January 2012

On campus today we were comparing how long we could go without a computer and internet. A guy had just returned from vacation and went ten days without a computer; he said he suffered withdrawal and didn’t think he could do it, but he did. I decided I could last  two days.  At some point my computer became my work station and my filing system. Twice I’ve had a virus  trash my computer so I’ve learned not to save anything valuable on it; instead I use a growing collection of USBs.  Considering the warnings out this week about the possibility of solar flares blowing out our computer systems, I assume  that banks and  the government have all their data backed up with a bunch of government sized USB drives. Something not made in China would be preferred.

I don’t know how many people  remember Hal, the authoritarian computer on board in Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey, 2001 but my stomach has a sinking feeling that the  NSA missed the movie.  Here we are in 2011;  America is handing its space program over to Russia because we’re out of money and can’t afford it, yet the Federal Government has the funds to sink into virtual spying activity and aggregating the vast amounts of information they learned about us while spying.  And it’s not just spying on the bad guys but the good guys too- but wait- it gets worse:  then they take the data,  (using even more of our taxpayer money) and try to figure out ways to read our minds and predict our behavior with that information.   Hmmm.

And this  is legal why?

The NSA’s  artificial intelligent project,  Aquaint,  “Advanced QUestion Answering for INTelligence,” moved into new and larger headquarters three years ago to advance their research.  From Nova’s  article, The New Thought Police:”

The National Security Agency (NSA) is developing a tool that George Orwell’s Thought Police might have found useful: an artificial intelligence system designed to gain insight into what people are thinking.

With the entire Internet and thousands of databases for a brain, the device will be able to respond almost instantaneously to complex questions posed by intelligence analysts. As more and more data is collected—through phone calls, credit card receipts, social networks like Facebook and MySpace, GPS tracks, cell phone geolocation, Internet searches, Amazon book purchases, even E-Z Pass toll records—it may one day be possible to know not just where people are and what they are doing, but what and how they think.    The system is so potentially intrusive that at least one researcher has quit, citing concerns over the dangers in placing such a powerful weapon in the hands of a top-secret agency with little accountability.”

This spring when I attended the MIT 150 Symposium: Brains, Mind and Machines I was expecting lectures on cognitive research about human brains.  Wrong.  Current research is in the area of machination: building intelligent and creative machines by generalizing information they’ve gathered from studies on people and their brains.  What interested me most, and surprised me the most was seeing how very excited scientists and engineers are about the idea of AI being the next business venture. The development of computers changed the world and the marketplace, and from the money-making side of things, it literally opened a huge new venue of products to sell. The engineers and entrepreneurs who made fortunes with computer gadgets,  expect to cause the same explosion in the marketplace with AI.   I cringed; they cheered. Literally.

During the Bush administration countless  people ranted against the evils of his Patriot’s Act. Where are these people now? Busy Facebooking their life story, complete with personal information that ten years ago we would never have released.

I am no expert on AI or brain research but based on the research I have seen,   the NSA  project  to read our minds is probable, and will happen in the very near future.  That this data is in the hands of the government that developed nuclear energy, and instead of building peace, they built weaponry. …Need I say more?

Or that governments are being hacked by Chinese Communists…. need I say more?

I don’t know why my curiosity acted in hindsight but I decided to Google NSA “Acquaint” these few years later, -odd how nothing pops up.   I’m not pleased.   When a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?


Reality, free will or the speed of light? One’s got to give, because quantum mechanics says you can’t have them all. Yet the theorems are true.

ERWIN SCHRÖDINGER called entanglement the “defining trait” of quantum theory but Einstein could not bring himself to believe in it at all, thinking it proof that quantum theory was seriously buggy. The idea that particles can be linked in such a way that changing the quantum state of one instantaneously affects the other, even if they are light years apart, is what Einstein referred to as the “spooky action at a distance.”   From New Scientist  “The idea  was a serious blow to our conception of how the world works. In 1964, physicist John Bell of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland, showed just how serious. He calculated a mathematical inequality that encapsulated the maximum correlation between the states of remote particles in experiments in which three “reasonable” conditions hold.” Complicated stuff.

If I’m Schrodinger’s Cat, according to Quantum Theory,  I am 1) alive  and 2) dead and decaying, yet if a person were to open the box I will be one or the other, dead or alive but not both. Fritz Perls was “ahead of his time” when he wrote that in dreams we are every aspect of the dream; we are the person driving the car, we are the road, we are the car going down the road, we are the tree that the car runs into. Complicated stuff. Yet oddly true in many dreams.  If it’s true in quantum, and true in dreams, is it true in our awake life?

Franz Kafka grasped this concept, evidenced by his often quoted phrase:  “I am a memory come alive.”  Memory is something that happens in the past and is brought forward only as a thought,  yet he places it in the presence and gives it life and all the  meaning of a real existence, that is to say, it is his being and identity. Like the paradox of Schrodinger’s cat he is both alive and dead and decaying, and knew it.

Of  “Reality, free will or the speed of light? One’s got to give, because quantum mechanics says you can’t have them all,” Kafka writes of this in the aphorism: “Before the Law.” Before the Law is quantum theory: That the door is always open for example, that man does have  free will in reality, and  in conjunction with the speed of light (timelessness) where there is no free will, (because timelessness has no time, there is no will. ) In his final and unfinished book, The Castle, K lives with free will even while he remains connected to the Castle (speed of light);  tenuous at times, but always connected one way or the other. What the castle did effected K, what K did seemed  to have an effect on  the Castle which is  consistent with the theory of entanglement.  K had  free will,  but for the Castle to express free will  that was possible only through an emissary when he traveled to the village.

The Castle is his unfinished but elegant road map that charts out man’s free will, and his connection to a greater being.  It was his explanation and perception of a kabballah  that he saw around himself.  To make the narrative even more interesting, in reference to Kafka and quantum,  if we take Carl Jung’s  theory that a house is a metaphor for ourselves, our depth and personality that means the castle, in the book is a metaphor for Kafka, his life, his depth, and in quantum speak, it’s a metaphor for his timelessness self.  Kafka in all his entirety was the surveyor who wandered around the village, he was the the village, the inn and the castle, and each aspect was a different aspect of his quantum authenticity.

An unexpected story in the Financial Times, Why Writers see the future,  falls in line with the empirical idea that every event has a cause and because events are essentially a series of causes and effects,  that one thing does leads to another.  Accordingly, to someone who is aware of the many causes and effects the future is foreseeable.  Simon Kuper, author of the article, argues that  Orwell and Kafka weren’t seeing the future, but as writers  they were openly expressing latent angst or dreams, and in that way they were forecasting the future because others shared these ideas, which  essentially manifested the untold truth into a future reality.  From the article:

Why writers have this gift was best explained by George Orwell. Discussing a favourite novelist of his boyhood, H.G. Wells, he wrote: “A decade or so before aeroplanes were technically feasible, Wells knew that within a little while men would be able to fly. He knew that because he himself wanted to be able to fly, and therefore felt sure that research in that direction would continue.”

When writers are in the creative process, and the writing flows from the collective awareness directly through the pen and to the paper, without having to be channeled through the interference of what I call the interpretative device and all its filtering controls, (the brain) and all the requirements of social and cultural constraint are quieted, it is then that truth is written, time is lost and hope, love and despair know no boundary.

Writing from the collective unconscious, as Jung calls it, connects to the good and the evil and the many truths that are possible. The writing reveals the awareness of the writers of their greater existence and the timelessness of their thoughts, ideas and deeds. For those who wrote with particular clarity we shouldn’t doubt they did so in a natural state of Dzogchen lucidity; Hemingway and  his Old Man and The Sea to name one.