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Because central Nepal is much easier to get to than western Nepal, we have much more bedrock geochronology data from central Nepal with which to compare our detrital data (the same arguments concerning recycling from the Siwaliks applied to sample NAG-12 apply here). Figure 10 shows the outlines of the largest of the drainage basins associated with our samples from central Nepal as well as locations and 40 Ar/ 39 Ar ages of muscovites from bedrock known to us at the time of this writing. There are 152 bedrock samples, but only 86 of these are from within the Narayani basin. The bedrock samples are far from evenly distributed across the catchment and we can only assume that surface processes have done a good job of averaging the contributions from throughout the basin. At some level of detail we can imagine that sample MO-217, as analyzed, does not faithfully sample all of the bedrock in the catchment because it is biased toward larger muscovites (see preceding). Nevertheless, as shown in Figure 10 , there is nothing problematic about the detrital data in light of the bedrock data and vice versa. Because the Kathmandu-Annapurna region has been studied in such detail (thermochronology, metamorphic petrology, structural geology) the detrital muscovites from the greater Narayani basin seem to offer no additional insight other than to predict that areas within the basin yet to be investigated at the same level of scrutiny as the southern flanks of the Annapurna range are unlikely to reveal a geologic history substantially different than that already suggested for this region. Moreover, the broad consistency of the detrital data to the bedrock data in the Narayani basin (where bedrock data are abundant) gives us confidence in our ability to make broad-brush conclusions, based on detrital data, about the tectonic evolution of the Karnali basin (where bedrock data are sparse).

The final point we discuss about the new data presented here is the strong dissimilarity between the distribution of the age of muscovites from the modern Karnali drainage and the modern Narayani basin ( Fig. 3C ). These catchments are about the same size ( Table 3 ) and are adjacent to each other ( Fig. 1 ), but the ages from the Narayani basin to the east (sample MO-217) are distinctly younger than the ages from the Karnali in the west (sample NAG-12). These differences point to distinct histories of erosion in these regions.

We can consider the causes of erosion in the Himalaya over the past 20 m.y. to be of 2 end-member types. No erosion takes place absent the work of wind and water, but in any tectonically active region, such as the Himalaya, the effects of the deformation of the crust can be of equal or much greater importance; rock deformation results in changes in the elevation and relief of the surface, which in turn can influence the location and magnitude of precipitation.

Are the differences in the muscovite ages from the Karnali and the muscovites from the Narayani due to variations in influence of rock deformation (tectonics) or the influence of the work of wind and water (climate) or some combination thereof? We discuss the possible contributions of these two effects in turn.

It sounds bizarre, but, Schneider writes, the jury's still out on whether any artificial intelligence is capable of self-awareness. Simply put, we know so little about the neurological basis for consciousness; it's almost impossible to predict what ingredients might go into replicating it artificially.

"I don't see any good reason to believe an artificial superintelligence couldn't possess consciousness, but it's important to identify the possibility," said Schneider.

Still, Schneider feels the assertion that artificial life simply can't possess consciousness is losing ground.

"I believe the brain is inherently computational—we already have computational theories that describe aspects of consciousness, including working memory and attention," Schneider said. "Given a computational brain, I don't see any good argument that silicon, instead of carbon, can't be a excellent medium for experience."

You don't spend a whole lot of time hanging out reading books with your goldfish. On the other hand, you don't really want to kill the goldfish, either."

I hope she's right. Somehow, the notion of a galaxy teeming with soulless supercomputers is way creepier than introspective, WALL-E-like beings, or dry, sardonic Qs.

"It's super creepy," Schneider agrees. Indeed, Schneider, who leather keychain Brown JWAnderson QZCs6mUP
, urges that humans should reflect deeply on this potential consequence of cognitive enhancement.

The concept of superintelligent alien AI still sounds very speculative. And it is. But that doesn't mean it's not worth consideration. Indeed, expanding our purview of alien intelligence may help us identify life's fingerprints in the cosmos. "So far, we've pointed antennas at stars that might have planets that might have breathable atmospheres and oceans and so forth," Shostak told me. "But if we're correct that the dominant intelligence in the cosmos is artificial, then does it have to live on a planet with an ocean?"

It's a bit of a mind-bender to think that habitable worlds may hold false promise when it comes to advanced alien life, but that seems to be Shostak's conclusion.

"All artificial life forms would need is raw materials," he said. "They might be in deep space, hovering around a star, or feeding off a black hole's energy at the center of the galaxy." (That last idea has seen its way into a number of science fiction novels, including works by Handkerchief from Tieroom Notch BUCKY has got a black base with a cerise paisley pattern Quaint and charming Notch CjaalSt
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).

Which is to say, they could be, essentially, anywhere.

Begging a final question: How might superintelligent aliens view us? Will our cosmic cousins see us as nothing more than convenient biofuel, a la the Matrix? Or do they study us quietly from afar, abiding by a Star Trek-esque maxim of non-interference? Schneider doubts either. In fact, she reckons superintelligent aliens couldn't really care less about us.

"If they were interested in us, we probably wouldn't be here," said Schneider. "My gut feeling is their goals and incentives are so different from ours, they're not going to want to contact us."

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