Ethics: The Food of Reason and The Shit of Religion

aristotle

I am currently reading Ethics by the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle.  Reading it has lead me to one conclusion: Judaic, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Zen and Hindu religious texts are so bogged down in metaphorical interpretation they defeat the purpose for which they are created.

Aristotle’s writing is clear, unambiguous and the terminology is well defined.  He clearly states that mature adults benefit more from the study of ethics than those in their adolescence or post adolescence simply because life experience is necessary to provide the foundation for its appreciation.

Aristotle is lucid.  I read his work in a few hours.  I did not need to read any of the commentary provided by the translators or editors.  In fact, I found the commentary a useless distraction.  If a translation requires commentary, the translation has not acheived it’s goal, the translators have been dogmatic.

Aristotle’s greatest achievement is declaring that no one is chosen by anyone.  Existence chooses us and from that point we choose to be who and what we are.

We choose our rights and responsibilities in our social and environmental context.  And in that choice lies goodness and happiness.

“Do to others as you would have others do to you” is not a call for love or hate, but a call for moderation in all things.

Moderation is not a call for mediocrity, but excellence and perfection.  To achieve the state where nothing need be added and nothing need be taken away.

This is one thing: Reciprocitism.

newInfinity

The origin of the word “recipe”.

A balance between self-acceptance and self-rejection.  Induction and Deduction.

I highly recommend reading Ethics over any religious text.  The food of Reason prevails over the shit of Religion.

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Epistemology: How We Know What We Know

epistemology

I want to thank Garsett Larosse, www.webassistant.com for compiling this.

We start with a few definitions –

Philosophy is the science comprising aesthetics, ethics and metaphysics.

Metaphysics consists of ontology, epistemology and cosmology.

Aristotle coined the term metaphysics to mean “beyond Nature.”

Ontology is the study of being.

Epistemology is the division of philosophy that investigates the nature and origin of knowledge.

Cosmology is the study of the experience of the universe.

Here are some of the attributes of philosophy that come up in references and textbooks –

– The investigation of causes and laws underlying reality.

– The synthesis of all learning.

-The system of beliefs and values by which one lives.

– The philosopher is characterized by calmness, equanimity and detachment.

Reality in common parlance is used in three different senses:

1. Direct experience, within the moment, ephemeral, ineffable subjective, personal, intimate, Zen, feeling. Philosophers C.S. Peirce and Karl Popper call it ‘firstness’ from the grammatical connotation of first-person. Your dream last night was a very real experience.

2. That which is agreed upon by others to be true at any moment. It is shared, consensual, social, ephemeral, objective. Fads and fashions are real enough in this sense, but they are a kind of collective hypnosis. This corresponds to second person in grammar. In this sense Elvis Presley was a great singer.

3. That which is absolutely and eternally true, without regard to opinions, culture, context or time. Examples are ideals, archetypes, and mathematical facts, such as the relationships between p, i and e, Euclid and Pythagoras.

Laws of aesthetics, ethics and logic are in this category of thirdness. Leibnitz’s law of identity is in this category, as are the famous laws of form of D’Arcy Thompson and G. Spencer Brown. Thirdnesses are frequently called Platonic because of Plato’s exhaustive treatment of form.

Intuition is “the power to distinguish at a glance the essence amid the Accidents.” – Schopenhauer.

Thinking, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and the American Heritage Dictionary is “forming in the mind.” Thinking includes symbol manipulation, and deduction. Mentation is a broader term that includes thinking as well as experiencing, feeling, acting, instincting, and intuiting. Reasoning is one of many kinds of thinking.

Consciousness is the continuum of states of sentience, and expression. It includes quales, dreams, knowing, reasoning and influencing. Most mentation is beneath the threshold of awareness, but it is all in the domain of consciousness. Interesting examples are driving your car, waking up at night when the clock stops, a musician flowing in her music, idiot savants, and many optical illusions. The term sub-aware is meaningful but the term sub-conscious is a null set.  We are always conscious as any anesthesiologist is well aware.

Logos. “A Greek word, of great breadth of meaning, signifying the intelligible principle structure, or order which pervades something, or the source of that order, or giving an account of that order. The cognate verb legein means ‘say’, ‘tell’, ‘account.’ Hence the ‘word’ which is ‘in beginning’ as recounted at the start of St John’s gospel is. logos. The root occurs in many English compounds such as biology, epistemology, geology, psychology, … The idea of a generative intelligence (logos spermatikos) is a profound metaphysical notion in Neoplatonic discussion. – Oxford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Cosmic reason, affirmed in Greek philosophy as “the source of world order and intelligibility, the self-revealed in the thought and will of God,” from the American Heritage Dictionary and the OED.

Cognates of logos are law, legal, religion, lecture, logo, logic, logical, logistic, lecturn, lecture, legible, legion, lesson, ligule, lignum, align, collect, diligent, elect, elegant, intelligent, neglect, sacrilege, select, lexicon, analects, catalog, dialect, dialog, dyslexia, eclectic, epilog, legislate, legitimate, loyal, privilege, legacy, allege, colleague, delegate, relegate, analogous, apology, decalogue, logarithm, prologue, syllogism, and log.

The domain of logic includes, but is not limited to, semiotic, linguistics, mathematics, grammar and rhetoric. Knowledge is derived from the Sanskrit jnana, to know plus the Latin ledge, to bind

METAPHOR

Metaphor, in Greek, means “to carry across.” In Athens a shopping cart in the supermarket is called a metaphor.

Semiotic is a more precise and general term for what we usually call metaphor. Semiotic bridges diction to notion, the essence. The existence of semiotic proves the existence of essence. Some of the technical types of semiotic are – allegory, allusion, ambiguity, anagogy, analogy, eponym, four senses of interpretation (hermeneutics), hebraic parallelism, hyperbole, icon, index, irony, map, metaphor, metonym, polysemous meaning, pun, sarcasm, sardony, sign, simile, synecdochy, symbol, token, trope.

Every word is a metaphor, a conveyor, for an idea or an experience.

God (good) is a new word in the Bible, not occurring before about 1000 AD. The word is only a very inadequate metaphor pointing to the essence of all essences. In the Christian Trinity, the concept of GOD breaks down into

1) the community of Spirit, the “Holy Ghost,” the ancient Hindu concept of Idandra,

2) the organizing and motivating principle of the Universe, “the Father,” in Sanskrit, Brahman, and

3) your essence, the Messiah, the “Son,” in Sanskrit atman. The etymological meaning of the word “GOD” does not do justice to what is implied by the concept.

Art is metaphor, pointing to essence. Think of the message of Hildegaard of Bingen, the romantic poets, the luminist painters, the impressionists, Schubert and Beethoven. As in poetry, their message to you is embedded between the words. Maria Montessori tells of feeding her hungry dog – “Don’t look at my finger pointing, look at the bone!”

All experience is ineffable. Therefore all communication is approximate, at best. Therefore the best education is one that cultivates the use and understanding of metaphor.

Education is teaching poetry, as Robert Frost told the faculty at Amherst in 1931. Everything is metaphor. Essence exists, but it is not a thing. Experience is 100% essence. Here is a neat little paradox –

1) experience is ineffable.

2) sharing is necessary (a cosmic law).

3) therefore metaphor, “to carry across,” is necessary, yet it is certainly in error.

4) therefore the nomothetic is always wrong, the idiographic is always right.

All communication is intrinsically embedded in this process. A similar paradox holds for general (always wrong) versus particular (always right). Blake said – “all men are alike in outward form (and with the same infinite variety).” Our faces are all alike, yet never alike!

DIRECT KNOWING

Definition of knowing – to perceive essence. Knowing is experiential, firstness, self-evident. Knowing is always direct. Great art is known by its experiential authority. Abraham “knew” Sara. He perceived her essence.

SCIENTIFIC METHOD

1. Guess (hypothesize) a model (a pattern in the data) in the domain you want to understand.

2. Get data. Measure all you can. Optimize your precision.

3. Share the data and models with others. Attain reproducibility. Science is necessarily social, consensual. The philosopher C.S. Peirce calls the community of science a synechism where the shared belief is definitive, yet ever changing, evolving.

4. Triangulate the data from every possible aspect.

5. Guess a better model (metaphor), using formal criteria for the qualities of better models. [See the section, “WAYS TO EVALUATE ONTOLOGIES” at the end of the book.]

6) Go to 2).

MEASUREMENT

The trouble with measurements is that they are always in error. There is no way to avoid them. To begin with, accuracy is always with regard to some standard. Standards (models, ideals) are always abstractions, never actually observed. Models are always in flux, as new data comes in and more refined theories are contrived. Models evolve by trial and error, and good taste. Thereby accuracy drifts, and is never fully attained. Precision. Any number of data points may seem to be orderly, but cusps, major discontinuities and craziness can occur between any two ‘normal’ points.

Quantum Indeterminacy (Heisenberg) is intrinsic. The act of measuring perturbs the object that is being measured, as any kindergarten teacher knows.

Entropy. Any measuring engine suffers from friction, as stated by the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Consider: A grapefruit cannot be cut exactly in half, for these four independent reasons: Accuracy. What is the standard for comparison? 1/2 by weight? 1/2 by volume? 1/2 by surface area? 1/2 by juice content? … Whatever standard you choose, it cannot be exactly known just where the halfway plane (manifold) is, because any grapefruit and any physical sphere is irregular. And any standard from which to reference ‘accurate’ is arbitrary. Precision. involves the measuring engine. The knife cannot be passed through the desired center plane because of the intrinsic error of positioning and controlling the knife.

Indeterminacy. The interface between the two halves is fuzzy and fundamentally unknowable in exact detail!

Entropy. Any cutting engine suffers from friction that will deflect the cut. Error, as derived from these four sources, drives evolution. Sin (error) is the process by which God expresses the universe.

PROOF

What constitutes proof? The materialist would ‘prove’ the theorem of Pythagoras by making as many experiments (measurements) on fuzzy right triangles, ‘as many as he needs.’ But this, at best, would only demonstrate or suggest the theorem. Proof can not exist in the domain of science because of the aforementioned limitations. But we can prove abstractions such as the fact that an infinite sequence approaches a limit, such as e, and p. *) Proof may be gained through deduction. For example, the binary search theorem, Brouwer’s theorem, Pythagoras’ theorem, the laws of aesthetics, Euclid’s theorems, and de Morgan’s laws. Consider, most of these are not in the domain of mathematics. Mathematics is only a proper subset of the larger domain of the absolute, Logos. *)

Proof can never be gained through measurements, nor through induction, interpolation, extrapolation, abstraction, nor inference. Because of the many contributors to indeterminacy in measurement, proof and certainty can never be attained in the material domain. Proof does not apply in the domain of experience. But patterns in experience are shareable, e.g., birth, death, art. Logos is beyond experience, but is eminently shareable.

Proof (certainty) always goes beyond experience, and that is the value of it.

Proof permits us to extrapolate experience. Wittgenstein’s penultimate book is titled Certainty. Jerome Bruner’s masterpiece is entitled On Knowing, Essays for the Left Hand. Day to day examples of sharable ideals are maps. Directions given in terms of east and west are superior to those given in terms of right and left, which are relative to the observer’s position, which is unknown if the observer needs directions! I am a dualist in the sense that proof exists (abounds) in the absolute, never in Nature – the contrast between physics and psychics. I am a monist in the sense that the absolute and the manifest are not-two. As elaborated by e.a. Cummings, Hermes Trismegistus, Advaita Vedanta and Hui Neng, the Sixth Patriarch of Buddhism in China.

LEIBNITZ’S LAW

Leibnitz’s Law states that two individuals are identical if and only if they are alike in every attribute. Here is an example of a law of the Absolute – not dealing in any way with manifest things, or numbers, not relating to other facts or data. Here is a law of logic, a fact without an object! My friend came to visit us. Quoting William James, I said, “Saying ‘no’ is better than saying ‘yes’ ” (niti-niti). Joining in the spirit of the game, he said, “proving ‘same’ is completely different and much more difficult than proving ‘different’.” Now this is a very elemental basic fundamental part of thinking, discriminating, distinguishing between “same” and “different.” In Sanskrit the word is “Vijnana,” categorizing. It is easy to establish that two entities are different – simply compare corresponding attributes of each entity until we encounter the first one that does not match. Done.

Admittedly, just to identify an attribute is a subjective categorization, an intuitive “clad” decision. And all categorizations are tentative. But to prove same-ness is beyond the reach of rigor. To establish that two entities are the same requires that all attributes are compared, an indeterminate and infinite regress! Here even matching correspondences in the sense of Cantor fails, because, unlike numbers, a delineation of qualities cannot even be defined. To conclude that two entities are the same is a flight of fancy, a leap of faith, an abstraction. Comparing DNA in blood samples can establish innocence (different), but cannot establish guilt (same). No one can even demonstrate (pattern match) that a pine tree in the forest is actually a pine tree, considering the infinite number of potential variations between an actual, phenomenal pine and the textbook ideal.  Since there are no two alike, which one is the ‘real’ pine tree? But one can abstract it. And that abstraction is like no pine tree found in Nature, past, present, or future.

Science has to proceed on that tenuous basis. In this regard, as well as in many others, science operates in blind faith, as a religion, guessing (believing) from hierarchies of known, suspected, unknown, and unknowable subjectivities. Digest this, it is centrally important. The laws of falsifiabilty, so important in science, law and reason, as emphasized by Peirce, Bridgman, Ayer and Popper derive from Leibnitz.

LOGOS

Logos takes its central place along with aesthetics, ethics, and metaphysics. The universe is characterized by form and color (qualia). Logos is the domain of the laws of form. Logos deals with eternals, including, but not restricted to archetypes. Qualia deal with ephemerals, the phenomenal. Most of the domain of logos lies beyond the field of proof, but some of the principles, amazingly, can be proven. For example, the optimality of the binary search can be proven. Cantor’s relationships of the transfinite numbers can be proven. Many mysterious relationships involving p, e and i can be proven.

One of the most powerful tools in the logos, in the unmanifest universe, is the principle of niti-niti, (not-this, not-this), as expounded by the ancient Indians. This principle is the basis of all science (vijnana) and lies at the core of the scientific method.

Sciences, (as well as many other domains, such as law, rationality, thinking, telephone books, and data bases), begin with and have their foundations in taxonomy, distinctions. The foundation of thinking, and of languages of all sorts, is categorization – something is in this category because it is not in the others! Someone else will come along and make entirely different categories, with just as much justification. Niti-niti, for example, is the process by which you distinguish a rose from other plants in a garden. Say you have a list of plants in the city park. With a botanical key, you can demonstrate that the rose is not a tree, not a clover, not a raspberry, and so on. What remains as the only possibility on the list is a rose, all the other plants on the list having been excluded. You have proven that the plant is a rose by a process of successive negation. Every positive identification is a result of eliminating all other possibilities, niti-niti.

Michaelangelo sculpted his masterworks by chiseling away all of the granite that did not belong there. Bach said, “playing the organ is easy, just don’t let your fingers play any of the wrong notes.” Kabbalah says that God wrote the Laws of the tablets by taking away the irrelevant parts of the stone. William James said, saying “no” is better than saying “yes.” Meditators advocate the “via negativa.” Two individuals in nature can easily be proven to be different, if in fact they are. But they can never be proven to be the same, even if they are, because that would require an infinite number of comparisons of pairs of attributes. DNA testing can prove innocence, but it can never prove guilt. To prove innocence, just compare characteristics of the blood samples, pair by pair, until you find a pair of that does not match. Done.

Rigorous. Suspect innocent. But to prove guilt, to prove that the samples are the same, requires an infinite regress – all characteristics up to the present point in the comparison match, but they always have an infinite way yet to go, more attributes yet to find (conceptualize), an unbounded number of matches to establish before the first mis-match. You can prove that a rose is not a walnut, but you can never prove that a rose is a rose! We know that a rose is a rose only by an inferential leap! How many attributes does a rose have? Answer – an infinite number. That is why the problem of “sameness” becomes a non-converging infinite regress. It is impossible to prove that an entity X is a pine. Each pine has an infinite number of qualities, so they cannot be exhaustively compared, pair by pair. To assert that X is a pine is an abduction. The description in the pine manual is an idealization – another abduction. There can never be a pine in nature that is the same as the one in the manual. There can not even exist two pines in nature that are the same, let alone identical with the one in the manual! This is the place where the problem of clads comes in.

A cladistic tree is a diagram showing relationships (in biological evolution or in any other developmental situation). The problem is, the characteristics we choose to distinguish one taxon from another are arbitrary and subjective. Anyone else may draw a perfectly reasonable tree based on a completely different set of distinguishing features. And so ad infinitum. Well, this whole line of thinking is rigorous and productive and commonplace. But it is not mathematics, nor is it linguistics. It is a reality that does not operate in the domain of time or space, materiality, history, culture, opinion, consensus, aesthetics or perception. It is logos, the mysterious core of all other reality.

Other exquisite examples of logos, form without objects, are the laws of the transfinite numbers formulated by Georg Cantor, and the domain of complex variable. DeMorgan’s Law, states that the truth of a logical paragraph is preserved when all elements are negated and all unions and intersections are inverted. It is the backbone of the fortunes of Silicon Valley. The syntax of a grammatical statement can be proven to be either rigorously correct or in error.

REDUCED vs. EMERGENT

How do snowflakes turn into avalanches? How do neuron firings turn into moods? Reduction means breaking things down into component parts. Everything is a reduction. Reduction can be carried on without limit.

Atoms are built of nucleons, which are built of quarks, which are built of subquarks, and so on. On the other hand, and equally true – everything is an epiphenomenon.

Laws at one level of organization aren’t related to laws at higher and lower levels. For example, the laws of meteorology that govern tornadoes cannot, in practice, be arrived at by studying the motion of the component molecules of gas. The psychology of mobs at soccer matches cannot be derived from the laws of individual psychology. Laws of behavior cannot be derived from an understanding of the action in the synapses. Very different laws operate at different levels of organization, and even between different levels of organization.

Beyond reduction lies complexity and chaos. Without exception, everything at every level is complex and chaotic. And so ad infinitum. Reduction is a “will-o-the-wisp”!

SOKOL’S HOAX

Sokol, a young Princeton physicist, published, tongue-in-cheek, an article seeming to be in support of postmodernist views. A few weeks later he published in a similar journal that the whole thing was a spoof, using silly postmodern jargon. The postmoderns were deeply offended and complained. Steven Weinberg, a distinguished Nobel physicist, came to Sokol’s defense in the New York Review of Books, August 1996, p11.

Sokol made a sarcastic “appeal to fashionable academics who question the claims of science to objectivity.” “Postmoderns in the humanities … who see the laws of nature as social constructions.” He attacks the ideologies of “postmodern intellectuals, social constructivists, relativists, new critics, and other trendy leftists in the humanities” following the oracle of deconstruction, Jacques Derrida.” They interpret modern catastrophe theory / chaos theory to support their ideas that all reality is a social construct depending upon consensual foundations. Quite to the contrary,

“Nature is strictly governed by impersonal mathematical laws. There exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole.” And there are many external worlds, other than Nature, such as the world of logos and the world of epistemology. “Most postmodernists deny that they have any doubt about the existence of an external world,” they believe in an objective reality …

On relativism – “If objective reality exists, then what scientists say is either true or false. If true, then how can it depend on the social environment of the scientist?” (e.g. sexist, racist, classicist, culturally coercive.) “Physics and chemistry, mathematics and logic, bear the fingerprints of their distinctive cultural creators no less than do anthropology and history.” “We did not create the Laws of physics.” “.. if we ever discover intelligent creatures on some distant planet and translate their scientific works, we will find that we and they have discovered the same laws.”

“The objective nature of scientific knowledge is taken for granted by most natural scientists.” (secondness) On entrenched authority – “the direction of physics (science) today is overwhelmingly set by young physicists, who are not yet weighed down with honors or authority, and whose influence – the excitement they stir up – derives from the objective progress that they are able to make.

“Science is cumulative, and permits definite judgments of success or failure.” It is evolving in the accumulative, Lamarckian sense. Lamarckian evolution operates much faster than Darwinian evolution, which is genetic. Salamanders that fall into caves without light lose their functional eyes within ten generations. Mankind has not changed significantly as a genetic, Darwinian entity in 200,000 years. Yet we have changed immensely in the mere flash of time of the last 50,000 years, since Neanderthal, by the accretion of ideas!

“Our civilization has been powerfully affected by the discovery that Nature is strictly governed by impersonal laws.” Truth is discovered, not derived, nor merely agreed upon. In the Prajnaparamita, truth “turns up.” The novelist, Bill Agee said, “Fiction is fact elevated to truth.” Yes, there are Laws (invariant patterns) in epistemology too. Laws are ontology, but there is also an ontology of epistemology!

The whole domain of epistemology lies beyond Homo sapiens, and any species, and any culture, and beyond mass, and energy, and space, and time, and synapses. It is not observer- dependent.

By contrast, ontology and cosmology are intrinsically and unavoidably observer-dependent.

WAYS TO EVALUATE ONTOLOGIES

Definition – explanation – a description that satisfies.

How do we explain things? Here are some of the criteria to distinguish between alternative explanations.

Ockham’s razor – non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem – do not add unnecessary assumptions.

explanatory / elaborating / amplifying / extending

completeness / comprehensiveness / universality

falsifiability / testing / eliminative

manipulative

efficacy

ontological simplicity

theoretical economy

predictive efficacy

familiarity

heuristics

meaning

beauty

Science stumbles through time toward an entelechy, an omega, guided and directed, moment by moment, by these criteria. There is a purpose and a goal in science, in Nature, in the Universe, and in You.

“Keep your eyes on the goal. Let your feet find the way.”

Socialism: “He Ain’t Heavy” States: “My Brother’s Keeper” States

he_not_heavy_lg

“He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”

– Roe Fulkerson

“And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Genesis 4

I am a secular atheist, however I have read the Old and New Testaments completely.

Genesis 4

1And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.

2And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

3And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.

4And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:

5But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

6And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?

7If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

8And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

9And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?

10And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.

11And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand;

12When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.

13And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.

14Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.

15And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

16And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

17And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

18And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech.

19And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.

20And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle.

21And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.

22And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.

23And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.

24If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.

25And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.

26And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.

In 1924, the first editor of Kiwanis Magazine, Roe Fulkerson, published a column carrying the title “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”. Dated September 1924, the article speaks of Fulkerson’s inspiring encounter with “a spindly and physically weak lad” carrying a baby and “staggering towards a neighboring park”.

” ‘Pretty big load for such a small kid’ I said as I met him. ‘Why, mister,’ he smiled, ‘He ain’t heavy; he’s my brother.’ “

Rufus Wainwright – He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother Lyrics

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We’ll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me

If I’m laden at all
I’m laden with sadness
That everyone’s heart
Isn’t filled with the gladness
Of love for one another.

It’s a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we’re on the way to there
Why not share
And the load
Doesn’t weigh me down at all
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.

He’s my brother
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.

I had a very good discussion with a friend on Facebook.  He told me that the American objection to socialism and a social safety net was the term “Nanny State”.  My response to him–and it came immediately–was, “The correct term is ‘My Brother’s Keeper State'”.

Suddenly, it became obvious to me that by refusing to adopt socialism as national policy USAmericans were as a country bearing “the mark of Cain” in the global community and among other first world nations.

Republicans hate maternalistic government.  Democrats hate paternalistic government.  It is time for fraternalistic government.

I urge all USAmericans to adopt socialist policies as their brother’s and sister’s keepers.

Adopt universal healthcare, universal education and universal employment insurance.

No American is too heavy for another American.

No one on Earth is too heavy for anyone else on Earth.

Bureaucracy: The Olympic Torch Bearer

petro-canada-torch1

Last year I attended a gathering where a gentleman, let’s call him Chuck, delivered a speech to us about an accomplishment he had made.

In 1988 Canada hosted the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta.  As part of the celebration Canada’s state owned oil company Petro-Canada decided to sponsor the Olympic Torch Relay across the country.  How would the relay team be assembled?  By lottery.  All you had to do to participate in the Olympic Torch Relay was go to your nearest Petro-Canada Gas Station and fill out an entry form.  Relay participants would be drawn from among the entrants.  You could enter as many times as you wished.

Chuck lived in a small rural community, but it turns out our he was ambitious.  He was determined as a grade school student that he would participate in the Olympic Torch Relay.  He went down to the Petro-Canada Gas Station and picked up as many entry forms as the gas station attendant would allow, went home and began filling out entry forms by hand, one at a time.  Then he would go back to the Petro-Canada Gas Station and stuff all his completed entry forms into the entry box.

Chuck was determined.  Every day he would go to the Petro-Canada Gas Station and collect a ream of entry forms.  Everyday he would spend all his spare time filling out the entry forms one at a time by hand.  When other kids his age were spending their time with their families and friends, enjoying leisure time or participating in extra-curricular activities or sports, our speaker was filling out forms.

The entry form completion and submission routine went on for months.  Chuck’s family thought he was crazy, his friends thought he was crazy, his teachers thought he was crazy, the attendants at the Petro-Canada Gas Station thought he was crazy.  Then the day of the draw for the Petro-Canada Olympic Torch Relay participants finally arrived.  The draw was made and about a week later a letter arrived at Chuck’s home.  He had been drawn to carry the Olympic Torch as a relay participant.  Everyone was overjoyed.

The Olympic Torch Relay began during a Canadian Winter and it finally arrived at the point where Chuck would take the Olympic Torch from the previous Torch Relay participant, bear the Olympic Torch for a kilometer or two and pass it to the next Torch Relay member.  Chuck was dressed in the red and white Olympic Torch Relay uniform with the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics logo,  the Canadian Flag logo, the Olympic Torch Relay logo and the Olympic Torch Relay logo emblazoned on it.  However, it was bitterly cold, the relay schedule was very tight and physically Chuck was not only unfit, but considerably overweight.  However, no matter, Chuck received the Olympic Torch and jumped on the back of a snowmobile driven by a Torch Relay volunteer.  They crossed the snowy Canadian winter wilderness with God speed with Chuck holding the Olympic Torch high.  Finally, they arrived at the next relay point and Chuck jumped off the back of the snowmobile and passed the Olympic Torch to the next Torch Relay participant, who in turn jumped on the back of the snowmobile and continued onward.  Victory had indeed been sweet.

Now, let’s return to 2007 on the day this speech was being delivered.  Chuck completed his story and proudly displayed the Olympic Torch Relay uniform he had worn during his leg of the relay.  We all looked admiringly at it and thought about our own desire to carry the Olympic Torch that we had not attempted to realize.  And looked at a man who had had the courage to realize a dream.

Chuck stood before us proud, reserved and two hundred pounds overweight.  He now worked for one of Canada’s provincial governments as a senior bureaucrat.  He was a senior elected member of the organization of which his audience belonged.  He was also a member of the subdivision of the organization to which the audience belonged.  He does not believe in new members or in fact any members of the organization receiving a copy of the organization’s constitution, but knows it intimately.  He studies Robert’s Rules of Order intensely during organization meetings, but does not share this knowledge with the members, instead waiting to be called upon in an advisory role as Parliamentarian deciding for everyone what due process is.  Instead of rationally debating motions, he bellows out bombast like profanity.  When asked about ethics, he says his is winning.

So, what did Chuck learn from the example of Olympic Torch Relay?  First, he learned that sport and sportsmanship had nothing to do with the Olympic Torch Relay.  Second, he learned that the Olympic Torch Relay was a lottery, not based on merit.  Third, he learned that he could manipulate the outcome of the Olympic Torch Relay selection process by stuffing the ballot box.  Fourth, he learned to be a good bureaucrat legalistically filling out the same Olympic Torch Rleay entry forms day in and day out, neglecting family, friends, liesure, extra-curricular activities, sport and physical health.  Fifth, he learned that the Olympic Torch Relay had no physical fitness requirements at all.  He simply sat on the back of a gas poewered, internal combustion engine, polluting snowmobile so the organizers of the event could meet their schedule.  It’s a wonder that Chuck had the strength to hold the torch up for the length of his leg of the relay.

Chuck had learned a lot of lessons from the Olympic Torch Relay.  I believe that the Olympic Committee, Canada, the Petro-Canada Corporation and the Canadian Olympians should all be proud of what they accomplished.  They have produced an immoral, misleading, scheming, complex, inefficient, ineffective, inadequate, over-indulgent, imprecise and inaccurate bureaucrat who could die of any number of self-inflicted chronic health problems the next moment.  Although I’m sure he has a redeeming trait or two. They all deserve a medal.

Live the Dream.

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Ethics: Robots and the Vulnerable

This is an article that merits consideration by everyone:

robots-and-children

WASHINGTON – A BRITISH scientist is calling for immediate introduction of robot ethics guidelines amid surging use of the machines and concern about their lack of human responsibility while caring for children or the elderly.

In an article published on Thursday in the US journal Science, Noel Sharkey, a professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, argues that the steady increase in the use of robots in day-to-day life poses unanticipated risks and ethical problems.

Outside of military applications, Professor Sharkey worries how robots – and particularly the people who control them – will be held accountable when the machines work with ‘the vulnerable’, namely children and the elderly, stressing that there are already robotic machines in wide use such as the Japanese meal assistance robot ‘My Spoon’.

Robots could also soon be entrusted by parents to guard and monitor their children, replacing a flesh-and-blood nanny but posing potential problems in long-term exposure to the machines.

‘There are already at least 14 companies in Japan and South Korea that have developed child care robots,’ according to Prof Sharkey.

‘The question here is, will this lead to neglect and social exclusion?’ He said short-term exposure ‘can provide an enjoyable and entertaining experience that creates interest and curiosity’. But ‘we do not know what the psychological impact will be for children to be left for long hours in the care of robots’, he told AFP.

Experiments conducted on monkeys suggest there is reason for concern, Prof Sharkey said. Young monkeys left in the care of robots ‘became unable to deal with other monkeys and to breed’, he said.

With prices plunging by 80 per cent since 1990, consumer sales of robots have surged in the 21st century, reaching nearly 5.5 million in 2008, and are expected to double to 11.5 million in the next two years.

‘They are set to enter our lives in unprecedented numbers,’ said Prof Sharkey, expressing fear that an absence of ethical rules fixed by international bodies could mean the machines’ control will be left to militaries, the robot industry and busy parents.

The scientist also points to the remarks of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who he said predicted that ‘over the next few years robots may be a pervasive as the PC’, or personal computer.

‘We were caught off guard by the sudden increase in Internet use and it would not be a good idea to let that happen with robots,’ Prof Sharkey said.

‘It is best if we set up some ethical guidelines now before the mass deployment of robots rather than wait until they are in common use.’ He said it was vital that action be taken on an international level as soon as possible, ‘rather than let the guidelines set themselves’.

For Prof Sharkey, who has studied robotics for 30 years, such standards are compatible with the rise of robots, of which he is an enthusiastic defender. He stressed the benefits that robots can bring ‘to dangerous work and medicine’.

Prof Sharkey shrugs off doomsday scenarios in books such as Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot about the threatening interaction between robots and humans, or in movies such as the The Terminator in which robots take over the world.

Such story lines will remain firmly in the realm of fantasy, even as societies hurtle towards greater automation, he said.

‘I have no concern whatsoever about robots taking control. They are dumb machines with computers and sensors and do not think for themselves despite what science fiction tells us,’ he said.

‘It is the application of robots by people that concerns me and not the robots themselves.’ — AFP

Jared Diamond: Societal Collapse

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more about “Jared Diamond: System Collapse“, posted with vodpod

If you listen carefully to what Jared Diamond is saying in the TED video above, he is describing not a five part, but a six part power curve into a systemic singularity. This has been one of the core themes of discussion of this blog.  We all seem to be too close to our problems to see the commonality.  The interrogatives come into play here:

  1. Goals
  2. People
  3. Functions
  4. Forms
  5. Times
  6. Distances

Times and Distances being the basis on which the higher orders are built.

When we look at the recent economic “crisis” we see 300 trillion in currency circulating and roughly 1 trillion to 2 trillion shifting suddenly and unexpectedly.  We witnessed a systemic collapse, a singularity, a tipping point, a power curve, an exponential change, a phase transition or whatever label you want to call it.  These have been happening everywhere since Time and Distance began in different contexts and orders both in human and non-human systems.

What Jared Diamond and other alarmists are implying is that human society is now a system approaching its final singularity in this century on this planet.  We are implying that today we are experiencing a less than one percent crisis on a power curve into a singularity.  How many more iterations will the global system withstand?  Will humanity make the step into space successfully before we experience a global dark age?  How will the six or more factors in the power curve play out?

The truth to me appears to be that power curves whether they play out or not result in either a systemic climax or anti-climax followed by a systemic collapse.  Would it not be better if we experienced a systemic climax that led to us expanding into the solar system?

Systemic collapse seems to be the fashion of this generation.  Every generation looks with fascination at its own youth, maturition, reproduction and acceleration into mortality.  Some die early, some die late, but all die.  It is an irrevocable law of nature.  It is not about self-interest.  It is about what self-interest is defined as.

Related Posts:

Beyond the Singularity

Servitas and Libertas

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Social Psychology: The Milgram Occupation

stanleymilgram.jpg

Every encounter with authority is a Milgram experiment. You are subject to influence which is either congruent with your principles or incongruent. If it is incongruent, how much incongruity are you willing to bear?

In my last post I shared a speech I had written for Toastmasters regarding an exchange between a figure who claimed authority through seniority with a figure who claimed authority through democracy. The latter reached a point where the seniority figure could no longer be tolerated and refused to surrender any further authority. Through Machiavellian machinations the democratic figure was robbed of his post.

The story of the Toastmaster’s speech happens every day. Businesses are not democracies and employees are directed to perform unethical actions in many of them daily. Is delivering fatal carcinogens through cigarettes any different than delivering fatal electrical shocks by the flipping of a switch? Not at all.

Authority figures use a broad array of tactics to divorce us of our free will well beyond the simple scope of the Milgram experiment. But the fundamental instrument is fear as wielded by the authority figure in one hand and comfort as wielded by the authority figure in the other. “Don’t be evil” takes on more onerous tones in this context. “Evil” according to whom?