Archive for May, 2012

The Model: Latest Developments

21 May 2012

My earlier article, for reference.

While the political scene continues to percolate, and for the most part is not being covered by any reliable information source, I have been advocating for a more workable model for understanding human life.

A danger sign disguised as futurism – Russia 2045

The 2045 website was just recently launched. Here’s a link.

Though it purports to be a “brand new” approach to the future of humanity, spearheaded by innovative Russian academics, what do you know?: It’s a dot com website!

It looks pretty Russian. Except for the Ray Kurzweil and Dalai Lama endorsements. Who’s really behind it? Perhaps time will tell.

Their major project is to “reverse engineer the human brain.”

So close! Yet, so far.

I sent a little missive to the email address for this project. I warned them that this whole line of reasoning could turn out to be very unwise. They responded the next day with one sentence: “Please never write to us again.”

Hm.

I hope my readers will understand the problem I’m looking at, assuming The Model is basically valid:

  1. If the brain is not actually what produces human consciousness, then reverse engineering it will just get you a much better robot.
  2. If human consciousness is immortal, then why don’t we just remember how to make better robots? It’s got to be in someone’s memory somewhere.

The people putting up the money for this project should be aware of these two points. So what is their honest reason for supporting this project? I invite your comments on the matter. (Comments are, however, reviewed by me before posting.)

 

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Life as a Process

11 May 2012

Most recently my head has been buried in matters related to computer programming.

So why this waxing philosophic?

  1. It is time – past time really – to take a new look at the world around us.
  2. Programming languages are based on certain philosophic principles.
  3. When you write programs for the purpose of understanding how to do it, you run into these principles.
  4. If you have prior philosophic training, you may find these principles interesting, rather than just annoying or dogmatic.

Objects

In programming we have this term “object.” It means “an instance of a class.” If that doesn’t clarify things for you, I don’t blame you. But I’m going to keep this light; I’m not going to resort to my Webster’s. A “class” is a pattern for an object. Like a gene is a pattern for a protein. An “instance” is an actual example of something created from a class. A person is an “instance” of his genetics, in this sense. And the browser window you are reading this in is an instance of the various classes that were specifically designed to make browser windows. The “browser program” defines the process, as a series of steps, for creating and working with a browser window.

Processes

We usually think of an object as a thing that doesn’t “change” unless a process acts upon it. This is a convenient and workable way of thinking, but at its core it is flawed. If the objects all around us – including us – were not in a constant state of change, they would all disappear. In macro terms, we are constantly changing position in every frame of reference except our own. And in micro terms, we now know that atoms and subatomic particles are, in fact, in constant motion.

Thus from the point of view of a human in material existence, it even requires a process of some kind for objects to appear to remain the same. Without some sort of continuing process, an object would vanish as soon as the process creating it finished. This actually happens in programming.

For example, for my systems analysis class I wrote a little program that simulates how a grocery checkout system works. When the clerk holds an item over the scanner, the scanner detects the bar code of the item and sends it to a database. The database responds with data about the item, which the system temporarily stores in an ITEM object. This data is then inspected and processed, if necessary (does the item need to be weighed? etc.), and when that is done, the item data is copied over to the INVOICE object, and the ITEM object is destroyed. The ITEM object does not appear again until a new item is scanned, and the process is repeated.

Physically, a shopping basket is being emptied of items, which are being handled, one-by-one by the cashier, and are then put into a shopping bag. So, the physical items simply get handled and moved to a new location, while the logical ITEMS get created, inspected, and destroyed over and over.

In both cases, we are talking about process. But for me, the life cycle of an ITEM in a checkout program really brought it home for me. The continued existence of ANY OBJECT depends on a continuing process. You could even call an object a process.

 

Spirit

An example of this problem is the attitude of science to the concept of spirit.

Academically trained writers have trouble with spirit. They reason that, since the spirit has no physical properties, it could not rightly be said to “exist.”

I stood in my kitchen one day not long ago, just after reading such a discussion, and watched the wind blowing around the bushes and trees outside. And I thought, “spirit is like the wind.” After all, I realized later, the word comes from a word for “breath.”

And certainly, no one would argue that “wind” doesn’t exist! But “wind” is a name for a process. The process involves the movement of air from an area of higher pressure to an area of lower pressure. We don’t study wind and rain as “things” (I hope). We study them as processes. And that is really the only way to study spirit.

Everything is a process

But according to my earlier discussion, what, in fact, is NOT a process?

Hm.

The postulate of an “unchanging object” is in fact a matter of mere intellectual convenience. Within certain frames of reference, or rules of play if you want to use a game analogy, certain objects can be thought of as non-changing unless acted upon by a process that changes them. But this is simply intellectually convenient. It is not, ultimately, the truth of what is going on.

The truth is that everything is a process. Some processes are relatively insignificant in most games, and can be ignored. Others are more significant. But to overlook this truth is to make a major error.

Particle physics has had two major approaches.

One approach involves creating a very small space in which a lot of energy is added in. This tends to “expose” processes that are normally very private. In this way they have discovered “particles” with very short lifetimes that normally are created and destroyed inside of other particles.

The other approach has been to create a very small space in which a lot of energy is drained out (usually by cooling). The matter inside this space tends to simplify, or act more like it would under “ideal” conditions. You get superconductivity, superfluidity and other phenomena that indicate that the various processes in matter start to cease to interfere with each other, or in fact can be “turned off.”

However, this is nothing, in my mind, compared to the various experiments in what we currently call the “paranormal” during which “solid objects” have been observed to appear and disappear (materialize and dematerialize) according to the will of someone with “psychic powers.”

Scientific study of spiritual phenomena

If science is willing to entertain the possibility – as they have had to do in particle physics – that the subject they are studying is basically a process and not an “object,” then we may have an entrance point to the problem of how to study the spirit.

Particle physicists are now well aware that what they are basically studying is a process, and that what they are perceiving are the effects of this process. When asked to give a name to this process, they usually come up with “nature.” They could have just as easily come up with “god” or “spirit.” Conceptually, there is really very little difference. The main difference is that “nature” is conceived to be a totally unbiased agent of change, whereas “god” is considered to have attitudes about things. I think, though, if we really looked into it, we would find that “nature” also has attitudes about things.

If spirit is best thought of as a process, then the only real question is to what extent “spirit” and “nature” are equivalent concepts. To the extent that they are (surprise!) science has really been studying spirit all along! And spiritualists have also really been studying nature all along.

While the spiritualists are ready to concede this point, the scientists, for the most part, are not. The path to such a concession could be – and I hope it is – shorter than previously thought.

My take on the push against Sharia in the US

9 May 2012

Those who follow me (if any) know that I am interested in changing the current financial system. In this regard, I have been following the White Hats movement, which seems loosely related to a variety of groups that go by other names.

These people want to replace the current system with one that is “equity-based.”

On googling “equity based finance” I found numerous links to articles and papers about Islamic banking. Why was this?

It is because Sharia advises in favor of equity-based financial practices.

I read the Wikipedia article on it here:
Islamic Banking

To quote the article briefly:

The term “Islamic banking” refers to a system of banking or banking activity that is consistent with Islamic law (Shariah) principles and guided by Islamic economics. In particular, Islamic law prohibits usury, the collection and payment of interest, also commonly called riba in Islamic discourse. In addition, Islamic law prohibits investing in businesses that are considered unlawful, or haraam (such as businesses that sell alcohol or pork, or businesses that produce media such as gossip columns or pornography, which are contrary to Islamic values). Furthermore the Shariah prohibits what is called “Maysir” and “Gharar”. Maysir is involved in contracts where the ownership of a good depends on the occurrence of a predetermined, uncertain event in the future whereas Gharar describes speculative transactions. Both concepts involve excessive risk and are supposed to foster uncertainty and fraudulent behavior. Therefore the use of all conventional derivative instruments is impossible in Islamic banking.

The source given for this statement is:
Mervyn K. Lewis, Latifa M. Algaoud: Islamic Banking Cheltenham, 2001

Morality in finance

This introduces the odd idea that banking, and financial matters in general, should be conducted on an ethical, even moral, basis.

The is NOT the Western tradition! To be curt, the West has practiced “rape and pillage” banking since at least the days of Rome.

Push against Sharia in US

There has been a push against Sharia in the US justified by the idea that Sharia encourages Islamic extremism (for which there is no proof, of course).

According to this article support for this backlash seems to be loosing ground. But where did it come from? The article mentions David Yurushalmi, a lawyer for the conservative Center for Security Policy (CSP). David, an anti-globalist, does not claim to be the intellectual or any other leader of this movement. However, he does firmly believe in it, as does the Center he works for.

This group honors mostly various military leaders in the US. One odd exception to this was Christopher Cox, U.S. Congressman from California, and chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission from 2006 to 2008. This group also supports Zionism and American Exceptionalism.

According to Wikipedia, its membership includes Richard Hoagland and Linda Moulten Howe, who are prominent commentators in the alternative news community.

Again according to Wikipeida, based on a web page that no longer exists, the CSP is subsidized by donors supportive of neo-conservative causes, including the Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation, the Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation and the William H. Donner Foundation.

I have no real way of tracing the sources of funding for these foundations. However, the Mellons were a banking and oil family. Shelby Collum Davis was an investment banker. And Donner was a steel man who got financial support from Mellon.

These guys like the “American way” there’s no doubt about that. And that includes, I presume, the “American” way (actually the Roman/Italian way) of doing banking. Many “modern” banking practices are outlawed by Sharia.

Any connection?