100 Colorado Creatives: Dr. David Grinspoon, Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
David Grinspoon: I'd like to jump a couple hundred years into the future and work with the scientists who are getting back the first information from our probes to planets orbiting nearby stars. Now we know they are there but we can't reach them. I want explore strange new worlds and, during my lifetime, have to be satisfied with the planets of our own solar system because we're stuck here for now.
Also I'd love to jam with Jerry Garcia in the '70s before he got way into opiates.
WW: Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
DG: I'm interested in the modern techno-religious belief in the "singularity" that will supposedly occur soon when machines become sentient and completely change the meaning of, and possibly end, human existence. I'm agnostic about whether or not these predictions are correct or not. It hinges on interesting questions about the nature of human consciousness and whether it can be duplicated or surpassed by machines with a large number of fast neural connections. People have strong and confident opinions on this but nobody knows. I am interested in scientifically acceptable systems of faith. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is another area where these lines, between science and spiritual beliefs, are blurred.
There is a fascinating debate going on right now about "active SETI" or METI (messages to ETI) where we are not just listening for signals but broadcasting. Some people think this it is dangerous for us to shout out into the darkness because some aliens might hear our signals and decide to harm or destroy us. Others think we have a moral responsibility to sing out into the cosmos if we are going to be listening. You can reduce this debate down to assumptions or inferences about the universals of evolution of higher intelligence, "civilization" and morality. That's cool.