Another full week

Another full week.
Played some good golf.
Got out to Twilight Thursday night, and got a golf ball for my 25 stableford points from 12 holes.
Saturday played 18, and got 4th on the day 7 up on the card – my playing partner won the day 12 up.
Sunday I started badly, couldn’t get the putter going, then picked up on the second nine to come in 1 under my handicap – so might be shot or two lower next week.

Got a bit of lawn mowing done Sunday before golf.

The Japanese earthquake held my attention for a few days. The amazing power of a wall of water over 20ft high.
Also the extreme conflict when economic considerations are given too high a weighting in decision-making – particularly in respect of the design and siting of nuclear power stations.

Was watching some great videos by Dan Dennett on TED when I came across this page of talks and found some real gems.

This talk by Norena Hertz on the dangers of experts – saying almost exactly the same as I have been for many years. We need to get all people making their choices. About managing dissent (welcoming it), and embracing the notion that everyone has expertise.

And another by Charles Limb

Another by Arianna Huffington on the power of sleep or a direct link to the mp4 download here –

Another by Patricia Kuhl on The linguistic genius of babies and by implication, us and our learning.

Barry Schwartz on practical wisdom and rules and incentives – there is no set of rules that will get us what we need – we need virtue and character.

Protecting the brain against concussion

Question of the Day March 7, 2011 ~ Create

“What have you created recently?
What’s something–big or little–that you’ve created recently? Do you spend much time nurturing your creativity? Do you make room in your life for expression?

A set of distinctions around money some of which are on a blog page created for them

The biggest one is probably between the two major uses of money.
When it is used as a means of exchange, a tool to allow the producers of goods and services to trade easily, it is a powerful thing, and promotes abundance in society.

When it is allowed to be pursued as an end in itself, through things like stock markets, foreign exchange markets, bond markets, futures markets, derivatives markets, and the charging of interest; it is effectively legalised theft, and needs to be discouraged for the long-term good of all.
If money is allowed to be pursued for its own sake, then there is an optimum range of scarcity that generates a maximum amount of money, and the incentive exists to force supply to this optimising value, rather than to generate abundance.
Complex systems of laws have evolved to do this.
Those laws need to be dismantled.
We need to direct development towards abundance, and ecological sustainability (abundance of oxygen and biodiversity).

[followed by]

I like many of Thoreau’s works, and like the thrust of the quote below (above), but not the exact formulation:
A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place,
but a seed to be planted and to bear more seeds toward the hope of greening the landscape of idea.

I would say that a good question always has a good answer, and both the questioner and the answerer need to be aware that every answer creates more questions, and the journey is potentially infinite.

A “good” answer is not an absolute for all time and space, it is something timely and specific to the context of the moment.

With interest, the conversation (questions, answers, tests, discussions) can continue indefinitely.

Question of the Day March 8, 2011 ~ The Joys of Creating ~ Friendship

What are the characteristics of a true friend?
honesty · acceptance · commitment · love

Someone who has seen us at our worst, and still sticks around to help us work at our best.

Speaking from the Heart

Do Be Do Be Do

Hi Laurie et al

I like your question, and the perspective Bob brings also.

There is another that I continually do battle with, that of creating the perfect plan before taking action.

Mark Joyner has a saying, ready, fire, aim! – Meaning that it is more important to take action, and to refine one’s aim later, than to spend too much time aiming and taking no action.

Finding an appropriate balance for the problem/opportunity at hand is always interesting.

The more one narrows one’s focus onto a specific problem, and takes actions aligned to it, the less one can see of the “big picture”.
Everything has costs and benefits.

Who we get to be, and what we get to do, seems to be a complex dance of habits and contexts of a lifetime.

It seems that every path has its opportunities.

I have been spending time recently on the works of Jared Diamond and Francis Fukuyama – very big picture thinkers and also spending time on the site, particularly listing to Daniel Dennett and also many others.

As Bob says – the practice of choosing a context of being, irrespective of the circumstances, is one of the most difficult doings possible.

Question of the Day March 9, 2011 ~ Favorite Animals ~ Ideal Scene

Would you please create a concept of an ideal scene for animals?

This is a very strange question for me.
I have one of our dogs (Huia) curled up on a couch looking at me, waiting for me to take her out for a walk.
I have our cat looking at me, waiting for me to feed it.
I look out the window, and I see thousands of trees engaged in a slow motion battle for survival.
Death and life intertwined.
Successions of ecologies in holes formed where old trees have fallen, or land has slipped away leaving a scar.

I am aware, that all plants and animals have far more offspring than are required to simply replace their numbers, so that there is a necessary struggle for survival, and that this is fundamental to the existence of life on earth, and is a fundamental force in shaping the diversity of life we see.

The word “ideal” comes from the Platonic concept of “archetypes” or “forms”, which was an attempt to explain concept formation without any idea of the actual process involved (the storage and retrieval of information as interference patterns) – and is in a fundamental sense, the inverse of what actually happens.

So for me, there is no “ideal” scene – the very idea is an anathema to me.

Having the domestic animals happy and well fed satisfies many emotional and ethical needs within me.
Having wild ecosystems operating to my door satisfies emotional, ethical and biological needs for diversity and “wild” (but not too dangerous) things.
Having farms of domesticated plants and animals supports me, my family, and all the human social things that I value.

Finding a balance of all these things is a very dynamic process.
So long as we have people who are able to make new concepts and/or choices, we will have ever evolving, every changing, situations which require us to be creative in our responses and choices if we are to have peace, stability and prosperity.

Security, in the natural world, is almost unknown. For most animals, life is a matter of eat or be eaten.
That is the harsh reality of existence.

If we as humans have more than three children, we are creating conditions that require war, pestilence, or famine, to redress the balance.
I have had a vasectomy after having my two children, and am now on a vegan diet.
I would love to be able to say that I did both for the health of the planet and humanity, but I didn’t.
I got the vasectomy so that my wife would be more likely to have sex with me.
I went vegan as the most probable option to survive melanoma.
I am still alive, and still enjoying sex.

I don’t see any ideal state, for animal or humans.
I would like to see significant areas of wild ecosystems, where animals are essentially free of human influence, and are free to kill or be killed, to cooperate and compete, as their evolving natures dictate.
I would like to be able to live, indefinitely, in peace, prosperity, and security, in a culture of creative, cooperating and free human beings.
I would like domestic animals and plants to be part of that ever evolving future.

[followed by]

Just got back from walking the dogs, the cat is fed, and I have had some time to contemplate what it was about the word “ideal” that so disturbed me.


An ideal is an abstraction.

Plato had the idea that abstract perfections existed, and reality was but a poor imitation.

It seems that the reality is quite different.

Mathematics is a realm of abstractions that supports abstract notions like perfect circles, or perfect spheres, but reality does not have such things.

In reality, all matter is made of atoms, which stick together in various ways.   So anything made of matter has a lumpiness to it when one looks at it sufficiently closely.

We can make things very round, one could even say perfectly round within a certain tolerance (a certain limit of measurement).  But get a better measuring instrument, and look at it more closely, and you will find deviations, lumps, at the finer scale.


So it appears to be with all things in reality.


We do not get to deal with abstract “ideals” in reality.

In reality, everything we get to deal with has a graininess, a level of “imperfection” to it – it is just the nature of reality.


Reality has limits to it, at those limits transitions occur, old paradigms of understanding break down, and new paradigms of understanding are required.


In the realm of the physical, or matter, we are aware of at least three levels of such transitions.  Atomic and molecular matter breaks down when we get to the level of an atom, and when we break an atom apart we get protons, neutrons and electrons.   These things have very weird properties, not at all like the properties of matter.   If we break these things apart, we find quarks and gluons, which have even weirder properties, stranger yet again than those of protons and electrons.

It seems possible that there may be an infinite chain of such weirdness.


So it seems that ideals do not exist in reality, other than as abstract notions inside the heads of human beings.   This is something that Plato got very wrong.


It seems that the notion of ideal, is one of the dangers of the human mind.

Once a human mind makes an abstraction, and “sees” an “ideal” it is likely to come to a conclusion that the particular “ideal” it has is “the one true way” and all others “must conform“.

This is one of the most dangerous things that can happen.

Such things destroy diversity, and enforce conformity.

Reality is ignored.

Real differences are ignored, and the individual is eliminated.


So in a very real sense, the idea of the “ideal” is the enemy of “creativity” and “individuality” and “tollerance“.


Abstracts need to be kept clearly in the domain in which they belong, that of the personal, subjective experience.


[followed by]

Hi Kathy


As I see things, most of the cultural paradigms of understanding have made many, quite understandable, errors of interpretation of things that have been observed in reality.


I noticed you used the sentence “Everything on Earth has purpose“, and I know many people believe such ideas, and to me there is no evidence in reality to support such ideas.  The vast amounts of evidence I have seen, and the tests I have personally done, convince me (beyond all reasonable doubt) that there is no purpose, other than the purpose we are given by culture, or choose for ourselves.


The whole notion of “wrong” is interesting.

To me, “wrong” when used in relationship to reality, simply means, “the idea is not demonstrably in accord with observations”.


For me, I have many times done things that in the doing convinced me that the idea I had which caused me to do what I did was not in accord with reality – its called making mistakes.   I have made many tens of thousands of mistakes.  Making mistakes is a very powerful way of learning.

Learning from the mistakes of others is very powerful also.


I am also very clear, that many times, in the instant of acting, what I have done has not been “to the best of my ability”.   I am aware of my own tendency to laziness.

My dad used to have a saying, about a lazy camel would rather break its back in one load than take two loads.


I am often aware that I have failed to do sufficient homework to be confident about many of the aspects of my choices, and I rely on the ability of this amazing brain in my head, to dig me out of any “holes” I might unexpectedly fall into.


I have read of people so committed to a particular investigation that they forego all else to work on that idea.  

I am not such a person.

I want it all.

I want to promote and be a part in creating global peace and security, while also having family, friends, relationships, toys, experiences.

I want a reasonable share of “the good life”, as well as giving attention and energy to creating systems to support the growth and diversity of all other individuals.


I have existed for some 56 years.

The biological lineage that I am part of seems to have existed for something close to 4 billion years on this planet, during which time it has gone from simple (ish) ribonucleic acids (RNAs), to DNA and proteins, to prokaryotic cells, to eukaryotic cells, to multicellular organisms, to us (with examples of many of the types of stages life has passed through still living in specialised niches today).

The cultural lineage seems to be something less than 10 billion years old, with the vast bulk of that culture having developed in the last 10,000 years, and the majority of that in the last 300 years.

In my particular case, most of the concepts and abstracts which make up the higher level contexts of my mind did not exist even 50 years ago.


So in my particular case, I am uncertain about everything I do.

I do not have the luxury of knowing that I am right – ever.

My being is based upon probabilistic concepts.   I can be confident, even very confident, and there is only one thing about which I have no doubt at all – “cogito ergo sum”.

Everything else has uncertainty about it.


So in every action I take that involves high level awareness (and is not simply a matter of habit), I am aware of a distinct possibility that it is wrong, but in the moment of action it seems most likely to move me toward my chosen purpose in some way.

[followed by]

Hi Kathy

The definition of purpose which I intended and understood relevant was “The object for which anything is done or made, or for which it exists; the result or effect intended or sought; end, aim.” (From the Oxford English Dictionary – 2nd Edition)

The key word in there is “intend”.
Intention requires the mental ability to create a temporal plan – a plan across time.
From all the evidence I have found, that ability exists in few animal.
Most animals simply react, and have habits.
Some animals are very clever, in working out sequences of actions (particularly some parrots).
Like a friend once said – “apes are very clever, and given a banana in a tree, can pick up a stick and knock it down. But no ape has ever been observed to pick up a stick for knocking down a banana that it has not yet seen.”

In my studies of psychology and animal behaviour, my professional experience as a teacher, and my 25 years of experience as a parent, few children have any ability beyond very rudimentary purpose at such a young age. By two they can have simple concrete goals; but the proportion of behaviour that is given over to such intentional goal seeking is very low in comparison to that given over to cultural and habitual activities.

Certainly my sister had a fascination for animals from a young age, and she is now a vet, and the intent to become a vet did not manifest until quite late in childhood.

I had a similar fascination, and while I trained as a zoologist and ecologist, I became a professional hunter and fisherman for many years.

The mistake that most adults make, is that because we are purposeful entities, capable of having intent, and we experience intent as such an integral part of our being, we look for intent everywhere in nature – even where it does not exist. In philosophical terms, we commit a category error.

Most natural systems are very complex, and most are far short of the level of complexity required to generate the ability to hold “intent”. They just are what they are. The result of several billion years of evolution by natural selection at many different levels.
Complex beyond the ability of any mind to follow in detail, but able to be understood in terms of broad principles of operation.

I love animals.
I love that Huia comes in every morning, puts her front paws on the bed, and lays her head on my body while I scratch her head and neck, and tell her she is a good pup. It is a little ritual that has been going on for several years. She is performing the pack hierarchy routines of her evolutionary past. It seems to work well for the animal part within me too.

Follow up – Discussion of the process in the “Fully Engaged Enlightenment” group

Hi Bill

The “orders of abstraction” was more in response to the notion of “high illumination” than “face to face communication”. And yes – I am aware of the whoosh thing. One of the advantages of text at a distance is that one is not stopped by the instantaneous awareness of the whoosh thing, one can in fact develop a line of thought in words – even if no one reading it in the first few days, months or years gets it. Maybe someone, at some future point, will read it, get it, and make use of it.

All of the models you have listed seem to me to be at the same level of abstraction. They are based upon different sets of assumptions, and follow different paths, but at a meta level, appear to be essentially the same sort of meta structure (looking not at the specifics of the abstractions involved, but rather looking at the relationships between the abstractions, and the topology of abstractions so formed).

I like your topological metaphor of mountain ranges.

Once one has learned to fly, one can still choose to climb a mountain (for the experience of the climb) or one can fly from mountain to mountain, or range to range, or to far greater heights, and get the view from up there.

I find climbing mountains hard work, uncomfortable and dangerous. I much prefer flying – call me a wimp if you like ;).

Question of the Day March 11, 2011 ANewGaia’s Birthday Question – Changes in last year

What changes has this March-March “ANewGaia Year” brought in your life?

So much has happened in the last year.

Being diagnosed as terminally ill with incurable cancer has had its share of impacts.
Recovering from one 5 1/2 hour surgery, and several smaller ones.

Lots of thinking about the nature of the structural problems within our society.
Lots of thinking about the infinite potential within each and every one of us.

Lots of blogging, here and elsewhere, mostly mirrored on my blog-site

I got to meet and speak with Richard Dawkins.

So much support, from so many people, here and around the world.
It has been an interesting emotional and intellectual journey.

Question of the Day March 13, 2011 ANewGaia’s Birthday Question – What you’re grateful for

This is the end of our yearlong excursion into “ANewGaia”. We have a lot to admire and be thankful for. First of all, being alive and still a part of this incredible experience called living. What are you grateful for?

Yep – Life is right up there.
I am grateful for my wife and partner Ailsa.
For my children – William and Jewelia.
All the experiences I have had.
Living in our house, here in Kaikoura.
All of the many friends and family and community that are around us, and have been so amazingly supportive.
Computers and the internet, and the communication it allows.
All people who are willing to ask questions, then go on to actively seek out answers, design tests, and try out their ideas in reality.
The cooperation that allows us to enjoy the abundance of food, technology and security that we enjoy.
All of the many people who have contributed to the development of culture and technology (which is just about everyone who has ever lived).
All of the people here on ANG – who make this place what it is – a place to create a future of abundance and prosperity for all life.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
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1 Response to Another full week

  1. holessence says:

    Ted – Typically I read your “WRAP UP” post in the morning while enjoying hot cuppa tead. However, I’m shaking things up a bit and reading it in the over over a hot cuppa tea intead. The statements you made that particularly jumped off the page at me–caught my attention are:

    … and embracing the notion that everyone has expertise.

    … there is no set of rules that will get is what we need – we need virtue and character.

    When it [MONEY] is allowed to be pursued as an end in itself, through things like stock markets, foreign exchange markets, bond markets, futures markets, derivatives markets, and the charging of interest; it is effectively legalised theft, and needs to be discouraged for the long term good of all.

    [Friendship] Someone who has seen us at our worst, and still sticks around to help us work at our best.

    The more one narrows one’s focus onto a specific problem, and takes actions aligned to it, the less one can see of the “big picture”.

    Everything has costs and benefits.

    Once a human mind makes an abstraction, and “sees” an “ideal” it is likely to come to a conclusion that the particular “ideal” it has is “the one true way” and all others “must conform.” This is one of the most dangerous things that can happen.

    As always, I tip my hat to you for gathering your thoughts into one space to share–thank you–great food for thought.


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