Monday, February 22, 2010

albert

einstein

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death”

“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”

“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

“Only a life lived for others is a life worth while.”

“If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough”

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”

“The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything”

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

“I have no particular talent. I am merely inquisitive.”

“It's not that I'm so smart , it's just that I stay with problems longer .”

and my fave today:
“We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

dude had major brains. how on earth did he know to note his thoughts so they could live on?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

community

the first recorded use of the word community is approximately 635 years old (Source: Wolfram|Alpha) but I think the concept is as old as humanity. sadly I think our ability to maintain a community is falling.

Sometimes we think our place of work offers us this sense of community and depending on your position in the organization you could certainly have some good representation from each of these four factors. Sadly most of us are replaceable in our worplaces so I am not certain any of the factors from our workplace is entirely true as any of them are influenced by our use to the organization. If you "climb the corporate ladder" #4 seems to be reduced by #2 is increased.

McMillan and Chavis identify four elements of "sense of community": 1) membership, 2) influence, 3) integration and fulfillment of needs, and 4) shared emotional connection. (Source: Wikipedia)

I think church groups try to offer a balance of the elements and certainly the community clubs such as the lions club and rotary seem to be specifically trying to address the elements in their existance.

I am perplexed by this whole community component in my life and what role model I want to be for my children. In reading a quote today “The price of being a sheep is boredom. The price of being a wolf is loneliness. Choose one or the other with great care.” - by Hugh Mcleod, I got to thinking if I was really as unique as I convince myself or if I am also sheepwalking but with a particular flavour of it that makes me think I am not. I am curious but as I have grown older I find my willingness to explore to satisfy that curiosity has been reduced mostly to acedemix pursuits. I am still curious about the sciences and would love to experiment with physics and mechanical problems but I am very unlikely to gather materials and try something just to satisfy my curiosity. In fact, I think I have convinced my self that experimentation that involves costs (spending money) is no longer allowed unless there is some expected result of efficiency or the saving money as the result. Do I want my children to think that exploring their curiosity of the world cannot be in experimentation and invention? I think our instinct is to be curious and in fact I think this is one of the reasons why sexual exploration has increased, it is meeting our need to be in a cycle of curiosity and experimentation. I think I would rather have my kids experiment with live voltage than sexual stuff as they grow older.

Getting back to community, I think part of my reduced exploration is my lack of involvement in a community and how those connections have changed. It would seem that we might be willing to ask help of a friend for moving to a new house or some laborious task but we would be less likely to invite them over to test our theory about some new gadget or idea in our workshops. Instead we invite our pals over for entertainment sharing. Much of our community today seems to be entirely about entertainment and then somewhat about intellectual discussions, which all to often lack dept and could be considered entertainment as well.

I end off this post knowing that I have not carried my thought through completely but leaving you with a question. If you could spend less time doing some of the things you do now (like work) what communities would you choose to be a part of?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

a perpetual war with big brother


In the fictional novel Nineteen Eighty-Four Orwell describes a time and place that has never existed, at least not in the western world and not with the government at the helm of control. I found this novel to be an incredible story with some bizarre potential realities and it really got me thinking.
"There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."
"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites."
"We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.""

"We shall abolish the orgasm. Our neurologists are at work upon it now. There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent there will be no need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always—do not forget this Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.""
These quotes from Nineteen Eighty-Four are just some of the brilliant ideas that create discussion in your head if you read through the book as a participant in that world as you go along. What I found most interesting is that while we do not have a party loyalty we have a loyalty to our wave of life in just the type of way that Orwell spoke of. What is remarkable is within our way of life we have many constructs that ensure that we believe we are being curious and thinking outside the box but in fact those are still within side the box. Science, real science is practiced by a very small few because we have advanced in so many fields we could not begin to understand much. We are forced to trust doctors and chemists, for example, in a way that at times feels much like an old school religion. The vaccine "is" safe and if you argue that it isn't you are an outcast. Complex sugar and fat substitutes are safe and despite our bodies revolting against them we are heckled for suggesting a conspiracy of corruption for the sake of profit rather than human advancement towards a more natural balance in our life.

So today, we do not have a Big Brother watching us but our way of life has got us into a awkward corner that wheel when we brush up against the invisible force of its parameters. instead of an obvious controlling force with an obvious hierarchy we have a subtle, suspiciously embedded, covert one.

consider this, who or what do you trust?

Do you trust

* the other drivers on the road?
* the quality assurance worker who just approved a shipment of vaccines?
* the factory worker who cuts the meat before it goes into the packaging?
* your coworkers?
* your neigbours?
* your family?
* yourself?


Here we are (at least in the safe, secure part of the world where I live) without a state of war, without regional conflicts or violence and without widespread.

  • we fear the untimely death of ourselves and our loved ones without a state of war, conflict or widespread disease but rather from:
    • accidents - automobile, work, play
    • crime - we fear the loss of our property, we fear for ourselves as part of a theft, we fear for our families because there are those who do not value the lives of others.
    • incorrect treatment - vaccines and medications, surgery, treatment
  • we fear others looking down upon us for how we dress, speak, and do yet we do not fear that our actions, or inactions, are contributing to a human legacy with a pathway that would seem to be less than we could be.
  • we adhere to rules and systems not of our own design or those in command of us but in place by a higher power and not an omnipotent power but instead
    • our employment schedule
    • our holiday schedule
    • laws, rules, guidelines, directives
    • our entertainment provider (TV schedule, release dates for books, games, etc)
    • any of these may have been designed by people long dead with specific context that has since expired but our democratic machine is unable to review, let alone change.
  • we consume information and nourishment not based on values and availabilities but instead:
    • on availability
    • cost
    • marketing
    • opportunity
This is list is far from exhaustive but rather just what came to mind as I felt the need to rant about this. The challenge of course is how do we, individually or collectively, get out of the place we are in? I have to admit that most of my fears today are related to the safety of my wife and children. I found that as I began to worry about them more I worried about myself less. As I have come to see where I am doing due diligence my worry about them is also dropping but alas my worry about their future, or the future of their grand children is not so easily reassured. My concern is that it would seem our way of life is boxing us into certain comforts that we fear losing and that overtakes our priority rather than the loss of our freedom, opportunity for discovery, exploration of the mind and numerous other pursuits that provide a contribution to the legacy of humanity.

Imagine if Alexander Graham Bell had instead discovered Playstation 3, big screen TV and got a regular job.
"As a child, young Alexander Graham Bell displayed a natural curiosity about his world, resulting in gathering botanical specimens as well as experimenting even at an early age. His best friend was Ben Herdman, a neighbour whose family operated a flour mill, the scene of many forays. Young Aleck asked what needed to be done at the mill. He was told wheat had to be dehusked through a laborious process and at the age of 12, Bell built a homemade device that combined rotating paddles with sets of nail brushes, creating a simple dehusking machine that was put into operation and used steadily for a number of years.[In return, John Herdman gave both boys the run of a small workshop within which to "invent"." Source: Wikipedia
If we are afraid about the outside world, do we teach our children to have a natural curiosity to explore it? If we are afraid of the consequences of not following the rules, not doing the tried and true safe way that others have done before us where advertisers encourage us with government approvals to demonstrate that is ok to experiment?

Monday, February 1, 2010

the tyranny of free will

Nothing illustrates the difficulties we have with free will better than our relationship with cars.

In January, 4 facts struck me:
- On the 5th, a Cavalier was t-boned by a semi. The front passenger died.
- On the 26th a head on collision between a Honda Civic and a a Chevy Trailblazer killed parents of 12 children.
- On the 30th Honda recalled 140,000 Honda Fits because a single power window switch over heated, started the car on fire, and killed a child.
- On the 22nd Toyota began the recall of more than 7 million vehicles of various models because the gas pedals may stick.

The latter two events cause world wide media coverage, escalating costs for manufacturers and dealers simply for the fix (let alone the damage to their future businesses). The first two caught headlines for a day and were then relegated to the local news pile.

Both had equally tragic deaths. Why the disparity? The deaths in the first two weren't even attributable to alcohol by the driver or active freewill by the passengers (merely passive).

Free will. The "oppression" of the manufacturers on the general public is far greater (and in need of more grave correction) than the active freewill of individual drivers. Manufacturers need to spend millions of dollars or public relations and repair to undo the grevious harm they have inflicted on society. The car "accidents" are merely another circumstance of modern living.

We accept so much for the sake of freewill.