britain throughout the period. And everyone would subsequently be in competition with the British.
The grand gesture, crossing a continent. We think of Lewis and Clark, of course, as part of our national story. But I think this guy, Alexander Von Humboldt, is the one who established that pattern, doing a cross section of natural history through a continental scale chunk of earth. And the moral drama shifts. It shifts to settler societies, or what Al Crosby called neo Europe's settlements by Europe, which are now demographically moving into continents become themselves, second border points of exploration and discovery.
So one of the great moments in exploration, in some ways a high water mark in the United States, is John Wesley Powell's descent of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, 1869. This was the last river to be traversed. During that, they discovered the last mountain range in the US to be discovered, The Henry's. And here, Thomas Moran, an artist is representing the adventure. But also then turning it into one of his operatic landscapes, sort of transcendentalist nature. And we can see the fusion of many elements of the culture coming together on a kind of iconic place.
But as we get into the 20th century, maybe the descent down the Colorado has less impact than Nude Descending a Staircase, or Georgia O'Keeffe meditation on the Southwest. Modernists, it's not just that they have no place to go, the continents have all been surveyed to some extent, but they're not interested. Intellectual activity in all levels is going elsewhere, and it is no longer bound with exploration. And again, it becomes moribund. Didn't hurt that there were two world wars and a depression in the mean time, but nonetheless, it falls off again.
I think the transition occurs with the Antarctic, the most alien of terrestrial landscapes. And it is the momentum for a third polar year, centering on Antarctica, that leads to the International Geophysical Year, which I think announces effectively a Third Great Age of Discovery which will focus first on the ice, and then into the deep oceans. And finally, we'll provide the context for our earliest satellites, Sputnik and Explorer, and then their successors.
And I would like to emphasize here very briefly about the deep oceans, which is where I think most of the action is taking place. From an exploration standpoint, the oceans are going to produce the volume of expeditions and they are going to produce most of the returns. We're discovering a whole new ecosystem, whole new biotas in the oceans that were unknown. It's nearer, and this is where most of the transition is going to occur.
Nonetheless I suggest as a third age we could think about the solar system overall, beginning with Earth and its moon. As we then begin inventory, other planets and their moons. These are all uninhabited places. There's no indigenous population to connect. But they are also uninhabitable realms without elaborate settings and special habitats created.
Intellectual context, modernism. That looks like a great art for doing exploration. There's a dissociation here, but I want to pursue that further. What do the modernists care about exploration?
The rivalry is clearly the Cold War. One of the questions before us is if rivalry of this sort-- political rivalry-- competition is essential. What's going to replace the Cold War?
Grand gesture, well, my favorite is Voyager. The equivalent of Magellan's fleet sailing around the earth, or Humboldt and his successors crossing a continent. You go through the whole solar system, and the two plucky spacecraft are still at it.
And the moral drama here changes to the expansion of humanity. We don't have to deal with ethnocentric difficulties. We're not encountering other people. All those sort of toxic relations that are involved with exploration and encounters previously go away.
But then we're faced with the question of, where's the moral drama? What remains, or are we simply talking with ourselves? We're going to expand, but we're going to do it, I think, through proxies.
So very quickly, comparing the ages and thinking about the future. Here we are where it starts out. Looking out beyond the past, beyond Europe, and now in the third age in many ways looking back.
Here's Humboldt, reconciling the flower and the book with wild nature behind him. Very much the personification of the romantic explorer. A perfect painting for the fusion that represented the second age.
And here we have Ben Shahn's Blind Botanist. A very different take on relating to the world. Almost a silly smirk on his face, he doesn't get it. How are you going to engage in this larger world?
So it would seem that modernism-- and I'll use the art as just a thumbnail for the whole engagement of a larger culture-- is not suitable for exploration of this sort. But I'm going to suggest it is. And let me do it quickly with a series of images, mostly from space, and then match them with contemporary art or art of the last 60 years or so. And suggest that maybe if we think about these images in terms of 19th century, Thomas Moran paintings, they don't make sense. If we think of them as modernist art, they do.
Finally sunset on Mars as viewed by Viking. And sunrise in New Mexico as viewed by Georgia O'Keefe. So we're faced with here thinking about the past, and what kinds of analogies or continuities might we draw. Does this image make sense? Or is it some way a stumbling block?
And I suggest that the curious question of encounter may be a way to define the changes. This is a Nathaniel Wyeth's famous rendering of Robinson Crusoe discovering a footprint. Someone else on what he thought was a completely deserted island. And the nature of that encounter, the shock.
Here Apollo 11, astronauts taking a picture of their own footprint. Or Viking, taking its first damage of its own mechanical footprint on Mars.
Something is going on with the nature of encounter, and we need a culture of engagement that allows us to make that transition. Back to Humboldt and the iconic Mount Chimborazo in the background, which always appears with him. And here we have Mount Chimborazo in the Mojave Desert, put there by Heinrich Mollhausen on the Ives expedition. Surely not there. It isn't, but he is establishing continuity, comparability with Humboldt by putting this icon where he is exploring.
And here we have a NASA commissioned image of what exploration on Mars might be. It is essentially the same painting redone. And then from the Magellan expedition to Venus mapping project.
This one caused some minor scandal at least because the vertical was exaggerated 20 times. Why? Well it would be pretty boring otherwise.
But if you do that, what do you get? You get the same image. We are establishing a kind of visual continuity. And the question is whether this continuity makes sense, or whether we need to think about it in other terms.
So one of the continuities and discontinuities, very quickly. The sense of a rivalry, where is it? Europe is no longer squabbling within itself and projecting that outward, which was always the driving force for exploration to decolonizing.
It's unifying. The Cold War is over. I think we're seeing a disaggregation of that alloy that had come together in the Second Age of Exploration. Science and colonization can have their own stories. They can come together in various ways, but they are not integrally intertwined.
What do we do with the robots? How do we understand that? How do we make a drama? How is this exploration?
Do we need people? And why would we need people if they're not going to meet other people? What is the nature of an encounter?
In many way, what we have for outpost and now, is really back to the first age, where you had military outposts, a trading post. Except we're now trafficking in the gems and spices of an information age. We're doing it in scientific forms.
And then this larger cultural connection, civilization of modernism or postmodernism. I just consider that a phase change. And how do we reconcile that larger intellectual engagement, that syndrome of our time, with the exploration of our time? And not try to find Mount Chimborazo or equivalent where it doesn't belong. Thank you very much.
MINDELL: It's now my pleasure to introduce my friend and colleague, Professor Rosalind Williams, Bern Dibner Professor of the History of Science and Technology at MIT. Those of you who were undergrads here in the 90s may recall her stint as Dean of Students in Undergraduate Education. She's also quite the leader in the field of history of technology, having served as president of the Society for History of Technology for the last few years.
Interestingly, Ros' early work, which focused on the kind of dreamworld of the growth of French consumer culture, seems rather divorced from the topic at hand today, but maybe closer than we might think as we'll hear her talk about Captain Nemo and Jules Verne a little bit. And also, she's written a wonderful book called Notes on the Underground, which is about 19th century literary images of underground environments and the kind of imagination of exploration into the earth, as opposed to across the earth. And so I think we'll hear a little bit about both those things today.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, David. You'll see a great consumer history image. So this first slide, I wanted to give you something cryptic and mind teasing that would be sort of like a riddle to start with. Chris, now that I read it, it looks more like something Yoda might say.
But anyway, I'll try to explain what I mean by cores and edges. We at MIT pride ourselves justly on being interdisciplinary. Usually we think of that as edges of disciplines connecting. So for example, computer science and electrical engineering, or engineering and biology.
But our topic today of exploration is convergence at the cores. And the core is not just of disciplines, but of the whole enterprises that are typically clustered together in higher education, humanities, arts, and sciences. They all start with this fundamental problem or question. And that is the question of our human condition. We live in an universe that's much more vast in time and space, much more complex than we can imagine as human beings.
But how do we as human beings then, understand our place in this cosmos? That's the question that is common to arts, science, and humanities. Arts and humanities address the question by very deliberately taking the human point of view, and trying to explain what the universe looks like from that point of view. The sciences, on the other hand-- deliberately try to scrub the human from the point of view. The sciences are trying to find universal laws and to get rid of the human bias.
But of course the very effort to scrub away the human is a very human effort. Furthermore, as Arendt points out, the whole idea of taking a view of the universe away from the human standpoint, requires imagination. She says, Copernicus had to imagine that he was a man standing out in space looking at the solar system. That is a feat of imagination.
So in exploration, whatever the complexities of the technology and science involved, it is never impersonal. The whole activity is defined from a human perspective. It's going from a known settlement of humanity to the edge of the unknown. And the edge is defined by or as the edge of human experience.
So that's what exploration does. But exploration always comes back from the edge. It always has to report its findings-- wants to report its findings back to the human world. It's a circuit. The circuit is not always completed.
For example, some of the Pacific Islands. But most times, that is the desire of humans to report back what they have found beyond the edge. And they can report in numbers, or words, or images, or sounds, in gestures, in instrumentation readings, they can report from the space probe.
But it is a report. It's representing in some form what has been found, back to those who did not go there, but who are interested. So exploration always has two dimensions, physical and symbolic.
So this is the outline of what I'm going to talk about. I'm going to overlap with what Steve Pyne talked about, in the sense of the history of exploration, but very briefly. Then I'm going to Jules Verne as a representative figure at that moment when humans perceived that they have reached the edge of the known world, defined in a very particular way. And then finally I'll talk about other alternative ideas of exploration we might talk about further.
The deep history of exploration. Now I'm going back before the three phases that Steve talked about. Though it overlaps with the idea of the discovery of the Pacific as people going from a place of settlement to find other places of settlement. Dispersing out of Africa really for millennia. At least a couple hundred thousand years.
And this is what I describe as the sort of planetary big bang. In other words, people are spreading around the planet. We typically call this migration, not exploration. But I think we should think seriously about migration as a form of exploration.
And this has been well mapped. I can show it to you in this map, which is a rather typical one showing the out of Africa migration. How humans travel. Actually I like this one even better because it takes the view of the planet from the North Pole. So we have Africa up here.
These are the polar regions. And these blue lines indicate where the extent of tundra or ice during various ice ages. So this is the tip of South America, about which we will hear more later.
And so this is a map of exploration/migration. And it's trying to show the migration patterns based on the studies of mitochondrial-- that is, matrilineal DNA. This map is a wonderful representation of the converges of the cores of science and humanities in understanding human history. DNA analysis has just enabled us to understand this deep history of exploration much better than ever before.
Then the Western history of exploration that started in the 15th century. That is a much briefer history, just a couple centuries. But also completely different in pattern. Here, human beings are really kind of coming back and enclosing on themselves, in the sense of contacting the lost tribes, contacting other human peoples. It's not extensivication, it's intensification. And so this is the Big Crunch, accelerating since the 15th century when human populations begin to reconnect and remix. And by the 19th century, this leads to a species domination of the planet beyond anything that had ever been known in history before then.
The climax comes in the 19th century when it's really an event of consciousness more than anything else. The awareness on the part of humans, that the world has been almost all mapped-- not quite all, but almost all-- and that it is now a very finite planet. It's not just the end of the American frontier. That's only part of it. It's the end of the global frontier.
And I can show it to you again. This is symbolic representation. Maps are always telling a story. This map, which was a set of maps, which was done for the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria's acsension to the throne. The whole idea was to celebrate the domination of the British empire, which is presented in pink or red, however it also shows the domination of the human empire more generally.
This is one of the hemispheres. And what's striking here is the presence of large technological systems on this map. In other words, it's not just the railroad lines that are indicated on the land masses, but the steamship lines and the undersea cable lines that are threading together the globe in the 1880s. In other words, land water is all in one technological system here. You can also see human dominance in this-- again, another map from this Jubilee Atlas.
This is greater London, outer London. This used to be the core of London, the city. And London is expanding vastly. The human population again, is taking over the world. And people are aware of this.
People are also aware of the remaining blank places. And there's this fascination with the remaining blanks, most notably in Africa. Again, this is 1887, just before the Berlin Conference that's divided up Africa for European colonization.
And here's another example. This is the North Pole. They weren't even sure about the South Pole yet. Whether it was land or not. But you can see the kind of empty edges here.
And that was a great fascination. But it's a very mixed picture. This moment of realization at the end of the 19th century. It's a moment of triumph, because the world is now almost all known. And maybe not all settled, but people know where it is settled.
But it's also a moment of realization that now it's looking very small. These voyages of discovery that went to map the large world have had the effect of bringing it all together into one knowable sphere. Today we call this globalization.
We celebrate it. We should. But it is also the fact that globalization makes you very aware of the finiteness of the globe. And it's not an altogether pleasant feeling to realize there's no place to push our quarrels and differences.
So at this moment then, Jules Verne needs to be introduced because as you can see from his dates, he spans. He says, I had the privilege of being born in that wonderful interval between Stevenson, the inventor of the railway in Europe, and Thomas Edison. So that's his epic. And he's born in Nantes, in France at this time when everything's coming to a climax in terms of the end of the world being reached.
This is taken in Paris. It's taken by his friend, Nadar, the photographer, the flight enthusiastic. Jules Verne invents nothing himself, except for the geographic romance. He invents a new kind of story by mixing what we would call popular science together with his training in the theater.
So his novels are very well staged. And he puts these two things together. This is a very cocky defiant pose. And that's Verne. That captures him.
If you haven't read any of these, you still known these books by report, you've seen movies. He is supposedly the most translated and prolific writer after the Bible. So he is popular.
If you notice the direction of the explorations here, we go up. This is Five Weeks in a Balloon over Africa. Down, up again, the two novels. Down again, submarine. And then around the world.
Then a Mysterious Island, the sequel to 20,000 Leagues, where the mysterious island then moves to an imagined island. So even at this point in his career, Verne is beginning to run out of room. And by the late 1980s, he's really run out of room. I mention Captain Nemo, notice this pose is very similar to the one that Verne has. Again, even if you've never read the book, you kind of vaguely know about the Nautilus, and this angry, defiant, desperado captain who captures so much of a Verne's own personality.
But as I say, by the end of the 1880s into the 1890s especially, Verne is running out of room. He said, my job is to map the world in prose. To write a novel about every area using a plot that's particular to that area. So he's done that, but where to go at this point? His novels are sort of an equivalent of the Jubilee Atlas.
He's trying to map the world, but geography being triumphant, is writing its own epitaph. Because the end of unclaimed territory is in sight. So these are the two novels I want to focus on. At the end of his life, by the late 1890s, he's running out of room.
And he's finding the only unsettled unclaimed-- well, claimed by Argentina and Chile, but unsettled is Magellania, at the tip of South America. And so he writes both these books about that area. They both have the end of the world in their titles.
They're both castaway stories. They feature small groups of people in isolation in this rugged place. They both feature suicide, or attempted suicide. When it appears that this area will be brought into the human empire, the protagonists can't stand it and they want to end their lives.
Most of all they both like voyages. There's minimal movement in these novels. In fact, this one, The Lighthouse at the End of the World, there's no voyage at all. It's all about not getting off of one island. And the plot is to prevent the bad guys from sailing away.
So he's covered the world, but at the end, he's right down there at the very tip of South America. And Verne himself, has sort of devoured his own free space. And these two novels, which he was still writing other novels, but these two he invested a lot of emotional energy into. And they both end really with submission to human empire, with the construction of a lighthouse, which marks the triumph of civilization, but is not going anywhere. He's reached a dead end.
And this by the way, is from a fascinating website that's called dead ends. And I highly recommend its visualisations. But we're not going to end in a dead end. Our question is, where we go from here?
And so the question I'm going to raise is the future of exploration under conditions of human empire and dominance of this planet, Verne was very aware of this dead end that he had reached. In fact, he has sort of a recurring image in his works where human beings are literally devouring the world. For example, in one book he talks about how Americans-- it's the Americans-- are going to mine all the coal and mine the whole planet so they end up without a place to live on.
Or you may know in Around the World in 80 Days the explorer Phileas Fogg has to get from New York to Liverpool in a hurry to win the bet. So he buys the boat and starts stripping the boat of everything in it to feed into the furnace. And so you have this image of the boat being its own fuel. So Verne is very aware of this kind of resource depletion of the unknown. And there's certainly the vertical dimension up or down.
But there are targets in both up and down that interests humans, but they aren't really infinite. They'll never be cheap either, for exploration is often a luxury good. And again, Verne is very aware of this. And some of the most interesting parts of his book are about how expeditions are financed, where the money comes from.
I especially recommend to you the two moon novels in describing a public subscription campaign to support these expeditions. In most cases, it's simply that his explorers, like Nemo, are rich. Nemo has a treasure under sea, and that's how he finances the Nautilus. So exploration is costly. And this is becoming more and more an issue.
Even repeating exploration is costly. The 100th anniversary of reaching the South Pole is going to be celebrated at the end of this year. And there are people who are paying $40,000 to $60,000 to have the privilege of either skiing to the South Pole or whatever, for that event. And it's kind of pathetic. It's both expensive and you don't have any priority.
So one of the things I want to think about is how exploration can be democratized. And remote sensing, in the broadest sense, is one way of doing this. And this is my consumer society photo. This is an example of exploration as a luxury.
This happens to be the French jeweler, Van Cleef and Arpel is releasing a new time piece as an anniversary for Verne in general. But this is sort of a mash up of Captain Hatteras, the North Pole. Because that's a tourmaline iceberg at the top. And then there's an octopus somewhere in there-- or penguins afoot. So this is what you can do with Verne.
You can spend a lot of money or you can get a cheap paperback. And it's infinitely reproducible. The only thing, by the way, about Verne is make sure you get the full text, not a cut one. And make sure you get a good translation.
But it doesn't cost any more. And that's a form of remote sensing. It's a form of exploration that anybody can afford, and that has stimulated, as I say, countless minds.
There are other ways of imagining reporting back. I just going through a series of examples out of the arts of our day. There is the distributed frontier. Empty spaces don't have to be at some extreme edge. They can be close at hand.
And this book by Peter Stark, subtitled A Past and Present Journey Through the Blank Spots on the American Map is an example. By the way, one of the blank spots is central Pennsylvania. So you don't have to be first, you don't have to be extreme, but it can still be a voyage of discovery.
The most read book about Magellania today is not Verne, it's Bruce Chapman's book. Imaginative nonfiction, but he certainly remembers Verne. And in some ways and places is retracing Verne.
I'm just trying to say that as this famous ending of a poem from TS Eliot expresses, discovery is something that can always be happening. And exploration is always about going and returning and can be done indefinitely. And if you notice that this poem was published in the middle of World War II, when Eliot was working for citing air raids in London, that too was a new world. It was looking at the world in a completely new and different light.
On a happier note, this is another new book about exploration. It's wonderful-- I started to call it a natural experiment-- it's an unnatural experiment in ocean circulation. This cargo went overboard of all these rubber duckies. And so the book is about tracing where they went.
But the author, Donovan Hohn, says I didn't go to look at the world as a map. I wanted to turn the map into a world. And he said, I've strived to raise, if only by a megapixel or two, the resolution of my own mental model of the world. And then there are all sorts of other extreme experiences that are not necessarily only physical.
But this movie Of Gods and Men, is about a religious community in North Africa. It's a strange place for the monks there, though it is not that remote. But the key words here again, are the edge of human experience.
Another edge-- this again, and the movie hasn't even yet come to Boston, though it just opened this past week-- this takes us back to the deep past when exploration meant migration. When human beings were truly confronting the unknown all the time in seeking it out, even then, in caves, which still had bears in them. But where the human shadow on the wall was a testimony to humans being there. And when humans discovered image making, as a now essential symbolic tool.
So history itself, as a historian I would just say history is an exploration to the edge of human experience. It's time travel, it's remote sensing. It's probing the unknown. They say, the past is another country, but often it's really another world.
And so as Eliot said, we go back to where we began. In the convergence of the arts, humanities, and sciences, in exploration. In exploration you need scientific tools. That is, an understanding of the cosmos from a universal point of view. You would need technical tools.
But it also requires human imagination, and a capacity for symbolic expression to imagine and report. So exploration is always discovery of the human as well as the universal. We need policies, we need organizations, we need money. But even more, we need a plot line. We need a story line.
An understanding of why we're doing this. And I think the challenge is to develop a sustainable exploration on a crowded planet where there are other needs, where money is always an object, but never the only object. Thank you.
MINDELL: Wait until we get the slides up here. I'll pick up on a number of themes from both Ros and Steve's talk and begin with the question that David posed for us, how will we do exploration in the future? There are debates. We've had debates about being there and what's fundamentally important about being there. And in the next panel actually, and all through the next two days, we'll hear from quite a number of people who have been there in lots of interesting places.
I want to share some stories with you about what it means to be there is changing with changes in technology. And you might call this talk-- I may have retitled it during Steve's talk, Tales From the Beginning of the Third Age. Because I want to talk about beginning to work in the undersea realm remotely and then autonomously, and how the technological changes have changed the experience, not only of exploration, but even the practices and even the questions we can ask, in terms of the sciences we are doing.
The question there then is no longer really do we need to be there? I think we all agree that presence is valuable. But rather, what does it mean to be there? Or what constitutes presence?
Does it require our physical bodies placed physically at risk? Or can we be displaced in time and space and duplicated with technologies of remote sensing and simulation? And I hope again some of these questions will continue to come up in the next couple of days.
So I began my work in the oceanographic world in the 1980s. And we were just beginning to experience a transition from human systems to remote systems. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which became my professional home, had operated this vehicle, which I'm sure you've heard much about, Alvin, since 1964. It was 25 years old already around then. And it had been enormously successful taking three people at a time down to the very, very deep ocean, down to 4,000 meters of depth.
And the group I worked in, under Robert Ballard and Dana Yoerger, who you'll hear from tomorrow, was beginning to develop this vehicle. A remote vehicle called Jason, which had no people aboard, but rather had a fiber optic cable developed for the transatlantic and transoceanic data lines connected to the surface. And originally we thought, as people often think with various kinds of automation, that these vehicles were better because they were going to be cheaper and they were going to be safer than putting people in the deep ocean.
It turned out that neither one of those things was the case. First, they weren't cheaper, because when-- this vehicle is Jason-- when Jason went down to the sea floor, it required three shifts of full operational complement, because it stayed down for a week or more. And that was very expensive to maintain 24 hours. Alvin, when it dives to this day, it leaves the surface about 8:00 in the morning and comes up at 5 o'clock for dinner, and recharges its batteries overnight. So only required one shift.
Three shifts was expensive. Of course you got more science done, but that didn't really show up in the bottom line in the way that the government cared about. So the remote vehicles weren't cheaper and they weren't safer. Because Alvin at the time, and still is very, very safe vehicle.
There have been very, very few accidents. Really, no serious accidents. And the remote vehicles had their own kinds of dangers. For example, putting a cable with 3,500 volts on it from the deck of a ship into a big vat of salt water isn't that safe with 3,500 [INAUDIBLE] of tension.
And there's a whole other talk I could give on the close calls we had dealing with high tension cables. Tension, in both sense of high voltage and tension in terms of physical tension. But what we did found somewhat to our surprise, is that the new vehicles changed the nature of the work. And then in the 1990s, autonomous vehicles came along-- no cables-- and they changed the nature of the work even further. And that's what I want to talk about today.
So I'm going to tell a few stories about learning how to explore remotely in the ocean. First has to do with the search for the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, which sank during the Battle of Midway in 1942. And this ship was 1,400 feet long. There's a model of it right here. It looks like a big, big square ship.
And sank in about 17,000 feet of water. And when I began this search, as part of Bob Ballard's team, it was the largest and the deepest wreck that we had ever searched for. We laid out a search based on the reports of the various ships around it and position reports when it had been sunk. And they were pretty good. We had a decent area.
But it was so deep-- and the terrain was so deep, and there were these giant mountains, undersea mountains there, that it was a fairly challenging task. And complicating that task, we used a sonar that could cover a great deal of area. But was mostly a geological mapping sonar, so it had very, very low resolution. And we just ran the numbers on a 1,400 foot long, 150 foot wide aircraft carrier, and it would be about three pixels wide on the sonar. Not the beautiful kind of clear, side scan images you may have seen.
So we laid out the search, and spent about a week towing the sonar back and forth across the site. And looking at the data. Looking for a three pixel smudge, barely bigger than a little speck of noise. And it turned out that the sonar had one aspect of the signal it generated was just a very, very accurate set of depth, straight down. Forget about all the imaging around it, but it gave you a very good accurate read on depth.
And one of the technicians-- this is Bruce Applegate, actually he wasn't the technician who found it. That was his colleague Karen Sender, from the University of Hawaii. Was looking through that depth data about the fifth or sixth day of the expedition. And in the first day, pretty much in the first few hours we had toned the sonar, there was a spike in the depth of data that was about 40 feet high and 150 feet wide, which is exactly what you would expect an aircraft carrier to look like.
And we started looking closely at that and brought in an ROV, which we had with us. And went down, and sure enough there was the Yorktown. And the reason I tell this story this way is that we found that wreck in the data, as much as we found it in the sea floor, five or six days after we had collected that data. And in a very real way, the beginning of this world, and some sense, the beginning of the Third Age, had to do with exploring in the data and learning how to explore the data as much as physically being there.
Story number two. It was a rare privilege to get handed the only nuclear submarine in the world that's not a combat submarine, the US Navy's NR1, in the summer of 1987, to drive around the sea floor of the Mediterranean looking for ancient shipwrecks. Again, Bob Ballard had headed this expedition, and I got the privilege of being the chief scientist on a dive to expand our search area off of Sicily. And within a couple hours of our first search, we came across what you see depicted in this National Geographic animation. A scattering of amphoras on the sea floor.
At the time, we knew it was the largest ancient shipwreck we'd ever found. And it was a second century BC Roman shipwreck. It was a remarkably moving experience to be lying in the bottom of the NR1-- there's actually a little port here, and there's windows on this vehicle-- about 3,000 feet down and to see that shipwreck emerge out of the darkness. And literally be the first person to look at it since the day that it sank in about the second century BC.
And I have this remarkable sort of flowing of-- you can think about almost all the-- well, all the modern human history you know from the Dark Ages, through the Renaissance, through the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution, and everything you can think of, this shipwreck was sitting right there as it looks like from the second century BC. And now we had brought it to light.
This is basically what it looks like out the window of a submarine. You can see about maybe 10, 20 feet in front of you. We have a saying that looking out the window out of a submarine, you use a lot of light. It's pretty much analogous to being on your knees at night with a flashlight in a snowstorm in the mountains. That's about how much of the world you see.
And this is what we saw. Enough to know that it was something important. And it was also an interesting expedition because again, we had both-- with us through the same site-- the remote sensing technology and the human technology.
Here, we discovered it with the submarine. And very quickly, within a couple of days, we brought the Jason vehicle in with a cabled look. And here it is floating over the site at Skerki Bank. And mapped the site then in great detail.
Working from this remote control room, there's Ballard in the chief scientist's spot. And this is a theme I'm going to come back to over the course of this talk, which is lots of people sitting in front of computers. That's what we end up doing in this world. And this is what it meant for us to explore. We happen to be on a ship there, but we're still staring in front of computers.
The Jason vehicle now, as a perception sensing robot, floated above the site and mapped it very quantitatively, with both quantitative imagery and precision sonar mapping. And this is the photographic mosaic of about 200 images of the actual site itself. You can see these different piles amphoras here. These are ancient shipping containers. And the ship is probably more or less in this outline here.
This is a sort of 50,000 feet view, which you could not ever see with the naked eye because you had such a limited access to the optical element through seawater. And then this is the equivalent of the sonar map of that same site. And with that sonar map, we saw something we couldn't even see with the photo mosaic, which is that the groups of craters-- if you look at these three craters, three amphoras there, those correspond to these three guys here-- they're all sitting in craters on their own, which we couldn't even see that with the naked eye.
And then also, if you look at the contour map-- this is a contour map-- and this is roughly plus or minus a half a meter in relief, you begin to see the contour. You can actually begin to see the shape of the buried haul around this contour, which you also could not see with the naked eye. And this experience led us to understand that there would be a different way of doing archaeology in deep water where you could never actually touch the shipwreck. This is 3,000 feet deep. No possibility of divers ever going there.
But rather, these remote vehicles will presented us with limitations yes, but also opportunities as far as what we could understand about the deep sea that we would not be able to understand by simply going there and looking with our eyes. And over the next few years, my group at MIT, plus many of our collaborators with Woods Hole and Ballard, who's now at University of Rhode Island, really developed a whole new set of theories around how you do archaeology in the deep ocean. How that changes the kinds of questions you can ask about human history on the sea.
Then you add to that, in the 2000s you begin to get high definition video. And it was even more striking. The sense of presence of working with HD video in the deep ocean is just simply remarkable. And this is not fancy 3D modalities, no VR glasses. Just looking at big screens of 3D video.
I show this image for two reasons. It's the HD video exploration we did in the Black Sea. This is Jim Newman, who is an MIT grad. Sarah Webster who was an MIT undergrad UROP, working through all this with us, who's now-- just did her PhD in remote manipulation. And Martin Bowen-- may he rest in peace-- a good friend of mine who actually was the guy who, if you've seen the old Titanic videos, who flew the Jason Jr down the grand staircase of the Titanic as a ROV pilot.
Zoom ahead now to the present day and you have a vehicle like this, which was built by Andy Bowen and Louis Whitcomb and Dana Yoerger at Woods Hole, which is a hybrid ROV. So it's an autonomous vehicle, it has a very hairline fiber that it can carry with it, and then move into an autonomous mode. So it's a hybrid, remote operated, autonomous vehicle. This vehicle broke the depth record for the world's deepest dive in 2009. More than 10,000 meters in the Marianna Trench.
I like this image from Woods Hole. This is Century, which is the vehicle you'll hear Dana Yoerger talk about. It's either later today or tomorrow on his panel. And Jim Bellingham, later today, will talk also. He's been really a pioneer in these autonomous vehicles, and there again, further changing the modalities of how you work.
The autonomous vehicles do not think for themselves. They don't go out in do the science. But they go out, they collect the data, they bring it back. The people are still looking at it, but in different ways.
So this image sort of captures Century confronting Alvin. What are the people doing? Woods Hole is in the process of building a new version of Alvin. And the whole story about how that got built is fascinating.
So I want to quickly go then a little bit up. Cover the air on my way to space. Just to give you this quote from Charles Lindbergh. Again, way back in 1927, emphasizing the fact that his exploration was very much a product of not only him and his machine, but his machine and all the people around the machine who created it, designed it, maintained it, and created the infrastructure for him to make that flight.
This is a great quote from Michael Collins, command module pilot on Apollo 11. Talking about when he was a kid he went to see Roscoe Turner, the great barnstormer. Roscoe flew with his pet lion, his waxed mustache, and his pet lion named Gilmore. I flew with a slide rule, a rule book, and a computer. So it captures the sense of what's happening to the explorer's identity as we're moving into this world of quantification, numbers, and then eventually computing.
Let me zip ahead then to the lunar landing to show how these same issues are playing out in the history of space flight in the Third Exploration. This is the model of the human operator that dominated in the 1950s. That was really the model in some ways in which the design of the early models of space flight were based. Here you have two people in the-- well, this one's in the simulator.
There's Buzz Aldrin, who's here today, in the LEM. Two people are operating in the LEM. Are they operating autonomously? Are they operating by themselves? How much are they sharing their task with automation?
What kind of exploration was this? Actually, throughout the landing, until the last few hundred feet, much of the task of actually controlling the vehicle, in terms of surveying and pointing and all that, is automated. Run by a computer.
Now we can say automated, but automation really just means other people who worked in a different place in different time. And in fact, in that case, all those people were standing there watching. And this is the team with Doc Draper and Don Isles, and other people you may recognize, who wrote this big giant stack of code, which is running inside the machine. So as Armstrong and Aldrin are there operating the vehicle, there's all this software in there buzzing away, carrying the human intentions of the people who had programmed the system. And then of course, on the ground more people in front of computers.
We have the development of these ideas of mission control, and remote sensing, and people scattered at different parts through the system. And partly what I want to adduce is a sense that all these systems are complicated human machine social systems. But where the people's bodies are kind of moves around from time to time, and depending on what technology and what systems are being used at any given point.
This is a visualization that my postdoc, Yanni Loukissas did, which is actually-- it plays out in real time. And I encourage you to come to the art show that's being held in Baker House this evening where you can interact and demonstrate this. Which plots out the descent of Apollo 11 over the moon. And all the different communications between Apollo 11 and the command module. And then this is all the different communications among the controllers on the ground through the famous 12O2 program alarm.
How all the different variables are plotting out. And beginning to try to get a sense of how do we depict the third era exploration of different people interacting at different times with different types of codes and different types of automated systems. And again, lots of people in front of computers.
And then of course another postdoc working in my group, Zara Mirmalek, is working on the Mars Rovers. And we'll hear from Steve Squires about this tomorrow. But what is the sense of human presence that these scientists have of being on Mars through remote systems? Remote systems with a finite bandwidth, a quite significant time delay. And yet people who have done the research on those scientists, and what kind of practices they use find that they have a very real sense of presence from their air conditioned room in Pasadena of that martian landscape.
And we're very curious about what is that sense of presence. How do you get It what are its strengths? What are its limitations? Bill Clancy at NASA Ames is also doing some remarkably good work on that.
Some issues I hope to frame in the questions for the next few days is this interrelated set of issues around automation, skills. What are the skills? Training, professional identity. All these different pieces come together as we think about, how do we configure human remote and autonomous exploration systems for the future?
And what are the different kinds of presence we can have? Presence in the data. Physical presence of the body. Remote presence in all these different fields. How do these things all configure and move around as the technologies change?
And of course, the technologies don't come from nowhere. The people who build those technologies, many of them here in this room, work on those technologies and create technologies specifically for specific purposes around changing ideas of human presence. Thank you.
Now we have some time for Q and A. And Ryan was going to give us some stacks of paper. Ryan, are you there? Yeah. OK.
So he's distributed cards. And you can send up a few. But first I'll just turn it over to the panelists, and see if you have comments on any of the other things we've heard.
WILLIAMS: I'd just like to hear questions or comments or both. There are many.
MINDELL: It's more a comment than a question. Two out of the three panelists discusses the role of the arts in exploration. But STEM ignores the arts. And human creativity has also been ignored in education. Is it time to reuse STEM to STEAM, the A equals arts, the scientific community and technology and engineering and math?
WILLIAMS: Well, of course. But on the other hand, we're here. That comment has to be specified. Is this about MIT? The world in general? I believe that's the point of this panel is to make exactly the point that exploration is deeply hedonistic and artistic and cultural.
AUDIENCE: There was a second page on that one. How do you do that outside of MIT?
MINDELL: OK, this is very real at MIT. How can we spread the mission to NASA, the government, education?
PYNE: I'm not sure. I work in the humanities, which are guilty of a lot of self-inflicted injuries over the last few decades. More content to be problematizers than problem solvers. But none the less it simply isn't valued, we don't put money into it. And we don't put money with the arts in the same way.
But looking at the history of exploration, it's most vigorous when it's sustaining society is most deeply and widely engaged. And to have the arts or literature or philosophy or other elements removed from exploration, simply to make this as a device to do extreme sports or gather exotic data, means that you are alienating it from the society that has to be engaged to keep it going. And so we should be finding ways.
The only example I can think-- the exception of that is the US Antarctic Research Program, which somewhat to its surprise and shock, found that Al Gore was much more interested in Barry Lopez and what Lopez had to say about his trip to Antarctica, than it was in some of the big NSF machines that had been put down there. And they created an artists and writers program which systematically funds people to go down and contribute.
MINDELL: Another way you can think about that question is in reviewing the history of Apollo-- and I think we'll probably hear it from our astronauts panel-- the stories of human experience are really pretty central to what is valuable about these human spaceflight programs. And as you hear even people talk about the future space flights, programs, what is the human experience in what's going to be produced? And yet we tend not to produce space programs that are optimized to communicate those human experiences in a variety of different ways. And what would it look like to have a space program that was organized around the idea of experience, which is of course, a humanistic concept.
WILLIAMS: I want to mention that maybe the answer is getting out of the academic. There was an article in American Scientist, that's the name of the journal. American Scientist, last month, called The 95% Solution. And it was a very interesting study of where people get their education in science from. And the gist of the article is that 95% of what people learn about science is not in school. And it was a whole range of other experiences including television programs, and movies, and books, and things-- museum visits, attractions.
If you look at that world as well as the school world, I think you get a much richer sampling. And that's part of what I was trying to do in show those titles of books at the end of my talk, which is exploration is all around us, but it isn't necessarily in the classroom.
MINDELL: So here's a good question for Stephen Pyne. If your analysis had been from the perspective of China, how would it have differed? Eastern exploration of the West, and now their convergence.
PYNE: Yeah, that's a great question. And the interesting thing is that in the 15th century, China was the most active.
I'll talk louder. China may actually have rounded the Cape of Good Hope. It's not clear. So that was within about 50 years of the time the Portuguese first did it. So one could imagine them actually crossing.
What made for the difference? Well, several things made a difference. One is that the Chinese expeditions, as I understand them, were largely a top-down project.
This was something the emperor at the time wanted. It took on its own momentum. And then it changes. When a new regime comes into place, it all disappears.
Whereas in Europe, there was so much internal squabbling and fighting that was being projected outward, that if anybody pulled out, somebody else moved in. So there was this huge cauldron of competition going on. And as soon as the Portuguese begin stumbling in the Far East, the Dutch move in. The British move in on the Dutch. Just everybody's squabbling.
So that's part of the difference. But there's a certain sense in which the world is there to be discovered geographically once. And so once it was done by whoever did it, then in a sense, that becomes the model for everyone.
MINDELL: How will future generations remember the current generation for exploration contributions in the historical context?
PYNE: I have no idea. That remains to be written. I will promote, just to be a little provocative-- since we're on the human and robot issue-- that the sense I've always had has always been communicated was that the robots would simply be mechanical scouts for people, and ultimately leading to colonization and settlement of some sort.
I think if I were a betting man, and I'm not, that history will probably see it in reverse. And that it was the excitement of the early human spaceflight that made it possible for the robots to get underway, get out to the other planets, get down into the deep oceans. And it may turn out that the history is written will be inverted from what we have understood it to be.
WILLIAMS: Let me just comment that I had an MIT undergraduate say to me in a seminar, you mean we went to the moon x number of times, and since 1972 we've never been back? I mean, it was this confusion about how could you have that event, and then this hiatus, this stalling? I think that's one side of the history.
But the other side of the history is, what is going on with planetary exploration and deep sea exploration is astounding. So it's kind of like if we shift the story line away from the moon to other-- again, both in space and deep sea, it's just amazing what has been discovered. So I think it's a great age of discovery. And no end in sight of that.
MINDELL: I think we'll hear a lot about that from our later panels. Another interesting one is, what do you see as the role of private companies in solar system exploration? I have an answer to that about, again, on the topic of experience. If you talk to the people who are building the space tourism, which is not all of what private companies in space are doing, but the space tourism companies-- they make no bones about it. All they're doing is selling experience. That's the whole point of what their business model is. And they are building spaceflight paradigms, including right down into the nitty gritty of the engineering, that is optimized for experience. The comfy couches, bigger windows, the whole sort of thing. And it really does look different. And it's quite interesting to see how the different goals generate different kinds of technologies. And those things will be emerging in the next few years.
Are we headed for a gap between ages of exploration? And if so, what will trigger the next one?
PYNE: I don't know. I've come up with a kind of configuration for understanding. Right now the big question however, is where the rivalry-- there has always in the past been some serious competition to keep it going. And it's not clear where that competition is going to come from.
So my guess is that the exploration-- particularly in space-- so the ocean, one could see it, because there are going to be resources at issue. And as the Arctic ice melts, there's already a scramble underway. The scramble for Africa is going to be taking place in the Arctic.
In space, I think it's going to go sort of back to the future. It's going to look like these isolated trading posts and colonies and so forth that we had typically in the first stage. We've been in Antarctica, we've been wintering over in Antarctica for over 110 years, and what have we got? What does it look like?
Do you see any kind of functioning society there? You see children? Do you see schools?
Do you see all the apparatus that goes with a functioning society? Or do you see the equivalent of military outposts and trading posts that were typical of the first stage? In this case, with scientists and technicians moving in and out.
So my guess is that we'll see sort of what we've had costly, but small in number, expeditions going out for that purpose. And again, a dissociation from settlement. I think that, to my mind, is probably the critical ingredient so that you can begin engaging the future in a way that makes sense. At least as I understand it. I'm probably a minority in this group however, saying that.
MINDELL: I was surprised that virtual space was not mentioned. What are your thoughts on how to go about exploration in virtual space so we can look back and know that we created an optimal moral consciousness space?
WILLIAMS: I guess that's what I was trying to talk about. Movies not virtual space, writ large. The exploration of consciousness is again, something I was trying to put on the map of discussion.
And sometimes it's more textual, sometimes more visual, but there's no gap there. On the contrary, it's just an extremely exciting set of innovations and experiments. I think the gap depends on where you look. I just think in the arts, with these rich tools at hand, it's a wonderful age for that kind of exploration of consciousness.
MINDELL: Is exploration the pastime of affluent societies, or a way for societies to become affluent?
WILLIAMS: I think this is something we really have to not forget. Is that there's the affluent upscale consumer exploration, and then there's the migration. Four out of five settlers in the New World in the Great Age of Discovery were African slaves brought to the New World. Magellan and Columbus are not typical, in that sense.
What's typical is somebody being uprooted and having to move to what, for them, is a new world. That still goes on. We are in such an age of migration now. And so I would hope that we don't just focus on the people who can buy the premium, which is one of the forms of exploration, but it's not the only one.
MINDELL: For Ros' comment that we need a plot for exploration, historically, in non-human spaceflight realms, how much has the plot been leading the exploration versus other things like military rivalry and market forces leading in the plot following?
WILLIAMS: Oh boy. Let me think about Verne, because he's writing about a world of business rivalry. His plots are chases, for the most part.
But there is for him also, this just desire to know, to understand. Not so much to go where no one's gone before, but to understand where you're going. And again, to bring back the report.
Maybe we should make a distinction between the forces that are driving exploration-- where the money comes from, where the agendas are set, and that's just tracing power. But there is this deeply humanistic drive to get to the edge of experience. And that is more universal, and it is not always connected with where the powers that be are. So I guess that's what I was trying to point to in talking about a plot. That there is something beyond self interest. Hey, I wish I could write you the plot. I am just pointing this out as something we need. We need to articulate to ourselves what the mission is, what the point of it is. I think we're still working on that.
PYNE: Yeah. I think the plot has continued. We've tried to recycle the plot. Retrofit it in the same way that we can see these images being repeated in settings or not.
Certainly, a lot of science fiction was influential in the thinking of early space proponents, in particular. But it seems to me we're struggling to find the plot. And whether basically a 19th century plot, whether a Jules Verne plot will work in these contexts or not is unclear.
I've wondered why haven't the oceans been more significant? In a way, publicly interesting. And I don't think they have the same story to tell.
I think what we've got is the biography of the Alvin is the ocean story. Whereas in space something like Voyager has a clear narrative. It's almost pure narrative now. Why haven't the ocean's been as intellectually exciting generally as space? They don't have a Voyager.
The essence of Voyager was the journey. It was the trek.
MINDELL: I could add about plot lines, I mentioned in my talk, Bob Ballard, who is a really interesting guy and I think deserves a lot of credit for seeing the world of telepresence and remote exploration a long time before a lot of people did. And someday someone's going to write his biography. And it will be a very interesting biography to read.
And part of that story I think will be his being caught between a kind of Victorian narrative of heroic explorers, which is the narrative that National Geographic supports and sells, and very, very successfully. And the sort of third age explorer of telepresence and remote exploration. And many of the stories of the expeditions as I experienced them, were sort of the tension between that sort of moment of discovery kind of story of one single visionary leader and big teams of engineers, people sitting in front of computers, that whole sort of thing. And very much working it through over several decades, but as yet, in some ways unresolved.
WILLIAMS: I think the problem with Verne's plot line-- this is point I was trying to make is that it's self-defeating. I mean, if your plot is to conquer and put the flag on unclaimed new territory, you're going to run out of room. The image that comes to my mind was when Captain Nemo takes the Nautilus under the South Pole-- anyway, lands at the South Pole. And he plants the black flag of anarchism at the South Pole. Now how can you plant a flag of anarchism?
So that's not going to work. But I think we're experimenting with so many other different kinds of exploration now. And I would say there's not a central plot line. There shouldn't be because there are so many other things going on that are so exciting. And it will settle out.
But down, up. There's a lot going on. I think we should just kind of let it all happen.
There's one thing I regret as sort of diminished importance, and that's the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Just the closing down of the Allen telescope array, this month is an emblem of that's not shutting down, but certainly being put into the back of the room. And I think that's regrettable. I think that's something that should be part of this array of exploration.
MINDELL: OK, on that note, we're out of time. Please join me in thanking our guests.