Equinox – Balance

23 & 24 Sept 2015 – Equinox Time

The balance of day & night is celebrated today, what opposites do you balance in your daily life?

So many different ideas in this question?
What is balance?
Does balance require opposites?
How many poles (attractors) are normally present in life?
How useful are these simple binary ideas, really?
Is the idea of balance in respect of night and day useful or meaningful?

For us here in Kaikoura this is a spring day, we start daylight saving time in two days.
We have just had the first significant rain (3 days of steady light rain – over 2 inches) in a year. Things are growing. It is still cold, I have the fire on, the fresh snow level is about 3,000ft on the nearby mountains (meaning outside air temp about 6Deg C). And spring is coming.

Day and night vary but on regular cycles, they are not anything that we can easily alter, so not really a matter of balance in any traditional sense.

And we normally think of balance in terms of what we do when we walk, or when we ride a bike.
In either of those cases, there is only one major attractor, and it is pulling us down. The idea is to stay upright, and be able to move. It is easy to make things like power poles or trees stay up, by burying them in earth, so that it is very difficult to make them move, and gravity alone cannot do it.
We want to be able to move. It seems that it is moving that was the major driver for the development of our nervous system and brain.
Moving is about arranging our bodies so that they start to fall in the direction we want to go, then moving them to maintain that direction of motion, compensating for all the things that happen that we didn’t quite anticipate.

It seems that brains are mostly about anticipating.
It seems to be that it is our ability to model possible futures, and to take actions that make one set of futures more probable than other sets (acknowledging fundamental uncertainty in all things).

Sometimes there are more than one attractor involved.
Temperature is one those things that can be thought of as opposites, but is it really?
Hot and cold are just human centric measures. Temperature seems to come on a spectrum from 0 to a very large number. As human beings we can only survive in a very narrow range of temperatures, our bodies need to be at 37C (98.4 F) for optimum function. Different people, physiology, body shapes, are optimised to maintain that internal temperature in different ambient temperatures. I like the air to be about 20C, some like it hotter, some like it cooler. Right now the fire has been on for about an hour, and the lounge is at about 20C, and I am sitting here in a T shirt very comfortably. The dogs are happily curled up on the floor in front of the fire.

And mostly life is much more complex, with many more attractors.
Gravity is always there, so is temperature, so are many people (some of whom we are more or less strongly attracted to or repelled by), so are situations, places, potential activities (golf, vs walking, vs cycling, vs driving vs sailing vs reading vs coding vs gardening vs …. {which golf course?}), fun things, necessary things, things with short, medium and long term mixes of costs and benefits (on various scales of measure).
So life is really complex.
We can only ever be consciously aware of a very tiny fraction all of the things that are competing for our attention and are influencing exactly where that attention goes, and what movement (in whatever domain) results.

So life is very rarely a simple balance.
Life seems to be generally a complex web of interactions, and sometimes we get stuck in particular patterns within that web, and those patterns can always be modified by a change in context.

There is great potential for infinite flexibility, infinite creativity, a large set (potentially infinite) of simultaneous attractors in a multi-dimensional “space” of possible paths. Opposites really doesn’t do it justice.

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Mindful Consumption

Question of the Day, Sept 18-19-20, 2015 Mindful consumption,

“We as the human species have a responsibility to all beings, to the earth, and to future generations to be mindful of our cravings and our negative overconsumption habits. My hope is that as we learn to feed our minds, we turn toward difficulty instead of away from it, we spend less time on electronic devices and more time with one another and with nature, and, lastly, we learn to savor our life and feed all our hungers in a sustainable way.”
From a post from Michael Grove an blog piece on Mindful “What we Love, we should protect.”

How do we consciously interact with the planet on a daily basis?
What are your thoughts on the blog piece?

I completely align with the post.
I have been conscious of my interaction with the planet for many decades.
We planted 16,000 trees to offset our carbon footprint 20 years ago.
I have been involved in many different political and conservation groups, advocating conscious interaction with the environment, acknowledging the imperfection of our knowledge, and advocating a constant raising of levels of awareness of all people.
I recycle, I grow food, I am vegan, I chair our regional Water Management committee, I write daily advocating the highest levels of security and freedom possible, acknowledging that all actions have consequences and everyone needs to be responsible for mitigating the reasonably foreseeable consequences of those actions, as well as any unforeseen and actual consequences.
And many other ways.

We are now in an age of exponential growth in knowledge and technology, which delivers us the ability to optimise any process to work efficiently with the natural environment, yet we have the social legacy from times of scarcity that leave us with cultural and economic systems adapted to times past, and not at all suited to the present or near future.

Many people are under the illusion that money and markets are a proxy for evolution, and that it is all about survival of the fittest accumulators of capital.
Capital is just an illusion.
It is a myth.
Those numbers have power only if people believe in them. If that isn’t the definition of myth, what is?
What exist in reality is creative people and stuff (machines, materials) and ways of interacting.

Money can serve many useful purposes, but the idea that markets, which are tools developed for times of scarcity, have any real utility in times of radical abundance provided by technology, really does not make much sense.
The idea that many in the political right have that money is an useful Darwinian measure of fitness really doesn’t make much sense.

A systems view of evolution clearly shows that new levels of cooperation always have competitive advantage over non-cooperatives.
In times of real abundance, universal cooperation has real advantage.
It is possible to develop technologies that deliver freedom and security to every individual.
Real security comes only when everyone is sufficiently cooperative to ensure that all get enough to meet their needs.
That is a relatively trivial exercise in technology.

The real issue is that all technology is morally neutral.
It is what people do with it that is the issue.

We have the technology to feed and house and provide freedom and security to everyone – yet we put far more effort into warfare than we do into universal cooperation and universal security.

Looking at the history, it is easy to see how and why these cultures developed as they have.

Looking to our future it is hard to support any existing culture as having much utility in providing security and freedom for all.
Something else is needed.

Yet most people are mired in the various “Truths” of their particular cultures, and many would rather destroy all than challenge one of those “Truths”.

So it is a very complex web of interactive and related systems within which we find ourselves.

And in logic it is clear that we are all much better off by cooperating than we are by competing – and some cultures are very resistant to such evidence and ideas.

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Is there an end to your journey?

Question of the Day, Sept 21-22, Is there an end to your journey?

Andrew asked:

It is good to have an end to journey toward,
But it is the journey that matters in the end.
– Earnest Hemingway

Do you know and can you describe the ‘end’ that you are journeying toward?

All journeys must have a start, but is it really required that they have an end?

We can select particular places we wish to visit on our life’s journey, and it is possible to call such segments of our lives journeys, and such segments do in fact have beginnings and ends.

And it is also possible to start paths that end at infinity (ie don’t end in any real time).

I like the Zen definition of the Master’s journey – that for the master, on a path worth travelling, for every step on the path, the destination gets two steps further away.

That very much describes how I feel about the journey I am on.

So it is very much a matter of definition.
There are certainly journeys that end.
It certainly seems possible that there may be journeys that do not end.

It seems to me that I am on a journey of discovery, and that there is no requirement for such a journey to end, and it may.

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Sci Show – Upload your mind

SciShow – How to Upload Your Mind

Love most of your work, but in this specific case, actually your opening statement is incorrect.
Most cell lines do not show age related deterioration of function. Most life forms are single celled, and don’t display age related loss of function.

Everything alive today appears to be part of a continuum of life that is close to 4 billion years old.

So indefinite life appears to be the default, and age related loss of function seems to be a trick the multicelled organisms have evolved that have allowed for increased rates of evolving complexity.

So it seems that our cells are able to continue living indefinitely, but that those systems have been over-written.
The logic of this became clear to me as I completed my undergrad biochem studies in 1974.
Since then it became clear to me that we would work out how to stop aging, and that process would require 4 steps:
1/ Work out how to read DNA – and map the human genome (completed 2003),
2/ Software to model the shapes of RNA and proteins based on sequence and cytochemistry (some very powerful models emerging)
3/ Effective understanding of the various clocking mechanisms that produce age related loss of function in human cells (in process – at over 200 sites).
4/ design of effective countermeasures – see Calico, SENS, etc

The questions that have held my interest for the last 41 years are – what sort of social, political and technical institutions are required to effectively mitigate all other sources of risk and enable individuals to live a very long time with as much freedom as possible?

I’m not opposed to uploading in theory, and I do suspect that we are actually a lot more complex than many think, and that most of the cellular substructure of our brains does contribute significantly to who we are.

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Ideapod – We are Earth

Ideapod – We are Earth – whether we like it or not

It seems clear that the earth, nature, doesn’t care, isn’t aware, simply is.

The fossil record clearly shows at least 5 major extinction events, that caused most species then living to disappear. Genetic evidence indicates that as recently as 70,000 years ago the explosion of the Toba super-volcano killed over 99% of all then living humans, but left no evidence of any extinction events.
So nature seems to be sufficiently violent and unpredictable to say that the recent 8,000 years of relatively stable sea levels and climate are the exception rather than the rule.

The impression of nature having any sort of grand stability is an illusion given by the relatively short life spans of human beings.

If we as human beings want to experience security and freedom on the long term, then we need both to limit the damage we are causing to the systems that support us, and to have the technology to manage those systems within limits that support large numbers of human beings.

It is insane to pretend that the earth will somehow protect us all. There is no long term evidence for such a thought.

Long term, the earth, left unmanaged, will produce events like climate change, super-volcanoes, pandemics, that will kill most people then alive (well over 90%) – quite frequently on geological time-scales.

Either we develop both the technology and the wisdom – as in awareness of our universal relatedness and awareness of the power of universal cooperation, or we will most probably disappear as a technological species.

We seem to have one shot at making it to technological wisdom, the process we followed this time consumed so many once abundant resources that there is unlikely to be a second shot at it.

We are certainly capable.
It is, in a very real sense, just the cultural beliefs that we accept without question that are limiting us – chief amongst them money.

Time to earn our species name – sapiens – wise!

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Overcoming Fear

#259 – September 16th – Overcoming Fear

Hi Deb

I like Frank Herbert’s Benegeserit Litany against fear:
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”

And I acknowledge the evolutionary utility of fear.
It makes sense to avoid predators and other “clear and present dangers” – and fear to the point of immobility makes sense only in a social context where many others are running and keeping the attention of the predator.

As a hunter I found I could catch many animals who used the freeze response by the simple expedient of not looking directly at them nor walking directly towards them, but keeping them in my peripheral vision and approaching obliquely. I caught several blackbirds and rabbits that way, alive and by hand.

So many dimensions to everything in this reality we find ourselves in.

We worry what others may think of us, yet the reality is that most are so self obsessed they don’t think of us at all.
It’s like that quote from Oscar Wilde “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

And perhaps my favourite quote from Wilde is a fitting end to this note:
“The tragedy of growing old is not that you feel old, but that you don’t.”

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Cheese and whine

Cheese and Whine

I’m absolutely confident that each of you is a model passenger so I won’t ask about your travel phobias. Instead I’ll ask…
Where did you go on your last getaway?

The last real get away that Ailsa and I had was a trip down south to Bluff via our wee farm in the Catlins, then back up through central Otago.

Ailsa’s only real phobia is that we stop travelling.

Earlier this year we went up Skippers Canyon, and she was hanging out of the sunroof on the 4WD taking photos over sheer cliffs. It was my job to get her as close to the edge as my terror of heights would allow.

Ailsa has learned to stop and look at all the things she wants to see as we travel away from home, because as soon as I’m pointed back towards home I just drive non-stop until I get there.

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