Ming the Mechanic - Category:

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Tuesday, November 8, 2011day link 

 Do what you do
picture In the years that I worked in an L.A. downtown high-rise, I'd often stand by the window and look down on the freeways. Five lanes in each direction, full of cars at any hour of the day or night. Seen from above it is all so small and strange. Imagine, in those cars going south on the 101 are accountants and secretaries and human resource managers traveling one by one for an hour to go to work. And in the opposite lanes there are people traveling north for an hour in their cars in order to be accountants and secretaries and human resource managers there. Why don't the first people stay more or less where they were, to be accountants there, and the other guys do the same, and we have it covered? Seems so obvious when seen from the 13th floor.

It's a touch of insanity in these humans. They make things too complicated in the wrong places. Minds out of control.

The simple thing is to do what you're here to do, where you are, right now. If you have to travel way over there, to do stuff you don't like doing, and you didn't like the journey, you're probably not doing what you're here to do. The stuff you're here to do flows. You're obviously good at it. It might involve struggles to become better, to do more, to go elsewhere, to seek and to search, but the journey there is stimulating and rewarding and it makes you feel alive. That's not something you think up or that somebody needs to suggest to you. It's right there. It's what you'd be doing if you didn't try to think up something clever to do and if you didn't try to conform to what seems to be expected of you by the society around you, despite that none of it feels quite right.

By a stroke of universal genius, what you're here to do happens to be what you really, really want to do. It is not necessarily what you like doing. It is not necessarily what is easy, but it is what flows. It is that for which the next step is right here. It is that which you happen to have the ticket for. If you have to construct some complicated mental scaffolding around it, and it involves going way out of your way, it probably isn't it.

Think of the world we have, seen from 13 stories above the freeway of society. Everybody's trying to be somebody else that they think is needed, somewhere else, far from home, and they're all stressed from trying to figure out how to stay ahead of the game.

And then imagine the world where we each do what we're here to do, what we do well, where we are, right now. Imagine the super-fluidity of a world where all of us are in approximately the right place and we don't have to fake it. Where your mind is in alignment with your feelings and your calling. Where you do what you really want to do, and you're in the perfect place for doing it.

I think one can start right here.
[ | 2011-11-08 03:20 | 7 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Friday, November 9, 2007day link 

 The ends justify the means
picture It is one of those things it is popular to accuse other people of believing, and which instantly discredits them. It is the kind of operating basis assigned to terrorists and tyrants. They carry out the most heinous acts in the name of some imaginary ideal. And most everybody can agree that it isn't good. It is just a shame that most everybody don't really know what they're saying.

Of course the end justifies the means.

If I take a series of actions which produce a result that is all around good and useful and desirable for everybody involved, when everything has been taken into consideration - that is of course a good thing. It is never quite as simply black and whie as that. Any course of action can be compared with alternative courses of action, and there are pros and cons to all of them. The trick is to try to aim for the best possible result, that does the most good for the greatest number of involved parties, and the least damage.

You eat a carrot, it inevitably has to die. You reorganize the company, and it inevitably will suit some and not others. The point is to balance out all the factors and make the best possible decision. Some people include much fewer factors in making their decision, sometimes much too few, but invariably, even the craziest person is trying to somehow make something more right with the means they have at hand.

The value of an action or a series of actions could be said to be a matter of accounting. There are debits and credits, negatives and positives. You add up all the factors, subtracting the negatives from the positives, and hopefully you end up with more positive than negative, if you did well. Some people will only include their own accounts in the calculations, and will ignore or leave out all costs accrued to others.

If a company builds cars, they'll probably count the costs of buying raw materials, and the costs or paying workers and building factories and printing brochures, against the income they get from anybody who's willing to buy the cars. And they'll think they did good if the income is greater than the outgo. That's called business. Of course that's terribly shortsighted, because they leave out most of the costs. What they pay for raw materials is really the price somebody else charges for the trouble of extracting them and treating them. Not their actual value, certainly not their replacement value. They also leave out the costs of the billions of tons of pollution produced by those cars, and the 10s of thousands of people who get killed driving them. Oh, they also leave out some of the positives from the accounting, like how much better are the lives of the millions of people who drive the cars, and how much more productive they are. Because all of that they don't consider their business. And accountants don't know how to add it up, and nobody forces them to figure out how to do so. So we're not quite sure if the grand total balance comes out positive or negative from the world's automobile manufacturing.

But say you were able to add up all the costs/drawbacks/negatives and all the gains/advantages/positives when you carried out a project. And when it all has been counted, you find that the result is good. Isn't it justified?

The way people tend to (mis-)understand "ends justifying means" is that the ends and the means are two completely separate things, kind of not having anything to do with each other. Which is a symptom of a world where people habitually do terribly wasteful things to gain relatively small benefits. While sometimes being hailed as great successes, in case they manage to gain rather large benefits, without much regard to weather they did terribly wasteful things to get there.

Although the world has worked like that to a large degree for quite a while, we also intuitively rebel against it. So we occasionally pick out somebody who did something particularly horrible, while claiming to do good, and we accuse them of living by the principle of "the end justifies the means".

The crux of the matter is the definition of "ends" or "results", or we could say "outcome".

The way I think of it, the "result" includes all effects and side-effects, including those created along the way. The whole thing. All the accounts. The result is everything you did and what came out of it. Not just what you personally ended up with.

If you make a company that produces $5 shirts that are very well made and stylish, and people are happy to wear them, but it was slave laborers in China who actually made them, and your factories dump toxic waste from the coloring process into rivers, well, that's all part of the result. Even if try to sweep most of it under the carpet and pretend that you all you did was to somehow magically produce great $5 shirts.

The fastest and cheapest way to get a car is to steal it. The most effective way of avoiding trouble with its previous owner is to kill him and dump the body where nobody finds it. It is quite reasonable as an economic calculation. Great benefit to you, little cost. That is, if you limit your consideration of the "result" to include just yourself. If you ignore the ends you actually created. Sadly it isn't just unfeeling, intelligence challenged criminals who think like that. Many corporations of a certain size will tend in the same direction. They're there to produce a profit for themselves, and it is legally their duty to maximize that profit. Sometimes even governments will act in similar shortsighted ways.

The means aren't justified if the result is more bad than good.

If instead you did a win-win transaction, which everybody involved were happy with, which did as little damage as possible, and produced the most benefit for everybody involved. Then, obviously, the actions you took were good ones. They're justified in other words.

The thing is that the means aren't separate from the result. Whatever you do will produce all sorts of side-results along the way, and they're part of the equation. And, generally speaking, you don't accomplish great constructive feats through destructive means.

What if it is something fantastically positive one is trying to create? Like, say, an utopian society where everybody's living in peace and harmony and abundance and freedom. Sure, that's worth almost any cost. But the trouble is that if the means of getting there are of a different nature, it is likely that one didn't really produce what one says one is producing. If I have to kill a lot of people standing in the way of this dream, it is quite likely that there will be a lot of people around, like their family and friends, who aren't at all happy, peacefull and harmonious. If I have to persecute anybody who's trying to change my society, then it obviously isn't free. There would be a lack of congruency.

It is quite reaonable to believe that one doesn't create peace through war, one doesn't create truth through lies, or happiness through sorrow. I suppose that is some of what people feel inside when they speak out against "the ends justifying the means". You know, an intuitive sense of whether the proposed course of action is congruous with itself.

Sometimes the path of getting to a better place is unpleasant. . You might have to shed some tears to resolve an argument. You might have to tear some things down to build something better. You might have to break some eggs to make an omelet. But the final result is all of it, the outcome of the process you want through. If you've ended up with five broken eggs and a tasty omelet, it might be worth it. If you've ended up with more damage than benefit, it wasn't worth it. But if it was worth it, it was worth it, and whatever means you used were well chosen, however you came upon them.
[ | 2007-11-09 00:55 | 8 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, September 19, 2007day link 

 Fractal brains
This is a series of splendid pictures that supposedly were generated from people's EEG brain patterns. I think the idea is that one looks at one's own patterns in real-time, and there's some kind of bio-feedback thing going on.
[ | 2007-09-19 00:36 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, June 6, 2007day link 

 Ten incredible things we get for free
picture Life2.0:
Here are 10 wonderful things that just seem to happen by themselves:

• Diversity & Harmony
• Connection & Friendship
• Self-organisation & Synergy
• Resonance & Synchronicity
• Insight & The spread of great ideas
• Emergence & Paradigm Shifts
• Learning & Growth
• Happiness & Flow
• Healing & Forgiveness
• Relaxation & Enlightenment

Not a bad list is it?

Don't you find it comforting to know that without our interference things have a way of working out just fine... that life is basically set up to help us succeed no matter what? And all of these phenomena seem to work whether we believe in them or not. Philip Dick defined reality as 'that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away'. All 10 appear to pass that test too.

But notice one thing... none of these can ever be planned or organised. In fact, the more we try to do so, the more they slip through our figures. For sure, there's stuff we can do to induce the 'right conditions' but at the end of the day they come for free and seem to happen best we just get out of the way.
My favorite stuff in life is that kind of stuff that comes for free, the stuff one can't control, but that is great when it happens.

And my favorite passtime is to try to figure out how to make those kinds of things happen anyway.

That's a bit of a paradox, of course. How do you make things happen that happen by themselves under complex conditions you don't really understand? We recognize it when it happens, and, yes, part of the key is to be open to to it, but how do we increase the frequency, how do we make it more likely, and more powerful?

This kind of knowledge is surprisingly scarce, but not altogether non-existent. It tends to be fuzzy, particularly to people who're looking for something finite and linear and logical, something one can plan and execute and control. You can't fully control it. You can't force anybody to be happy. You can't order anybody to be in a state of flow. Rather, if there's anything you can do, it will be with a mixture of parts you control, and parts that are out of control. And it has to be the right parts that are controlled, and the right kind of parts that are moving by themselves.

You can't organize emergence. But you can organize many other things. Some environments and some organizations are more conducive to emergence.

You can't force synergy. Some things work together and others don't. It is not a lottery either. An eco-system in nature is complex and sometimes surprising, but there are principles and rules at work. System kinds of principles, not hierarchical org-chart kinds of principles. Enough diversity, but not too much either, and the right kind.

Humans are still a little too dumb to really have it figured out. We often suffer from the hubris of thinking we can do better than nature and that we're smarter than the universe, and if we just submit it all to our will in a tightly planned and organized way, we've got it made. So our civilization has become very good at submitting parts of the physical universe to our wishes, and at ignoring the mess we create as by-products. And fairly bad at understanding things we don't control.

But, luckily, these kinds of mysterious emerging phenomena happen anyway. No matter what we believe, they take place. And somehow we're all still smart enough that we actually do recognize it, to some degree. Even the most fundamentalist materialist scientist will recognize the joy and wonder of the mysteries of the universe revealing themselves. Even the most stuffy psychiatrist who thinks you're nothing but a brain and that consciousness is a delusion will recognize happiness when he sees it.

You might still be considered a bit of a soft and gullible new age freak if you go around talking about harmony, resonance and synchronicity too loudly. But who cares. Ultimately, the reality of the universe wins out in any match against human intellect. If we are to survive, we'll have to come to terms with some of these things, and find ways of working with them, rather than against them. Great stuff will happen with or without us, and it is much more fun if it is with us and through us.
[ | 2007-06-06 00:13 | 5 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Monday, March 26, 2007day link 

 Ken Wilber stops his brain waves
"If you want to know God, you've got to get your brain out of the way first. It's just one big stupid filter."
Yeah, I think I'd agree with that. It is a quote from Ken Wilber. Anyway, it was an introduction to this video, or here on Youtube. Wilber demonstrates some different kinds of mediation that sort of stop his brainwaves. Of course it doesn't stop his brain activity altogether, or he'd be dead. But you know these kinds of brainwave monitors, similar to EEG machines, used for showing how much beta, alpha, theta and delta activity one has. Usually one has activity in one or several of those bands. Beta is when one is alert and working or thinking logically. Alpha is when one is in a relaxed, reflective mode. Theta is drowsy or dreaming. Delta is deep, dreamless sleep. So, what he demonstrates is that one can put oneself into a state where there isn't any activity that stands out in any of those areas at all. Which isn't in any way the same as a flatline EEG, but it is still a quite remarkable feat.

I picked this up from metafilter. Quite interesting how many negative comments a thing like that produces. Seems like a lot of people feel very threatened by the idea that one can control brain waves, and particularly by the idea that there might be something more significant, as far as consciousness is concerned, beyond the brain.
[ | 2007-03-26 21:12 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, March 21, 2007day link 

 Free Thought the simplicity of life
Graviton Ring:
The spirit, in my opinion, is VERY simple. Are you aware of yourself and of others? That awareness is your spirit. It had no beginning. It has no ending. No one gave it to you. No one can take it away. It has always existed exactly as it does now, and it always will exist exactly as it is now. It never goes anywhere. There is no place to go. The spirit of awareness simply is the way any sentient being observes reality. The spirit is not physical in any way. It observes the physical reality.

The physical reality is completely different than the spirit, however, the spirit and the physical reality cannot exist without each other. The human body, or any aspect of the physical reality, obviously appears and disappears, while changing constantly. The spirit simply observes these changes. There are an infinite set of changes in the physical reality. There are also an infinite set of new ideas in the spiritual reality. The only thing required to do is pay attention to reality.

If there is any need for a moral structure in religion or society, then the laws of such a structure are always about the physical reality. How could any laws tell anyone how to think, or how to see reality. The spirit of awareness does not need any laws, it does not do anything except see the physical reality. The human body needs laws, moral values, maybe a structured society when there is a large number of humans alive. However, that was not always the case. Life was meant to be simple.

The simplicity of life is that we consist of a spirit of awareness. The physical reality seems to be a part of who we are, however, the spirit, in my opinion, is the actual way we are. The physical reality, including the human body, appears and disappears, and evolves over billions of years. The spirit simply continues to do what it does now, it observes these changes. There are no spiritual laws. Laws are about humanity and physical reality. Spirit is simply infinite, eternal awareness.
I see it in very similar ways. The physical world is always changing, everything is temporary, but in some kind of evolution. But, yet, no matter what, I always seem to be there to observe it. And that *me* doesn't seem to change. Oh, I've learned things, changed how I do things, etc, but the me who observes, it is the same as it always has been. I'm maybe a little more awake, but my awareness seems to be the same as it was at any time I can remember. We can call that awareness, consciousness, spirit, or whatever. It is a bit mysterious what that really is, and how that came about, but the only satisfying explanation is that at least it isn't just a side-effect of a physical phenomenon. It would suck if I were just a brain, but luckily I don't think I am, and I don't think that I as a point of awareness arise from the physical. Oh, I'm tightly interwoven with it, for sure. Most of what I do and think involves physical stuff, and the filters of my brain, and what I've experienced. My identity is some kind of mix of these things. But the pure awareness seems to be something eternal.

And, yes, things go a bit crazy when humans try to control and regulate how one thinks and how one is supposed to see things. The wires get crossed a bit. Physical reality needs organization and regulation to some extent. But when you try to control the consciousness of others, it generally isn't with their best interest in mind. And generally it starts with convincing others that they don't really exist, and their thoughts are just government or church property, and just random neural signals in the first place.
[ | 2007-03-21 14:45 | 10 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Friday, March 9, 2007day link 

 The ends justify the means
It is often used as a way of condemning terrorists or other people who do bad things to try to achieve their aims. They're usually presented as having the misguided idea that destructive actions can get a constructive result. Idealists who think they'll arrive at a utopia by killing off whatever is in their way. And of course there are some problems with that kind of thinking. But it has somehow become accepted in the public mind that of course the ends never ever justify the means. Which is an equally silly logical trap.

Of course the ends justify the means, if the ends really are desirable and beneficial for everybody concerned.

If you engage in something, any kind of activity or project or process, that has multiple steps to it, and the final result after the dust settles, is something good and positive and enlightening for most everybody who were and are involved, then you probably did a good thing. Even if some of the steps were painful. If the result is not painful, then maybe the pain was worth it.

The sloppiness enters when defining what a positive outcome is. If you have 2 million people, and you're willing to kill 1 million of them so that the other million can live in peace and harmony afterwards, then you obviously have a problem calculating positive outcomes. It wouldn't look very positive for the million that you had to exterminate. A positive outcome is a positive outcome for the whole, for everybody and everything involved. And if you had followed that plan there, you'd of course discover that the remaining people wouldn't feel very harmonious if you had killed half of the people they knew.

But if you actually had a positive outcome? If your revolution really resulted in general peace, harmony and enlightenment for everybody concerned, then whatever steps you took to get there would be perfectly justified. The ends justify the means. But only the real ends, the actual result, not just the ends you hallucinate you'll get when you start off on some kind of destructive path.

"You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs", as one says. Although that's usually used as a justification for being mean to somebody, or firing half of your employees or something. But, yes, sometimes a bit of pain is necessary as part of a process that will have a positive outcome.

The means that are applied to arrive at a certain result are an integral part of the process. They're not different things. Things go a little insane when one tries to break life down into things that are always right to do or always wrong to do. Most governments and religions go overboard with that, and pretend to know exactly what's right to do, or rather what's always wrong to do, even though they don't know you, and they don't know your circumstances, and they really don't know the outcome of your actions. Is it really always wrong to run a red light? No, it depends on the result you'll get by doing it versus not doing it. If you saved somebody's life, it was the right thing to do. Running that red light was not a destructive erosion of public order, if you did it to get somebody to the hospital in time. Or even to accomplish something less, but nevertheless good and necessary.

A slap in the face might be an enlightening wakeup call, if delivered at the right time. Or it might simply be one person being mean to another. It depends.

Everything depends on what process it is part of, and what its outcome is. Not just its imagined outcome, but its actual outcome. The whole thing is much more important than the pieces seen in isolation.

But a positive outcome is more likely to be achieved if each step of the way is carried out with a consciousness of the whole. It is sort of a fractal thing. Each step of a process will carry with it the seed or the pattern of where this is going. And if the steps don't harmonize with the result, you might not really be doing what you think you're doing.

You don't spread happiness by being mean to people. If that's really what you're doing. But sometimes you might do something that appears mean at a superficial glance, but which accomplishes a greater good.

Blowing up other people's houses at random would not be very nice. But you might have to blow up one house to build a better one, which its owners would be more happy with. The destruction might look the same, but it depends on what process and what outcome it is connected with.

Breaking people's lives into little pieces, and making laws about how they're not supposed to do each of them - that's of course an attempt to control them. And that means you. It is somebody's misguided idea about how to create a stable society. Limit everybody a little bit, make lots of lines they aren't supposed to cross, put the people who cross them in jail, or at least hurt them a bit, and the rest of us will have a harmonious society. Of course that's one of the anti-examples of the ends justifying the means idea. You don't create a society of productive, creative, free people by taking away a great deal of their creativity and freedom. If that's the aim, then different means are needed.

It is a well known principle that in a project, you can't keep quality, time and cost/resources fixed and constant the same time. You can maybe pick two of them, with some luck. If you want high quality and you want it quickly, it will probably be expensive. If you want it good, but cheap, it might take some time to find, etc. You can't say you want it perfect and for 50 dollars and you want it tomorrow morning. You have to leave something variable.

The same way, you can't keep both the steps to take and the outcome fixed. At least not if you're doing anything just slightly new, that involves uncertainty. In principle, you can either say "Follow these exact steps, and wherever you end up is fine", or you can say "This is what we want, do whatever it takes to get there". Or, of course, some kind of combination. But you will only see successful actions if the people who do them have some freedom to choose how to go about getting them. If they don't, you've have to settle for 'whatever' as the outcome.

If you succeed in doing something that is all-around desirable, positive and useful, with no dead bodies swept under the carpet, your means were obviously well chosen and justified. If you end up making a crappy mess, your means will not be justified.
[ | 2007-03-09 23:46 | 11 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Monday, January 29, 2007day link 

 Free will in a ten-dimensional universe
picture Is there one universe or many universes? What is time? Is it all pre-determined or do I have free will? Do I create my reality, attract it, or is it all already there? What am I? What is consciousness? Maybe they're hard questions, but here is one answer, in metaphorical form, in part inspired by the string theory idea that the universe has 10 dimension, and the quantum physics idea that the observer changes what is observed. With a bit of added metaphysical speculation.

Imagine you sit down to watch a DVD in your living room on your big screen TV. In front of you, you'll have a 2D display made up of a number of pixels. You'll be watching it from the sofa from what we could say is a point, a viewpoint, yours. The film you're watching is what could be considered a one-dimensional story-line. That is, it has a start, an end, and some points in-between, a bunch of frames, basically. With your remote control you can move back and forth in the storyline, but only in one dimension.

Now, imagine instead a universe as a virtual reality display, with a movie playing. It has huge amounts of very small pixels, sub-atomic particles. And nothing so crude as little colored dots that try to simulate a 2D picture. No, every single one of these little pixels have 10 dimension. These pixels are so versatile that they're not just going to show colors, they can be pretty much anything one can imagine, depending on how one looks at them. Time, space, mass, forces, colors, sounds, smells, etc. Because of their multi-dimensionality, they can be different things to any number of different observers. Because of the abundance of dimensions, they can also appear as being connected with one-another, in any of myriads of different constellations.

You're looking at them, and you're probably in the belief that you're looking at a 3D reality. 3D visuals with sounds and smells and touch and much more. But your storyline appears one-dimensional, just like with the movie. That's called Your Life. And you're still seeing it from what seems to be one point.

But, get this, you're watching 3D in what really has 10, or however many, dimensions. That is profoundly important.

The 3D you see, however vivid and lively it is, is nowhere near what really is there, by a long shot. It is just one angle of what is there. Or, we could say, it is a shadow of what is really there. You see, shadows of higher dimensional phenomena can easily be 3 or 4 dimensional, just like you see a 2D shadow on the ground of your 3D body. How the shadow looks depends on from where we shine the light, and from where we look.

If we were both sitting in the couch watching a movie, if it is a 2D screen, we'd expect to see more or less the same thing. But if the display had more dimensions, there'd be nothing at all to hinder that we could watch apparently different movies on the same screen, just because we looked from slightly different angles.

There are many ways that a higher dimensional object can create shadows in a lower dimension. The more dimensions, the more possibilities there are for casting huge numbers of shadows into lower dimensions. And shadows might be full 3D feel-o-rama realities if the objects casting the shadows have more dimensions than 3.

Consider a simple example of seeing fewer dimensions than are really there. A dice has 6 sides. It is a 3D object. But yet we're looking for it to show us one of its 2D sides. We throw it, see how it lands, and for a moment we agree to forget the other 5 sides, and pretend that it only presents 1 side to us, the one on top. So, we can say, "Ah, it is a Six!". The dice still has the same 6 sides, at the same time, but we choose to only show one of its 2D projections. The same dice can present 6 different realities, just by turning it.

As I said, your DVD movie has one one-dimensional story-line. But you might have the speech available in several different languages, and you might have sub-titles in several different languages, and maybe you can choose the version where the director blabbers at the same time. This adds an additional dimension, even if a rather barebones one. What else could one do with more dimensions? Well, how about if you had options for which direction the story goes at particular key plot points?

Back to the universe. The universe is made of little units with 10 dimensions or more. Meaning that whichever way you see them (in 3D), it is just a tiny fraction of what is really there. But, still, those little pixel units can provide you with what we'd consider a very full experience. Visuals, sounds, touch, smells, space, time. All of that is really just the information applied to that particular pixel. If you go small enough, the sub-atomic particle doesn't really care if it is considered to appear right now, or a million years ago, whether it is right here on your desk, or a billion light-years away, whether it is red or green or blue, whether it is hard or soft, etc. It can be all of those at the same time. All of that is just something to project on the display. Just information. Just a perspective, a way of viewing.

And since you're only experiencing 3 or so dimensions, the rest adds up to alternate plotlines, foreign sub-titles, voice-overs, trailers, bloopers and whatever else you might imagine, and a whole lot more.

People who have thought about the possibility of multiple universes, possibly being alternate versions of our world here, have usually imagined that it would be necessary that these would be 'stored' as whole, complete universes somewhere, with stars and planets and everything. Really, with enough dimensions involved, it is a lot more elegant and compact than that.

Lets say that today there was an important phone call you needed to make. Maybe your future would be different depending on whether you made it or not. It would make the difference between whether you kept your job as an accountant or whether you went off on an expedition in the Amazon jungles. Or maybe something less dramatic, but it would still be different depending on what you chose. Would you be creating a whole different universe depending on your choice, or would you choose a path that already was there, fully made? And what you chose, was that already pre-determined by the nature of the universe, and maybe you didn't really have a choice? Actually, if the universe is a multi-dimensional display, several of these can be true at the same time.

The film is already playing. But it is full of interesting plot points where you have a choice. What you have a choice about is really just what angle to see something from that already is there, and what track to continue on next. The universe is in one piece, but in 10 dimensions. Whether you go left or you go right, or up or down, it is part of the same story, just seen from a different vantage point. No reason to create whole new copies of the universe to accommodate that you might go one way or another. From a higher dimensional perspective, that exists at the same time, without conflict.

It can be hard to understand, but if we translate it to the limited number of dimension we understand, it is like you have a house with many rooms and corridors. There are many ways you can walk through the house, but it is still the same house. Whether you walk into one room or another, there's no reason to construct an alternate house to accommodate it. Several other people can walk around bewildered in the same house, and still there's no reason to construct extra houses - it can all happen in the same house. Reality is just like that, except for that the house has 10 dimensions, and every room is a holodeck. So, any number of people can walk around and make different choices, and see different things, and even start remodeling, and it all still remains the same house. Even if you're talking about the same room, it can have alternate 3D versions, simply because it really has more dimensions than that. There can be an infinity of different versions without any need for really constructing a new room.

Or you might understand it with the film metaphor again. Different things go on in different parts of the film. The beginning is different from the end. Each frame is different, for that matter. But still it is the same film with a 1 dimensional storyline. If you had something like 10 dimensions, you could have all possible plotlines, and much, much more, and it would still be the same film. If the real structure is multi-dimensional, you can construct any number of paths through it. There's no need for storing all those paths separately, as separate movies, because they're more economically stored in a multi-dimensional structure. Things really get simpler if you add more dimensions, not more complicated. Complications appear when you don't have enough dimensions to encompass what you're doing.

Now, if you're watching a multi-dimensional film, and even participating in it, it might seem like you have free will because you can choose different things along the way. We could say that this is simply an illusion because you're only watching a few dimensions, 2 or 3 for watching it, and 1 for the evolution of the story. So, you can, by your choices, construct your very own path through the movie. And it will seem like it was created by your very own choices, which it was. But the movie was already recorded. Every single choice was simply that you chose to look in the direction of one of the dimension the movie provides. You chose what channel to tune into it, but all the channels were already there. But nobody had decided which exact path you would take.

So, free will is then the perception one has when, in a limited number of dimensions, one chooses an option. If you were seeing the whole thing at the same time, in all dimensions, there would be no options, because all the options would be activated at the same time. That both validates the feeling that we have a free choice for creating our own life, and at the same time the idea that the universe is coherent and logical and physical. Your choice doesn't change the whole universe, you just pick one of the available paths.

We could say that you are a viewpoint, an observer, who interacts with the multi-dimensional universe, and that you are presented with a hologram of reality, which depends on how you look at it, or from what angle you look at it.

For that matter, we could say that your attention or your perceptions are like a laser beam that shines on the universe, as if it were a hologram. You have some choice over where it shines. And depending on where it hits, you're presented with a different version of what is there. A 3 or 4 dimensional image. The universe can easily contain fantastic amounts of possible variations, and lots of laser beams can be shone on the 'same' thing, getting quite different results.

That sort of implies that YOU are of a different nature than that which you perceive, the universe or a limited picture of it. Which might bother the physicists, but there's probably no way around it. Things are different depending on how you observe them, as quantum physics well seems to have grasped. So, obviously there needs to be an observer. I'm not here going to try to answer where the observers come from, but I think it has to be part of the equation that they're there, and that they're more than merely another hologram.

Quite possibly any form of life involves a unit of awareness. You know, the laser beam that shines on the screen of the universe to light up a particular virtual hologram. But the simplest forms might be doing nothing else. Like, imagine whatever is driving a bacterium or a virus. If it is an awareness, it is a pretty zero dimensional awareness. But it is some form of Being, nevertheless. Higher lifeforms, like humans and probably some of the smarter animals, have an additional thing, an awareness of being aware. We could say that this adds a dimension. Instead of just being a unit that perceives, it becomes something that is aware of doing so, being able to perceive itself doing so, and thus becoming capable of deliberate choices, abstract reasoning, etc. And of course we can imagine more dimensions than that, like somebody who becomes aware of that phenomenon, who arrives at a certain spiritual awakening. Somebody who doesn't just exist, but somebody who knows that they exist. And of course one could go further than that and arrive at some kind of enlightened existence, which simply could be considered as existing in a sufficient number of dimensions.

So, this all says that the universe already exists, including what you would consider the past and the future, and many of each. All pre-determined, you could say, because it already is there. But it has a lot of dimensions. So, it isn't just one fixed storyline. Rather it is ALL possible story lines, all possible combinations of all the elements. If you move around in 3-4 dimensions and that's all you perceive, then 10 dimensions is plenty for interconnecting every possible 4D phenomenon with every other possible 4D phonomenon, in every possible way, several times over. And thus providing you with an endless number of choices for how to move your awareness through this whole thing. An endless number of possible stories and possible lives.

And despite that it might all already be there, what isn't already there is what one might get out of it when one plays a laserbeam of awareness over it in a new and unexpected way. Every possibility is new and unexpected in some way, and this gives rise to surprise and learning, and evolution of consciousness. Because I'm postulating here that consciousness is something that exists that is inherently not just a projection, but something that can be aware, something that can observe. By exercising awareness, by thinking, feeling and living, consciousness can go through this 10D movie in any number of ways, and discover great things in the process, which adds value to ... something.

It is logical enough that there would be little point in a 10D movie if there were nobody to watch it. It only makes sense if there's somebody there. But ultimately I think it is all made of the same stuff. You know, like if we jump to the 11th dimension, it would be obvious that the strange quantum holodeck universe and the beings who're playing in it are one and the same thing. Just sort of a trick to play on oneself if one is a Universal Consciousness. Split yourself into zillions of different viewpoints, each one going through life experiencing a complex universe in different ways, and then get them together comparing notes, and learn how to improve on immortality. Probably there isn't really a before and after, but rather a continous feedback process. So, even though I said the film was already recorded, the universe already in existence, it has to be evolving as well. Evolving by the trial and error of many units of awareness looking for a 4D path through the 10D holographic maze.
[ | 2007-01-29 21:44 | 25 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Wednesday, January 24, 2007day link 

 Assuming Somebody Else's Viewpoint
picture Merlin Silk writes about viewpoints, starting with the well-known concept of toddler's property rights:
"All the toys are mine. If they are broken you can have them - but the pieces are mine!"

With a little monster like that in the house you are waiting for the time when he will be able to also see your viewpoint. The justification for that hope is that it would be good for the monster, he will understand people around him better, and have it much easier easier in life once he gets it in is head that "you get much further when you understand thy neighbor."

But let's be honest, it's mostly because I want the monster to see my viewpoint, right? That's why I am still trying to instill this ability to see a situation from somebody else's point of view - even if that "somebody else" is I.

Recently I started to ponder the idea that this might actually not be a good ability to have. Blasphemy, I know.

I might have mentioned - did I ever! - that I am working on a gut understanding of the idea that "the world is as I see it." But I am still falling - again and again - into the trap of seeing a situation from the viewpoint of another person. For example I know exactly what my significant other is doing wrong and what she should do different when there is a grinding noise in the relationship-gearbox: she should not blame me for something going south because she attracted that into her life, right or right?
And Gunter had a short comment.

The thing is, is it always right to try to assume other people's viewpoints. I know I do it. I often bend over backwards to try to see everybody's viewpoint. Which I suppose is a noble thing to try to do. Might make you a good diplomat. But possibly it also makes things complicated in terms of getting something done. You sort of have to second-guess what everybody thinks, and try to find the optimum solution for everybody concerned.

I sometimes get intrigued by or even attracted to people who don't work that way at all. People who only focus on what they want, what they're sure is right, possibly even without any kind of logical rationale, but merely an emotional certainty that they ought to do what they want to do. I find it a little puzzling that people like that even can exist. That they don't get themselves killed every other week. But sometimes it is those people who're more effective in many ways than I am, getting things done, because the world is more simple to them.

I was in this improv theatre group years ago. Very useful to get me out of my head. I loved the people in it, but they were all different from me. If there was any kind of discussion about something, I would as usual bring forward well considered logical arguments for one thing or another. And I'd quickly notice that nobody was listening to them, because it didn't matter to them at all. These were more emotional people. Different things made them tick, like stuff that made them feel something. Which I learned to appreciate.

So, *should* one consider other people's viewpoints? I guess it is a good thing to be able to, to aim for as much harmony as possible. But one probably also needs to realize that it is a little futile, that you never completely can see it somebody else's way. So, sometimes the more effective thing to do is to get really clear on what *your* way is, to make sure you really are in integrity with it, and then go for it. I mean, who else is gonna go for your thing other than you?
[ | 2007-01-24 20:42 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, January 16, 2007day link 

 Free Will
picture The discussion of whether we have free will or not seems to be in the news again recently. Like: New York Times: Free Will: Now you have it, now you don't.

It is a pretty dumb discussion.

It is a bit like the discussion of evolution versus intelligent design. Except for that the two sides of that discussion both tend towards being against free will, but contradicting themselves in different ways.

If there's an entity called God who decides everything, then how can humans have free will about anything? Just doesn't make sense. But at the same time, a good believer is supposed to make moral choices that please that God, which requires free will.

Same thing with science. If a scientist is trying to establish that everything is based on natural laws, as a logical evolution of the physical elements involved, who is going to decide? See, the contemplation of any question, scientific or otherwise, pre-supposes the existence of somebody who'll decide what is right and what isn't. You can't imagine anything, comtemplate anything, decide anything, without some kind of free will, or rather free choice in choosing the best answer. So, if you end up deciding that you have no free will, you've just shot yourself in the foot in a major way, as there's no way you could arrive at such a decision if you don't.

The big invisible pink elephant in the room is consciousness or awareness or whatever we call it. Any kind of reflection on a problem requires that you are aware of the problem and of possible choices about it. That would all be impossible unless there was some kind of freedom of choice about it. Awareness implies some level of choice.

At the same time, on a physical level, or even a psychological level, as to why things are the way they are, and why we make the choices we do, it is clear that if we look closely enough, we can find influences that pre-determine most of it. Which speaks against free will to a large extent.

On the side of free will would be, for example, a new age view that we're creating our own reality. That you're free to attract whatever you desire in your life, and create whatever you want out of your life. And, despite that I'm leaning towards that view, it is usually greatly over-simplified.

If I sat down one day and visualized that I wanted a red Ferrari, and I did it extremely well, affirming it, believing it, manifesting it, and the next morning there indeed was a red Ferrari in my driveway, and it was mine - how would that have happened? The new agey view is that I created it. Or, the religious view, that God answered my prayers. But if we examined the facts, we'd find that there was a perfectly reasonable explanation for everything. The atoms of the car certainly wouldn't have manifested out of thin air. There'd be a story behind it. The car would have been manufactured the normal way, at the Ferrari factory in Italy. Somebody would have bought it. There'd be a perfectly logical story for how it got here, and why it now is mine. I might have signed up for some lottery last year that I forgot about, but the records would show that I really did. Somebody actually drove it to my house and parked it there. At the physical level, nothing would be magical about it at all. The lottery had been in process for years, and somebody had to win that car.

Was that free will? Did I create that car? Or did I maybe just suddenly express an awareness of something that already was happening, or by some strange, but not impossible coincidence I got a random idea which happened to correspond to reality?

I'd say that we both have 100% free will and 0%, and the paradox of that is what keeps life interesting.

If we had a way of adding it up, we'd probably find that 100% of what happens in the physical world can be explained logically with physical laws. I'm sure we don't know all of them, but if we did, everything would probably turn out to be perfectly sensible. And we might find that we have 0% chance of casually changing those basic laws of physics just because we have another idea one day.

But at the same time we have an awareness, a reflective intelligence, we have consciousness. In principle, theoretically, I'd say that the potential is for 100% freedom there, although we'd have a very hard time getting there. See, no matter what actually happens, you're free to have another idea about it. Even if your life is falling to pieces and the planet will be demolished tomorrow, you could very well decide to be optimistic and that life is pretty good. You're free to disagree.

But, in practice, your ability to perceive and to think is dependent on your past experiences, the neural paths in your brain formed by past habits, the words and concepts you've learned to accept, etc. Humans are all too easy to condition and mislead. The majority of the time we're merely regurgitating what has been fed into us, making our best guesses based on what we're presented with, and generally trying to act normal like everybody else. So, if there were a way of adding it up, maybe 99% or even 99.9% of what you think or do could be accounted for and explained as the result of what was fed into you. Sad, but probably true.

But what remains is the important part. Because that's YOU. Ok, there's your identity, which maybe to a large degree is made of what was fed to you, the genetic make-up of your body, the impressions fed in through your perceptions and experiences. But no matter which way we turn it or how much we argue, there's still you who with your awareness can perceive and think and make choices. Please don't let anybody persuade you that you don't exist. They might not know whether you exist or not, but you yourself should know by now.

And it isn't necessarily as bad as it sounds. See, there are possible ways of understanding reality that might make it all come together in a way that would satisfy everybody. Like, there's hope in quantum physics or something similar, if we manage to understand it and integrate it. We might get down to understanding that what really is there is merely a blank canvas. Just like something might be a particle or a wave depending on how you look at it, we might end up accepting that the whole universe works like that. That it is all a virtual reality, and that our awareness and perceptions is a key component in playing it. You know, there's nothing there but quantum soup until somebody comes along and sees it. Whether he sees one thing or another is all the same to the universe, but what he sees will be entirely consistent with itself.

Another possibility is the multiple-world thing. That all possible scenarios for everything is already there, already laid out. And multiple different scenarios are always close by. So, there's a universe where the Ferrari is in my driveway tomorrow, and a whole bunch of universes where it isn't. Whether it is or isn't, it will be entirely logical and consistent, apparently inevitable, based on a series of irrefutable events. But maybe there was a choice of which track of the world I persued.

And maybe that had something to do with the 0.01% of my consciousness that wasn't tied up in trying to conform. The part that actualy pays attention.
[ | 2007-01-16 16:28 | 17 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Saturday, January 13, 2007day link 

 Dimensions of Comprehension
picture I've long had the sneaking suspicion that the solution to a great many human problems would be found in the understanding of dimensions. We're just operating in too few dimension most of the time. Or, said a different way, we live in an increasingly multi-dimensional world, but we only have tools and thinking processes for dealing efficiently with one, two or three dimensions.

So, we're often like flatlanders. We operate in a limited number of dimensions and when something with a higher dimension comes along, we just don't get it. It is incomprehensible. But sometimes, if one can manage to step up one dimension, what before was mysterious, super-natural and confusing suddenly becomes clear. From higher dimensions , the lower dimension are easy to understand.

I've written about it here, here, here, here, here, here or here.

I was reading Tony Judge's summary and reflections on a book by Ron Atkin called "Multidimensional Man; can man live in 3-dimensional space?". I don't entirely get it, but in brief it is about the problems of comprehension in different dimensions within organisations. 0-dimensional comprehension would be if one can only understand separate, isolated issues. One point or another. 1-dimensional would be that one can comprehend the range between such points. Like, political left or right, or anything in-between, but nothing else. And with 2-dimensional, one could naturally comprehend several things at the same time and the various nuances between them. For example, one might have more or less economic control by governments, and more or less moral authoritarianism, and one might understand both at the same time, and the various ranges of possibilities, even though they go in different directions.

But let me re-think it in my own way here, as that is easier.

We're used to thinking that dimensions are physical. You know, we live in a 3-dimensional world, where things have length and breadth and height. And maybe we could think of time as a 4th dimension, although we only half understand it. Objects and events have a dimension in time, but we don't think of it that way. We vaguely refer to the state of something earlier, or the possible state of it later, but we have a hard time thinking of it as one object in 4 dimensions. And we're sort of stuck on believing that time moves only in one direction, and that the future kind of doesn't exist. So, time is at best a half dimension for us.

But all of that is just one way of looking at dimensions. More generally, dimension is the phenomenon of degrees of freedom. So, it isn't just about standing in a room and trying to imagine how one might step off in a right angle to the three dimensions one sees, which one logically should be able to do if there were four dimensions. That's interesting enough in itself, but dimensions are at play in different ways.

I'm talking about degrees of freedom in the sense of independently moving variables. The number of coordinates needed to specify something. The length, breadth, height thing is a special case of that. If you're talking about the position of an object in a room in relation to you, it can theoretically be moved left or right, forwards or backwards, up or down. So, we need an X, a Y and a Z to describe its position. I might argue that they aren't really independent of each other, but traditionally we use 3 variables, or 3 dimensions to describe it. Anyway, that only described the position. I'd have to introduce a number of more variables to describe what it is I put in that position. Like, what is this thing's shape? Its color, density, weight, composition, etc. Even just the color, we usually use 3 dimensions to describe that, and it probably doesn't have only one. Let's say the object was a ball. That's pretty simple, but would still require a whole bunch of variables to describe even approximately.

Still, I can look at a ball lying on the floor, instantly comprehending what I'm seeing, and some of the implications of that. Despite that an adequate description of what I'm seeing would require variables in a whole bunch of dimensions.

The thing is that they aren't moving independently from each other at the moment. For that matter, they aren't moving at all, as the ball is just lying there for the moment. So, I can comfortably perceive the ball as "one thing". In thinking about it, I can even reduce it just one or zero dimensions in order to keep track of it. It is just one point, "the ball", and I can think quite logically about it based on that, without having to worry about balls in other places, or balls of entirely different dimensions or anything like that. Doesn't matter, because they don't have any bearing on what I do with this ball.

So, in terms of my own comprehension, my own mental world, I can regard the ball on the floor in 0 dimensions. I can then just as easily make 1-dimensional decisions about it. Should it be on the floor or up on the shelf? This point or that? The ball is unvariable, the shelf is unvariable. I can put it in various places, but the thought process really only involves one dimension.

If my daughter who put the ball on the floor has a different plan with it than I do, I might have to deal with 2 dimensions. My idea of where to put it, and her idea of what to do with it. Two variables quite likely moving independently of each other.

If there were more kids involved, it undeniably gets more complicated, but it might still be a two-dimensional problem, unless there were other issues involved. Say there were two kids, and one of them would start crying if she didn't get the ball, and somebody else might think I had been mean to her. Then we have maybe 3 dimensions.

You can argue about the exact number of dimensions, of course, but you get the point. How many pieces or dynamics are operating at the same time, independently of each other.

You know the often-quoted concept that a human being can keep track of at the most 5-7 different things at the same time. You can comprehend and act logically in regards to 5 to 7 independent variables at the same time, at the most, but after that you start getting confused. Your picture of what goes on is no longer coherent. You'll start dropping balls if there are too many things moving in too many directions, independently of each other, at the same time.

This has nothing to do with the number of pieces involved, or the number of people, or the number of variables in terms of physical characteristics. You can keep track of 200 cars in a parking lot, even though they have different colors, and they each consists of thousands of pieces. That has nothing to do with it, as long as you, as the parking lot attendent, can operate with a very limited number of independent variables at the same time.

So, there's this concept of dimensions that has very little to do with how many dimensions there are in our physical space. It is a different kind of space that instead is based on the degrees of freedom of the stuff we feel we have to deal with.

We have to deal with more dimensions than we used to. The internet and other communication technologies are in part to blame for that. Somebody might call me on my phone while I'm walking on the street. That adds some variables that didn't exist before. I might have to deal with something I otherwise wouldn't have had to deal with. And since I live on the Internet part of the time, I participate in various kinds of activities I couldn't have participated in before, most of which are moving independently of each other in different directions.

And information adds all sorts of dimensions. A few hundred years ago I might have spent my days hard at work in a field, and no information was very important, other than a bit of knowledge about my work, and knowing who my friends and enemies were, and none of that was abstract. But today we're immersed in abstract relations based on information.

Economics adds dimensions too. However many dimensions I consider my house to have, several more are added for me to consider that I need to pay the rent, and where the money for that comes from.

Intelligence is in part applied to predict the consequences of different types of actions, and choosing the proper action to take at a given moment. But the more variables there are, particularly when it is more than you can comprehend, you might become a bit stupid and no longer able to make optimum decisions.

What happens if you continously are faced with 10-dimensional problems, but you're only able to comprehend 5? You'll use those to the best of your ability, of course, but you'll be lacking something.

Either you have to evolve, to think in more dimensions, or you have to get tools that do some of it for you. In principle computers can deal with problems with many dimensions as easily as problems with few dimensions. OK, not quite true, it gets harder the more dimensions there are, but a computer doesn't get confused the same way you do.

Say you need to find the best time for a meeting with 10 other people. That's very hard to do if you had to call them one by one. A computer could do it easily, if their respective schedules and priorities and criteria were stored, accessible and structured well. No sweat, in principle. But my calendar program is really dumb. I can put events into it, set times, and move or delete the events if plans change. But it doesn't help me at all to organize my time. I'd like it to.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to get to is that we're living in a world of multiple dimensions that have relatively little to do with the physical dimensions. It makes our world much more complicated than it would be if we were just talking about physical dimensions. We have good tools for navigating in physical dimensions, like maps and compass directions and GPS and measures. We don't really have very much trouble with that. What makes life complicated is that most of what's important has nothing to do with clear coordinates like that. We don't have very good tools for navigating all the other dimensions. Oh, we have tools for various pieces of it. I can make a budget to navigate the dimensions of paying my rent. I can have an e-mail program that keeps track of my conversations. But there are no general tools for visualizing all the dimensions in your life.

It is in many ways an invisible problem. People will express their opinions and knowledge about all sorts of things, without understanding how many dimensions there are to what they're talking about. Politicians, or even scientists, will reduce the situation at hand to a number of dimensions they have a suitable model for, without regard to the fact that there usually are more variables involved.

Forget about even 5-7 independent variables. Most public discourse limits itself to 1 or 2. If you write about an article about some subject you're knowledgable in, your readers would lose you if you talk about more than 1 or 2 dimensions of it at the same time. You can say that there's this one factor A and another factor B, and you can describe the hypothetical situation quite clearly, but if you introduce a bunch more, people are just going to think that you don't know what you're talking about. But what if reality truly is based on a whole bunch more dimensions than you easily can talk about?

And what if our world has evolved into more dimensions without us having noticed it?

Nothing dramatically changed about the physical dimensions. The diameter of the planet is roughly the same, and the distance between New York and Berlin didn't change much, and you still need length x width x height to choose a bookcase.

But your life has more dimensions to it than it did 20 years ago. And I'm afraid that your brain, like mine, probably is a couple of dimensions too short to really make sense of it.
[ | 2007-01-13 20:34 | 8 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, March 14, 2006day link 

 What am I doing?
I usually am not very good in marketing myself. Well, I'm not quite sure what exactly I'm marketing either. Once in a while I get into a bit of a crisis where I remember that I haven't quite decided what I'm going to be when I grow up. And, well, I'm probably a bit overdue at deciding that.

I'm talking about what I'm doing as a job. I find it surprisingly easy to forget, but on this planet one seems to be expected to have a job or a business, and pay one's rent and plan for one's retirement. I find it mysteriously unimportant, but there seems to be no good way around it. Sure, one can maybe do one grand brilliant business venture, and live from that the rest of one's life, and just pretend that one philosophically has transcended the need to work. But that too requires the execution of some plan. I.e. one knows exactly what one is doing, and one goes and does it.

At times when somebody gives me some job to do I might forget about it for years, and just pretend that I know exactly what I'm doing. But at other times circumstances force me to realize that I never made a plan B and I don't even know what to say that I'm doing.

In some periods of time I get by on providing some mysterious and intriguing job title, and I enjoy when people are puzzled by how I can make a living doing that. "Connecting the people who change the world" it said on my business cards for a few years. Of course I didn't make a living doing that, but theoretically I could, and it is a nice idea.

Now I'm in France. I usually say that I work at home and I have clients in the U.S. and I develop software. That's not untrue. But what I have of clients is completely random, as I do nothing to promote myself, and I don't really know what my product is, and I'm not even properly organized as a business. And why the hell am I am in France then? Oh, it is nice to live here. But I'm feeling a bit of pressure to establish myself properly here.

The French system pushes for that as well. In France one has to fit cleanly in some category. I can't just get some clients and sort it out with my accountant and the tax department later. One needs to choose. I can be unemployed, or I can have a job, or I can be freelance, or I can have a company, and there are different rules for each, and one can't just mix that up at will very well. And one has to choose the exact category of activity, and do the proper paperwork.

Now, I hate the idea of having a job and going to work every day. Plus jobs in this area pay badly compared with what I'd consider my minimum. You know, 3000 euro a month would be a typical manager job for somebody with solid qualifications and degrees and experience.

So, ok, I can just be independent. But one pays a lot of social contributions in France. Roughly the same amount per person one pays as salary. Meaning, I'd need to make twice as much money as I'd like to be paid, if I were just myself. Before we're even talking taxes. Hm, that's a puzzle.

Wouldn't really be a problem if I actually knew what I wanted to do, and I worked methodically towards that.

That I don't know what to do is a secret of course, so please don't tell anybody.

Really, I'm very qualified at what I'm doing. I have a lot of experience in a variety of settings. I've accomplished some things that have scored a lot of points along the way. I'm creative, a good communicator, I tend to transform activities I get in contact with. Sometimes it helps to hear other people tell me what a great guy I am. Mostly it doesn't, because the world has moved on, and I haven't done anything great recently.

Enough self-pity. I need to know what to tell people that I'm doing, so help me out a bit. I don't just want to be some guy who does websites. So, if we say I'm a consultant, and I have something to offer companies, what is it?

I'd like to believe I know something about online communities and social networking. I'd like to think I'm somewhat plugged into something that is emerging in the world, and which organizations of various kinds probably need to pay attention to. Self-organizing, open source, cluetrain kind of stuff. How networking is better than hierarchy, how cooperation is better than coercion, how good informations freely shared can be better than advertising, how invited voluntary participation can be better than mindless 9-5 work. Cool contageous ideas can be more effective than mediocre ideas that are just pushed hard. Open is more fun than closed.

Who gets paid for talking about cool new ways of doing things?

OK, I can make up half of the answers myself. Somebody who's very known for talking about these things. Duh. So, somebody who has written books, who writes articles, who speaks at conferences, and who seem to know what they're talking about. That wouldn't be the only way of course, but that would be one.

Or maybe I should become a forest ranger, or a lighthouse attendant. Or a contortionist. I'm getting too old to be a computer programmer.

Actually I dislike categories, and I dislike having to settle down on what exactly I am doing. I just want to be a secret agent who sometimes will take on interesting and impossible missions. I'd rather BE something than promise what I'm doing. I want to be inventor of the positronic ray, the author of "world peace for dummies", or the holder of the world record in holding my breath.

I've noticed a long time ago that on the internet things often happen simply by putting a stake in the ground or putting up a sign. The magical soup stone principle. You establish a certain vibe, plant a seed, and everything else that is needed sort of starts assembling in the space created. The more clear the seed is, the more likely it is that the result will be useful. OK, I'm mixing the metaphors terribly, but you get the point.

If the purpose is clear, the means can manifest much more easily.

I know I have to come up with it myself. But give me a few hints.
[ | 2006-03-14 01:33 | 19 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Sunday, February 5, 2006day link 

picture Once in a while I wake up and notice something I haven't noticed for a long time. Some small thing. Like the contents of the stack of paper I have lying next to me on my desk. When I actually looked at it last month, I realized that it was mostly just some old papers I hadn't decided exactly where to file, some unopened letters that weren't important, and some notes on stuff I had to do on some particular day, last year. Nothing important, really. But, for several years, that stack has been lying there next to me, symbolizing that I had a lot of stuff to do, and that I was busy, and fairly disorganized.

And then, when one actually is present, things become very simple and obvious. That stack of paper disappeared in a half hour, and it becomes abundantly obvious that the right thing to do is deal with things when they happen, and not letting old unprocessed stuff lie around, cluttering things up. And, ok in this case, my desk has remained clear and organized since then. But that's usually not what happens. It is easy to stop noticing that which one noticed before. It is easy to forget being present.

I might suddenly remember something or someone or somewhere. Like, my home when I grew up, somebody I went to school with, or some particular thing I took great joy in earlier in my life. And I suddenly remember, and I also notice that I haven't thought of it for maybe 10 years. And I marvel at that. I rediscover something that has great meaning for me, and I really GET it, and I feel awake and alive. And at the same time I feel like a robot who's asleep most of the time. Because, it seems, there are certain things I will notice only once every 10 years. Things that are wonderful and important and meaningful to who I am. But I forget them again. Every 10 years, that would mean I'd think it another 3 or 4 times before I die. That's sort of depressing.

What I'm saying is that I'm doing most things on automatic. Some things I'm good at, some things I'm not, and I still keep doing them. And only once in a rare while do I actually pay attention. Meaning, I become present and conscious of what I'm doing. And I'm actually in a position to change it. You know, to change something, you have to at least be conscious of what is there. Once you see what is here, you might actually decide what else you'd like to be there, or where else you'd like to go.

It is something one is likely to do piecemeal. I.e. I might be quite present and aware of certain aspects of my life, and quite able to make good decisions about it, while other aspects are thoroughly forgotten. And at other times it changes, or various things pop up once in a while and suddenly, wow, I get it, why didn't I look at that before.

But the sum of that awareness, that presence, that consciousness, that clarity of mind, it doesn't really add up to a whole hell of a lot. Sort of like I might add it up over my life, and it is like I've only really been present for a few hours, or a few days. Seems like a waste, to go to all that trouble, and then not really pay attention.

Oh, it is not black and white. Of course I've been conscious enough to do many things, and of course I have to be partially present to write this here. But, truthfully, I can write inspiring philosophical essays while half asleep. I'm talking about something more.

What if you actually could be fully present here and now, fully conscious, keenly perceptive, and you could do that all the time?

OK, some people will wonder what the hell I'm talking about. Sounds like nonsense if you haven't particularly noticed any difference between being aware of BEING or not being aware of being. Sounds like just some new age mumbo jumbo if you haven't actually ever noticed that you exist. And, it is fascinating, but many people haven't really realized that they exist. Probably a majority of humanity is people who haven't ever been conscious of their own existence, of if they have, they've thoroughly forgotten.

The culprit is the mind. Both our strongest asset and our prison. We can think abstractly, which allows us to do amazing things. And it allows us to trap ourselves in stuff that isn't really there. It allows us to make abstract ideas as real or more real than what is really there.

The mind stores and processes incoming perceptions, and it stores and processes abstract representations of what things mean, and extrapolatons of what those abstract representations mean.

That allows you to learn about and influence circumstances way outside your local area of what you can directly perceive. For example, it allows you to be able to vote. That's a terribly abstract thing. You most likely haven't actually met any of the people involved, and you don't have any direct experience with any of the issues that are considered important. Your vote won't directly do anything either, but you can feel that you're part of something meaningful, and it does make a difference. Now, you could only do that because you have some fairly complex abstract models of cause and effect and connections and probabilities in your mind. Most likely they're ridiculously over-simplified, but you do have some structure there that tells you something.

But this abstract mental stuff easily gets to mean that you spend all your time doing stuff your mind tells you to do, and zero time actually looking for yourself.

Yes, I know, if you think that you ARE a mind, such a statement makes no sense. Even worse, if you think you're a brain, you've already locked yourself away and thrown away the key.

There's a certain circular reasoning thing which makes minds get out of hand. You prove abstract ideas only with other abstract ideas. That works some of the time. But if one has gotten so used to taking certain abstract ideas as The Truth, one forgets at some point that they're just ideas, and one no longer checks in with reality.

I'm saying we pretty much all do that, but you can see it most dramatically at the extremes, with people who're very religious or who're very scientifically, materialistically oriented. In the fundamentalist way. I.e. people who wouldn't recognize reality if it bit them in the nose, but who live inside a mental structure, and who deny the existence of anything that isn't situated and labeled within that structure.

But most people in the "civilized" world go around spending most of their energy on keeping up with abstract ideas. All your "shoulds". You should get up in the morning, get the kids to school, go to work, have meetings, file reports, do shopping, pay your bills, etc. Most of which you aren't doing because it is what is in front of you, but because of some mental structure you have in your mind. A structure that will predict the consequences of not doing some of those things, so you do the logical thing, and you do them.

But, back to my point. You're so busy being busy that you aren't even there most of the time. OK, maybe you are, so I'll speak for myself. I will frequently catch myself in not having been present for an extended period of time.

You know, how you find yourself in your driveway, having driven home, maybe from work, maybe something you do every day. And you notice that you weren't present the whole way, and you don't remember the trip at all. Maybe you were busy thinking about something, and that's where your awareness was. But you still drove the car perfectly fine, for a half hour, through rush hour traffic.

I'm talking about that in your life. Despite going through the motions somewhat successfully, you suddenly wake up and realize, where was I?

And, to get to the point, the ability of actually being fully present here and now is what we could call "enlightenment". Oh, I'm sure one could define it different ways, but I find that the most useful. You have somehow transcended your identification with the mind, plugged into a fundamental source of peace of mind, and you can comfortably be present here and now, without having to have anywhere else to go.

That's not necessarily any hocus pocus spiritual thing that you will attain after 33 years of chanting. Probably is a terribly simple and pragmatic thing. Just being present and not giving in to mental delusions. Noticing what is really going on, what is really there in front of you, and what is really there inside of you, and not obsessively overlaying a lot of opinions and filters and 'shoulds' on top of it.

Anyway, this is just a note to myself, to BE more of the time, and to not put up with being absent. To pursue enlightenment, although I strongly suspect it can't really be pursued. There's nowhere else to go to. It is right here, right now. No fancy technique or secret knowledge to learn. And that's a hard one. Would be so much easier if one could just go and take a class. No, one actually has to pay attention, really pay attention, be quiet and notice the obvious.
[ | 2006-02-05 19:59 | 24 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Thursday, March 31, 2005day link 

 Black and White and the Law
picture There are some logical problems involved in some of the things that people would consider making into law. Some of the hot political issues that lawmakers are arguing about, which seem to have clear for or against sides, really don't.

Take abortion. Are you for or against the right for a woman to choose to have an abortion? Those two views are usually presented as being sort of equal. Like it is a cross road and one needs to choose if it is left or right.

But the right to choose is not the opposite of abortion being illegal. The opposite of abortion being forbidden would be abortion being enforced. I.e. you have to have it. And there are places where that might indeed be a law. I don't know if China still has such laws. But, actually, logically, that fits better as the alternative.

If one is free to choose, one is free to choose. Meaning the result might be an abortion or it might not be. Depends on the situation and what the people involved think is right and meaningful and safe. Taking away that choice and making the answer always be the same is not comparable. The structure of that option is totally different from the option of choice.

Whether guns are illegal or not would be a similar set of opposites that aren't really opposite. The opposites of guns being forbidden would be that you have to have a gun. There's no real opposite of free choice, as free choice is not a particular choice, but rather the freedom to choose it when the situation comes up.

So, we could at least better say that no-choice is the opposite of choice. It would be worthwhile to be extremely aware of that whenever one chooses a no-choice option.

The particular option that is being enforced is merely clouding the issue. The real situation is that choice in a certain arena is being forbidden.

That's always a dangerous thing. However smart you are, you will not be able to predict all possible situations that any possible individual might find themselves in. Trying to pretend that you know the answer in advance to all such possible situations is rather arrogant and presumptuous. And wrong. You don't. So if you make an absolute law and you somehow, regrettably, have the power to make it be enforced, you most certainly will make things be wrong for a whole bunch of people, in situations you didn't take into consideration, or that you didn't want to consider.

Politicians in many places will take laws as some kind of statement of intent. Making a point. Setting a standard. So they will actively be part of establishing an absolute law, without needing to take much responsibility for all the situations where it doesn't fit, and without taking the responsibility for the fact that other people, wielding a large amount of force, will enforce that law rather blindly.

So, a politician might think: "We need to protect the children" and will vote for some law that forbids nude pictures on the internet, or that forbids people under 18 from having sex or something. He's trying to make some kind of moral point, and he's trying to influence the world into being like a certain picture he has in his mind, of what is good and proper, and how things "should" be. It is just that it isn't how it is, for most people. And a law might not change that much. It might simply authorize a fairly unlimited amount of violence in trying to make the world fit the "should". And it came from somebody trying to solve some problem, trying to avoid some "wrong" in their mind, and frequently picking a solution that doesn't at all fit the problem. Because the sense of logic necessary for even understanding this is not one of the requirements for being a politician or a policeman.

Many politicians who stand for a certain issue, and who would vote for making it law, will, if cornered, admit that they would choose differently in their own lives. What would you do if it were your own 16 year old daughter who got pregnant and she wanted an abortion? George Bush Senior had the honesty to answer that he of course would support her in her choice. But what if he already had made it illegal, without thinking of the consequences?

Once something is a law, a big state apparatus is in place to enforce it. How absolutely they do that will depend on the area, on the traditions of that country or region. For example, in the U.S. the law is not typically something you can reason with. Oh, there are great loopholes in the system, so one might get away with all sorts of things, because nobody's watching, or nobody currently has an interest in enforcing the law. And there are all sorts of legal small print and procedures that might help you get away with things. But if you really are in the search light of the law, and the law has decided you're wrong, there's no particular limit to the amount of force that will be applied to make you comply.

The fictional example I'd usually give would be if you decided to park somewhere you're not supposed to, like in an intersection. There would be a gradient of increasingly severe interventions that would be applied to make you not do that. First somebody might ask you to move. They might give you a ticket. If you're still there, they'll send a tow truck. If somehow you've bolted the car to the street, and you insist on defending your right to be there, it will quickly escalate. Armed cops will arrive, and if you somehow manage to prevail, it will eventually be teargas, then snipers and tanks. And they will eventually kill you, if they fail to remove you. And somebody will be able to say that they felt threatened and you lifted your arm suspiciously or something. So the public wouldn't think much about the insanity of being killed for a parking violation. You'd be some crazy, dangerous person. Even if all you had done was to park and stay parked.

Now, that would be in the U.S. And probably in China or in Russia. In most EU countries it would never go that far. In France they'd start a dialogue with you about why you're doing it, and what point you're trying to make, as they have an innate respect for the right to publicly make a point, even if it is inconvenient. In Denmark they might just leave you alone, if no good non-violent solution could be found, and hope you'd get tired of being there. OK, I'm making it a little more stereotypical than it is.

The point is simply that to make a law that is of the kind that is absolute and that will be enforced with physical and economic force, and threat of violence or incarceration - you need to be very, very careful to actually think through the consequences of that.

Very few things are suited for being legislated that way. Actually, maybe there's nothing that's suited for being legislated in absolute terms. Where there's a need to some absoluteness is mainly in the regulation of the requirements for participating in certain activities. If you want to drive a train on this railroad, the wheels of your train need to be 1435mm apart. If you're sending in your tax return, it must be on A4 paper. But that's more like regulations than laws. You can go and make trains of any width you want in your back yard, and write letters on any paper size you want, without going to jail.

Big wide-reaching laws would have to have a lot of qualifiers to them to work. Doesn't work to say that if you kill somebody you go to jail for 20 years. Because it depends. Sometimes, very, very rarely the right choice might be to kill somebody. You know, self defense, when all other options have been exhausted. Of course the laws in most places have some leeway built in in that regard. But hot political issues often end up with the least leeway in the law. In California there's a three strikes law. You will go to jail for life, without any room for choice, even if your third strike was stealing a loaf of break because you were hungry.

Taking away choice is generally a bad idea. The existence of a choice doesn't mean all choices are equal. A society might need to have negative consequences for making bad choices. Simply having a law with an enforced fixed outcome is a bad way of doing it. Laws that provide guidelines for what one is trying to accomplish is a better idea. And some guidelines are more important than others. Health, safety and happiness might be more important than any specific rules for how one might get there or not. A lot of choices might need to be made, on things that aren't known in advance.

Legal systems typically always have some kind of room for maneuvering. The cop will have to make the choice on whether he arrests you or not. There are lawyers and court cases and juries who will make choices. There are loop holes. The system might not work great, but there is room for reason and luck.

Now, however, technology might make it possible to enforce policies or laws without any room for choice or for maneuvering around them. You know, the automatic radar and camera that catches you speeding and sends you a ticket in the mail. No room for explanation or for reasoning about whether it was safe or there was a good reason for what you were doing. Same principle with an assortment of Digital Rights Management schemes that various media publishers are trying to push through. Like a DVD that will self-destruct in 24 hours, or a song you can only play on one piece of equipment, or a TV show where you can't skip the commercials. Your choice of how you will use things is suddenly gone. And the frightful thing is that the media publishers legally might be considered to have the right to control how you use what you buy from them. Which makes life a lot more boring and complicated, as you no longer are free to make your own choice of what you do when and how. It is a trend that this kind of thinking spreads to other kinds of technologies. A printer that will refuse toner cartridges bought in another country. Or that will refuse to copy certain images. If you've bought a printer fairly recently, you might be surprised to know that it is programmed to not be able to copy US dollar bills. Now, you're legally not supposed to, so you would be the looser in any argument against it. But your choice of whether you do so or not is gone.

Our societies are traditionally designed to have lots of loopholes, or maybe they accidentally ended up that way. There are all sorts of laws and rules and control mechanisms in place, but there are so many holes in them that even if those laws and rules are unfair or crazy or oppressive, you can still live your life somewhat sensibly around them. But if suddenly those laws can be monitored and enforced consistently and maybe automatically, we'd be in a whole lot of trouble. Imagine if you would get a speeding ticket in the mail whenever you passed the speed limit, because a sensor in your car wirelessly informed the police department. Imagine you couldn't make a photocopy of anything that is copyrighted, because the photocopier just wouldn't work. Imagine the tax department automatically calculated your taxes based on having watched everything you'd done, every penny you've gained or spent. Imagine you'd instantly be charged when you do or say something that could be construed as sexist or racist or subversive. Imagine automatically being hauled off to jail for practicing sexual activities in your bedroom that you didn't know were illegal in the state you live in. Oral sex is punishable with prison terms of one to twenty years in several U.S. states.

The law in most places is an incomprehensible self-contradictory mess. As the world gets more complex, and as more pervasive monitoring and enforcement methods become available, that becomes all the more clear. So you might either see a more and more surreal police state, or somebody will have to go back and rethink law altogether. Based on the diversity of choice. Choices with consequences. And one size never fits all.
[ | 2005-03-31 23:59 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, March 29, 2005day link 

 Morals and Freedom
picture One of my standards for evaluating how free a society would be would be the inverse of the degree to which it suppresses various kinds of "vices" and "indecent" or "immoral" behavior.

Sex and drugs and free communication, primarily. You know, is nudity illegal? Or saying "bad" words. Or smoking or hallucinogenics. Or prostitution. Or odd sexual fetishes.

Personal choices and life styles and modes of expression. The degree to which a society feels it needs to use force to control those is closely related to the degree it is being oppressive.

When a lot of people share a society, it can be quite practical to have laws that regulate the interaction between them and protect their health and liberty. Driving in the same side of the street really makes things much easier. Having somebody to call when your house gets burglarized makes you safer. But for a public authority to try to control your personal habits, for no other reason than that somebody doesn't like them, is a totally different matter.

Victimless crimes, essentially. Which generally aren't really crimes, but manifestations of the existence of slavery and mind control, enforced by physical or economic violence.

A society where you aren't allowed to say "fuck" or show your breasts on TV is kind of sick. It indicates there are some perverts in charge who have a big hangup on sex, thinking they have to control everybody else, because they're afraid of their own thoughts, probably.

The view that sex or nudity is somehow bad or evil or indecent or offensive is at best a little strange. Certainly has nothing to do with what we find in nature. We're all born naked, and remain so under our clothes. We all got here by some people having sex and enjoying it greatly. There can hardly be anything more natural. That it is an evil thing comes out of a twisted religious mindset, which itself is the cause of much evil in the world.

"But we need to protect the children!" many people would say. From what? From the knowledge of how they came about? The idea that sex and children have to be kept far apart, or some kind of disaster happens, is in itself rather weird. From nature's hand, things tend to progress by themselves in a healthy way, if you don't mess with it. Little kids just don't have much interest in sexual subjects. But at some point they reach adolescence, and they certainly do. But then they run into oppressive laws that tell them they have to be children in that regard until they're 18, and that they have no right to choose to be sexual. Depends on the society. The age of consent is higher in the more oppressive societies.

So, what in some places is a healthy expression of sexuality, at a natural stage of one's life, will in other places be considered child pornography and molestation, and something one will lock people up for life for. You know, the topless girls in a Danish tabloid newspaper might just be 15 or 16. Which would be unthinkable in the United States, where there certainly wouldn't be any nudity in a newspaper, and it certainly wouldn't be teenagers.

Now, I've lived in the U.S. for so long that even a couple of years later I still instinctively get the american moral reactions some of the time. Even if I never believed in them. It is more a matter of looking over your shoulders for the police coming to arrest you because you did something unthinkably horribly bad, like serve alcohol to somebody under 21, or take a photo of some naked kids running through the sprinkler in the summer.

Now I'm in France, where even the gas company uses nude people in their commercials on TV. Which is absolutely non-controversial. People here would have a hard time understanding how there possibly could be any kind of issue with that.

And "bad" words? Most French try hard to be very polite, and expect others to be polite, so there are certain things one would tend not to say when one is in that mode. But that has absolutely nothing to do with whether it is illegal to say certain words in a public medium. You can say fuck all you want, or the equivalent, if that's somehow fits the mode of communication you're using. And a lot of the time it doesn't fit. See, it is your choice.

Here they serve wine in the cafeteria in high school. Zero issue with that. If you want water, you take a water carafe; if you want wine, you take a wine carafe. So, are the kids drunk all the time? Stupid question. On the contrary. Everybody has a very relaxed relationship to alcohol, so it isn't a problem. Oppressive and unnecessary regulation only makes things worse.

Smoking. Well, the cigarette packs in all of Europe by law have forceful hypnotic commands on them. Essentially: You're going to die!! Horribly, painfully, slowly! I could say a lot about the pitiful lack of understanding of the human mind that goes into producing such a campaign, as a self-fulfilling prophecy, but that's another story. Anyways, it is quite likely most of Europe would end up with similar control of smoking as in the U.S.

Am I saying that's bad? I'm saying that lack of choice is bad. And lack of good, balanced information is bad. "Smoking Kills!!" is propaganda. It is probably illegal in many places to provide any more balanced information. Smoking is a drug addiction. There are many drugs with various pros and cons and things to say about them. Coffee, sugar, heroin, nicotine. They're not all the same. But generally nobody is taking them for their harmful effects.

So, drug use. I'd say a society that leaves it up to the individual to choose, but which provides good information and support, is way more healthy than one that just makes it all illegal. The statistics show quite clearly that Holland has way fewer problems with drugs and drug related criminality than places that try to outlaw it. Lower rate of drug use, fewer fatalities, fewer health issues, less crime. Making the use of certain drugs illegal merely fuels a huge multi-billion dollar criminal drug industry, and puts a lot of people under serious health risks, because they don't know what they're getting, and there's no help available for them. And, as always, making a whole bunch of different things all the same in the eye of the law or in education brings all sorts of nasty problems. Heroin is not the same as marihuana. Neither is the same as most hallucinogenics, which typically aren't addictive. Making those illegal is probably mostly a matter of trying to stop people from stumbling into thinking out of the box. And, again, the negative effects are much greater when it is illegal, and you buy some unknown substance from some guy on a street corner, rather than from a pharmacy. Quite likely it is because somebody in power actually desire the population to have the negative effects, rather than any more balanced and healthy experience. Or because they benefit from the big money is the criminal drug industry.

Prostitution. I think women (or men) should be free to choose who they'll have sex with, as long as all parties agree. And if one of them earns money from it, so what. Making money from providing a service is an empowering thing. Prostitution is a valuable service, which relieves all sorts of pressures that otherwise could be let out in harmful ways. Making it illegal will only create a criminal industry around it, with pimps and violence. Making it illegal will ensure all sorts of health issues, and make it hazardous for both prostitutes and their customers. Again, countries that have legalized prostitution, like Holland or Germany, can clearly show the beneficial effects in their statistics. People who're trying to outlaw prostitution will usually do it out of some religious or moral belief, for some reason believing that women should not be free to choose where and when to apply their sexuality.

The question is who comes up with the "shoulds" and why, and the degree to which they succeed in getting government power to enforce their particular view. Somebody's personal choice gets elevated to law, so that everybody will be forced to make the same choice. A society that lets that happen has problems.

Real life is full of nuances. Everything has degrees and pros and cons. Some things are fun, but dangerous. Some things are risky and enjoyable at the same time. A free society needs to allow people to make choices that fit their nature, particularly when it is personal choices that don't harm others. That others might take offense is not a good enough reason to outlaw something. It just isn't good enough that there are groups that think that certain behaviors are bad. They're free to make their own choice, but not to enforce it on everybody else. If they don't feel like being gay or engaging in S&M or taking ecstasy or smoking or drinking or appearing nude in a magazine, no problem. But some people do, and feel like a whole lot of things that might be horrifying to others. That's what choice is about. It is up to you what you choose. It is not up to you to rule that all traces of those things you don't choose get weeded out of society. There needs to be room for all of us here.

So, again, a good test of the freedom of a society is how it deals with all those personal behaviors that might be considered by some to be immoral, bizarre, dangerous, perverted, unhealthy, indecent. And the funny thing is that if such choices are freely allowed, they right away become a lot less unhealthy and dangerous and strange. Because oppression and repression and suppression are the real dangers.
[ | 2005-03-29 17:57 | 14 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, October 19, 2004day link 

 Making Realities
picture Since a long time, one of the subjects I'd like to delve more into and write about is the subject of making realities. That could be addressed from many angles. Personal Reality. Shared Reality. Virtual Reality.

Now, that's starting off with an assumption that each of us have a hand in what reality we're experiencing. Some people don't believe that. Even some of those people who're best at constructing realities that they get others to live in. Many people will insist that reality just is some kind of objective finite thing which one can establish and prove and that's it. Ironically, some of those people probably live more in a reality inside their skull than outside it. But that wasn't my point.

The way I use reality here is as that which we can perceive ourselves to be living in, and which we actually can live in. There can be several or many of those. One might live in one without being conscious of it, or one might willingly step in or out of different realities at different times.

You can think about a movie, for example. If it is well-made and you enjoy it and you're watching it in a movie theatre, you can live yourself into it and believe it while it is playing. Oh, you're still aware that you're watching a movie, but if it is made well enough, you'll forget it to a considerable degree and it will be real, and you have some kind of relation or response to the characters and situations in it. Even if what you're watching is really photos of a plastic model and actors pretending to be other people than they are, you might go along with the whole thing.

Good film makers and good actors know a bunch of things about making convincing realities. For example, a method actor would work hard at developing a lot of invisible things that are part of the character they're asked to portray. Like, what is their past history? What are their feelings and actions rooted in? What is really motivating them? What do they feel? What happened to them before? Where are they going afterwards? Even though you see none of those things directly, if the actor has chosen for himself what they are, his character will appear more real to him and to you.

A very simple example: If a character is supposed to say a sentence that gets interrupted in the middle, like "But why do ...", and then something happens. If the actor only practices saying "But why do .." and then stopping, it will look and sound kind of fake. It will work much better if he worked out for himself what the whole sentence should be and why he's saing it, even if he never gets to do so. The fabric of the reality he's presenting is more coherent and complete. And you notice that, even if you only get to see a corner of it.

Realistic realities have a number of perceptions to them, and they have depth. It is not just that the right words are said. They sound right, they look right, they smell right, they feel right. The periphery seems right.

If you say the word toothbrush, it doesn't count for much. But if you can hold it in your hand, and put toothpaste on it, and put it in your mouth, and clean your teeth with it, and your mouth feels nice and fresh, then it is a convincing reality. It doesn't matter if somebody else thinks it is a hairy-nosed wombat. If you can brush your teeth with it every day, and have a minimum of cavities, you're fine.

No, it doesn't quite mean that it is just as good to live in a delusion as to live in a reality. A delusion would be when you exist in a certain reality and you deny it, and maintain the abstract idea that it is different than it is. A functional reality is made of perceptions, not just of a concept. Perceptions are abstractions too, in relation to what the universe REALLY is, but they're much more solid than recooked abstract concepts that are based on denying perceptions. Important difference. If you sit by a table and you tell yourself you're flying a spaceship, you probably won't be doing anything very sensible. If you can actually operate the controls and land on another planet and pick fruits off the trees, then you might actually have something. If you're only thinking: "This is not a table, it is a spaceship", and you convince yourself, then you're probably just a human who'll have difficulties functioning.

Affirmations are a common newagey way of getting something you want to happen. Nothing wrong with that. Prayers are in the same category. It can be quite useful to affirm or ask for that which you want. You might get it. Better than not to ask for it, or to ask for that which you don't want. But it is also very flimsy as far as realities are concerned. Just a concept and some words. To really get something different, you need to feel it, see it, hear it, taste it. You gotta be able to get into it and drive away. If you only have a movie prop facade, like from Universal Studios, you can't live in it. Workable realities have a whole range of dimensions to it. You can't eat a picture of a cheese. It needs to have a certain consistency, it needs to taste right, and it needs to be nutritious. There's a whole bunch of perceptions and details that need to be there. Realities have a lot of detail, and detail that is not just on the surface, but which sticks quite deep.

However, if we don't need to eat it or live in it, we can be persuaded to accept realities that really are rather flimsy, and which aren't much more than props. But they're detailed enough that we'll accept tham as real without actually inspecting them. You'll probably accept the news and the state of politics in that manner. You don't really go and double-check the news for yourself, to see if it is real. You might check some other sources, but you'll probably stop when you feel you have a picture that is sufficiently self-consistent. It is still just a concept, and has the real substance missing. It is pictures and words and opinions. But it is impractical to get the real thing, so you've become used to accepting a prop. And you're just looking for a certain coherence of the picture, rather than whether it really is edible. And most likely you vote for political candidates the same way. You haven't met any of them. You've just seen them on TV.

So, the people who design mass realities for us have a much easier time than what would be required to design livable realities. You don't have time to receive much more than a cardboard cutout, so their job is simply to provide a cardboard cutout that seems to suit you, and which will survive its journey through the news media, and which will fool you sufficiently. It doesn't have to be the truth and it doesn't have to add up.

But the same rules still apply. You just need less of them. For example, if a certain political character is presented as taking a certain stand, you'll want to hear the history that let up to that. I.e. you want to hear about a background that is consistent with what they're presenting. And you want them to sincerely look like they're playing that part. And you want other people to confirm it. Whether it is the truth doesn't matter. It is obvious that you can't add up everything, so you'll settle for accepting things as more real if you've heard them enough time from people who look like they know what they're talking about. And their story makes sense to you.

You'd want to know about how realities are made in order to protect yourself from mass manipulation.

And for your own sanity you'd want to know how to make your reality that which you prefer. Personal realities are on one hand harder to make than mass realities, because they require more detail and self-consistency. On the other hand they're easier, because there's mainly one person involved, and because the things that make the most difference in your life are rather subjective, and don't really need to be validated by anybody else.

Some people accomplish great things and breeze by even the most impossible obstacles. That's not just because they're gifted in that way from the beginning. More importantly it is because they implicitly believe that things work that way. They don't just believe that as a loose and shakey idea. They feel it, see it, hear it, taste it. They have experiences to back it up. They're both coming from somewhere and going to somewhere that is well-defined, self-consistent and in accordance with that which they're accomplishing. And, no, not just because that's what REALLY happened. Mainly because THEIR reality is structured that way.

The reality you're seeing and touching might appear very real, but it is in no way THE reality. It is probably more real than many of the delusions one can have ABOUT the reality. But as far as the universe goes, there's no scarcity of options. The table you're sitting by is probably just one of zillions of possible tables. The sub-atomic particles it is made of could be in any of an unfathomable amount of states, and they probably are, at the same time, depending on who's looking. You could call that parallel dimensions, or the quantum soup, or Reality with a capital R, or whatever. Regardless, any insistence on that table, or your political views, being some kind of only and ultimate reality is laughable on the scale of infinity. Time and space are but somewhat illusory properties of the way you happen to perceive things. The same pieces appear in so many other guises, at the same time, the appearance of which has a whole hell of a lot to do with how you perceive them and interact with them.

Maybe it is a little pretentious to call it "making" or "creating" realities. It is maybe more like choosing. Every possible different perception you might have about anything at any time forms a possible branching point. Nobody forces you to take any one of them. There might be some inertia going on, but you're always free to start branching off in a different direction at any time.

But it helps to know what realities are made of. Detailed perceptions. A coherent and consistent history. Depth. Multiple levels that all work. Systemic synergy. Things fit together. And for us humans: a meta-story, a set of beliefs about how and why it works. And realities have a certain continuity. They don't flicker on and off all the time. They're there even if you look away and look back again.

You could call it a worldview, but, no, I mean it more tangibly and mechanically than that. As well as bigger. Like the structure of the interface between consciousness and an infinite universe. If you don't believe consciousness really exists, half of what I'm saying is probably making no sense. In that case, think of being able to download yourself into a virtual reality. The power will remain plugged in, and you can populate the reality with what you choose, and you can adjust the parameters of the program. I'd bet you'd want as many perceptions as possible, a certain multi-layered systemic coherence, and you want a certain history and consistency, and some good people to hang out with, and a suitable level of surprise and adventure, and the chance to do really well. Just like in real life.
[ | 2004-10-19 22:48 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Saturday, October 16, 2004day link 

picture I like to make complicated things simple.

And simple things complex.

The world we live in is mostly upside down and inside out. Simple things are made terribly complicated. And things that are very complex are made very simple. Falsely.

You'll often find the amazing infinite complexity of the universal organism reduced to a few simple platitudes. Religions are very good and degrading into that. Here you go, all you need to know about life is to follow these 10 rules.

And it becomes terribly complicated to just exist. You have to keep track of loads of abstract and self-contradictory disjointed information. Most people don't get around to the simplicity of just being present.

It is really quite simple. Or complex, if you will. We screw it up by abstracting. Abstracting in the sense of forming abstract notions about reality, and then getting lost in the abstractions.

Lying in the grass, looking at the clouds drift by, feeling a light breeze, listening to the rustling of leaves - that might be complete and whole in itself. The simple enjoyment of life. As might be the satisfaction of figuring out the periodic table of elements. But when you try to pack it up and take it with you, trouble easily starts. You might accidentally assume that your experience is THE experience, and you might persuade others to adopt a symbolic version of your experience, rather than having their own real experience. And since that initially seems to work, we easily get further and further away from the real world, which is both complex and simple. And we end up in shadow worlds of the mind that are simple and complex in the wrong places.

But sometimes we wake up and feel the breeze. And sometimes the condensed learnings of others help us do so, or help improve our lives. So we easily forget that most of the time we're wallowing in misplaced abstractions.

We all share the fault, of course. We seem to think we're something that we really aren't, thinking we're capable of something we really aren't. And we're not noticing that we really are something much grander.

We can walk through the mirror any time, of course. Turning ourselves rightside in and out.
[ | 2004-10-16 11:36 | 5 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Friday, August 20, 2004day link 

 Predicting the future
picture OK, it is a lot easier to criticise other people's predictions than to make one's own. But it might get one going on thinking of better ones. I was just reading an article, It’s 2014, and life is the same. Only better by Canadian science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer. And, well, as his title honestly says, he's describing life the same, just a little better. And it struck me how much it sounded like essays I would write about the future when I was around 11. That's about 34 years ago. He writes better than I did, but then again my predictions were about the year 2000, which was considered "The Future" back then.

I thought that in the year 2000 we'd be able to work at home if we wanted, and we'd be able to shop in stores through video screens at home, and that we'd be able to get our own personalized newspaper printed out every morning, with exactly the kind of news we'd prefer. I'd be able to speak commands to machines around me, and robots in my kitchen could make me breakfast on their own, and clean the house. We'd have self-driving cars. Or flying cars if we were going into the country. We'd be able to easily travel up to a space station, or to the Moon or Mars.

The first part of my predictions were quite spot on. That's called the Internet. The rest is, shockingly, hardly any closer than in 1970. The space program was more active and vibrant back then. The test projects for self-driving cars look about the same as they did back then. You still can't buy a flying car.

Cars and houses look about the same. Oh, they have different styling, but nothing fundamentally different at all. Air bags? They could have made a balloon be blown up really quickly back then too, if anybody had asked for it.

The stuff that has changed unbelivably much is the virtual. The stuff we can do inside computers. Even though we're still strangely conservative about what we make them do. We manage to make computers 10,000 faster, and still word processing seems no faster than way back when. But the greater power leverages other things to happen. Like, the way we connect things together and how we network information - that suddenly puts us on a different plane.

Notice that the features of my old prediction that require AI didn't happen. Because, surprisingly to some, AI didn't really happen. I can buy a vacuum cleaner that will move around on the floor and clean by itself, fairly well, if you have certain types of flooer surfaces, and not too difficult things in its way. One could probably have made that mechanically in 1970 or 1950, if it were a priority, and not much worse. Today I can speak to a computer and it might type my words pretty well, if I've trained it, but it still doesn't understand what I say, even vaguely. No, it wasn't so much the AI that advanced. It was the ability to calculate much faster, and to connect lots of things together, and to make various kinds of virtual realities possible.

Interestingly, the material technologies that are most promising, and that really might give us a profoundly, drastically different future are all in the realm of the virtual. Making matter virtual. Nano-tech, quantum physics, genetics. Really small stuff that, if we find out how to program it, suddenly allows us to rebuild reality in a drastically different way.

Will we have done so by 2014? Will it really just be that your toilet analyzes your urine and tells you you've got a cold? And that your kitchen cooks a low-carb breakfast for you by itself? I hope not, although those might possibly be good things.

Predictions of daily life in the future easily end up sounding sort of sugar coated and problem free. So, if one 35 years ago predicted that I today could have a custom newspaper on a screen and shop in stores and talk with people in other countries on a video phone, it would be presented as if it somehow made life leisurely and problem-free. But life is no less stressful today, and my life isn't suddenly leisurely because I have those things. It is kind of like an architect's mock-up of a new building, with stylized people who stroll about between green trees and pathways, with conveniently located service facilities. But when it is actually built, it is just some mall, and it is filled with real people who're stressed and on their way somewhere. Usually never looks as leisurely and perfect as in the vision. At least not unless it stays as a virtual simulation of some kind.

But, again, in 10 years, will anything have managed to REALLY change how we live. The Internet changed it more in a couple of years than anything else I can think of in the past 100 years. It was a disruptive change. Most forecasters have a hard time guessing which disruptive changes will come along. Although we have a few very likely ones in our focus. Nano, genetics. And some people center it all around an expected major AI breakthrough. In part because that might potentially solve some of the huge dangers inherent in some of the other things.

It is entirely possible that somebody might invent cheap universal nano-tech within the next 10 years. I mean something that can construct whatever you imagine, or rather whatever you can program, or download the blueprint for, as long as the needed atoms are around. Like an inkjet printer that spits out atoms and print objects. Suddenly objects are virtual, and the game would totally change. How we live would change thoroughly and drastically within just a few months.

The future is so open now, with such a range of possibilies, that it becomes almost laughable to predict a world in 10 years that just has more, and a little cooler stuff, that is essentially the same. But many of the bold predictions from 35 years ago didn't happen at all, and we just got more of the same. So of course we might have just more of the same in 10 years. Maybe a better electronic voting system for choosing between your favorite Republican presidential candidate and your favorite Democratic candidate. Yawn, gasp! The FCC releases some more spectrum, and technology gets better, so you can have 100Mbits to your cellphone, and watch movies in 3D in the bus, which will be charged to your credit card, and which then self-destructs in 5 hours. All cars would have nagivation systems, and maybe collision detection systems. Just enough stuff every year to make you keep buying. The US army would have robotic bombers that more efficiently could kill more people in foreign places, without even having to send any people there. Microsoft would've come out with some updated version of the paperclip, which can make more wide-spanning stupid assumptions about everything you're trying to do, and correct even more things that didn't need to be corrected.

I'd be leaning towards hoping for some disruptive and more pervasive change. Something so disruptive that it kills most of those factors that would otherwise ensure that we'd just have more of the same. Something that destroys the current economic power structure. In a good way, in making it instantly obsolete and replaced with something better. I hope for such things because, despite increasingly rapid change in some areas, the future is at risk of being boring and stagnant.

I also expect disruptive change for the reason that progress in many areas is held back by backwards economics. The future that was expected from the year 2000 a few decades before was quite reasonable and logical. It would have happened if it weren't because there weren't any terribly profitable reason for investing capital in making it so. What was profitable was to give us apparently a little more of the same every year, in a new model, with new features, but nothing that really changed things. Weren't any profit in giving us space stations. Certainly weren't any in even attempting to feed us all, or even get us clean drinking water. Weren't any profit in taking good care of our environment.

Collectively I think we'll discover that we've been cheated, and that we're living in a falsely retarded world that doesn't have to be that way at all. Some forces are going to clash. Disruptive paradigm shifts sometimes come about because of pent-up problems that weren't solved, and pent-up solutions that existed, but weren't applied. At some point it breaks through, and things have to change rather quickly, because they failed to change gradually.

Our greatest leverage is in the areas that aren't artificially retarded, because nobody figured out yet how to do so, because they didn't start trying before it was too late. Our ability to network ourselves with each other and with information, electronically, and the likelihood we'll be free to do that faster and better. It is a way we can create something very different, which might at first be somewhat invisible. Not a different kind of car or microwave for me and my family. Not just something a few people are consuming. Something millions of people are doing together. A whole new collective organism. Which needs to start dealing better with meaning. And which, once it gets smarter, or we get smarter through it, needs to feed back to our material world and make it smarter and more fun and livable, on our own collective terms.

Being creatures who tend to live in certain mental grooves, when asked to predict the future, we usually extrapolate more of the same. Which might be right. But we usually forget to predict the changed behavior that comes about when certain things go through certain thresholds. For many years we had telephones. And for years one could very expensively get a portable one. We didn't expect the changed behavior patterns that would come about by a majority of people in the world having a cheap portable phone in their pocket at all times. One could have predicted that electronic networks would have allowed us to send electronic mail to each other, and it would be more efficient than paper mail. But the social aspects of what happened when enough of us were online would have been hard to predict. We can predict many things one could do if one had self-replicating nano-tech. But is hard to predict what will change and what will happen once those things are accepted and widespread, and we use that as a springboard for something else. We might see the next hilltop, but have a hard time seeing the valleys and bigger hills beyond it. There are event horizons beyond which we can't see, no matter the strength of our glasses, so we have to imagine.

I predict that within the next 10 years there will be at least one, but probably several disruptive changes that are so surprising and pervasive that life will be very different from how we know it or how we project it to be. There won't be a Ford Taurus 2014 or an NBC Nightline News or an aisle in the supermarket with fruit juice with 10% more real fruit. Other than in a retro simulation for people who like them for atmosphere. I don't know. There is no future, really. There's just right now, and there still will be just now in 10 years. Thinking about the future as separate from the now is just one of those mind games we play with ourselves, when we are bored or inspired, or fearful or hopeful. A mind game that sometimes helps us knowing which fork in the road to take right now, by examining which of the imagined journeys would suit us best.
[ | 2004-08-20 23:59 | 10 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Thursday, August 12, 2004day link 

picture It is so easy to forget how magical and amazing life is. Not just my life, but the life in nature. You drop a seed in the ground, water it a bit, and the sun shines, and this seed strangely knows how to turn into a big plant, and to reproduce and make more, ad infinitum. I kind of wouldn't believe it if it wasn't so normal. And, ok, I'm not really much into gardening, but I do go out and water every day, which I can just about handle. And I can't miss all the stuff that comes up all by itself from what was just a piece of soil. OK, we dropped a few seeds and little plants in there, but the weeds are just as interesting.

People who're into technology often have little regard for nature. Messy, primitive, dirty stuff, which we think we can do much better. Where really we have little clue. Most of our technology is horribly primitive compared with the technology of nature. We are incapable of making anything like a seed. We can dream about it, in the form of nanotechnology, but no real results. A little unit, weighing a few milligrams, and you drop it into some random soil, and on its own power it extracts building materials from the surroundings, and reproduces cells, and builds a rather fancy construction with billions of parts and a whole infrastructure. Which is then solar powered, in addition to the water and minerals it keeps extracting. All at room temperature or worse. And not only that, but it is self-replicating, and will produce new seeds that do the same.

The best competition we can come up with is to mess with these things, and poke inside them, and see if something different comes out. Kind of typical for how our technologies work. We know how to poke around and learn to exploit something, by seeing what happens if we poke it different ways. You know, like psychiatry by cutting off different parts of the brain and seeing what happens. But we're very ignorant on how to actually make any of the stuff we're messing with. We haven't succeeded in making a single cell, despite having taken many apart to see what they consisted of. We don't really get it yet. Life, on many levels.
[ | 2004-08-12 08:38 | 9 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, July 27, 2004day link 

 Utopian World Championships
Via Global Ideas Blog, the Utopian World Championships. Yeah, that's a bit odd to have a competition for the best Utopia, but why not. I didn't read anything earth shattering so far, but it is a good exercise to design utopias. I'd probably have submitted something if I had noticed before.
[ | 2004-07-27 11:06 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

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