Archive for December, 2014

I love it when the days start getting longer.

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

The ‘self’ is too obviously a construct to be the ground I walk on. Since I experience myself as being, I imagine I am ‘pre-choate’ – I have a ‘pre-choate authenticity’ which seems to have a bit of temporal coherence. But really I know nothing about it.

How I receive it through the world is my constructed ‘self,’ which is ‘aware,’ but capricious and easily unplugged. Basically, everything that has ever been taught about the thing I am concerns this self’s struggles with its own authenticity.

The simple lessons emphasize ‘harmony’ with externalities. The contented self rarely asks difficult questions. With complexity, the rebalancing gets focused inward, until I live in a sort of ‘dream’ where all my externalities are simply personal experience, and ‘others’ exist only as I intend them to. Still, this is not authentic, and cannot rest.

The only satisfying rest I have known is in ‘loving,’ which has been fleeting because – I am told – I am unable to direct it toward my self.

Looking up

Friday, December 26th, 2014

I have this recurring dream where I’m flunking out of college. I know I’m flunking out because there are four required courses and I’m only taking three. That is, I’m pretty sure I’m taking the three; I go to them sometimes and I’ve written a couple of papers. But I can’t remember, even, what the fourth one is. So I know I’m not attending, but I don’t know how to find out where the classroom is or what the course is about.

Not dreaming (I think), I’m in conversations about ‘new’ ways of thinking I don’t know how to fully embrace. I’m reminded of the words from a song: ‘hang me out to dry – I’ve been wrung out too many times.’

I cling very tightly to my belief in who I am and what I want. I’m not happy with suggestions I might be and want differently later on. But it’s a limitation others don’t suffer. If you can survive the shock of its implications, you can learn pretty quickly that building ‘super-intelligent’ machines is darn likely – and those ‘machines’ are going to occupy and modify our bodies and minds in ways unrecognizable. Plenty of people see that as a thrilling ‘human’ opportunity.

There’s no way to extricate this talk from other conversations thousands of years old – the deep philosophies of self, meaning, and experience.

I talk to my son and describe myself as ‘thinking about the future,’ – saying I don’t want to be hurt, I don’t want to be frightened, I don’t want to be hungry and cold. He says, ‘if those are your motivations, then you’re incapable of doing at all.’

There’s a thing I believe is my ‘self,’ that I want to preserve. But I can read posts on my own site from four years ago and quite clearly ‘I’ no longer exist. There’s a way of embracing that; there’s a way of holding that as the ‘real’ opportunity. I don’t know it, but I want to learn it. I’d like to start looking up.

Confusion

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

There are times (especially when I’m ‘parenting’) I’m so dissociated from my personal activity I’m my own bystander. Not always a happy one. “Why am I giving this lecture? I don’t even believe this lecture. But this lecture is the truth, isn’t it? Isn’t it?”

I’m pretty bummed out I’m not like the guys I admire: the guys who are always cheerful ‘cuz they just ‘know’ the ending comes out well – the guys you want to leave your kids with for a week because when you get back they’re animated, eager, and stronger.

I’ve discovered this: there’s nothing I can do that’s really impressive. My best or worst; I can spill my blood and guts all over your good intentions, or I can lend you a pair of strong arms and laugh with you in your own center – but it was just sufficient to the moment. For me, just like most everybody else, there’s never any applause.

My kid stands there telling me about how the crowds are waiting. And I’m giving this lecture: “no, they’re not.”

I have to love this boy so much I disbelieve myself. And maybe I do.

Hacking

Friday, December 19th, 2014

‘Hacking’ used to be a good thing – it meant being able to take some non-functioning code on a system and use your own programming ingenuity to get things up and running. Now, of course, it means doing anything with software which isn’t ‘supposed’ to be done.

Certain circles probably benefit from this, because the term makes it seem like something deeply nefarious, complicated, and difficult is going on – like the government of North Korea is now a major threat because it knows how to run ‘brute-force’ attacks against known database targets (or whatever technique they’ll be alleged to have used).

In fact, it can get to be rather comical, as multi-star generals no doubt sit around discussing bomb deployments for behavior regularly indulged by your own pre-teen working around your parental controls.

But it’s serious stuff, really, for at least the two obvious reasons: nothing is private, and pretty soon you’ll be able to get yourself into a hot war for embarrassing a movie star. This is not a joke.

Black

Saturday, December 6th, 2014

I had an unnerving experience during a traffic re-route on a highway outside town. A series of traffic cones had been placed on the median and cars were being directed into a long, backed-up line behind a ‘detour’ sign. There was a law officer next to the cones up ahead pointing the traffic into the detour lane. I knew the area and was in a hurry, so I slowed and began to pull into a u-turn so I could backtrack a block and get home sooner. The cop looked up, pointed at me with one hand, and grabbed for his side-arm with the other.

This sort of thing happens to black guys all the time. Sometimes the cop shoots.

I’m a white guy, and I live in another world. I run into racism accidentally. It’s deeply scary. I spent some time in Alaska, where the indigenous peoples are socially suppressed. I was new, and didn’t know the word ‘native’ applied to an Inupiat or an Athabascan. I ran into an old white friend from years ago, and in our re-acquaintance conversation asked how long he’d lived up north. When he replied ‘fifteen years’ I grinned and said, ‘gee, you’re almost native.’ He responded with an astonished, disgusted ‘no….’

At home, in an equipment store where a display shielded me from the view of two white guys, I heard them talking about God, and one said, ‘really, though, if God wanted us all to live in peace – why would he have created blacks, you know what I mean?’

I think I’m too quick to pooh-pooh the media displays that come and go; too quick to dismiss today’s ‘movements.’ They probably will recede. Very likely, they’ll accomplish nothing. But people are voicing a real horror. Better to be on the streets yelling ‘stop!’ – than sitting in a chair like I am.

Super smart

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

There’s a growing public conversation about ‘artificial intelligence,’ because some merely remarkably intelligent people have thought about it a lot and decided it’s probably going to be the end of us. That is, something more capable and powerful than we are will occupy the same planet we do. There’s no reason to think it will like us, or be kind.

Personally, I find it hard to imagine something (or someone) smarter than myself, so I don’t really believe the threat will come from any form of newly enlightened machine ‘consciousness.’ I’m in the group that thinks we’ll simply develop some handy little monster which consumes, say, all the bacteria within a perimeter – and then one morning decides to set its own perimeters.

Once again, we’re confronted with an issue – like global warming or super viruses – about which it’s really hard to care too much. I mean, wouldn’t we all just die? And then, why would it matter?