Saturday, March 12, 2011

Week 9

Two months into the new year and I am still continuing my experiment in attending a weekly congregation in my neighborhood. I find myself looking forward to attendance. I missed a service a few weeks back and it weighed on my mind for the rest of the day. Fascinating that I should start to miss something that 10 weeks ago I didn't really even know existed.

I've met a variety of people there. I've continued contact only with a handful of these. Introverts, extroverts, a pretender, people seeking the same way I do, people taking vastly different paths to get there.

I've told a handful of people in my life about it, but so far nobody has shown interest in attending. I guess I can understand, and besides, my journey is my own.

One of my favorite things about the congregation is in the way they are rather democratic, in all material that are posted which try and represent the ideals of the organization. Furthermore, instead of having a set doctrine for the youth, at the end of their "coming of age" class they are encouraged to present to the whole congregation what it is that they believe. I find this truly remarkable.

I heard an off hand remark about the theist vs atheist distribution which said that about 40% of the attendees were aged atheists who long ago grew tired of the hypocrisies inherent in any organised religion. I can definitely see how they would find a haven there, where humanist ethics seems to be the stronghold.

Networking has been an interesting bit of learning. I feel slightly safer being myself there than I do in many places, though I'm still hesitant to drop all pretenses at all times. It's still early yet. Stay tuned for another update after tomorrow...

Friday, January 28, 2011


As a teenager, having people like you is paramount. Everybody needs somebody, and that doesn't change. But when you're 13 or even 19 you haven't quite gotten used to your new adult size shoes. You make mistakes, and those mistakes have consequences. We've all heard stories of a young life, caught up in something, and extinguished forever. There are consequences worse than death.

There are other feelings that accompany that time in all our lives, some long forgotten in adulthood, but seemed our only reason to live. Perhaps they were, at the time. However much or little a person goes through in that time, greatly effects the entire outcome of their life, though nothing is permanent.

In today's world, there is an Internet revolution happening. The young are a part of it, but they had no choice. Those who did have a choice, but lagged behind, struggle to adopt the latest in powerful information tools. With all that going on in this new evolution, the technology revolution of the last 100 years or so, the outcome is unpredictable because of the amount of variables.

The complexity of this futuretime blinds today's human's capacity for understanding. It's a simulation in size that dwarfs anything we've invented yet, though nothing stays the same forever.

Knowing all that, there are certain assumptions according to convention that are refereed to as "safe." The first is following a global trend towards democracy and globalization. The second is the global trend towards educating (and hopefully feeding) every child.

Third, arts and media will continue to change slowly, held back from it's natural pace because of being locked up in court too often. There is quite a lot of evidence out there to back this up. Success comes with sharing, not limiting, media in every art. In order to get a statue, somebody must buy the clay and copper. Material goods don't apply as much to this point. Licensing laws are going to be hard to change, but bit by bit, word is getting out that there are already legal alternatives to protecting (and growing) reputations. Copy-left, Creative Commons, GNU, and so on.

Four. When the time comes, pick up your heels and run. There may not be an apocalypse, as in the end of times, but the seeds have already been planted and sprouted for what is going to grow out of the current climate. As with anything unfamiliar, it will frightened many, many people.

Five. Expect casualties.

Six. Hope for the truly unexpected.

Seven. Water is the new oil. Water is not just business, it's life. It's been abused so much. There are some good fighters still out there. Sign up for the Council of Canadians e-newletter.

Eight. Certain things will seem like they will never change.

Nine. The future is coming sooner than you think.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Week 1

Once a week until further notice, this weblog will take a new, even more personal direction. Today, yours truly attended a service at the local Unitarian Universalists congregation. It is my intention to write about my experiences at this church, aiming to give my readers an impression of the sort of place it is, and the sort of people one could expect to encounter there.

In this post you'll firstly find some background information about the structure of the church, it's foundations and current global presence. Then I'll share in no uncertain terms my own degrees of belief in the metaphysical philosophies, and world religions as they have been revealed to me at this point in my life through study and meditation. I'll finish by describing the specifics of this local chapter and my predictions for how a newcomer would fit in.

From the information that is publicly available about Universalists, they're mantra is "we're all on our own journey, together." To put it in a little more detail, the purpose of attending congregation is not dissemination of belief, but simply education about religions, historic and present. During the service, The intension of the minister is to try and keep as even a ground as can be had when you have a small number speaking before a larger group. This is in order to acknowledge the wide variety of deists, atheists and other non-deists, and those with beliefs that are less easy to categorize, such as Buddhists.

The especially exciting, and important part is the after-words. The opportunities offered to allow for a open discussion of whatever beliefs an individual wishes to share, or ask about on completely equal ground in a slightly less exposed but still public way.


A succinct version of my own beliefs is neccesary in order to demonstrate the shape of the piece my form will take within the puzzle.

There is room for the belief in many things in a single mind. Even some things which on the surface may seem contradictory. In a human brain, it will seem there are ten thousand voices. There is the old woman. There is the small boy. There is the working man. There is the wandering girl. There is a hero and there is a jester. There is the villain, and many, many more. They each see the world in a different way and offer some thought that is then spoken with a single voice. Such is the nature of my understanding, and belief.
The mind can speak as a single voice, but it thinks as every individual experienced or imagined by that mind. This is directly observable in the way that children learn and repeat spoken languages, and emulate and impersonate the behavior of others.
Belief is what we do above and in-between what we perceive as facts. Not nearly opinions, beliefs run deeper and must be disproved to be changed in the heart of the individual.
Where the heart lies in the human mind, or even for certain that it exists, cannot be told. The spiritual foundation for consciousness is evidenced only self-perception, and to a certain degree, intelligence. That leaves room in the Great Unknown for non-human consciousness, however which beings are conscious other than the majority of humans, also cannot be told.
The Universe is big. Really really, authentically massive in every conceivable dimension and sense. It may even be infinite (although there is a fair amount of evidence to suggest otherwise.) Still the truly immense size of All That Is, Has Been, and Ever Will be, leaves a lot of room for discovery, and we've only just begun the journey.

To step back into the immediate reality for a moment, and touch on how I think all of this is going to come together over the next score of Sundays. The people that I encountered today are open, informed, and some I would even describe as some of them as truly friendly. They seemed to welcome me without expectation of anything. They had no greater desire than to know my name and welcome me to the group. I look forward to sharing my journey with them, and with you, my dear readers, as I continue looking outward for the answers to my inner questions. Taking one more step down the path to enlightenment.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How a program can evolve.

We are born a set of instructions. DNA is a recursive algorithm. This means it's results create the next equation. If we introduce random elements through sexual reproduction, some decision making, those algorithms evolve. They integrate with neighboring algorithms quite comfortably, all the same.

We had trouble "fitting it all on the disk" at first. But in the near future those little plastic disks will be able to store tremendous volumes of data. Then comes the cloud. Both frightening due to the legal, moral, and privacy implications and kind of wonderful if you ignore those, you have a place where you never run out of disk space.

A thing to love about this universe is that humans are not the only recursive algorithm that produces intelligence. There is intelligence all over the place on this planet.

That's where technology set us apart. We have made technology that creates new algorithms without human interference (except indirectly). These algorithms are not merely recursive, but they evolve based on a set of initial parameters and interaction with the outside world. "Tests."

Within the next decade, one of those tests will be "convince most people, most of the time, that you are a human being."

It is my hope they call him/her/it Turing, but it will probably be called Kurzweil. Of course, there, there will be a female version, either first or shortly after. Imagine the pornography. A lot of people will want to to light a fire with this AI. Religions will mobilize, fracture, and lie. Politians will capitalize, and destroy. People will come together and disagree.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Coming home

There is a semi-popular concept that all sentient beings know where "home" is, and the further that being is from this place, the more they feel it's pull on their center. It's rather unscientific but like most apocrypha, still compelling.

Do nomads not feel the urge to find a place where they will be prosperous, and welcome?

When our nanoscopic ancestors leave Earth in search of whatever basic elements they require for growth, and spread amongst the other planets, our local star, and then eventually, others deemed suitable, it's an interesting question as to whether they will ever feel the need to report back.

Is homesickness simply an evolutionary mechanism, in place to guide us to safety, or is it something deeper than instinct?

At the current rate of acceleration of increase in performance per cost in computing by 2020 we'll see machines with the same capacity for calculations per second as a human brain. They will pass any test put to them by a human to determine their consciousness. We'll be able to plug our own minds into a virtual world with many forms of direct sensory input. We'll have virtual bodies, and feel how they interact with the virtual world. We'll be able to modify them in many ways. By 2030, machine (non-biological) intelligence will be highly affordable and thus accessible, and already surpassing many of the abilities of an unaugmented human brain. Ten years later, we'll have very tiny machines capable of modifying our read-world bodies in an nearly any way we can conceive.

It's only a few steps from here that we'll go out into the darkness just to see what is there. It's comparatively easy to accelerate such tiny things to speeds approaching c, than it is to send one of our primate bodies "out there."

Forget star ships. Try imagining star peas, or star dandruff flakes.

Moving on to other accomplishments. Without the need for breath, with full control over one's senses, and one's body... Is enlightenment as described by all the Zen masters not then possible?

Perfect Clarity, Perfect Stillness, Perfect Love, Perfect Beauty, Perfect Truth. Persistent Perfection, at least in the mind of the observer.

Our world may be on the brink of destruction, but if we survive long enough to shed the need for these worldly bodies, we're in for a complete transformation of consciousness. Maybe the Sacred Texts were onto something after all...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Virtual Reality
Real Reality

[note] Those on the mailing list will receive this as a stand alone piece, but it was rather unexplained. The following is what an art dealer might say in place of the author. .

"He felt compelled to count space twice at that point without doing so I think would have resulted in a regressive loop. This art piece is a comment on our present and future. A sort of listing of paradigms of our (technologically accelerated and) inevitable evolution.

To start with music seems to be a personal choice. It could be that it would open the mind to something every conscious being hears. There is therefor a natural progression from it to every other place. Maybe if we didn't have a beating heart or a pulsing brain we wouldn't hear it the same.

I've known the author personally and we've talked many times. He believes that time is not as linear as it seems. There are problems with the idea. Unsolved equations scatter the grease boards of a hundred physicists. (they have other problems.) Anyway, without asking, I can tell you that method of placing numbers after time refers to these and other mysteries.

This is the end of the note. Thanks for indulging. Back to your regularly "scheduled" updates after Halloween. Happy Trick or Treating Brownies and Nymphs, Ghouls and Gimps, Hectors and Spectors, Brain Wave Detectors, Hannibal Lectors, Mummies and Bats, Poodles and Rats, Vampires and Gaga's, Hoo Hoo's or Haa Haa's. Happy Hallow's Eve!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

La vita nuova

what is mind?

The sum of all choices and experiences, genetic predispositions and the imagination. This definition of mind restricts the discussion to humans and all (even imaginary) human-like beings that will be henceforth referred to as humanoids.

When we use the expression "that machine has a mind of it's own" we're using metaphor. Specifically the metaphor is MIND IS ANIMATION. We don't literally mean that it's doing any thinking or imagining. This is true, even with all modern computers. These computers have no self-input. With us, it's different. We see, and smell and feel. We make decisions based on experiences in hopes of having more experiences. We have a soul.

Does that mean that nothing else can have a soul but a human?

If we imagined aliens from another planet coming to visit earth. Walking, talking, eating, breathing, reproducing aliens; we would grant they have not just life, but a life like we have. Similar in all the ways that each of us is the same. Most people would agree that we're more the same than different, as spectacular as our differences may at sometimes seem. Because of such, these humanoids can also be said to have a soul.

You and your neighbors all have a soul. It's the thing you have now that no longer inhibits your body when you die. Thus all entities we declare "alive" have some sort of soul. When they cease to exist, they're gone forever.

Back to the original question, when we look at what we consider "mind" we see that wherever it resides, it's not in the brain alone. We externalize our mind in many ways. The cognitive work done by the mind is shared between the brain, the body and all of our surroundings. We read books, and put them back on the shelf. We browse webpages and leave them bookmarked. We build infrastructure, and machines that cut down on our need process thought to accomplish tasks. A simple kitchen counter, for instance, alleviates our need to find different surfaces for everything in the preparation of a meal. Lined paper helps us keep things written down straight, facilitating both the reading and writing of the literature.

So it's very possible our mind to live on in the world around us, well after our soul has expired. In the memories of those that survive us, and in everything we touched; metaphorically speaking. Mathematics, science, fashion; Engineering, medicine; Art; these practices and systems of thought are all ways that we folks with minds have learned from, and advanced in, our world.

No entity then, would we grant the honor of recognizing mind, unless it has it's own thoughts. Unless it changed it's behavior in different environments and learned from every new experience. Observing, learning, touching, then repeating all this many many times until someday it has what we call feelings.

The entity would naturally then feel ways about stuff. When it's experienced itself in the shoes of other mindful beings, it recognizes certain similar situations. This human or humanoid would then develop tendencies to respond to those situations in keeping with it's experiences, learnings and imagination.

Those tendencies we would label "a mind of it's own."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Do you believe in an afterlife?

In every life, there are moments of inward reflection. Perhaps for some, fewer than others, but it's this writer's opinion that it's always at least once. In every case, the cause of death is always a lack of blood in the brain. That means there is always a split second before it actually happens when you know unless you get a cannonball from behind above the shoulders or are instantly vaporised in an accident at the LHC in CERN.

Heck if you're caught in a black hole it could last years.

Going back to the original point, it happens. If anybody ever came back from death, through powerful healing, it's likely they would remember some of that flash of glory.
There isn't much evidence to support any of this, but let's just leave that point in the philosophical, shall we?

So what's left to analyze? Well we could examine the patterns in the worlds six major religions. Nah. How about trending atheism since the years of Christ? Too wikipedia for you? Alright. Lets go with... why does suffering exist?

Actually, the answer is both simple and incredibly complex, and as it turns out, it's not really an answer either.

"Without darkness,
how else would we recognize the light?"

When studying the mind, one learns quickly that the slightest difference between love and hate, good or evil, and a chasm between doth appear. To see suffering as merely an opposite of pleasure is to miss the point entirely. Suffering is a result of attachment.

The greatest achievement is selflessness.
The greatest worth is self-mastery.
The greatest quality is seeking to serve others.
The greatest precept is continual awareness.
The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything.
The greatest action is not conforming with the worlds ways.
The greatest magic is transmuting the passions.
The greatest generosity is non-attachment.
The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind.
The greatest patience is humility.
The greatest effort is not concerned with results.
The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.
The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.

Atisha (11th century Tibetan Buddhist master)

My personal favorite is the one about the passions. It's quite apt.

Thursday, May 27, 2010