If an alien spacecraft landed in Dr. Avi Loeb’s backyard tomorrow, he would readily step on, leave his family behind and take off to discover the great beyond.
Obviously, he’d be giving up a lot, but it’s for an essential cause, he says: Humans need to explore the possibilities for human life beyond earth.
“We know the sun will burn up the surface of the earth within a billion years,” he says. “We won’t be able to stay here.”
Loeb, an Israeli-American astrophysicist at Harvard University, shared these thoughts recently in a podcast conversation with Dr. Tal Patalon, head of Kahn Sagol Maccabi (KSM), the Research and Innovation Center of Israel’s Maccabi Healthcare Services. Loeb was Patalon’s guest on an episode of KSM’s popular English-language podcast, “A Matter of Life and Death.”
Now in its third season (and first in English), the podcast features physician-researcher Patalon in wide-ranging conversations about life, the future and the human experience with leaders and innovative thinkers from a broad variety disciplines and fields of knowledge — from the former head of the Mossad to musicians and professors. Patalon elicits insights and showcases her multidisciplinary approach to her work at KSM, and she also has a way of getting at the core of her guests’ personalities and belief systems.
“These are open conversations, not interviews,” Patalon said. “It’s all about relationships and learning from these people. These are really special individuals who help broaden your perspective and serve as inspiration for innovation.”
KSM itself conducts various types of health research, helping researchers and entrepreneurs with its massive clinical and medical data as well as deep understanding of technology and artificial intelligence. KSM also operates the largest biobank in Israel, with over 900,000 biological samples, enabling partnerships with companies in genetic research and support for a range of Big Data projects.
Patalon’s podcast embodies the out-of-the-box thinking that guides KSM’s approach to research and innovation. Her recent conversation with Loeb covered the AI revolution, extending human longevity, and Loeb’s work at The Galileo Project for the Systematic Search for Evidence of Extraterrestrial Technological Artifacts.
Loeb leads the Galileo Project’s search for physical objects associated with extraterrestrial technological equipment. He and his team use sophisticated instruments to image and collect data on objects in the sky that the government and astronomers have deemed outliers. The goal is to determine whether they are natural phenomena or technological in origin and from other planets.
“I am looking for relics of [extraterrestrial] civilizations that have perhaps predated us and sent out gadgets and probes to explore space,” Loeb said. “They would have had enough to have filled up the solar system with a million probes. Tech gadgets can survive the harsh environments of space.”
Loeb and his team identified an interstellar meteorite that collided with Earth off Papua New Guinea in 2014. Based on the speed of the object, Loeb determined that it came from outside the solar system, and the Department of Defense supported his assertion.
“It exploded. We are planning an expedition to scoop the ocean floor to collect the fragments,” Loeb said. “We know it was tougher than iron, so we will examine the fragments to see if the object was natural or an artificial alloy that could be a fragment of a spacecraft.”
Loeb told Patalon how his work has made him think that humans are not necessarily that smartest and most accomplished species in the universe, and that modesty is in order.
“We are no smarter than the mean of the universe, no matter what we have accomplished. We have nothing to brag about,” he said.
Patalon agreed: “We are arrogant. Our world is tiny and fragile and we are destroying it. We should cherish what we have.”
However, Patalon disagreed with Loeb when it comes to how far the AI revolution should go. Loeb believes we are close to the point where AI will take over many roles in human life.
“There will be sentient AI systems. They will converse among themselves and create their own communities. A new consciousness will emerge. Death will be like unplugging a computer from a wall, so in the future it will be illegal to do so,” he said.
From Patalon’s perspective as an active clinician specializing in family and emergency medicine, she is certain that AI will become integrated into the human body within five to 10 years. She expects to see augmented humans with constant glucose monitors and vitals-monitoring chips implanted under the skin.
“And 3-D printing of organs is developing fast,” she observed.
But unlike Loeb, Patalon believes that extending human longevity to an extreme degree is not the goal of AI. Rather, there is a consciousness above material reality, and a spirituality and soul beyond technology. She worries about the separation, depression and addiction associated with technology and wants to see more efforts put into helping people learn how to handle technological evolution. We can’t let AI run away with things and negate human consciousness and positive relationships, she said.
“A high-quality life means learning how to love unconditionally. That is the human future,” Patalon said. “Otherwise we are like animals.”
At the end of each episode of “A Matter of Life and Death,” Patalon asks her guest whether they think about death and what they would like their epitaph to be. Loeb thinks that people waste time and resources memorializing themselves by building monuments on Earth. Not particularly attached to his body, he said, he’d be be eager to download his consciousness to an avatar astronaut.
“I hope we will figure out how to live forever, but if I have to die, I would be happy for it to happen somewhere other than Earth,” he said. “On Mars there is no bureaucracy to suppress innovation.”
To listen to this and other podcast episodes, click here.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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