Will van Overbeek rushed me and my bicycle into his studio, stood me against a backdrop, and started clicking away. I got the impression that he evaluates everyone he meets through his lens; digital capture was as rudimentary to our introduction as eye contact or a handshake.
Will is one of the few I’ve met who did not wait even a few moments before addressing my question. After clicking Surly and me, he pointed me to his dual screen monitor and simultaneously manipulated my image while he offered a continuous visual and verbal stream.
“Robin Hanson (Research Associate at the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University) believes there is a great filter that winnows out civilizations from coming into existence. The easier it is for us to evolve to this point, the bleaker the chance for us to continue evolving.
“Consider the Goldilocks Principle. There are 100 billion neurons in our brains, 100 billion stars in 100 billion galaxies, and yet so few places ‘just right’ for life as we know it.
“Look at the Dyson Sphere. You know what that is, don’t you?” He knows from my tepid response I haven’t a clue what he’s talking about. “It’s the hypothetical megastructure that encompasses a star and all of its energy. Our Dyson sphere has three main stages. First, people will harness all the energy that falls on the earth. Second, people will harness all of the energy emitted from the sun. Third we will harness the total energy output of the entire galaxy.”
Will zoomed into his photos of me, tweaked my tonality and enlivened the contrast. He made me look different, possibly better. “The eye has three columns: red, green, and blue. Birds have a fourth, ultraviolet.” As he brightened my face, Will described the evolution from film photography to digital imaging, to increased pixel density. Once he was satisfied that my image could absorb no more improvement, he downloaded me onto a stick. Then he offered me a century of van Overbeek history, scrolling through family photos from before he was born, through his youth, marriage, and children, to the present. Will is the family archivist, the Dyson Sphere of the van Overbeek family, capturing their energy across generations.
How will we live tomorrow?
“The question of how we will live tomorrow is embedded in the Fermi Paradox. Where is everybody? All of these suns, all these planets, the mathematical probability that there is life out there is very high, but we can’t find any.”