Archive for the 'metaphysics' Category

Virtual Navel Gazing.

April 11, 2008

I haven’t updated in a long time.  Mostly it’s been an issue of energy.  I have been putting all of my daily energy into real-life activity.  I have neglected my virtual life.  Even now, I’m lying here, in a hotel room only managing to write this with the magic that is voice-recognition software.

I’m still in playing with new technology.  My solar powered Bluetooth headset is waiting for me at home.  It is my fondest hope that I’ll be able to use that with this voice recognition software so that I can dictate from a distance without a cord.

Perhaps by beginning to write here again I will unleash the energy I need to blog with abandon.  At any rate, it’s a start.

I have been playing with Twitter a lot.  I was on Twitter a year ago, when it first came out.  I got bored with it pretty quickly.  But now there are a lot more people on it and it is genuinely fun.  Plus, I’m using my real life persona with it.  That’s different too.

I created this Internet persona some four or more years ago so I could have some level of anonymity.  However, it’s also a pain.  To the extent that I can use new media and social media in real life, it is far more enjoyable.  That’s another reason why I haven’t been writing much here.  The bang for buck isn’t as great.

Conversely the more I participate in Internet friendships and activity with my real identity, that identity begins to be subsumed into the cloud.  In other words, instead of a schizophrenic Internet life/real-life the two begin to merge.  Someday maybe I’ll abandon Thaed altogether.

It sounds heavy but what it really means is that I spend more time plugged into my laptop.  In fact my laptop becomes my constant waking companion.  I’m liking that a lot.  I dwell less in the basement but spend more time online.  What could be better than that?

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Reductionism and good weather.

October 20, 2007

Lately, I’ve been on a kick where I reduce every experience in my life to its essence.  For example, take travel.  To me, travel is only important if it is specifically necessary.  I frequently travel to faraway places for work.  For work, it makes sense.  People are willing to pay to fly me somewhere to do something.  That’s fine.  Travel for vacation makes a lot less sense.  There’s not much reason for me to travel for fun.  The things I think are fun are all indoor activities that I can do best at home.

This is what I mean by reductionism.  Some people like parasailing.  To  me, it makes no sense.  It’s just danger coupled with wind and height.  Some people like camping.  To me, it is discomfort that you do voluntarily.  I’ve never been into self punishment.

Now, the only exception I can see for vacation travel in the winter is to go somewhere sunny and warm.  Mind you, since I’m not likely to go outside anyway, it’s not mandatory.  But there is something to the seasonal affective disorder problem.  Cold weather sucks.  Even if you stay inside most of the time, you have to go out to get food.  Plus, even inside, cold weather dries everything out.   It’s not fun.  Last winter, for example, I went to Key West for a weekend in the winter.  It helped a lot.

I’ve been to paradise, but I wouldn’t want to live there.  Hawaii has the best weather I’ve ever experienced  Yet, Internet there isn’t the greatest and you have to pay so much for the cost of living.  Many people have pointed out to me that living in Cleveland makes sense for me.  The cost of living here is very low, Internet service is great and I have a great job.  Sure I have to deal with snow in the winter, but honestly, Cleveland suits me.

The Universe is a big place and we are very small (but we can still have a good time).

June 2, 2007

I thought I’d link to another blog today.  This blog post is particularly poignant, not for the religion/anti-religion stuff (and especially the tiresome comments) but for another human being being awed by the staggering size of our galaxy and the universe itself.  Moreover, it is an expression of being in awe while simultaneously understanding our minimal significance in it.  The tie-in to Lovecraft is wonderful too.

There are ways around the depression that comes with truth.  Embracing what we are helps:  highly evolved, curious apes with big pleasure centers.  Even though like Percy Shelley says all we ever do will amount to dust, we can still have fun in the doing.  Realizing potential is an end in itself.  In fact, that, and loving each other is all we have.

We Are All Nodes.

February 11, 2007

When I write something here, it is duly indexed with all of the other material on the web. My ideas wait for someone who is looking for something, anything, concerning a particular topic. They happen upon what I’ve said on that topic and it may add value or it may not, but it is information created, stored, transmitted and received. I, in turn, take what I need from the web daily. To say that it’s expanded the way I think is an understatement. It’s changed the way my brain works. No longer to I need to retain trivia. Practically any fact I could ever need is at my fingertips.

In a sense, people have always been nodes of information. We’ve just never been so connected like this before. It seems to me that the distance between the nodes has been shrinking. From smoke signals to pony express to talking face to face, information has been moved from person to person with varying degrees of efficiency. Now, not only is information created, but it’s stored outside of a mind, outside of a book, outside of anything we’ve ever had before and perfectly organized on top of it.

This whole process even has different means of expression. There are blogs, and wikis and web pages. And let’s not forget cell phones, they spread information too. Everything is seemly instantly available. Except that it’s not.

That’s the next step: instantaneous communication of the nodes. It’s the creation of a brain within a brain. It’s a true collective unconscious in the form of a bio-mechanical linking of everyone’s minds. It might be your thought, but as soon as you think it, it’s my thought too, if I need it. If I have an observation or thought or I reach a conclusion that another person needs, it will be there. That’s the ultimate incarnation of the concept that information should be free. Not only will it be free, it will be compelled upon us. Like some sort of shared processing program like Seti-at-home, humans will start working, perhaps unconsciously together, at some greater goal.

Perhaps it will be to create a means to improve our lot or perhaps it will be to make another Dukes of Hazard movie, but whatever the result, we will all be closer than ever before.

Changes.

November 12, 2006

Our lives are made up of moments strung together.  How small an increment of time can change your life forever?  There is the extreme involving sudden violence, but what about just in terms of interaction between other people?

What does it take to change course in life?

I would posit that change from within is the hardest and rarest form of change.  I would also argue that that sort of change, be it in terms of losing weight, getting an education or ending a relationship is not something that happens immediately.

In the category of things happening to a person in life, change can be deep and immediate.  This requires no heroics and the choices made following what life hands you are nothing like those changes from within.

Such is the type of change that I’m dealing with at the moment.  It is a delicate and transitory time.  As I sit here now, experiencing the full meaning of it all, it is almost enjoyable.  Yet, there has been much stress and it really has only begun.  Change still may not happen, but it seems more and more likely.  I am standing at the top of a hill and now I must leap to another hill even though I may fall a bit in the process.

Let’s hope it’s not too far.

What percentage of the population do you hit it off with?

August 24, 2006

What percentage of the population do you hit it off with?  Let’s take a random sample of 100 people in an airport.  How many of those people do you think you’d be interested in talking to?  I don’t mean attracted to, I mean, just to talk to.  To make it more interesting, say that you knew facts about their lives too.

I asked my friend this question and he said 5.  I’d like to think my answer would be 30, but I wonder if it wouldn’t be closer to 5.  What is it about some people that make it harder to relate to others?  We are a crazy heterogeneous society.  In all that individuality, there’s much loneliness because it’s hard to find people with whom we have chemistry.

Say we divide meeting people into four quadrants of our responses to them and their responses to us:  The categories are hostile, neutral, friendly and compelling.  You rank them and they rank you.  In life, then we look for at least friendly/friendly and we hope to marry compelling/compelling.  Depending on what kind of person you are, I maintain you may find many people compelling or very few.  It’s kind of like being a universal blood donor or having a rare blood type.  It’s genetic.

And this is just real life human discourse.  Online discourse is entirely different.  Here’s the link to the famous Red versus Blue video on that topic.  Here’s a link to an excellent discussion of the same topic with parallels to Ghost in the Shell.

Some days I prefer real life people and other days, I prefer my internet friends.  The one thing that is consistent, however, is that I like meeting new people all the time, in person or virually.  This is true

Topics for Friday Night Party Line for July 7, 2006

July 4, 2006

Here are the topics for this week’s FNPL.  We didn’t get to two of the topics last week, so we’ll try to work them in on Friday.  It looks like we might have a big crowd this week, I hope you’ll join us!

–What is the hardest physical labor job you’ve ever done?  Did you enjoy it?  How did you get the job?  Why did you leave?

–What is the nature of motivation?  Is it genetic?  Does the environment cause it?  Why do we like to do the things we like to do? Why do we like to do some things and then move away from them and on to other things?

–Schadefreude means taking delight in the misery of others.  Have you had this experience lately?  Tell us about it.

–Planes, trains and automobiles (and also bicycles, snow mobiles, etc.)  Given all the time in the world, what’s you’re favorite mode of transportation and why?

–Speaking of transportation, China launched it’s Sky train this week connecting Bejing to Tibet.  At some points, it is 16,000 feet above sea-level and rests on permafrost.  What great engineering projects would you like to see the U.S. government undertake?

–Did you see fireworks on the 4th of July?  Did you light your own fireworks?  Do you like fireworks?  What’s you’re favorite?

–According to O’Reilly radar People like Mark Pilgrim and Cory Doctorow are switching from OSX to Ubuntu.  Is Ubuntu the operating system to rule them all?  Will security threats to Windows drive everyone to Ubuntu?  (Co-incidentally, I’m setting up an Ubuntu box this week).

–YouTube = star maker?  I heard on Cranky Geeks that NBC gave a consulting deal to a girl they found on YouTube that recorded herself doing the Numa Numa dance.  Is this the new reality tv?  If you want to be a star, should you just put yourself on YouTube?  Should we all shoot ourselves now?

–Home improvements revisited:  If you could do one thing to your house or property (or apartment) and you had a $150,000 budget, what would you do?  Why?  Would you do it yourself or hire people to do it?

–Poolside reading (or just summer reading in general).  What’s on your list?  How are you making time to keep up on your reading?  What have you read so far?

Special Days.

May 7, 2006

Special days are not the same for everyone. There are generic days that are supposed to be special to large numbers of certain groups, such as Christmas or Easter, but what is special, memorable or enjoyable depends on the individual. An event that is fun; an event that triggers all the chemicals in a person’s brain that causes one to feel happiness is rare and special and unique to the individual. I wonder if what one really enjoys in life can be distilled to one day. Can you describe your ultimate day? Can you think of how you would take the things you enjoy in life and put them all into one day, assuming you could do anything you want?

What makes something special depends on upbringing and culture and genetic predisposition. Something that is fun and memorable to a middle aged man in Beijing is going to be different than for a man living in Brazil just as it would be to me. There are some exceptions. The human basics are largely enjoyable to everyone. Eating would be an example although what Beijing gentleman considers a delicacy is probably not going to be something I would enjoy as much.

Look at sports. I know a lot of people who love going to basketball games. For basketball fans, a ticket to the big game is something very valuable and attending that event creates both happiness and a memorable experience. While this could be fun, in most cases, I could take it or leave it. I do, however, get the equivalent thrill from podcasting and other computer related activities. To each his own.

The point is, humans have extremely varied tastes in what they enjoy and what become forgotten moments. The trick is to fill your life with those things that create positive memories and limit the ones that do not to the necessary evils in life.

I’m reminded of the end of the movie "AI." The movie is uneven but it does have memorable spots. At the end of the movie, the aliens can essentially give the robot boy anything in the universe that would make him happy. He chooses one day with his mother. This is his ultimate time of enjoyment. This is how he spends his last day alive, playing games and otherwise spending an ordinary day with his mother. While I love my parents and I would certainly include them if I were planning a final day, there would be a lot of other activities as well. It might be strange to hear that I would spend a little bit of the day at my office and other parts of it doing computer stuff. Driving at high speed from destination to destination would be mandatory in a certain black sports car. Don’t worry, though there would be plenty of family time. I would eat, I would drink and I would spend time with my friends and family. When I think about it (morbid as it is) I think I could plan my last day if I had to (heaven forbid). Could you?

Extrapolation.

April 11, 2006

 

How much of the universe is right before us of which we are unaware?  When cavemen froze to death while sitting next to flint and wood, it was from ignorance of the meaning of their surroundings.  There was a time when coal had no value and uranium was just another rock in the earth.  I often wonder what else in our environment would be of great value to us if we only knew how to use it.  It’s like if a person from the future came back in time and said:  “You live near Lake Erie?  It’s one of the greatest resources on the planet!”

Or take all the pictures of Mars, Europa, Titan and the other bodies in our solar system.  There may be obvious clues in these pictures of life happening that we simply don’t understand.  If we knew what to look for, answers would be obvious.  If we could better extrapolate what is going on in the universe, we could pick up the pace of discovery.  People have speculated that extremophile bacteria could live in the clouds of Venus or even Jupiter.  We just don’t know what to look for.  We don’t know what we don’t know.

The idea applies in practically every branch of science.  What is basic to us now would have been miraculous 100 years ago.  A century from now, we will know so much more about the universe than we do now, our current knowledge will seem childlike.  Part of the problem is our limited five senses.  We can only perceive so much and it takes us time to make connections among the things we observe.

How much knowledge does it take to change human behavior or make the human condition a bit better?  Figuring out fire kept a bunch of people warmer and made food taste a little better.  The whole uranium thing certainly had its effects too.  The truth is before us if we are not too dumb to see it.  We are probably staring at the next big thing with the same spaced-out, open-mouthed, slack-jawed look that the first guy who saw oil bubbling from the ground had.  Eventually, though, we got it right with oil and someone else pushed the slack jawed guy out of the way and put a rig over the well.  Give us time and we’ll get it, eventually.

Thought Processes and Opportunity Costs.

March 8, 2006

When I was driving home the other day, I could not help but think that the economic doctrine of opportunity cost applies to one’s very thought processes.  If you read or listen to or experience dead end stimulus, then you pay the cost of not being able to absorb information that is positive or furthering of your life’s purpose.  Life’s run cycles are finite.  There is a fixed number that will be dedicated to significant thought and a fixed number that will be dedicated to dead time.  Not only can you now want to unknow something, you can want to unthink or unexperience something too.  The trick is to identify, to the extent humanly possible material that will aid in advancement or otherwise productively stimulate and cut out that which will not.

Of course, controlling one’s environmental stimulus is very difficult.  People make demands on your time.  Plus, life necessitates that you wait for things.  You have to wait in line at the drug store.  You have to wait in line at the airport.  At least, while you are on the plane, you can read or listen to podcasts, unless you happen to sit next to a talker.  Life is full of people and events seemingly determined to intercede between you and your desire.

The cutting out of the non-interesting, non-advancing and non-stimulating is an impossible dream!  You would have to spend most of your life in your basement!  Oh, wait…