Space isn’t big enough for: Soft Science

You’d think that living in infinite space with only a few other people on the entire surface of the moon meant you could do whatever you wanted, believe whatever you wished, and have no restrictions because there’s nothing around.

The further we look, the more galaxies we find.Here’s the rub.  There’s no room for mistakes, no room for wishy washy, no room for fuzzy and no room for ambiguity.

Am I making myself clear?

So, for all you wannabee spacers, think about what you’re going to take up there in terms of knowledge.  Because you want to be useful, what?

What are the soft sciences?  Anything that has to do behavior.  Economics comes to mind.  Psychology, sociology, even law and religion.  Go ahead, you can name a few.

What? you say.  How can you make such crazy outlandish claim?

I’m not.  I’m repeating something Richard Feynman once said.  He was a truly smart guy who thought about a lot of things.

Here’s what he said about understanding living things.  He came to this conclusion after spending hours watching paramecia under the microscope.  He decided its behavior was far more complicated than anybody recognized.  How then can we ever hope to understand humans if we cant even understand the behavior of such a simple animal.

Here’s a quote from his book, “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman”

So my impression of these animals is that their behavior is much too simplified in the books. It is not so utterly mechanical or one-dimensional as they say.  They should describe the behavior of these simple animals correctly.  Until we see how many dimensions of behavior even a one-celled animal has, we wont be able to fully understand the behavior of more complicated animals.

So, if you plan to head for the great beyond, plan accordingly, pack light, and for heaven’s sake, take only hard science.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

 

Dreaming of Emily in Iambic

Rocking your World since 1884

I didn’t think it possible, but I found another girlfriend.  The old one was super smart, incredibly observant, and extremely insightful.  But there are times when that razor-sharp intellect can try a guy, especially on those nights I want to sit back and chillax.

Jane is intense.  You can’t totally relax around her, because that brain of her is always going a million miles a minute.  My friend calls it having a monkey mind.  Jane’s brain isn’t out of control, it’s just that it’s always active, piercing, probing.

By the way, if you’re looking for a date, she’s available, and open to any gender.  Check her out on tindr or match.  Search for “Jane Austen.”

I’ll never forget her, but I’ve moved on.  Now I’ve discovered Emily.  Emily is sweet, unaffected, shy to the point of being diagnosed clinically catatonic.  Seriously.

But her depth of feeling!  When I spend enough time with her, not pushing, not asking anything, just sitting with some tea, or going for a walk and not even holding hands, sometimes, she’ll open up.  The emotional intensity is pure, unadulterated power.  I don’t THINK I’m alive when I’m with Emily, I FEEL alive.

The other day we were alone, together but not really, wandering the woods while a good distance apart.  At one point I was looking straight up when a flock of geese flew overhead in formation, their standard “V.”  I must have moved my lips and pointing finger as I was counting them.  Counting is something I like to do, it relaxes me, and I’m a rather quantitative guy.

I felt a soft hand on my shoulder, so soft that I barely noticed.  When I realized it was her, I touched it, gently.  She removed her hand, and I turned to look at her.  She looked away and said …

It’s all I have to bring today —
This, and my heart beside —
This, and my heart, and all the fields —
And all the meadows wide —
Be sure you count — should I forget
Some one the sum could tell —
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

I haven’t counted in her presence — since.

 

Hawking’s Intelligent T-Shirt

Image

My brother-in-law got me a fun T-shirt displaying this text:

1N73LL1G3NC3
15 7H3
4B1L17Y
70 4D4P7 70
CH4NG3
573PH3N H4WK1NG

I’ll let you wrestle through it, as that’s part of the fun.

There’s a little problem, however.

It’s wrong. Now, I don’t know if the late great Hawking said this, I haven’t checked as yet.  However, the definition itself is wrong.

Fundamentally, there are many things that can’t adapt to change.  In fact, I know quite a few people, generally ex-employees, that do their best to resist change.  That’s partly why they are “ex” employees.

Despite their resistance to change, despite their inability to adapt to change, I wouldn’t call them unintelligent.

That’s part of the problem with not having a good definition.

So, with all due (possible) respect to Stephen H., here’s my hat in the ring.

Intelligence is the reflection of the environment within our defined life form.

Let me break this down.  It starts off with “Intelligence is…”  So that part is easy.  Since it doesn’t have to deal with change, it’s directly related to something else.  So measurement should be easier.  Not easy.  Easier.

Next, it’s a reflection.  This makes our job easier, because that means there is going to be a “source” and a “target.”  Every reflection requires some form of mirror, and the mirror reflects light from some object (the source) to a mind, making an impression (the target).

What’s the source?  It’s the environment.  Buckminster Fuller said it best: Environment is everything but me.

Here’s the fun part.  Where’s the target?  It’s going to be “inside” something.

What is that “something?”

That’s OUR defined life form.  This is the trickiest part, because most of the time no one takes the time to define who has the intelligence.  If we all agree we’re evaluating the intelligence of a mouse, then there it is.  If it’s the entire mouse species, that’s different.  If it’s going to be you, that’s one thing.  But if it’s going to be a whole bunch of us, that’s very different.

No single image summarizes our dread of Artificial Intelligence more than this.

Ever heard of group intelligence?  Some feel that groups are not quite as swift as individuals.  Now we can test for that.  What is the reflection of the environment within the group?  The group may have a great reflection, but if they can’t communicate it within themselves very well, then it doesn’t do them much good.  They would still be considered “intelligent” by my definition, but as many people have argued through the years, intelligence doesn’t always mean you’re smart.

There you have it.  This doesn’t quite answer a lot of the tough questions that are still out there.  Check out the post from 6 August 2018.  In the meantime, be careful out there.

Be intelligent.  Be smart!

 

Sex Assault Drill

Image

Fire drill?  Line up and file out!

Or turning the other cheek?

Nuclear war drill?  Duck and cover!

Sexual harassment drill?  Huh?

That’s right.  What happens next?  I don’t know.  So I looked it up.

I got these links, and read all of them.  Guess what?  There’s no right answer.

I was sitting by Alice, a charming young woman.  Bob sat on the other side, a large older married man.  She was scheduling a meeting with Bob at a local pub after work.  It was certainly innocent enough until he started making jokes about making sure they didn’t drink too much on a weekday.  Then he made a “joke” about her sitting in his lap.  And finally there was the “joke” about not staying out too late.

Nothing is clear cut in the real world.  First off, Bob was making bad jokes throughout the meeting.  Alice had been encouraging those jokes by laughing, or at least chuckling.  Trust me, the jokes weren’t that good.  Bob has no work authority over Alice, but as an older man she may have some respect for him.

Here’s my problem, and I’m asking you for help.

What is with Bob?  Why is he effectively hitting on Alice?  Hasn’t he heard of the #MeToo movement?  Hasn’t he ever been introduced to good taste?  At the very least, can’t he learn to tell better jokes?

Alice has a boyfriend, I heard her telling Bob that at least once.  But I can’t be sure she was offended by his “moves.”

I would have liked to confront Bob and ask him if he’d like me to sit in his lap for a change.  (I’m a big enough guy, by the way, I wouldn’t care.)  I have to be careful, he might say yes.

Or maybe I should act all coy and ask him to help me with a hypothetical situation, and then describe him in detail.  With my luck he probably wouldn’t get it.

Maybe I should just file a police report.  Ha.  Good luck with that.  They’re busy enough chasing overdoses and crooked politicians.  Well, overdoses.

Perhaps the best place to start is to ask Alice what she thinks.  I don’t mind telling her how I felt (UNcomfortable!) but if it’s some kind of game she plays with Bob, then who am I to judge?

Why can’t people make it simple?  Perhaps everyone really wishes we lived back in tribal times, where those with the biggest sticks got their way.  Everyone else simply got out of their way.

Oh well.  If you have any advice I’d love to hear it.  The only other suggestion I can think of is that we change society so that we are all far more respectful of each other.

Talk about dreaming!

Emily Dickinson Makes Me Dream

Rocking your World since 1884

Hello Gentle Reader,

My big news is that I finished the book!  As finished as it can be without the insights of critical readers.  It’s in the hands of critical reader number one, and I’m biting my nails waiting for her verdict.  And her red pen marks.  I hope she likes it.  I don’t want to keep asking her, because I want her to enjoy it without any additional pressures.  She’s also fighting cancer, and other ailments, so there’s slightly higher priorities in her life.  But she’s had it a whole week!  What’s taking her so long?

Anyway, writing the book has allowed me to become intimate with Jane Austen.  I don’t have a problem telling you that I have a thing for Jane.  If she showed up at the door, I’d take her out for ice cream.  My wife might get jealous, but she’s invited as well.  I hope Jane has her flesh on.

In order to start relaxing after this 18 month ordeal, I’ve been doing all sorts of fun stuff.  Including picking up a childhood poetry book edited by Louis Untermeyer.  Great stuff.  In it I came across this poem about a narrow fellow who parted grass like a comb.  And I was hooked.

Since then I’ve been “dating” Emily.  I hope Jane won’t mind.  True, she is a slightly younger woman, but she’s still older than me.  Oh, but what incredible insights.  I’m going to share some of my new enthusiasm with you here, and we’ll start with this:

In this short Life
That only lasts an hour
How much — how little — is
Within our power

This immediately reminds me of Blake’s “To see a World…” yet with greater feeling.  There’s a cold audacity in Blake, while Emily is humble and vulnerable.  Blake inspires us, but Emily consoles.  There is something that she captures in words, an empathy, an assurance, an embrace that Blake will never achieve.  That she did this using tiny scratches upon a bit of paper is awe inspiring.  That it still communicates her emotions, tugging at my heart some 150 years later, is breath-taking.

So, my apologies to Jane Austen, my girl-friend for the last two years.  I will always honor you and never forget you.

But I’m going to be spending time with a slightly younger lady; for a while anyway.  Emily wrote almost 1800 poems, and it’s going to take some time working through those.  Add in strolling through the park, picnics, the odd romantic dinner, and tea parties, this is a relationship that I’m going to be enjoying for many years.

Stay tuned for updates!

 

Unnatural Selection

31 years old and full of fire.

It’s been a while since Darwin published his books about living things. I can’t think of anyone who should hold the title of the world first, and most famous, behavioral scientist.

There is a problem, however. And it’s built into both of his most famous books: Origin and Descent.

He must have known he was doing it.  But as I’ve noted before, taking on GOD did not seem like the best method for influencing the course of human history.  He made the right choice.  But it also means he left us a flawed work.

The flaw is the term “Natural Selection.”

This term appears 247 times in Origin and 155 times in Descent.

Why is it a flaw?

Because it means there are forms of selection that are not natural.

What can be “not natural?”

For one, it was a popular notion that anything people did back in those days was somehow different from what the birds and bees could do.  People can talk to each other and use tools.  Birds and bees couldn’t do those things… or did they?

Of course they could.  Only people didn’t know enough to know that.

People could also choose to cross-breed trees or flowers in ways no one had ever seen before.  These ways were also deemed to be “not natural.”

We had a term for that.  We called it “synthetic.”  So you could have natural selection, and then you could have synthetic selection.

There’s another problem.

People were also considered to be extremely special in the universe.  We had a direct wireless connection to the greatest server of all time, GOD.

So not only was our behavior beyond the natural, it was SUPER-natural.

Here’s where the problem surfaces today.

By limiting his ideas to what is considered natural, Darwin left the door open to those who want to believe that everything people do is somehow above and beyond the rest of nature.

And that’s the real problem.  Because being able to use the established tools of conventional science has been good enough to understand life from bugs to butterflies.

The same tools should be good enough to understand Beyonce and Bulgaria as well.

But we don’t allow it, because we feel that somehow, they are beyond our understanding.

We shouldn’t.  Nothing is beyond our ability to imagine.

Anything less?

Well.  That would simply be, unnatural.

 

 

Auditory Illusions

Have you ever seen an Optical Illusion.  So much fun they are!Why not?

Can we fool the other senses?  Of course we can.

There’s a lot of stuff on auditory illusions, but I may have found a new one.

My exhaustive search on the interweb hasn’t turned up any mention of this one.  By exhaustive search I mean I watched a few videos and read a few articles.  So I’m probably not the first.  But it’s something to write about!

Anyway, let’s make some music.  Literally.  I’m playing accompanying piano to my wife’s violin, and I’m using a metronome in my ear to make sure I play at the same rate throughout.  Without the metronome she claims I’m inconsistent.  Me?  Inconsistent?  Hardly.  But I humor her.

Here’s the fun part.  If I’m hitting my notes just before the metronome beat strikes, I get the strange feeling that I’m being rushed because I’m moving too slowly.  It’s as if there’s a little voice saying “hurry up.”  But it’s the emotion that is puzzling.

If I’m slightly ahead of the beat, then I feel as if the piece is moving incredibly slow, and I have this feeling that I’m rushing.  Now the little voice is saying “slow down.”

The funny part is that, if I’m consistently behind or ahead of the beat, it shouldn’t matter.  I’m still playing at the right speed.  But since my head is keyed to a particular key on the piano, there is an important connection between the metronome sound and the sound the piano makes.

I don’t know how exact (in milliseconds) I have to be right on the metronome, and I have no idea how many ms ahead or behind produces this effect.  But it is certainly there.

Besides, maybe it’s only me.  But I’d like to hear someone else try this on for size.

Just to make sure my head isn’t seeing things.

Aum Versus Om

Little word with a big sound.Is it possible to turn my yoga class into a battlefield?

Sure!  Why not?  After all, as a writer, we have absolute power.  Don’t let it go to your head, however.

So, what’s the story?

The story is one of Aum.  Or Om, depending on who you listen to.

I’ve been doing this long enough to notice that some people like saying “Oh-mmm” as if it were two sounds.

Then there’s the peeps who enjoy saying it as if it were more sounds.  At least three.  Maybe five.  Maybe ten.

According to the guy at the bottom of this post, you should try and say every possible vowel sound.  Sweet.

According to many of the masters, including BKS, you should hear three.

Then again, according to my teacher, it’s alright to stick the “AU” together into an “O” sound.

Who’s right?

Everyone is “right” in the sense that each person is doing it the way THEY want.  If there was some great social cause in which the sound of AUM made a difference, then we could have a more logical discussion.  Since there are no external, quantifiable objectives, then this becomes a discussion about BEHAVIOR.

Part of the issue is that people like changing things, sometimes simply to have fun or be different.  This lends itself to something linguists call linquistic drift.

Let’s check out history.  Let’s look at videos of the old people saying it.  Let’s visit all around the world and compare.  Collect lots of data, find out that it is said many different ways.  And then what?

Look at the impact of what it DOES.  Are there bona fide physical implications about this “word” and how it’s pronounced?  (Disclaimer, there are, but that’s another column.)

How does it impact the preferences of the person arguing the issue?  Fact is, if it’s important to them, no matter what the reason (for now) then that’s a factor.

Finally, how does this impact every possible combination of people?  Starting with that one person, to that person’s partner and family, to that person’s neighborhood, to their country, and to humanity as a whole.  How does this behavior impact each of those different configurations of “peopleness?”

There you have it.  A way to answer OM versus AUM.  Personally I’m going for what this guy says below.  But getting the “right” answer to the question?  It’s the same process for AUM as it would be for capital punishment, or trading off democracy for autocracy.

That’s what science is all about.  Consistency of methods in understanding the universe around us.  And that concludes today’s practice.

AaaaaUuuuuuMmmmmm…..

 

 

This excerpt from Bill Moyers site  (bottom of that page)
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, that’s what people are doing all over the place. That’s what people are doing all over the place, dying for metaphors. And when you really realize the sound Aum, the sound of the mystery of the Word everywhere, then you don’t have to go out and die for anything, because it’s right there all around, and just sit still and see it and experience it and know it.
BILL MOYERS: Explain “Aum.” That’s the first time you’ve used that.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Well, “Aum” is a word that, what can I say, represents to our ears that sound of the energy of the universe, of which all things are manifestations. And “Aum”, it’s a wonderful word, it’s written A-U-M. You start in the back of the mouth, Ah, and then, Ooh, you fill the mouth, and M-m-m, closes it, the mouth. And when you have pronounced this properly, all vowel sounds are in that pronunciation: “Aum”. And consonants are regarded simply as interruptions of “Aum”, and all words are thus fragments of “Aum”, as all images are fragments of the form of forms, of which all things are just reflections. And so “Aum” is a symbol, a symbolic sound, that puts you in touch with that throbbing being that is the universe.
And when you hear some of these Tibetan monks that are over here from the Rgyud Stod monastery outside of Lhasa, when they sing the “Aum,” you know what it means, all right That’s the zoom of being in the world. And to be in touch with that and to get the sense of that, that is the peak experience of all. “Ab-ooh-mm.” The birth, the coming into being, and the solution to the cycle of that. And it’s just called the four-element syllable. What is the fourth element? “Ah-ooh-mm,” and the silence out of which it comes, back into which it goes, and which underlies it.
Now, my life is the “Ah-ooh-mm,” but there is a silence that underlies it, and that is what we would call the immortal. This is the mortal, and that’s the immortal, and there wouldn’t be this if there weren’t that.
BILL MOYERS: The meaning is essentially wordless.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: Yes. Well, words are always qualifications and limitations.
BILL MOYERS: And yet, Joe, all we puny human beings are left with is this miserable language, beautiful though it is, that falls short of trying to describe…
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: That’s right And that’s why it’s a peak experience to break past all that every now and then, to realize “oh, ah,” I think so.

 

Where There’s Smoke

They always seem to go together.It’s no coincidence that if you see smoke, there’s fire somewhere inside.

If you live inside a house, you’re taught from an early age to save your life by GETTING OUT.

Drop.  Roll.  Know your escape route to safety.

That’s the easy way to save your life.

What if the smoke you are seeing isn’t from inside your home?

What if the smoke is coming from your society?  What if the news is full of tragic stories?  What if your family and friends are touched by random violence?

What if your planet is being harassed by unthinking newly arrived inhabitants, who litter, obliterate, and violate huge portions of its landscape?  What if the Amazon is cut down?  What if we fill the atmosphere with CO2 and methane?  Why does it matter if we drive so many species to extinction?

These are all variations of seeing the smoke inside your home.  Many people see the smoke, and are crying out as loud as they can: FIRE!

My question is this.  Why can’t more people see the smoke?  How many more cries will it take to move the majority of people?  What will it take to get governments to act?  Even more critically, what will it take to make all governments act in unison?

If you are studying any social discipline, including philosophy, these questions should be at the top of your syllabus.  Your “discipline” should have a methodology, a basis of axioms and reference in which you can answer this question.  Better yet, if your discipline is mature enough, it may even suggest an optimal route of making our world a better place.

If not, then, all I can say is…

Drop.

Roll.

And …

 

 

Multitasking Mythology

Have you ever been complimented for multitasking?

Have you ever been criticized for multitasking?

It is not multitasking - it is fast switching and good self management.

I have.  I’ve heard some people claim that they are great multitaskers.  I’ve also heard there is no such thing; humans can only focus on one thing at a time.  Therefore multitaskers are delusional.

I’m not going to choose sides.  In fact, I’m going to take the high road, and without trying to multitask, look at the arguments and put some pieces together.

First off, working on a task.  Tasks are big things, like writing memos, answering a crazy customer question.  Chewing gum and walking don’t count.

Secondly, doing quality work.  It’s agreed that the best work is done when you focus on that work.

Thirdly, doing more work.  In today’s world, we don’t get a choice to do one thing at a time.  You can be writing your memo when that customer calls.  You have to put down the memo and pick up the customer.  No choice.  You’re doing more work.  More importantly, what you’ve just done is …

Fourthly, task switching.  Stopping one task and focusing on another is switching.  Some people can do it fast.  Some people take time.  I’ve seen it.  I’ve hired people who take their time switching between tasks.  For someone like me (fast switcher) it’s agonizing waiting for them to catch up.  But switching isn’t the only problem they usually have, because there is also …

Fifthly, task choosing.  Yes, you must choose the task you switch to.  If you are “juggling” ten tasks, you have to be able to coordinate all ten so that each is finished on time, you spend as much time as necessary to do them ADEQUATELY, and switching in such a way so that it minimizes the energy you expend on switching.  This process goes by many names, but essentially is managing yourself.  Some can be great switchers, but terrible choosers.  Others might be opposite.

Guess what?  If you can manage yourself well, AND switch between tasks fairly efficiently, then people can call you a multitasker.  You know that you are working on only one task at a time, but to them it looks like you are working on ten.

For someone who switches very slowly, or for someone who can’t manage themselves very well, then multitasking doesn’t exist.  And they probably don’t want to admit it exists in other people as well.

And they are right.  It doesn’t exist.  It’s one of those derivative qualities we like to talk about while ignoring what goes on underneath.  Multitasking doesn’t exist.  Fast switching and good self-management does exist.

So the next time you hear about multitaskers, and you want to take someone to task about the subject, just point them this way.

Or do what I do.

Switch to something else.

It’s more efficient.