Virtual Pilgrims

Written by on July 6, 2008 | News Fragments

Mr. Aalam Khan, a devout Muslim, is dying of cancer. Before he dies, he hopes to take part in the Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, because he has never done it before. It is a requirement that all Muslims take the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. However, his doctors say that he does not have much longer to live, and he most certainly will not be able physically take the trip.

Aalam’s solution to this was simple: why not allow him to do it virtually?

“If I can virtually and mentally make the journey, even though my physical body can’t, surely it should qualify as fulfilling the Hajj?” he asks.

Although virtual-reality advocates say this digital realm is no match for real life experiences, most argue that in the absence of travelling overseas, it is one of the best available means of cultural exchange.

At the Dubai Women’s College, professors saw an opportunity to use Second Life to connect students with the world outside their tiny Arabian Gulf state. As a virtual orientation, the group visited a Second Life re-creation of Darfur and made an online pilgrimage to Mecca. Most notably, they met regularly with a group of Korean students in computer renditions of each other’s campuses to practice English and learn about one another’s culture.

CS Monitor, Study Abroad Through Second Life

We have reached a stage where we cannot distinguish the real elements of our thoughts and feelings from the virtual ones. We cannot draw demarcating lines around the “Digital Us.” As we gradually adjust our lives to the latest digital experiences, we stray further and further from the world of here and now, and that world becomes less and less satisfying. Once we’re wired for a virtual world, the present world goes dim and fails to satisfy our digitized needs. This is the situation the world is coming to.

The Internet, unlike television or newspapers, provides interaction. Everyone contributes in some way to its organization. We may call it a huge dream machine. We know we are likely to fall asleep anywhere, and on the Internet we are prone to spiritual sleep. But probably the Internet is less sleep-inducing than TV because surfing the Web is a relatively proactive pursuit.

The problem with high tech is that it tends to impede spiritual growth. No doubt, superhighways facilitate speed. But speed is basically injurious to the spirit. We need time to pray, to meditate. And a mad rush is not likely to yield any spiritual benefit., Islam in Cyberia


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News Fragments
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Urban Warfare

Written by on October 18, 2007 | News Fragments

UAN Command Press Release, 2022: “After the targeted and precision attack, and the area had been secured, the UAN’s automated ground force assessed that 15 drug gangsters, six women and nine children were killed. Two suspected criminals, one woman and three children were wounded, and one suspected criminal was detained.”

“We think urban is the future,” says James Lasswell, a retired colonel who now heads the Office of Science and Technology at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. “Everything worth fighting for is in the urban environment.” And Wayne Michael Hall, a retired Army brigadier general and the senior intelligence advisor in Schattle’s operation, has a similar assessment, “We will be fighting in urban terrain for the next hundred years.”

During James Lasswell’s presentation, he was quite specific about the non-Fallujah-like need to be “very discriminate” in applying firepower in an urban environment. As an example of the ability of technology to aid in such efforts, he displayed a photo of the aftermath of an Israeli strike on a three-story Lebanese building. The third floor of the structure had been obliterated, while the roof above and the floors below appeared relatively unscathed. In an aside, Lasswell mentioned that, while the effort had been a discriminating one, the floor taken out “turned out to be the wrong floor.” A rumble of knowing chuckles swept the room.

Slum Fights: The Pentagon Plans for a New Hundred Years’ War, by Nick Turse, 11th October, 2007

Automated Casualties

Written by on June 28, 2007 | News Fragments

Ismail Khan, one of London’s many homeless, died today after suffering an apparent heart attack as a result of being shocked by one of the automatic defensive units used by the city’s railway network.

Installed recently to prevent vandals destroying property, or terrorists from carrying out a possible attack, the death has sparked controversy and calls by civil rights groups to have the systems re-manned and monitored by humans in order to make more accurate judgement calls.

Khan, 31, was apparently looking for somewhere to sleep when he approached the perimeter fence along the tracks near New Cross Gate. Apparently unable to speak English, and ignoring the warning signs, he paid no attention to the automatic voice warning issued by the unit.

It is unknown if he has any family, or relatives.

From a UK news report, circa 2020.

Luis von Ahn critically injured after attack…

Written by on December 15, 2006 | News Fragments

Luis von Ahn, one of the directors of the Transhumanist Collective and considered by many to be the father of the human computation movement, is currently in hospital in a critical but stable condition following the attack by a member of the ‘Freedom Club’. Doctors remain optimistic about Prof. von Ahn’s recovery and progress but still warn that it is too early to know the full extent of the injuries sustained.

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Transhumanist “Tower of Bable” Is A Reality

Written by on November 26, 2006 | News Fragments

Getting minds to link and work together are the topics for discussion at a meeting of scientists taking place in the virtual world of Next Life today where they have unveiled details of a complex neural network that has been developed together with some of the world’s biggest corporations and most powerful countries.

Called the “Tower of Babel” after the biblical myth, it is their attempt to build technologically enhanced minds that allows a completely telepathic connection – just by installing some software (called “neuro-software”) in your brain.

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