Archives for category: The kind of world we are building for our children

The first thing each of us becomes aware of is ‘me’.
Not yet “I”, just “me”.

I (?!?) feel myself as somehow separated from the rest.
I have the feelings hence it’s “me” rather than “I”.
I am cared for by those around me so, again, it’s “me” rather than “I”.

And this goes on for quite a while.
That while used to be shorter. I’m not going to tell you how many children worked in coal mines… I’m just going to remind you that in more traditional cultures, the older children are expected to participate in the raising of the smaller ones. Hence become faster more responsible than we had been in our times.
Taking care of somebody else teaches each of us a lot. The most important thing being the fact that not all the world spins around you. As each of us had been led to believe in the first months of our lives. During the time each of us had become “me”.

Taking care of others makes each of us aware of the care we have received.
Teaches us that ‘give’ is just as important as ‘being given’.
Teaches us about ‘give and take’.

Teaches us that ‘you’ are just as important as “me” is.

Having understood that is the only thing which qualifies each of us as “I”.

Behaving as active members of a culture which successfully teaches “I” to its members transforms a collection of “me”-s into “us”.

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Bonkers, right?

Here’s a more elaborate expression of the same concept:

“Al-Ash’ari (873–935), the founder of the theological school that al-Ghazâlî belonged to, had rejected the existence of “natures” (tabâ’i’ ) and of causal connections among created beings. In a radical attempt to explain God’s omnipotence, he combined several ideas that were developed earlier in Muslim kalâm to what became known as occasionalism. All material things are composed of atoms that have no qualities or attributes but simply make up the shape of the body. The atoms of the bodies are the carrier of “accidents” (singl. ‘arad), which are attributes like weight, density, color, smell, etc. In the cosmology of al-Ash’arî all immaterial things are considered “accidents” that inhere in a “substance” (jawhar). Only the atoms of spatially extended bodies can be substances. A person’s thoughts, for instance, are considered accidents that inhere in the atoms of the person’s brain, while his or her faith is an accident inhering in the atoms of the heart. None of the accidents, however, can subsist from one moment (waqt) to the next. This leads to a cosmology where in each moment God assigns the accidents to bodies in which they inhere. When one moment ends, God creates new accidents. None of the created accidents in the second moment has any causal relation to the ones in the earlier moment. If a body continues to have a certain attribute from one moment to the next, then God creates two identical accidents inhering in that body in each of the two subsequent moments. Movement and development generate when God decides to change the arrangement of the moment before. A ball is moved, for instance, when in the second moment of two the atoms of the ball happen to be created in a certain distance from the first. The distance determines the speed of the movement. The ball thus jumps in leaps over the playing field and the same is true for the players’ limbs and their bodies. This also applies to the atoms of the air if there happen to be some wind. In every moment, God re-arranges all the atoms of this world anew and He creates new accidents—thus creating a new world every moment (Perler/Rudolph 2000, 28–62).”

On the other hand, we currently have our own struggles.

Determinism.
Is it possible to determine the ultimate cause of anything? Forget about ‘everything’… even the ultimate cause for something seems to be far beyond our capabilities…

Freedom.
Is it real?
Or is it only a figment of our own imagination?

Reality.
Is it real?
Or is it created by our own conscience?

No links provided. Do your own googling.

Here’s what science teaches us on this matter.

Heisenberg’s ‘Uncertainty Principle’:
It is impossible to simultaneously measure with absolute precision both the position and the velocity of any object.

For many everyday instances, this doesn’t present any problem. For practical purposes, our technological prowess is enough. Philosophically… Heisenberg’s principle is yet another irrefutable indication that we’re very far from ever being able to determine the ultimate cause of anything.

Are we able to live with this uncertainty?

Are we able to go to bed at night without being absolutely sure that the sun will rise tomorrow?
OK, everybody somehow knows – even if nobody wants to accept it, that there’s a slight chance that they will not wake tomorrow… but the Sun?!?

Are we able to live with the notion that what we call ‘natural order’ isn’t fixed?

That a meteorite might come from nowhere and kill all the ‘dinosaurs’?
That a virus might spring up from nowhere and fuck up our lives?

“What we see is the fire touching the cotton and then the cotton being reduced to ashes. We wrongly assume that there is thus a necessary causal relationship between fire burning and the cotton being burned”.

Now please tell me something.
What is the subject here? Cotton being burned or our relationship with what’s going on there?

We see… we assume… He, al Ghazali, tells us that we are wrong to assume that what we see is what is really happening… He is ‘right’ – because…- and we are wrong…

The funny thing being, of course, that al-Ghazali is, partially, right!
Since Heisenberg had postulated his famous principle, we should refrain ourselves from assuming anything…

OK. Let me put it differently then.
What happened to that cotton?
Is it still white? Or had it been “reduced” to ashes?

Who brought the flame close enough to the cotton?
Was this an experiment? In a lab?
Or a tragedy? In a field/storage? By lightning? Or by an arsonist?

Returning to al Ghazali, we need to remember that his world was totally different from ours.

It’s safe to say that their culture was about as sophisticated as ours. Same arts, same subjects discussed in the philosophical circles, same religious ideas…

Civilizationally speaking, we live in a totally different world.
Civilization – the consequence of ‘culture’ being put to practice’ had advanced dramatically in the last 1000 years.

And since our thoughts are heavily influenced by the environment in which we’re doing the thinking…

The fraction of the population who enjoyed ‘food security’ was minuscule compared to today.
The fraction of the population who was pretty much sure they will awake the next morning was minuscule compared to today.
The fraction of the population who felt free – from oppression – was, practically, nonexistent.

Yet the ‘thinkers’ felt the same need for coherence as those thinking today. They felt the same need to know what tomorrow had in store for them.
They, like us, needed an explanation for disease. For war. For tragedy…
And since no pathogens nor dictators were available …

How come ‘no dictators were available’?!?
Who in his right mind would have called, then, the local ruler a ‘dictator’? In his face…
Look at what happened, now, to people doing that in Moscow!
Or even in Washington, DC

That was the role attributed to God. To be the bridge to tomorrow.

It was not the flame which reduced the cotton to ashes. Nor the experimenter/arsonist/dictator. It was ‘God’.
As long as we could accept that – and that God loved us, the future was still bearable.

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According to a certain George Herbert, 1640, “For him who will, ways are not wanting“.
According to those who have spent their lives observing natural phenomena, ‘Where ever there are enough resources present, something will happen’.

Morally speaking, there’s a huge difference between those two.
When we need to apportion merit – or blame, we do need to know whether something was a natural occurrence or the consequence of somebody’s actions.

But following a more practical approach… people would better prepare themselves to deal with the aftermath of that something taking place, regardless of what/who had caused it.

Let me put it in a simpler manner.
An investigator will/should do everything in their power to determine the cause of a fire. But that will be possible only after the blaze has been put down by the fire-fighters.

For some time now, people have been trying to determine whether machines will ever be able to develop consciousness. To ‘feel’ anything.
Some even pour over the moral implications …. will sentient machines have rights? As in ‘the right to not be turned off’?

I expect most of those people have been jolted by some recent developments pertaining to their field of expertise…

In a sense, this is a ‘natural’ development.
We’ve been purposely transforming tools into weapons since … before we parted ways with our closest cousins, the chimpanzees.

But it’s for the first time that we’ve developed weapons powerful enough to kill every human being on Earth. And capable of achieving their given task without human assistance.

What next?
How about a weapon capable of assuming a task?
Capable of consciously determining – through diligent AI/ML computations, that a certain ‘target’ ‘needs’ to be ‘taken care off’.
Which weapon, being a ‘sentient machine’, will come with the built in right to not be turned off.

How did we get here?
Stay tuned.

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Reality is tricky.

It includes us. Each of us!

Yet we perceive it as being ‘exterior’. As including the others but not ‘me’. ‘I’ determine what’s real and what not, hence I’m above ‘mere’ reality.

We perceive ourselves as being distinct from the (rest of the) reality yet each of us continuously shares substance and energy with it. We breathe, eat, drink, excrete. We bask in the sun whenever we can during winter and use wind and water to cool ourselves down during hot summer days.

We feel overwhelmed whenever we think about it yet we constantly chip away at it. We build shelters and roads, we grow crops and raise animals, we dig up minerals and transform them into consumer goods. In time, we had displaced most of the ‘Nature’ we have evolved in and replaced it with ‘Man Made’.

Berger and Luckmann had famously – yet somewhat convolutedly, demonstrated that ‘reality’ was a (social) construct.
That what we know about the reality and what we have built based on that knowledge are the consequences of our common effort.

What I’m interested in is the ‘complicated’ manner in which we, each of us, interact with ‘reality’.

We grow up learning about reality. From those around us.
During this process, we simultaneously accumulate knowledge and develop the instrument with which we gauge reality. Our consciences.
Along with this process we also change, together with our teachers and siblings, the very reality we learn about.

Interesting, isn’t it?

We depend, for our dear life, on something we don’t fully understand.
We extract sustenance from it and throw back at it the results of our cravings.
Since our individual knowledge is severely limited, we depend on others – our peers, to complement our understanding of what’s going on around us. Yet in our attempts to fulfill our cravings we mislead some of our siblings.

Reality has been shaped by life from the very first moment. Only in those times, the process was driven exclusively by ‘needs’. The living things of yore did change their reality only they were doing exclusively what they had to in order to survive.
Nowadays, while the rest of the living world continue to follow the ‘time proven traditions’, we – the conscient, and presumably rational, humans, transform the reality according to our wishes.
While we don’t exactly understand what’s going on….

Then how come we’re so snug about the whole thing?

And what’s the meaning of the Adenium Obesum I used to illustrate this post?
I live in Romania. The Desert Rose is a native of the Arabian Desert. Yet one grows, and flowers, in my home.
Only because I afford to heat my ‘shelter’ during winter. And to spend some of my time caring for it.
I don’t really need that plant in order to survive. Yet I’ve changed the reality around me to such an extent that that plant is able to thrive. Almost 4000 km straight North from its native desert….
I’ve been taking care of it for some 4 years now. And I’ve learned only 5 minutes ago that its sap is toxic… What was I telling you about us not being fully aware of our actions?

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Time is but the consequence of matter/energy interacting with itself.

The post continues after this message.

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There was no time to speak about before matter divorced energy.

Nobody was actually aware of time passing by until we started counting Sun’s revolutions.

Earth turning round the Sun is matter interacting with itself.

We, humans, are a consequence of evolution. Of matter interacting with itself.

History – the times be bothered to record, is a consequence of human interactions.

Environment is the consequence of the living things interacting with the rest of the planet.
The current state of our ‘backyard’, the Earth, is, increasingly, the consequence of our interaction with the environment.

Time might be passing its own.
We used to count it.
Nowadays, we’re the ones driving it.

1. Always remember that your ‘ride’ doubles up as your home.
And as your pantry!
‘Redecorate’ with extreme caution and be extra careful when it comes to ‘waste disposal’. For the simple reason that today’s stool will, sometime in the near future, become tomorrow’s lunch. No ‘ride’ is infinite, you know… “all come from dust, and all return to dust“, remember?

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) recently captured a unique view of Earth from the spacecraft’s vantage point in orbit around the moon.

2. Treat the entire ‘crew’ as your family. For the simple reason that no mutiny has ever ended well… Even the winning parties have been presented with huge ‘cleaning up’ bills… while there is a very short supply of desert – but habitable – ‘islands’ where the loosing parties might be left to fend for themselves. So, in the end, all those interested in continuing their lives must – the sooner the better – find where is the middle ground between them.

Another fantastic thing to see at the fortified church of Biertan is the marital prison, precisely what its name suggests. Legend has it that whenever a married couple in Biertan wanted to divorce, they had to go through a particular test first. They were locked inside a room within the fortified church walls, and they were forced to use one bed, one chair, and one set of cutlery for two whole weeks. 
After this time period, if they still wanted to divorce, they were free to do so. However, in 400 years, only one couple is said to have gone through with the divorce in the end. If that’s not exemplary couples therapy, I don’t know what is.  

3. ‘I’ll be dead long before the hit shits the fan’ is no longer a viable option.
If Covid hasn’t taught you that already…
There’s a huge difference between dying comfortably in your bed, with a cold glass of water just a wish away, and gasping for air, alone, with other moribund people as your only company!

“Beyond the images, the cremation grounds bear a painful routine of trauma that will weigh on families long after the headlines fade. The pandemic has stripped the final rites of their usual space and dignity.
Instead, this intimate ritual has become both a public display, with the world watching India’s crisis, and a lonely burden.”

Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Get a vaccine, wear a mask…

“You can’t deprive others of their liberty without forfeiting your own. Liberty is lost with every person seeking to control others for their comfort and sentiment.”

Getting a vaccine and wearing a mask are sensible things to do, right?

Establishing a free environment, where all individuals might enjoy their liberties, is also a sensible thing!

For the simple reason that even a casual examination of history provides ample proof that freer societies fare far better than those which curtail individual freedoms.

Simpler said than done…
Mention the mandatory mask and the imperative advice to get vaccinated to those passionate about individual liberty and you have a hornets’ nest on your hands.

Or maybe this is an excellent occasion to discuss the ‘gap’ we constantly need to bridge between individual freedoms and a free society?

Can you have a free society composed of slaves?

The answer depends on who gives it to you.
I’d spent the first 30 years of my life under communist rule.
My country, Romania, was declared, by those who were ruling it at that time, as being free. Both domestically and internationally.
The only free individual was the ruler. Nicolae Ceausescu. He was the only guy who could do as he pleased. And only for a while… Until 25 December 1989…
In the end, the regime had crumbled and the only ‘free’ individual had met with the consequences of how he had chosen to use his freedom.

So no, you cannot have a free society when one individual, or a group of individuals, impose their will on everybody else.

‘Your liberty to swing your fist ends where my nose begins’

Otherwise put, if you refuse to get vaccinated/wear a mask you might be instrumental in getting me sick. Or dead.

‘Might’! It’s the ‘might’ part which troubles you!
Why should you shoulder a minimal risk/discomfort for my safety? Specially when you’re not convinced that my safety is in danger… Or, maybe, you’re thinking ‘let him take whatever precautionary measures he considers to be necessary!’

Because of India, that’s why!

Do you consider present day India to be a free society?
Do you consider that people currently living in India are truly enjoying their freedom? Today?!?

And no, I’m not going to contrast what’s going on in India with what the Chinese government had done.
First pretend nothing had happened then lock up the entire population.

No!
I’m going to contrast what’s going on in India with how the ‘other’ China had reacted to the Covid pandemic. Or with the South Korean response.

Different economic realities… Different cultures…
Maybe!
But also different levels of economic and social disruption!

Don’t tell me that what’s going on in today’s India won’t have repercussions!

Nature is made of atoms.

Same thing is valid for viruses. And for people.

Both viruses and people are atoms put together according to specific sets of rules.
Further more, the same sets of specific rules determine how each of them interact with the places where each of them happen to live.

I need to make a pause here.
And mention the fact that life alters, profoundly – if given enough time, the space where it ‘unfolds’.
For instance, the blue-green algae have transformed the Earth atmosphere into what it is today.

We balk at it today but blue-algae, also known as Cyanobacteria, is responsible for the Earth atmosphere having so much free oxygen.

Same thing is valid for viruses. And for people.

Viruses which kill too much of what they get in contact with do not survive for long.
They either peter out, like Ebola usually does, or have been wiped out. Like small pox was. And polio is close to be.

People who destroy too much around them… soon find out they no longer have a viable home.

And this is valid both for individuals and for the entire species.

Nature, on the other hand, doesn’t care.
It simply goes on.

I feel the need to disagree vehemently!

The malicious has made an option. Had chosen. Willingly! And, supposedly – according to the hypothesis being discussed here, knowingly.

The ‘stupid’ just stays put. Until the relevant information penetrates his ‘thick skull’.
It’s not his fault that those who attempt to convince him are not skillful enough.

And if the ‘stupid’ happens to be in a ‘powerful’ position… (hence his inability to understand fast enough is liable to produce considerable damage) who needs to be chastised?

The ‘stupid’ himself? Who presumably ‘doesn’t have a clue’ about what’s going on?
The malicious who had made the whole situation possible?
The ‘lazy bystandards’? Who had allowed this to happen? Out of carelessness?

Or those who are liable to suffer the consequences? Who had understood what was going on but…

On the other hand… Could Dietrich Bonhoefer – a renowned pastor and theologian, utter such ‘simplistic’ words? So callous?

“Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. … The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other. The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.”

I had recently shared this image on FB:

“Those are called Witches Stairs. Allegedly, witches can’t climb up them. You will occasionally find them in very, very old New England homes.

(photo by Daphne Canard)”

Yesterday I got a notice from FB:

I presume this was the ‘consequence’ of some artificial intelligence employed by FB doing its job.

Doesn’t make much sense but…

For whatever reason, I made a screen capture of the notice and shared it on FB.
A friend asked me about the original post.
I looked it up and it was no longer there!
I searched FB for the picture… and there it was. Shared multiple times by multiple people. Sometimes with the accompanying text, sometimes baren.
And, at least once, bearing a very similar warning:

I’m not questioning FB motives for fact checking the information on its walls.
That’s a good idea.
Only I’m not so sure the ‘artificial’ intelligence FB uses to implement that idea is intelligent enough for the task….