Who’s In Charge Anyway…

Free Will? Fact or Fiction, Something you will have to decide...

There has been a long standing debate that man is not of free will, which says the universe is predefined in a way which makes us more akin to a roll-a-coaster who is tied to the tracks set to run a given route no matter what the throws of gravity and motion wish.  In turn this logic also says that “man” then is not accountable as if he decides upon an action, it isn’t his decision after all as its all predefined any way and its only his “thinking” it’s his that makes it such.

As its here that neuroscientist  Michael Gazzaniga, at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has put forward  that “we are personally responsible agents and are to be held accountable for our actions, even though we live in a determined universe.”  As the driver of this paradox if you will has come to general interest since the medical imaging of the brain became so common place starting back some 30 years ago now. As work in this area makes apparent the clash between the “mechanical” nature of the mind and the impression that people can will their own thoughts and actions separate of that.

As Gazzaniga points to animal studies to create the argument that the brain is in fact “shaped” by the tasks put before it.  As he points out that as the body is a biochemical system, what happens in the mind is in fact “mechanically” determined by the physical brain.  What becomes scary is Gazzaniga points to cases where the mechanics of the physical brain are “damaged” such as in cases where surgery is performed to separate the hemispheres of the brains and the patients “moral” reasoning is then disrupted as if we where to look at this rationally one could argue.  If ones “consciousness” and contained independently then what happens to the physical structure should not matter.

Ok, this might be a little confusing so let’s analogize for simplicity, if your “consciousness” where wine, your (physical) brain would be the wine “bottle”.  So no matter the shape or form of bottle you used, the “wine” stored in the bottle would be the same “wine” and remain unchanged.  No question this is something to think about as note Gazzaniga above relates this to “moral” questions and not computational ones which could/would more closely linked to physical structures.

Yet  Gazzaniga attempts to offer a resolution to the paradox by locating the origin of personal responsibility outside the brain.  He attempts to build the argument that the consequence of a social contract created with two or more persons occurs outside of the brain. As here he neatly removes the physical basis for good or bad behavior however yet leaves the door open to say.  If this is the case, then isn’t it in the “end” built upon the same “combined” physical structures of those engaged, so the argument is also flawed as we are still back to the roll-a-coaster scenario where it is plying the tracks not knowing it is in fact bound…

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An Education By Any Other Name…

A leader in the field of innovative education delivery...

One of the things I’ve been a big fan of and something which gets very little press is the iUniversity  or iU programs on iTunes which puts college course material out in the iTunes store for free download as hey information wants to be free right? Here I’ve taken all kinds of courses, nanotechnology, to rhetorical argument and from top notch schools such as Stanford and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) .

As it’s the later (MIT) which for a decade now as been putting its teaching materials as well as lectures online using the OpenCourseWare platform which is a great thing.  However what is even better is the university has now announced it will leverage those same materials to provide an online certification program.  The MITx certificate program which it is currently named won’t have the same weight as a full MIT degree (which costs a boat load of money).  Yet will indicate mastery of specific subject areas with the entire system being built on top of an open-source software platform.

The other positive out of this is by using this “common” platform it may also enable other universities to follow in MIT’s footsteps which is a good thing for a nation starved for higher education.  As the system will provide a complete online learning environment for the student including labs and the possibility for interactions with other students.

In addition, once the course work is completed students will have earned the chance to demonstrate their mastery of the topic, through an online test or formalized interactions with MIT staff. The pay piece if you will here is for the resulting certificate, however the word on the street is that they’ll be a whole lot cheaper than an MIT education. Rest assured too that both OpenCourseWare and the MITx teaching materials will still remain free as it will be the certificate which will carry a cost.

Rumor has it that the initial round of tests with the system will take place in the spring of 2012 and once the bugs are worked out, more courses will be rolled out.  Again all of this is good stuff for a nation which is starved for higher education as the cost of entry for these major schools and the information they provided is much needed.  As I can tell you first hand as I’ve gone to crappy schools and I’ve gone to good schools (MIT) and there is a difference, at MIT I got to meet the movers and shakers and hear their ideas first hand, and when I went to crappy schools where I was told, while let’s not go there…

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Basic Ontology without the Rubber Gloves…

Being smart isn't always enough, as its achievement that puts lunch on the table...

Welcome back, and as promised we will continue on as to why even as you’re lost, you still are right and how all existing things total up to infinity.  Whoa, that’s a lot isn’t it so we should just jump in and tackle these head on as some of you might be reading this over three 3G while your lost hoping to find a way out of that recursive nagging your significant other is providing you right now.

As let’s go back to Buzz Light Years favorite saying of “Infinity and beyond” as how did I get to 1: infinity any way you ask?  Well its easy, you have “all existing stuff” as a starting point right?  That’s “1” then when you start to break it down where do you stop?  Maybe at “class” as in “car” or maker, color and so on to the point where we are talking about atoms and quarks and so on as in fact just as a number system runs into infinity, so does basically every system (as since they can be represented by a “number system” this would make sense).

Since this is the holiday season, let us say you’re going to Grandma’s house and she has moved and your lazy behind was too busy to help her “move” so you’re not quite sure where she lives, however your craving some of that great poppy seed bread she make so you and your spouse set off on a road trip.  So we can say:

Home —>Grandma’s

Is the task at hand, however as you get 30 min’s into the journey only to find you’ve left your GPS in the other car and your cell phone is dead, you decide you have no clue where you’re at.  However are you wrong? Well not, your simply just not as right as you wanted to be since the proof above is part of an “infinite set”, it also contains:

Home —> Anywhere but Home

In as much as you’ve walked out the door you have achieved a level of rightness in the transaction; however you’re simply not as “right” as you hoped to be to at that given point  in time.  Ah yes, time that nasty dimensional thing Einstein brought to life per say which adds [yet] another measure to things making life just that much more difficult.

See this is where life becomes interesting as probabilistically all things are part of a “set” and our goals are based upon these “sets” and there it becomes a measure of “resolution” which defines our true level of rightness if you will in action.  As if your having brain surgery, and the surgeon shows up then that’s half the battle right?

So Campbell my spouse is POed at me, I still can’t find Grandma’s and now you’re telling me it’s all in the resolution so  what the hell here (on top of it I’m hungry too so I’m a little grumpy). Well the point is, if you understand a “system” you have better chance at being “righter” as over the years I’ve seen to many people draw things in shades of absolutes rather than achievements. Ok, ok I get it. Well lets put it this way to explain better.

For those that are old enough to remember Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner this one is for you (if not, find a copy and watch just one episode and you will get the idea). As what you will remember (or see if this is your first time watching) is that Wile E. (the coyote) comes up with a good idea to catch his prey the road runner, yet fails.  After, this set back if you will he devise’s yet another [different] way to attempt to corner the bird for lunch rather than altering (note, I avoided the word correcting) his prior effort.  As in short, “Wile’s” system wasn’t “wrong”, It simply wasn’t right enough.

Understanding this is of critical importance as how many times in life is something made up of just one iteration of “something”?  Even in our daily jobs we do the something “just different” each day therefore understanding  the ontological underpinnings of the “system” is critical as the morphological adaption’s (unlike Wile E.’s) is what makes for success…

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If I’m so Right, Then Why Do I Feel So Wrong…

The world in fact operates in shades of gray....

Well as after waxing on Dickens’s quote from “Tail of Two Cities”, I had promised to re-wax (yes, can just hear the Karate Kid wise cracks out there; wax On, Wax Off) on the topic of “rightness”, what it means and why along with a bit more. Yesterday we explored the “yin & yang” of Charles words and I have to say “words” themselves are amazing things as they have so much power especially when assembled into a “collective” which  calls out a reflective, yet recursive idea which spins into infinity.

Yet you still have to ask about what got me here, well it is a good question as while in the Netherlands a few days back, a colleague and I headed out from Den Haag for the manufacturing city of Eindhoven for a business meeting.  To get there the colleague fired up his new fangled GPS and we were off, however why do I call this a “new fangled device” as while I have one [GPS], it’s about 4 years old and we all know what that means technologically right?

As my older unit does a good job of getting me from point “A” to “B” which is the right answer as I’m “somewhere” and the goal is to get somewhere “else” and the orange line appears and I follow the nagging voice.  Yet in the end, if I’ve selected all the right “stuff” then at the conclusion of the journey I will be at or, at least near the intended destination.  So in essence the GPS was right, as it got me there however was it really right?  As how many times have you used a GPS on your home turf per-say and noticed it took you way out of the way, or routed you though an unsafe area and so on?  So the question is, while it was “right”, how right in fact was it?

This is where the colleagues GPS struck me as interesting as it provided three options, based on the data it had been given such as traffic (remember it was a new fangled one), stops and road speed.  In short it could present a “righter” answer then my age worn battle axe of a unit could.  So both units would be “right”, however his unit has a chance at being “righter” about the answer which is a basic “proof” that “rightness” is in actuality subjective and not objective.

Whoa you say what does all this mean then?  Well (guys) when you head out and get lost and the wife is nagging at you for not asking directions, because you forgot the GPS in the other car, you can now with a straight face tell her you in fact are still right.  Alright let me explain, as we call upon “Ontology” to save us in this debate as this calls forward the concept of can we categorize things so if we were to take all “existing things” and sort them into categories how many would we have?

So pause the tape here for a minute and get your pencil and paper (no calculators please) out and figure the answer on your own, when done please restart the tape.

Ok, welcome back and what answer did you arrive at?  If it was 1: infinity then your right as the 1 is the group of “all existing things” and the “infinity” is the resolution.  What you say, well you will have to check back tomorrow and I will explain…

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It’s Been a “Dickens” of a Year…

Duality's run in two's...

One of my fascinations has been “what is right” as we’ve waxed together here in the past on the topic and I’m working on a follow up too.  However today figured since the holiday season is here it’s worth sharing a quote from Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities” which supports this concept by saying:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

As here Charles points out those things can be both the best and worst at the same time as well as one of “it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness” which to me is profound.  As to me Dickens is saying in fact “everything is everything”.  Therefore to say something is foolish is also to say it possesses some form of “wisdom” and therefore is “neither” as well as “both”.  As here he claims that all of these are simply represented in “superlative degree of comparison only” as each existed within each other with a special duality.  Wow, hope you’re not reading this before your first cup of coffee (or other caffeinated beverage).

Additionally its, worth noting that Dickens also tells us that “we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way” as man and person is both good and evil as evil can be good and good intentions can be evil.  In short Dickens shows us that our existence should not or maybe cannot be defined in black and white terms, yet instead must be colored in unlimited shades of gray as one man’s meat is another man’s poison…

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Who Says Space Isn’t Important…

There was once a day we soared to the heavens, we commanded the sky! Yet today, our wings clipped we stand on Terra Firma and watch as the world passes us by...

There is a race going and we are not part of it and we all know if you’re not in a race, you can’t be a winner and that is on many fronts.  As Asia’s current space race could also turn into an arms race akin to what we saw in the days of the Cold War.  Well that is I guess according to James Clay Moltz, who is a professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School.

As he writes that the major Asian nations, namely China, Japan, India, and South Korea, are all investing monies to expand their space programs [are we? No] with little-to-no cooperation. While these efforts appear to be driven by want of national prestige there also exist geopolitical rivalries, similar to the ones faced by the US and Soviet’s in the space race of the 1960s. The thing is and what most westerners forget is that during the period of the “space race” it stimulated technological advancements which made us who we are today [and thus missing out on for the future].

While competing agendas in Asia are leading to a duplication of work and mistrust among the countries involved.  Where is also the waste of resources while even worse [for us], is this “competition” if you will is also undermining recent cooperation which has been built up between the US, Russia, and Europe.

As unlike here in the west, Asia doesn’t have any type of regional security organization such as NATO.  So when you add this fact with the long-standing feuds seen between  nations such as China & India, India & Pakistan, to of course  North Korea & South Korea, and on and on and on, well you get the idea as cant we all just get along? Means a civilian space race could turn into an arms race as what other good use of could there be for a big rocket, let see [insert thinking time here].  Aah yes, an ICBM and guess what, yes a big rocket makes for bad bomb building techniques.  As thermo nuclear bombs are easy to build, however it’s hard to make them small, so the issue has been one of “delivery”, whereas have big [rocket] then can deliver.

On the other front, each of these nations has performed separate lunar-mapping missions since 2007, with planned follow ups which will include the deployment of rovers, landers, and lunar bases.  Again without any cooperation, even though a lot of the work will be redundant.   Even our friends in Japan are climbing fast with the most human spaceflight experience in the region.  As with 15 manned flights since 1992 along with a paid membership in the International Space Station.  However it has always had to  hitchhike a ride with either us or Russia.

Here China on the other hand as launched its first astronaut in only 2003  along with many follow-up flights since.  To its most recent accomplishment of launching a Tiangong-1 orbital test module for a planned 2020 space station all on its own!  While not to be out done, India who feels a little earth bound has announced  a planned manned flight to take place in 2016. Have to wonder if they are interested in buying a fleet of slightly used space shuttles?

Worth noting is they don’t also plan to stop with manned  spaceflight efforts either, as the three major nations also have plans to deploy their own solutions to the US-maintained Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite network.  In fact, China has already deployed over one third of its planned 35-satellite “BeiDou” network in orbit  Note worthy too is ours are old, theirs are new.

The long story short is we the west are being left behind, we have retired our only good manned way to space and depend now upon others for rides aloft.  We have forgotten how to go to the moon as well as “this that and the other thing”, god speed John Glenn…

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Thank You for Smoking…

A personal liberty is only that which is granted by the group...

Today’s post is based upon a 2005 satirical comedy which follows the machinations of “Big Tobacco’s” chief lobbyist, Nick Naylor, whose job was to spin on behalf of cigarettes while trying to remain a role model for his twelve-year-old son.  As what has me on this today, well its “smoking” and yea this one might hit a nerve with a few people, however that’s life.

As when I come to Houston which I do a lot, my home away from home is a Marriot in the “Medical District” of Houston and it (the District not the hotel) is huge!  Now the Marriot is a NO SMOKING hotel, so if you want to light up its outside you go and trust me there are plenty out there.  So again what’s the big deal Campbell, yea so people are standing outside smoking your point here?

Simple, the people for the most are here for health reasons, mostly cancer yet they continue to light up and smoke their life away!  So here you are having a part of your body cut off and injected with poison to make you deathly ill (chemo) and you have to light up?  Please, ok now many of you (assumingly smokers) are saying “hey wait a minute its my right to smoke”!  Ok, same thing for the motorcyclist who doesn’t want to wear a helmet as it may dampen their manhood as a “rain coat” would and thus the point of today’s post is born.

As we could wax for days what is a personal “liberty” however I don’t have that long and I doubt you do either so let’s cut to the chase.   Personal liberties break down when we join a social order as in these cases we must forego a portion of these applied liberties for the betterment of the whole and if we fail to this we may be asked to leave.  What am I getting at here, simple these people who have a portion of their body removed and are standing out in the cold (yes its rather chilly here today) have insurance.

Ok, so you say they paid into it [insurance] so stop complaining, however so did you, as well as I and isn’t the idea of insurance that the “whole” will protect the few?  However what happens if the whole decide they want to do something which the “whole” cannot afford to pay for?  This is where “social loops” break down because as with most things “personal” liberties are only a manifestation of social constructs.  Much as we’ve wax about “personal” privacy being a fallacy having once been regulated by [high] cost is now open to all with a computer and a little internet savvy.

Here the idea [rhetoric proof if you will] of liberties being falsehoods is the fact they are not universal as you can go to Amsterdam and smoke a little weed.  Yet should you do this in many Asian or Middle Eastern countries you might find yourself forfeiting your life for this “liberty” which you took in Amsterdam.  Therefore the logic which creates this “economy” is a false one as society decides your liberties and not you.  Just something to think about the next time you light up…

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Producers and Consumers…

What happens when consumers become producers?

One of the reasons for writing on this blog has been my fascination with the interaction of various “things” with each other.  As all of this is based upon the concept of “System Thinking” where we see various “loops” which interact with each other and the speed of which drive the loops to a point where they (may) eventually become “viral”.  Hence the name “The Viral Loop” where for the sake of discussion I’ve broken things down into three basic “interacting” loops being, “Life” which takes us to “Leadership” and drives the “Economics” which takes us back to yes “Life”.

However the idea today isn’t to wax about the name of this blog, however wanted to talk about the idea of “Producers” and “Consumers”, as what has me thinking about this?  Well I was listening to a podcast where the hosts were driving their audience to be frugal “Producers” which struck me as problematic.  As without “consumers”, why should we have “producers” as there will be no one to “consume”.  As yes, yes I get the idea that everyone who is a consumer must be at some level also be a producer to earn income in order to consume.

Yet this is the reason for waxing in the first paragraph about loops as I want to keep this high level (rather than go into all the internal recursive supporting loops as the end game would be the same anyway) as this will help us understand the basics of what we are dealing with.

As think about it this way, if everyone were to go to college, graduated with a degree and got a white collared job, who would then pick up your trash?  If your trash isn’t collected, what will happen next within the loop?  In short you get the idea as we need all the pieces to make things work, and therefore we need hard lines between [the roles of] producers and consumers to keep the system running.  However what happens when this breaks down?

As in the past we’ve waxed on the topic of the pro-summer movement where people want to “produce” as well as “consume”, however this is an act of dilution.  As here your no longer buying “complete” [product], therefore you are no longer being paid in “complete” terms either as you’ve now traded off “value”.  For example if you were to sew your own clothes, then someone would not be paid to sew them for you and in turn you somewhere down the way would earn less as someone would take from you also.

With this said, what will this mean for us who have set historical ideas of how the world works as the lines between hobby and profession blur?  As it’s here where I wonder where the bottom is or if there is even a bottom to this or is this a paradigm which is set to stay and the effects of erosion upon social effluence are simply part of our new world order as with the “greening” of Greenland which is something we simply will accept…

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We’re the Leading (Insert Description Here)…

Whats the difference between #1 and #2? (answer just one number)

What is interesting is everyone works for a “leader” or so it seems as if I received a dollar (or better yet a euro) for every time I’ve heard this, I would be giving Carlos Slim a run for his money shooting for the spot of the wealthiest person in the world.  So why do I write this you ask, well I’m sitting in the KLM lounge at Schiphol airport here in Amsterdam waiting for my flight home and out of the corner of my ear I catch this conversation of two other travelers making small talk and as one introduces himself (as in person) he’s then announces his company affiliation by saying “We’re the leading XXXXX company”.

Alright no big deal right, you (we) hear this all the time as for me in the lounge this was most likely the third occurrence this morning. Also not sure  why it struck me, however it did that we always want to be part of a “leader” and we are happy to distill it down to a denominator where are.  An example is a colleague upon changing jobs shared that his firm was the largest supplier of IT services to “organic farmers”.  To myself it was “wow, he had to really distill this one down, as it wasn’t agriculture, nor farming, however “organic farming”.  Yet they where the leader and he was at least anthropologically speaking part of the top quartile.

The urge to be part of something is interesting in itself as we are social animals seeking others of like and kind.  However we now seek to also be at the top, and how many people can be at the top?  Good question right, as there can only be one “number one”, so now we must start to “classify” to open up more number “one” slots, then when those run out of those we move on to “stratification” as in having “differing levels” of number one.

Ironically, this is where I found the old Avis commercials of interest as they use to say “we’re number two trying hard to be number one”.  As here is another anthropological axiom in that “everyone loves an underdog”, so why do we “brag” or “boast” (depending on the fact or fiction of the reality) being number one if our goal is to be “loved” (a rhetoric phrase to seek acceptance)?  As wouldn’t it make more sense to be more like Avis if we truly want to seek the love?

As on the other side of the coin, isn’t there always a level of animosity toward those folks we perceive to be higher in “classification” and “Stratification”?  Aren’t we always shooting for (i.e. at number one), so why then place ourselves there?  From here on out, for me it’s going to be the Avis model as I’m happy to be number two, just trying a bit harder…

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All The Words Have Been Spoken…

When its all said, what is there left to say?

It’s early in the morning, about 5am and I’m sitting here in Amsterdam, where there is a chill in the air even though I’m sort of sitting inside with a cup of coffee.  The steam from the hot beverage is lazily rising as I stare at it, as it whisks off into what appears to be nothingness and then it hits me.

Yes what hits me is the fact that every “word” which can be said has been “said”, every note that can be played has been “played” and so on. This is a stark cold feeling to think that all things in as such exist in “absolutes” as if every “word” has been said then what do we have to say?  While yes, I fully understand the fact we sort of invent new words every year so is this epiphany really valid?  I could argue till the cows come home that each “new” slang word is really a hybrid of yet a predecessor word which has been “said” already so we are simply messing with destiny.

However that’s not the argument which I’m looking to make today as I’m waxing about “absolutes” and not hybrids.  As what does it mean that everything has been said, is the “fact” of the “actuality” is becoming the “reality”? In other words is our world, our being one of absolutes?

As this reminded me of back in Jr High for a literature class I had to read a story and in fact I can’t remember the name, yet it’s point is sort of set at the dawn of the computer era (big computers not PC’s, I’m old ok) where an Asia Cult (implied near Tibetan) buys a computer from the firm of the day (implied as IBM).  The purpose you ask, simple enumerate all the names of “god”, basic enough task right?

Well the implied hero (if you can call him that) is a computer programmer and team lead whose job it was to achieve the task.  All the while the team feels they are being held captive by the cult (metaphorically) and they will be killed upon completion, yet in turn when the end of the task is near, they are released.  Fleeing the mountainous area on horseback at night with what they believe is their lives, they start to recount their feelings of the task and learning’s while captive.  Then abruptly our hero looks down at his watch then mentions the final job should now be finishing an glances skyward and saying only “the sky is clear and the stars are gone” before the story ends abruptly…

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