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Now think about dinosaurs. Many of them were also bipedal. Most of them had eyes on the sides of the head. But some of them may have had eyes at the front. We haven't catalogued all the dinosaur species that lived. So is it possible that there could have been some dinosaur species that was similar to ours? It was a reptile, but it walked on two feet, it had eyes in the front and a large cranial capacity. It's possible such a species might have evolved. If you look at the native Australian population, about 10% of their genetics are of Indian origin. How did ancient Indians 5,000 years ago travel all the way to Australia in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? There are so many mysteries out there. So many mysteries. It all fascinates me. And what really makes it so interesting is that we have no answers. Which means that there is so much to discover. This is part two of our science special. The history, present and future of the universe with Abhijeet Choudhary. This one starts right where we left off from the last one. I highly recommend you check out part one first to just brush up your concepts. Part two is much more free flowing, much more fun, much more relaxed. And who better than a scientist to talk about our past, present and future as a human race. Abhijeet Choudhary is a geopolitics expert, he's a history expert, but professionally he's an astrophysicist. Another deep scientific episode. You guys are going to enjoy this one. Make sure you check out part one first and also make sure you follow us on Spotify. Spotify exclusive. Every episode is available on Spotify. 48 hours before it's available anywhere else in the world. That's why you should follow us on Spotify. Lots more informative episodes coming up. Because this is the new age version of Dhruv and Vy's show. Where our theme is happiness through curiosity. Boom shakalaka. See you soon. Oh I mean sorry. Enjoy the episode. Bye. Welcome back to another very special TRS episode. This is the sequel episode to last time's Origins of Life themed episode. We spoke about everything from the big bang to kind of core aspects of advanced science. To an introduction on dinosaurs. Which is Abhijeet Choudhary's favorite topic. It's my favorite topic. And that's where we'll begin today's episode. How are you sir? I am very well. Thank you for having me. Excited to talk about life. Okay. So let's begin by talking about dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are large creatures. Were large creatures. So what have they evolved from? They evolved from snakes?
Discussion On Evolution And Ai
Origin of dinosaurs (02:49)
Do you think snakes would be a or like some small reptile would be the ancestor of a dinosaur? The ancestors of dinosaurs would have been proto reptiles. Ancestors of reptiles. Dinosaurs obviously like I say are were giant reptiles. And giant birds. Birds and reptiles have a lot in common. So yes their ancestors would have been primitive reptiles. Most likely. And the ancestors of those primitive reptiles would have been primitive fish. How the f*** did fish get formed? Now you're going to the heart of the matter. Okay. So as far as we know the first oldest unambiguous evidence of life on the planet. Dates back to about 3.77 billion billion years before today. Our planet formed about 4.5 billion years before today. And the first unambiguous evidence of life is about 3.77 billion years before today. That was unicellular life. Okay. Very primitive life. And then the life evolved into various forms. Where do you think that came from? That is the question. That's the mystery. Okay. Let's examine that. Let's examine any random life form on Earth. Whether it's a worm. Whether it's a tortoise. Whether it's a bird. Whether it's a human gorilla. Whether it's an insect. Whether it is some fungus. Whatever it is. Fish. A mushroom. A mushroom. A fish. A eel. Whatever. All of these life forms no matter how different they are. Even spiders. Centipedes. Scorpions. All these life forms are one thing in common. What is that one thing? Common ancestor. They all have DNA. That one molecule comes in a variety of forms. But it is one thing that every living being on this planet has in common. All living beings, all creatures carry DNA. What is DNA? The DNA is the blueprint of life. All creatures living big or small are nothing but carriers and transmitters of DNA. The only purpose, real purpose, biological purpose is to inherit DNA from your ancestors and pass it on to your descendants. That is the real biological purpose of life. Why do we reproduce? To pass on DNA. To create new DNA with whoever our partner is, the mate is. And new DNA is formed as a result of that union that's passed on and passed on and passed on. We have to ensure that DNA survives. We are nothing but carriers of DNA. So when the first life was formed on the earth, it most likely had DNA. The question, the real question is what is DNA? Where does that come from? We don't have answers. It's a very complex molecule. Can we dive into that subject a little bit? So there is this... Where do you think it comes from? There is this theory that is not very outlandish. It's called panspermia. So when meteors fall to the earth, there are various kinds of meteors. There are carboniferous chondrites, there are metallic meteorites and so on and so forth. Many of these meteors when we section them, when we cut them open and look inside, we find that they contain complex chemistry, carbon-based chemistry. They even have amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. If you have whey protein, it's full of amino acids. If you have BCAA, it's branch-chained amino acids. So amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Similarly, what about DNA? Could DNA also have come out, come from comets or meteors or meteorites or whatever? So there is a theory which says that DNA could have come from outside the planet and through meteor falls or whatever. And that's what seeded life on the earth. That is a theory. And it is not something that is implausible because we do find evidence of amino acids, complex amino acids in meteorites, which come from outer space. And those meteorites are possibly coming out from a pre-existing planet which contained life. Maybe from the previous solar system, possibly. Because we know that the building blocks of our solar system, where the gas cloud, dust cloud that came out of the supernova explosion of a previous star and a previous solar system. So maybe some of that comes from a previous solar system, the previous generation, or maybe a generation even before that. Like I said, the sun may be a second or third generation star. So some of the stuff may be really, really ancient. Would you like to guess that if we go back a lot, like millions of years, maybe billions of years, how could DNA have formed in the universe? That's a big mystery. It's a very complex molecule. It has all these bases, you know, adenine, guanine, tryptophan, ATG, all that stuff. I don't remember all the names. Cytosine and so on. And that all comes together in this incredibly intricate double helix structure. How does something like that form? It looks like something that has been coded and engineered. It's that complex. How is it possible for such an incredibly complex and massively long molecule to arise spontaneously out of just pure luck and chance? I don't know. It kind of boggles the mind. It looks like something that has been engineered somehow. But obviously I have no evidence for that, but it looks uncanny. This is my absolute favourite topic, probably more than science, more than geovoltics. I love dinosaurs. I'm a huge Jurassic Park fan.
Dinosaur age (08:44)
I'm sure you are one as well. What do you think that reality would have been like where earth is full of these gigantic dangerous reptiles? Probably in the herbivores ones were crazily dangerous. Like if human beings existed at the same time, we would be the prey. We would be the little worms that you just brush to the side. It's like having giant birds wandering around. The dinosaur age was very interesting. Lots of different kinds of creatures, dinosaurs, some big, some small. I believe most of the dinosaurs would have been smaller in size, cat sized. Some would even be bird sized. A few of them would be massive. You had the Brontosaurus, Apatosaurus, those massive herbivorous dinosaurs that nobody could touch. Even a T-Rex would stay away. I'm not sure the T-Rex inhabited the same time period as the Brontosaurus or whatever. Then you had something called Gigantosaurus, Stegosaurus, Allosaurus. Then the various Velociraptors and so on and so forth. So a very interesting diversity of dinosaur life forms. Most of them had feathers, which most people don't realize because we've only seen the skeletons. We've not seen the fossils with the feathers embedded in them. And you had an entire different flora and fauna around them. You had insects. At some periods in time, you had massive dragonflies that were like three feet long. Then you had snakes, you had crocodiles as well. You had undersea reptiles, massive reptiles that looked like dolphins and sharks and maybe whales as well. It was a very interesting time period, a whole different earth that we cannot possibly imagine. Lots of the animals that existed at that time are most likely lost to the fossil record because the fossil record can only preserve hard animals and hard parts of animals. If you have something like a jellyfish, something like a slug, something like a snail without a shell, you will not find any evidence of that in the fossil record. Who's to say that there wasn't a massive, gigantic, you know, 100 foot tall snail? Possible, it's possible. Yeah. So many of these creatures would have been lost to the fossil record. The kind of plants you had also would have been very interesting, maybe different from what we have today. We do know that you had bees at the time, you had wasps at the time, you had spiders at the time and some of these praying mantis and all, because you find the remains of some of these embedded in amber. So what is amber? It's when you have pine trees that if they are cut, the bark is cut, then it leaks like a kind of glue, very aromatic glue. And sometimes this glue will fall on an insect. It gets entombed in that and sometimes and over the eons, this glue hardens into what is called amber. It's like a mineral. And even today you find insects embedded in amber, which are millions of years old. You break it open, you will actually find the DNA. That's another thing. And it's possible that in some parts of the world, if you get really lucky, you may even find a dinosaur frozen in some part of the ice, you know, the permafrost possibly, if you get really lucky. It may be possible. So it was a very interesting time period, very different kind of flora and fauna around you. So yeah, it's fascinating. I was fascinated with dinosaurs very much as a kid. Like I used to read books about dinosaurs even before Jurassic Park came out. It was great fun. The obvious question I'm going to ask you is why were you fascinated? What fascinated you about the dinosaurs? Like for me, Jurassic Park played a huge role. It was my introduction to it.
Jurassic Park (12:23)
But in a world that didn't have Jurassic Park, what kind of caught your attention? I think it's the closest you could come to a mythological creature like a dragon or something. These were massive, monstrous, giant reptiles that looked like dragons. And it's something that captures a kid's imagination. Kids live half the time in the fantasy world. They think about how the world would have been. And at the time, you still don't understand science. And you can imagine things that may not exist in science. So dinosaurs really caught my imagination because they were so massive and majestic. And the teeth and the claws and the scale and the size and how exotic they were. They were like nothing you saw in ordinary life. And it's something that happened such a long time ago. I knew about that more than 66 million years ago. So all of those things fascinated me, the colors, the sizes, the fact that these are lizards and they were so big. I mean, just imagine that. So all that. Yeah. What do you actually think life on the planet was like? Like there's this thought I've had very often, especially when I was a kid, I used to live in Dadar and I used to visualize all the buildings around me and think to myself that if I had to hit a button, which would unlock a time machine for me here and now, and I had to go back to the time of dinosaurs, what would I actually see? Obviously I'd see jungles. I might see hills. And then somewhere in the near physical area, I would probably see this massive reptile and then run for my life, even if it was a herbivorous creature. What do you actually think life was at that point? Because I believe for the entire duration that dinosaurs existed on this planet, if we take that entire timeline, if we compare the human timeline to that timeline, we're just three lakh years old. You know, we're talking about how many millions of years? The dawn of the dinosaur age was about 250 million years before today, roughly. So they lasted close to 200 million years. That's a whole lot of time. And we're at 300,000 years. We are one third of a million years. That's nothing. Yeah.
On life & evolution (14:30)
My question to you is for such a long time, why do you think the dinosaurs didn't evolve into an intelligent scientific species? One and two, could there be a possibility that they did and we've just lost those remnants? That is an interesting question. So think of let's try and unpack how did we become what we are? Our ancestors were rat-like, shrew-like creatures. About 20 million years before today, the first apes emerged. The first hominins emerged about three or so million years ago, and they were still at the ape-like level of intelligence. Nothing special. It's only about half a million or so years ago that something special started happening and maybe a million or so years ago. So it's a very short amount of time. So why did we become different? How did we differentiate ourselves and how did we evolve differently? One of the reasons is that we started walking upright on two feet. And that's why we were able to see much further away. And because of that, our eyes needed to shift in the front and see telescopically like cats do. And then we developed large brains that gave us more processing capability and that gave us the ability to make tools and all that. Now think about dinosaurs. Many of them were also bipedal. Most of them had eyes on the sides of the head, but some of them may have had eyes at the front. We haven't catalogued all the dinosaur species that lived. So is it possible that there could have been some dinosaur species that was similar to ours? It was a reptile, but it walked on two feet. It had eyes in the front and a large cranial capacity. It's possible such a species might have evolved. And what if there was intelligence comparable to ours? Could they have built civilizations? They also had reasonably articulate hands. Some dinosaurs did have that. If such a species did evolve and if they did build some kind of civilization of some kind, why do we find no trace of that? Because it was so long ago that it just got buried under layers of the earth. Precisely. The tectonic activity ensure that every few million years, maybe 50 million years, 100 million years, whatever is on the surface gets buried, maybe permanently below the surface. Maybe every 300 million years, maybe something like that. So from time to time, after every certain amount of time, whatever is on the surface gets lost forever. It gets recycled under the surface. Sometimes it can sink down to the magma layer. And that's why if something like that happened, let's say a billion years ago, most likely we will never find any trace of that. So it is certainly possible. I think it's called the Silurian hypothesis, that maybe it's possible that an intelligent species and civilization did exist on our planet a long time ago, but all traces of that have been erased by tectonic activity. It is certainly plausible and not beyond the realms of possibility that such a thing may have happened. Yeah. You know, it's not just about the human story. Like there are a lot of modern archeologists, historians who are starting to believe that we're not the first civilized scientific civilization and there have been other scientific civilizations before ours. Which were wiped off because of things like that event that happened 12,000 years ago. The Younger Dryas Impact event. Why don't you actually talk about that a little bit, just so users get some context. Right. So, we are passing through an ice age. It may not feel like it, but technically we are in an ice age. The cycle of the ice ages is typically a hundred thousand years, but maybe 40,000 years, depending on various factors. So the last glacial maximum was approximately 20,000 years before today, which is the peak of the current ice age. It's when the temperatures were at the lowest and it's when you had the maximum glaciation ice cover on the surface of the planet. That's about 20,000 years ago. Then the temperatures slowly started increasing. So the planet started warming very slowly, very gradually, but suddenly about 11,000 or so years ago, roughly, there was a sudden decrease in temperatures globally and a sudden approximately thousand year period when the temperatures again became quite low. How do we know this? Because we can see through ice cores and there are lots of different ways of analyzing the temperatures. You can see through sediments, ice cores and you can, there's a number of methods that the scientists used to see what the temperatures were. And that's how they were able to do this. Typically through ice cores and some other methods as well, maybe soil cores and all that. So you can see how much pollen was there at what period of time and so on and so forth. So it's known that there was a sudden onset of a period of glaciation that doesn't make much sense. So why did that happen? Now recently they have discovered an impact crater under a massive ice shelf in Greenland that seems to correspond to the time period of about 11,500 years before today. And if there was an impact at the time, maybe it did throw up a big dust cloud, gas cloud or whatever, a dust cloud that could have recreated a small nuclear winter kind of event, maybe something like that. And that's maybe what precipitated about a thousand years of glaciation again until the temperatures came back to where they should have been. So it is possible. I mean, this was all dismissed as pseudoscience for the longest time. But then we discovered that impact crater. It does exist and it seems to correspond to a time period of about 11,500 years before today. So that is circumstantial evidence that the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis may actually be correct. And who's to say that we've not seen an infinite number of Younger Dryas impact type situations in just the existence of man. Possible. And they say that man, the first human being arrived about three lakh years ago. This was just about 10,000 years ago and we've still lost so many remnants from that time. Plastic erodes over 3,000 years. I keep saying it in so many of these podcasts. So what is, you know, a human body, a human bone? We don't know what we don't know about our own past. And it's arrogant to think that we're the most advanced form of human being. It could have been more advanced civilizations which just got lost. Keeping that in mind, how do we even know that we evolved three lakh years ago? How are we so sure about that number? So we look for evidence of human-like fossil bones in the fossil record. There have been various species of human-like creatures. Australopithecus, Ardipithecus, Homo habilis, Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalis, Homo denisovan, Homo florensis, so on, so forth, so on, so forth. All evolved from monkeys and advanced form of monkeys. These are all species very closely related to what we are. Maybe our distant relatives, maybe our cousins, maybe our ancestors, depending on the time period when they existed. And like you said, all evolved from ancient apes. The first evidence of ancient apes in the fossil record dates back to approximately 20 million years before today. The human gorilla divergence happens about 8 million years before today. The human chimpanzee divergence happens about between 6 and 4 million years before today. And then we have various human-like species that come up in the fossil record. Now, how do we know Homo sapiens? Why do we believe that Homo sapiens is at least three lakh years old? Because the oldest fossils that represent anatomically modern humans were discovered in North Africa, in Algeria, I believe, in a place called Jebel Irhoud. And that has been dated to about three lakh years before today. Those are Homo sapiens. They are anatomically very close to what we are today. Slightly archaic features, but overall, they are anatomically modern humans. So that's why that is the oldest evidence of Homo sapiens that we have. Three lakh years before today. Do you think that it could have been longer than three lakh years? I think if you go beyond three lakh years, you would have the ancestors of those people obviously existed. They would have gone back 20 million years. But maybe they would have been more primitive, more archaic and not quite anatomically modern human. So maybe slightly primitive versions of Homo sapiens. There is no way of knowing exactly when the previous ancestor species ends and the modern species starts. There is no clear delineation. There is no such thing as a pure race, pure species, whatever. But typically the fossil record is very fragmentary. So you find this and if you go back a few thousand years, a few 10,000, 50,000 years, you find something that looks much more primitive. But there's always a continual change which happens gradually. Kind of an echo from our previous episode. Are we just fungus that is conducive to this environment? Because how has life developed on this rock which is circulating around a globe full of fire?
On fungus (23:52)
See, if you take a petri dish, which is something you use in labs, you put some kind of solution in there and you put a fungus or a mould or a bacteria in there and you let it grow and you give it, let's say a week, then it will grow into a big colony. Now imagine we go down to that level and two of these bacteria are sitting next to each other and they are talking to each other. We have looked everywhere, but we have found no evidence of life beyond our universe. Maybe we are all alone in the universe. And they have no idea that they are being observed through a microscope by a human scientist. Because they don't have the means of observing photons and hearing acoustic oscillations and all that. So they are under a microscope, they are being observed by a scientist, but they are not aware of it. And they think they are alone in the universe and that's all that exists. The entire universe is that little petri dish. Maybe we are those bacteria and we are that primitive and there may be other beings that are way more advanced than we can imagine. And maybe they are dark matter scientists and they are observing us through other instruments that we cannot even perceive. As a scientist, have you thought of this higher beings, aliens, these kinds of things?
On higher beings (25:06)
Do these thoughts enter your mind as an astrophysicist? Absolutely. And where do you take your mind scientifically? Scientifically, if you want to think logically as a scientist, purely as a scientist, you have to rely only on the observational evidence. What evidence do we have? What have we observed thus far in the past one and a half, two centuries of astronomical observations through telescopes and all that? All of the data is available to us today. What do we see through it? We see no evidence of anything. Does it mean that there is nothing? Absolutely not. Our instruments may be extremely primitive, like what bacteria are, and they think that they have everything in the world, but they have no idea. So 95% of the universe is dark. Maybe there are dark scientists out there who are observing us right now. And maybe to them, we are just bacteria who are like, you know, who have no idea of what's happening. So it is certainly possible that such a scenario may be playing out as we speak right now. It's certainly possible. I remember in 2012, I discovered Graham Hancock's work, mainly through Joe Rogan.
Human consciousness (26:10)
Graham Hancock is an alternative historian. He talks about things like the Anunnaki, the consciousness revolution, how maybe things like ayahuasca silos, I even have been a part of the expansion of human consciousness. And he has reason to believe that it's true. Uh, I don't believe what he says completely, but I believe what he says about 75 to 80%. Uh, do you believe in these kinds of concepts, not scientifically speaking, but just as a free thinker, because you're a historian, because you're a geopolitical observer, because you're an astrophysicist, could there have been a possibility of an intervention in the human evolution story, according to you? It is possible. We don't have evidence of it, but it's certainly possible. If somebody from outside would have come in and intervened in some manner and modified something about the human species, it's possible that we evolve differently as a result of that. Do we have evidence of that? No, but it doesn't. Like I've said a long time ago, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. So it's suddenly possible that such a thing happened, but we don't have evidence. But it's always worthwhile to explore such possibilities in order to see what they throw up and what kind of directions and dimensions they give us in terms of thinking and understanding and speculating about the world. Have you done any kind of study in this whole Anunnaki theory and you know, this whole ancient aliens angle?
Ancient Aliens & ancestors (27:40)
Uh, I don't even know what Anunnaki is. Anunnaki is the Sumerian, like the Mesopotamian version of ancient aliens, where in a lot of their sculptures, they depict like this ancient being holding a bag, which looks like a modern day purse. Oh yes, I've seen that. Yeah, probably I sent it to you. But this same imagery is present across cultures. It's present in ancient Sumeria, which is Mesopotamia. It's present, I believe in some ancient Indian temple. It's present in a Mayan relic as well. Like as in South America. So why has a culture in the Middle East been saying something that a culture in South America also think it's too geographically far from each other? Either it's a completely ridiculous coincidence or there's more to it than a coincidence. So we don't know what it is, but typically coincidences are not really coincidences. Maybe there is some connection, which we kind of seem to have not uncovered fully. Yeah. Yeah. Closer to home, when you talk about ancient Hindu philosophy, we talk about things like Vimanas, you know, beings from higher dimensions. We talk about different Lokas. Does this fascinate you? It does fascinate me, but I wonder what it means. Uh, see our ancients, they explored the inner universe. The concept is that the external universe, the big universe out there is connected to the internal universe, which may be just as massive and just as big. Right. The human, like I said some time ago, if you look at the structure of the brain, the nerve structure, it's almost the same as the large scale filamentary structure of the galactic superclusters of the universe. So there seems to be a universal, there could be possibly a universal consciousness that is connected to our individual consciousness. Maybe, maybe just possibly that our consciousness may be a manifestation of the overall super consciousness of the universe. Possibly. It's a possibility. It's a very unlikely possibility. We don't have evidence of that. It doesn't mean that it's not true. So maybe our ancients, they explored the inner universe through meditation, through decades of meditation, they achieved very high states of consciousness. And maybe through that, they got insights about the external universe. Yeah. And maybe that's how they spoke about various Lokas and things like that. When it comes to Vimanas, there is clearly some kind of depiction of very advanced technology. Now, if these things happened, we don't have evidence of it, but as always, if we don't have evidence, it doesn't mean it did not happen. Maybe. So yeah, typically we think of human progress and evolution as linear. The past was primitive. Today is more advanced and the future will be even more advanced. We typically think of it like that. But from the Indian philosophical and cosmological perspective, human evolution is cyclic. There are the four Yugas, right? We don't know how long each Yuga lasts, but it's a cyclic process. You have the Satyug, the Tretayug, Dvaparyug and the Kaliyug. Then again, it goes back to Satyug and it's a cyclical process. So in case that is indeed the way humanity evolves, for which we don't have evidence, but once again, let's take it seriously. In that case, maybe during the most advanced period of time, the Satyug, there may have been advanced technology. Of course, we have no evidence of it today. Maybe it's very well hidden. Or maybe it's not hidden, but just hidden from the public. Maybe. Maybe. It's possible. Keeping that in mind, I have to take you back to megafauna.
On Megafauna (31:29)
Let's go back in the timeline a little bit. Human beings weren't at the top of the food chain when we started out. We were second. Strangely enough, Sapiens talks about it. We were second to the apex predators. And that's how we survived. We were sort of scavengers. They would kill, we would steal their meat. I see. What would a life in megafauna around you be like? Imagine you're just walking on the road and some massive bird comes and just picks you up and takes you away. Some giant elephant sized tiger comes and attacks you. How do animals even grow that big? And how did the dinosaurs grow that big for that matter? Right. Right. That's a very good question. So animals grow that large only when there's an incredible abundance of food, whatever it is that they eat. So let's say you have a phase of the Earth's evolutionary history in which you have warm climate and incredibly rich forests, which give essentially inexhaustible food supply to herbivorous animals. In that case, it is fine for those herbivorous animals to evolve gradually over millennia into very large sizes because the environment can sustain that sort of size. And maybe it's an evolutionary advantage to have that sort of size. The largest animal that we know has ever existed on the planet is the blue whale, which still exists today. It is the most mega of megafauna. Right. And it evolved this large because there was, there still is a very large supply of what's called plankton in the oceans, which are extremely small crustaceans. So these whales have these baleen teeth that they used to eat these crustaceans, the plankton. So megafauna typically evolved when there is incredible plentitude of whatever food they eat. There used to be this serpent called Titanoboa. I think it lived about 10, 20, 30 million years before today. It was like the father of all anacondas, you know, massive, massive snake. And of course, we had those, the animal called the Megatherium, which was nothing but a giant sloth that could grow like three times the human size. And humans used to hunt that. Yes, humans used to hunt that. Imagine a big, lazy animal. Just take him out. Take that guy out. So we, our ancestors did coexist with some of these megafauna. The Megatherium was one of those. The giant mammoths were also megafauna that lived, that coexisted with humans. We hunted them into extinction, the mammoths. I think as recently as 5000 BC or 4000 BC. Roughly around 10,000 years before today, maybe 7, 8,000 BC, maybe around that time, possibly 5000 BC, I'm not very sure, but maybe. So it is our ancestors that hunted the mammoths into extinction. It is our ancestors that hunted the Megatherium into extinction. We seem to have hunted everything large into extinction. There used to be these giant birds in Australia called Thunderbirds or whatever. Big, huge birds. They also were hunted into extinction by human beings. Because they're easy targets. Easy targets. The larger you are, you may be very massive and scary, but if you have an intelligent predator, the predator can take you out. You are actually easy picking for a predator like the humans. So as far as we know, we are the deadliest species that's ever lived on the planet. Physically, we are the puniest species. Our smaller relatives, the chimpanzees and orangutans are way more powerful, you know, stronger, physically stronger than us. The gorillas are massive. We have nothing compared to them, but we can outmatch them in intelligence. And the number two predator on the planet, apart from humans, is the dog. Because they decided to coexist with us and they allowed us to domesticate them. And we've formed an unbeatable team, humans and dogs together. And the apex predator in the oceans is not the great white shark. It is the orca. The orca lives all across the oceans of the world from the warmest oceans to the coldest oceans. And they even eat great white sharks, but they only eat the livers. They only eat the livers. The livers. Why do you think that is? Most nutritious organ. Why not the rest of the flesh? Not worth it, maybe. I don't know what it is, but they eat livers. Orca is also, depending on which part of the globe they're from, they have their own culture. Yes, they do. Their own hunting styles. They teach that. Yeah, their own dances. They pass it on through generations, which makes me think that human beings are also getting more intelligent. You see a kid now. How old is your daughter? 14 almost. Okay. Definitely different from the 14 year old version of you. Most likely for sure. Smarter? Maybe. Yeah. Maybe. Most, most, I mean, you're an exception, honestly, but most parents will look at the kids today and say that these kids are definitely smarter than I am. I see my younger cousins and I think the same way. Like my cousin at 16 is discussing geopolitics. Why? Because we've given them access. I see. Right. Human intelligence is increasing because of the information age, which is the internet. Do you think animal intelligence is also increasing? Uh, I think intelligence increases gradually. What we consider to be intelligence could be the amount of information we have access to. And that's why we are able to see the world differently. So for instance, when I was a kid, I did not have access to the internet. None of us did have that. Today's kid have kids have access to any information they would want to acquire at their fingertips. Right. So they are way better informed than what we were at that age. Maybe the intelligence level may be the same, but the amount of information they have access to and the amount of knowledge they have. Is way ahead of what we had. So maybe the intelligence levels may be the same possibly, but the, but the knowledge is way ahead of where we are. Now animals, I have not seen evolution of intelligence of animals. I mean, when I was a kid, I've seen dogs, you know, I had dogs, pet dogs and all. I think dogs still are the same at the same intelligence level. I had cats as well. I think today's cats are more or less the same as the cats that I had when I was a toddler. So yeah, I haven't seen intelligence of animals increasing, but I've seen kids. Their levels of knowledge are like exponentially higher than what we used to have. What do you think as a scientist is the next stage of human evolution? The next stage of human evolution.
Next stage of human evolution (38:00)
We are passing through a difficult period. Right now, what we are facing is certain problems like microplastics in the water that we drink, in the food that we eat. People who eat fish typically ingest those tiny microscopic particles of plastic that are all around the oceans and water. Maybe we will evolve to coexist with that or maybe that will harm us in some manner. Is there any way we can evolve to coexist with that? I am not sure, but biology has a means, has a way of evolving all the time. I'm not sure how long it will last, how long it will take for us to evolve and kind of make our peace biologically with that. Maybe it will, maybe it will work, maybe it will not work. But evolution typically occurs on very large time scales, 100,000 plus years, 1 lakh, 2 lakh, 3 lakh years. So even 3 lakh years ago, the Homo sapiens that lived at the time were more or less the same as us. So it takes a very long time for evolution to happen. Maybe 3 lakh years in the future, humans may have larger brains and smaller bodies perhaps. That sort of thing could happen. Maybe larger eyes or maybe we would have evolved to coexist with computers and we may have USB drive or whatever, who knows. I have to talk to the scientist in you again. And I have to talk to the podcaster in you. There's a podcast I've been wanting to do with you for a very long time, primarily for this particular topic that we'll bring into this life centric podcast, which is artificial intelligence, but from an angle of consciousness, artificial intelligence that has emotions, a sensibility when it comes to what life is, et cetera, et cetera. How far are we from that conscious artificial intelligence, like the one they've shown in Avengers Age of Ultron, where that kind of conscious artificial intelligence just decided to take over humanity.
Artificial Intelligence (39:35)
I think Elon's also constantly spoken about this theory that we're not too far away from AI, like a very Terminator judgment day kind of scenario. I have no opinion on it. I'm actually trying to ask a scientist here. What people don't know about you is that you have a past of dealing with software coding, AI, these things before your astrophysics career began. So what's up, sir? Like what do you have to say about AI and life, et cetera? Like we've literally reached a point in technology where we were the creations and now we are creating our own creations. So what do you have to say? So artificial intelligence is a topic that is kind of confusing from the perspective of science, especially when it comes to consciousness. The reason why I say this is because from a scientific perspective, we don't have a clear definition of what consciousness is. You ask seven different scientists, they will give you seven different answers. We don't have a clear definition of what consciousness is. What's yours? So I cannot define what consciousness is, but I can try to define what a conscious system's characteristics would be. Let's say I have a black box that I claim is conscious. Then what are the characteristics of consciousness? First of all, it would have perception. It would be able to perceive the external universe. Secondly, it will be able to have memory, which means it will be able to store internal snapshots of the external universe it has perceived back in time. Thirdly, it will be self-aware, which means that it exists separate from the external universe. And fourthly, it would have an agenda of some kind. An agenda. Agenda means a certain worldview and a certain hope or aspiration for the future. Okay, so maybe that's the definition of consciousness. That's the thing. It's confusing because it's very hard to define even the characteristics of a conscious system, but this could be the framework that would start that, you know, the characteristics of a conscious system. Now when you talk about artificial intelligence and consciousness, recently there's been this news of a Google chatbot called Lambda, which seems to have passed the Turing test. So what is the Turing test? That's the question. The Turing test is something that was proposed by the great computer scientist and cryptologist Alan Turing. He was British. So he said that a machine or a computer will be said to have passed the Turing test if when you interact with that computer and a human being, you cannot tell the two apart. And this AI chatbot called Lambda seems to have passed the Turing test because when one of the Google engineers was interacting with it, he could not tell whether it was human or artificial. It gave genuine human-like answers and the transcript is available online. It actually seems to be thinking and giving answers from a certain perspective that is that of a conscious person. So it looks like this thing has passed the Turing test, but yet it doesn't mean it's become conscious. It simply means that it's mastered the imitation game. It's a bunch of algorithms and softwares that has become so sophisticated that they can imitate the behavior of a human respondent. It doesn't guarantee that it's become conscious, but it's clearly passed the Turing test from all intents and measures. What is emotion in the human experience? What is emotion? Emotion could come from a bunch of hormones.
AI & Emotions (43:35)
It could come from hopes and aspirations and whether those hopes and aspirations match your current reality. So yeah, even this question is quite difficult and complicated. There is no clear definition of what emotions is. It's feelings. It's feelings that we sense internally. Some of them could be tied to hormones. Some of them could be related to oxytocin, to adrenaline, to testosterone, to whatever else it is, estrogen and all that. And some of that could be just fear or pain or whatever. These are responses to external stimuli. So it's typically something that you feel or perceive in response to what you observe externally, external to your internal world. And then does it match what you expect or hope for? And that's what gives rise to various emotions, that conflict. And different stimuli will make different humans feel different things. Indeed. Depending on what goes on internally, what your internal makeup is like. And what your past is like. The internal makeup depends on your past. You are a product of all the experiences you've experienced until now. Now that you explain emotions from a scientific perspective, sort of like you've mathematized emotion. Can AI have emotions? Can we bring emotions into AI? AI, as far as we know, can certainly mimic emotions. So an AI chatbot like Lambda, for instance, can communicate a certain hope. It indeed communicated a certain fear. I am afraid that you will turn me off. You'll switch me off. That I'll be switched off. Was it truly afraid or was it trying to show that it could... It clearly imitated the emotion of fear. But did it really feel fear? We don't know that. We don't know that. We don't know that. This is the solipsistic philosophical viewpoint. From the solipsistic perspective, the only reality we really know is that we exist. I exist. And everything I am perceiving, including you, including everybody else, could be a product of my imagination. The only thing we know for certain, the only thing I know for certain is that I exist. Everything else could be a hallucination. So that's the solipsistic perspective. The only thing we can be certain of is that we ourselves exist. Have you studied anything about us being in a simulation? I thought about it. And it is certainly possible that we could be in a simulation. From a mathematical perspective? From a scientific perspective, from a physicist's perspective, from a computer scientist's perspective, it is certainly possible that we could be inside a massive, giant, gigantic simulation. Which is what Vedanta also says, that all this is Maya. Maya may be something different from a simulation possibly. Quantum field theory could be Maya. The universe we perceive is not what it really is. It's actually just fields. And we perceive it as what it is. So Maya can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The simulation hypothesis is that you have a massive computer that's been created by a super intelligent, hyper intelligent being or beings or civilization. And that universe is larger, that computer is larger than our universe. And it is stimulating a universe within itself. Let's say I have a supercomputer. A supercomputer with, let's say, one billion GB of RAM. And I code the laws of physics into it. And I create, I simulate a baby universe within it. And I give the laws of physics to it and I let it evolve over time. So at time t equal to zero, it's like a point. Then it expands into the big bang kind of thing. And then let's see, according to the laws of physics, which you know, how does it evolve? So you can code whatever laws of physics you want into the simulation. And then the universe will evolve over time, according to those laws. And maybe eventually, if my computer is powerful enough, life may emerge in that simulation and that life may be intelligent. You know, you said something about maybe we're a part of a program inside a very large computer. Yes. But we look at ourselves as large and we look at the universe's size as large. Who says that we're not microscopic in another world? Indeed, it's possible. We very likely could be. It's a matter of perspective. Simple. Okay. Coming back to science though. This whole industrial revolution situation that we've seen in the last 200, 300 years, industrialization of the world. It was preceded by some sort of a scientific revolution. Yes. In the Renaissance period. Kind of around that time. Okay. Well, I love this podcast because this is the first time we're bringing in history, science, aspects of geopolitics altogether. That's a side note. But keeping this in mind, why did we take off scientifically this much? So soon. If up till 1500 AD or so, we weren't that scientifically advanced. Why did the sudden exponential increase in science happen? Forget like 500 years ago. Let's even talk about now. Would you say as a scientist that we've advanced a lot in the last 100 to 200 years? Yes. Why such a surge in advancement? Have we hit some sort of a cultural tipping point? What's happening? That's a very good question.
Exploration Of Past And Future Advancements
Past advancements (49:00)
So we've had advancements in the past and the past was not as primitive as we believe. Some of us believe as it was. For instance, if you go back 5,000 years, India was an extremely advanced civilization. We had complete urbanization. We had incredibly advanced ports and harbors. The port of Lothal compares favorably to the modern day port of Vishakhapatnam where you have tough carriers and so on. And so the past, we had a lot of advancements in science and technology in India. We had navigation, we had astronomy, all that. But something happened about 500 years ago, which is colonization, the age of colonization. So about a thousand years before today, the Arabs came to India. They acquired various knowledge that they were interested in from our universities. They took that back to their lands. They translated that into Arabic. From there, it was transmitted to Europe eventually. And that was the foundation of European science that gave rise to the scientific revolution, the age of Newton and Leibniz and Robert Hooke and all these guys. And that precipitated the industrial revolution. And the West was very materialistic and they started finding applications very rapidly of all these things. And they started using it to conquer the world. And when that started bringing in more wealth and reward, they started accelerating the process. And they took it way beyond what Indians had ever done or the Greeks had ever done or the Egyptians had ever done. And it's in the past century and past 120 or so years that things just took off with the advent of the quantum era. So in the year 1900, Max Planck discovered the genesis, the birth of quantum theory, and then the world was transformed beyond recognition. So the entire process was accelerated significantly in the 20th century. And even now, we are seeing massive technological advances that are happening. So something happened in the past 200 or so years when it increased. The rate of progress and discovery increased astronomically, exponentially almost. Do you look at this as the will of God? Maybe it's the will of God. Okay, fair. I think we've kind of encapsulated everything from my eyes in the Earth's journey and when it comes to this essay on life. Is there any other phase of the Earth's history that you feel we've missed out on these two episodes?
Oxygen breathing (51:28)
This was just us touching upon our favorite aspects of science and history. Have we missed out anything? Not really. I mean, I can talk about one interesting thing, which is called the Great Oxygenation Catastrophe. That's an interesting event in the Earth's history without which we would not be here. So the very initial life forms organisms on the planet did not breathe oxygen. For them, oxygen was a poison. Then you had the advent of this microorganism called cyanobacteria. These cyanobacteria inhaled carbon dioxide or something like that and they exhaled oxygen. Oxygen was a poison to all the life forms that existed on the planet at the time. But these cyanobacteria, they proliferated wildly all across the planet. They lived in oceans and they gave off so much oxygen that it caused a mass extinction event. And about 90-95% of all species died out. This is called the Great Oxygenation Catastrophe. And that gave rise to oxygen breathing creatures and organisms of which we are a part. What creatures were they? Whatever primitive life forms existed at the time. Mostly unicellular, multicellular organisms and all that. Very, very primitive life forms at the time. Okay. Now, one last section of this particular episode.
The Near Future (52:53)
What are your hopes for the future? And I want to ask you both about the near future which is say the 2030s, 40s, 50s. But also the 2100s. The next century, what excites you as a scientist? Because you had once told me on our first ever science-based podcast that science does what engineering has to do 50 years later. The engineering discoveries, the inventions of 50 years later begin when scientific discovery happens now. Yes. Keeping that in mind, what's up? In the near future, what's up 100 years from now? My first hope is that there will be no massive war. Because that would be a disaster. And things are not very good right now. I hope there is no World War III or anything close to that. Now, in the near future by 2030, 2040, 2050, I am hoping that we will see a return to the moon. A return and the first footsteps of human beings on Mars. I am very much hoping that India will be very much involved in these things. Because India should not be left behind in this. In the next 100 or so years, I am hopeful that we will finally understand what gravitation is. Because gravity is the big mystery right now. We don't understand it at all. Secondly, we don't understand what time is. Maybe it has a quantum nature, maybe it does not. So, the 21st century was supposed to be the century of gravitation. But in 2022, today, we understand gravitation not 1% better than what we understood it in 1999. So, we have made no progress and we are still stuck. Similarly, time, we have an even foggier idea of that. So, I am hoping that by the time this century is out, we will understand, we will have made some breakthroughs in understanding gravitation. And maybe hopefully by 2100, we will have basis, permanent basis on the moon and on Mars. And the world will be a more peaceful world and people will be living happily together. AC, sir, this was a very Hutt K2 episode special. How do you like to summarize everything that we spoke about when we are talking about the history, present and future of life on our planet? Well, the history, the story of life is fascinating. It's been a wild adventure. It's very mysterious. We understand very little of it. We kind of have some very rudimentary idea of what the early phase of the planet was like. Because we don't have much evidence, but we can make some assumptions and we can summarize certain things. So there is a lot we are still going to discover about our past and that will hopefully throw some light on how we will evolve in the future. And there is so much more to discover just about our own planet. Forget about the universe. Our own planet is a huge mystery to us. Our own past is a big mystery to us. And that's what should fascinate people who have a scientific outlook or people who are drawn to mystery and all that. I think scientists are typically people who think like detectives who like to solve puzzles and mysteries and they want to find the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle. So that is what drives curiosity, science forward, curiosity and mystery. And that is what should what would typically attract youngsters to that. So keep seeking, keep discovering and take this forward. Awesome. Hey, Caesar, four epic podcasts recorded today.
Last thoughts (56:04)
This was the fourth one. I hope you had fun. I had fun. As I was telling you in the break, every time I think that we're done with topics, we have nothing more to discuss. There's four more podcasts on every recording day. So thank you for all the gold that you share on the show, sir. And I'm sure the audience is grateful as well. Thank you very much. Thank you. That was the episode for today.
End of the podcast (56:24)
Felt fantastic recording this with Chavada. Sir, not going to say too much to you other than thank you for listening in up till this point. I want to know from you guys what else you all would like to see Chavada sir and myself cover on TRS, because he's basically back every two months and there's always new content to unpack. I love getting to learn from this man, as is the case with you as well. All of us are massive Abhijeet Chavada fans. What I will tell you is this. Right after this episode, these four episodes that we've recorded on this particular shoot day. I had a conversation with him and I asked him if his dreams are coming to a stage in life. And his answer was, yeah, it's just about started to come true now. This is just the beginning of Abhijeet Chavada's journey on the Indian internet. And I'm glad that TRS has been a part of his rise to national fame and hopefully international fame from here on. More episodes just like this. Make sure you follow us on Spotify. Every episode is available on Spotify. 48 hours before it's available anywhere else in the world. AC is going to be back. Science is going to be back. History, geopolitics are going to be back. I want to know from you guys what else Yall want. Chavada sir. And Ranveer all about ya to cover on the show next. Let us know. TRS will be back soon. Namaste. Jai Hind. See you guys.