Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Thoughts on Intelligent Life

It's now been nearly three months since my last post. Those have not been easy months for many people, and I combined the stress from the business pages with some personal issues to fall into a deep hole of my own.

At this point I see myself climbing out of my hole but only perhaps having reached eye level. I still need to get out completely, see the hole for what it was, fill it up with love, and plant a tree.
Friends have told me that my low period (that’s actually an understatement) will result in a new approach to life, and I am finally at a point where I can accept and embrace that possibility and view it as inevitable.

Continuing this blog is now part of that process.

In my previous post about Epigenetics, I addressed the apparent presence of “software” in our bodies that interprets environmental factors and switches our genes on and off.

This process, as it turns out, is explained and extrapolated in a fascinating book by Bruce Lipton, “The Biology of Belief”. In it he identifies the cell membrane as the “computer chip” that literally processes the information from the environment and comprises a conduit for the subconscious or automatic (autonomic) functions in our bodies – mainly functions like breathing, sensing and other parts of the so-called parasympathetic nervous system (right brain) that we literally don’t think about.

According to Lipton and many developments in biology and neuroscience, we are not the determined result of our genetic makeup but rather an evolving organism continually replacing our cells and interacting with an environment that switches our genes on and off and affects our inner process through our parasympathetic nervous system.

Beyond the identification of the process as literally data processing like a computer chip, Lipton goes on to state that this subconscious part of our existence, which processes information at an exponentially faster rate than our conscious mind – consider how quickly you blink if an object is thrown at your eye – is also the storage area for our assumptions about the environment - programmed into us by our parents and peers at an early age (and even before birth itself – in the womb).

The book ends with an Addendum on one technique for reprogramming these assumptions in a way that reduces automatic fear (in my case unquestionably a big factor in the intensity of my “low period”) and suggests that a more positive set of assumptions can be adopted that will have beneficial impact throughout the body, based on seeing the environment as not hostile, but rather essentially neutral, and infusing an attitude of self-acceptance and love into one’s subconscious thoughts.

Neuroscience and psychology have come together in a number of new developments to embrace mindfulness (focused attention on the body) as a practice (meditation) that literally reprograms the prefrontal lobe of the brain to effectively integrate the right and left – so that past grief and negative “programs” can be overridden with a corresponding physical re-energizing of the body and in effect, spirit.

Spirit as an element of biology, psychology or indeed neuroscience. Who would have thought?

As Lipton suggests, it happened with quantum physics and it’s inevitable in biology, psychology and neuroscience.

It was about a year ago when my own discovery of the science of programmability of the genome of all life – with its analogous implications in terms of how human software is created (with a conscious intention) suggested to me that life was by no means a random occurrence, but was in fact a reflection of a much higher mental energy or entity, indeed that the universe was conscious.

I suggested that just as Microsoft Word could not have accidentally “evolved”, but rather came about through the conscious efforts of humans, it now seemed that even the complexity of a single celled organism (with a genome not much smaller than that of humans) -- which is controlled by a set of software instructions from the environment (now identified as epigenetics) -- must be the result of not random occurrence but rather intentional intelligence.

While some would make the immediate leap to intelligent design – I don’t – cognizant that our intellectual capacities and very being might be inadequate to truly comprehend the magnitude of such an intelligence and label it in any meaningful way.

In fact, the mystical experiences that assert a connection to such an intelligence inevitably suggest that it is beyond language or our ability to verbally or intellectually describe or identify it.

To me, this confirms the reality that an idea (Plato’s forms would be my humble analogy) exists just as material exists – and indeed Lipton and neuroscientific work in psychology has confirmed that our thoughts are part of an environmental system that affect our very being. Unfortunately again, our conscious intellectual thoughts are inadequate to compete with the subconscious (with its superior processing power) to effect change.

Lipton says that “positive thinking” is insufficient. We need to reprogram our subconscious or at a minimum observe its effects through our body and sensation – the practice often referred to as mindfulness and sometimes called meditation.

We need to either learn experiential processes that allow us to communicate and reprogram the subconscious to change our own nature – or at a minimum begin to observe (rather than react automatically) to the input of our environment and our own negative conditioning, and reintegrate our connection between our right and left brains (notice our automatism and by observing it, slow down and reduce its negative aspects).

Remember that it is the automatic part of the brain that connects through our entire bodies with the environment using the cell membrane to process the information, and it apparently cannot be consciously controlled by our “intelligence”. It literally takes place on the level of software and data processing.

There is another interesting concept in Lipton’s work that I can connect with computers in a literal way.

He says that humans are a community of cells, and suggests that human evolution, now at a crossroads between transformation and extinction, must lead to seeing humanity as a community in harmony with an intelligent environment rather than trying to impose control.

One could make a case that the Internet is evolving as the nervous system of such a community of human cells living in cooperation rather than competition, and that perhaps even social networks (even the annoying ones like Twitter or those that keep pestering you with new connections and friends) are part of this evolution.

As this evolution proceeds, according to Lipton and many others, humanity must drop its own subconscious programming of the primacy of competition and perhaps even rethink our concept of individuality – not as a single cell in a hostile environment but as part of an organic intelligent whole with which we can connect in a loving and cooperative way.

And getting back to my low period, the key understanding that I need to organically embrace (and not just intellectually think I understand) is that as an individual I need to give up the illusion of control over my environment on a deep and fundamental level.

While my conscious mind has been able to think through many problems and create a reasonably comfortable existence, this existence has never been guaranteed, and at bottom, we all are subject to the vagaries of an environment that is likely neutral as far as individual humans are concerned, and possibly intelligently loving and benign with respect to our species itself, particularly if humanity can evolve to respect the environment and ultimately live in harmony (and not opposition or control) of it.

The inevitable results of our struggle for control are becoming readily apparent – both on a global and in my case on a personal scale. While this blog is an intellectual endeavor, hopefully my inner processes are also changing organically to reduce the need for a sense of control and I can effect a reintegration of my conscious thoughts and subconscious programming.

We’ll see.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Genetic Software Identified

In a recent blog posts(please see "Humanity 2.0 – It’s the Software, Stupid "), I speculated about how "decoding the genome" may inevitably lead to the widespread realization of how we literally function with an "operating system" and "software" - and if this is indeed the case, I wonder whether that does not inevitably lead to a sense of an intelligent intention to our very being. We need not argue about a "Creative Designer" but perhaps begin to suspect that beyond ourselves as the so-called "dominant species" at the apex of creation, that there certainly exists a higher mind behind our existence and purpose.

If we contemplate that we are essentially software manifest organically, we might wonder whether a program like Microsoft Word would exist without humans (who created it in our image) - and who had fulfilled an intention to do word processing?

In a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer (May 2008) titled "A Paradigm Shift in Genetics", the focus was on the so-called epigenome - a system of inner functions referred to as a "chemical switchboard", responsive to the environment (input), which turns our genes on and off.

Here are two relevant paragraphs:

"Ehrlich is referring to the emerging field known as epigenetics. The epigenome is the elaborate chemical switchboard that can turn genes on and off like flipping a light switch. Our genes encode instructions for the building of proteins. On its own, DNA is nothing but an inert biological handbook, but chemicals in each cell actively read and transcribe the instructions, then use them to build our bodies cell by cell. Every cell in your body contains an identical genome, and yet a brain cell is quite different from a skin cell.

"How do the differences arise? Because different genes are expressed from one cell to the next. How does a cell know which genes to implement and which to ignore? That set of instructions is contained in the cell's epigenome. Whereas the genome is static - its sequence of base pairs unchanging except in the rare and often detrimental case of a mutation - the epigenome is dynamic, busily deciding which genetic instructions should be put into action and which should be chemically strangled into silence."

In other words this is a dynamic set of instructions carried out in response to stimuli from the physical environment and other (possibly as yet unknown) influences. According to these inputs a series of responses or instructions are carried out.

Are these random events? That can certainly be argued in terms of who or what determines the influences - but they occur according to a set of cause and effect materially determined laws - not by chance.

To me, this is another powerful indicator that life itself (for which this is indeed the "software") did not evolve from a random event, but is also a result or effect of some cause - and beyond the apparent complexity of the epigenome and the genome - its obvious purpose and intentionality - points a supremely higher mental process behind Life (as there is behind all human-created software).

Monday, August 4, 2008

Humanity 2.0 – It’s the Software, Stupid

A truly thought provoking video on TED is headlined: Kwabena Boahen: Making a computer that works like the brain. Boahen is a computer scientist who actually grew up Ghana, where he was fortunate enough to get a computer as a child; in the video he quotes a fellow researcher Brian Eno who said in 1995, “The problem with computers is that there is not enough Africa in them.”

Boahen takes that to mean more creative conception of computer hardware, and proposes a restructuring of the CPU along the lines of neural networks to permit more efficient processing of information.

What I find incredible is that neither Boahen, with his fresh viewpoint on computer science from his unique perspective, nor seemingly any of the speakers at TED (with the possible exception of Jill Bolte Taylor’s “My stroke of insight” – a phenomenal investigation of neuroscience of mystical proportions) make any attempt to truly grasp the significance of the analogies between advances in computing and the human brain.

More specifically, if we can use Biblical language allegorically, it seems clear that consciously, subconsciously or indeed completely unconsciously we’ve created computers in our own image.

In my humble opinion, there is deep meaning to this, and indeed the birth of the computer and with it the Internet are major potential milestones in the evolution of our species – perhaps to a Humanity 2.0 – but only if we grasp their essential meaning.

What do I mean?

To my mind the missing dimension to all comparisons between the human brain, neuroscience and the computer is the incredible avoidance of these endeavors to acknowledge the key component of all computers – namely software.

From the amazing description of an apple as an application that can be genetically reprogrammed by Juan Enriquez (again on TED) to Boahen’s concept of a chip based on neural networks no scientist seems comfortable venturing into the area that is the very key to understanding any computer system: what program is running and where did it come from?

In the scientific community this is relegated to “soft” sciences – psychology, sociology and perhaps philosophy – but it is remarkably absent, or so it seems to me, as a matter of serious inquiry, in the fields of genetics or neuroscience.

Evolution is the obvious "scientific" answer to such questions – and that’s fine – but we need to recognize that if we exist in a universe of cause and effect laws, the process that we term evolution is very unlikely to be the result of haphazard chance or accident. It is too well programmed for that.

Clearly, if the brain is the basis for our development of the computer and then the Internet -- the issue of what may be the “operating system” and what sorts of software it is running are probably the most significant issues facing us if we are to understand its true functions.

From the first personal computer I ever purchased, this was the key point: what was I going to use it for (its purpose) and then, which programs did I expect to run. In my case I would never have bought my first Eagle if I could not run a program called WordStar and write screenplays of questionable quality.

And even now I would never invest in a new computer, or load a new operating system (sorry Vista) unless I was confident that the tasks I intended to perform could be effectively completed by the software I intended to run.

The problem, of course, is that as soon as you begin to speculate on software in the brain you come across two potentially troublesome terms – either “Mind” or “Consciousness” become unavoidable factors.

Science refuses to seriously address these two concepts (except in the “soft” sciences) because they do not easily yield solely (or soul-ly) to data analysis and require deeper investigation and thought.

Indeed in the realm of quantum mechanics, the key component of the observer as a critical aspect of any phenomena that can be investigated on the subatomic level has already presented this same barrier – the presence of an embodied mind or consciousness it seems effectively determines the observable data and without an observer the result either doesn’t exist or as Heisenberg suggested, it is in reality uncertain. To our materialistically oriented mentality uncertain data doesn’t really qualify as data at all.

But I digress. When as I wrote before, Juan Enriquez describes both the computing power necessary to decode (sequence) the genome, and the ability of our geneticists to reprogram what has been discovered (and yet not create it out of nothing), this begs the question: Where did the program come from and what about the immense scale of its apparent complexity?

If you consider the brain or genetic material hardware only – as seemingly inanimate things – then certainly it could have evolved over eons from other inanimate things – perhaps stimulated by electrical energy when it is perceived as yet another inanimate thing.

But if you remain true to the computer model then there has to be an investigation of the true nature of software, both as we know it and as it has apparently come to exist in nature itself.
Taking the analogy a bit further, perhaps simplistically, but truly sincerely, we can see that for example, Microsoft Word, the evolutionary offspring of WordStar, the software for which I purchased my original Eagle, is the result of only one thing – human ingenuity and a meeting of thousands of Minds.

It could not exist otherwise.

The zeroes and ones that constitute the program that is Word or was WordStar were created by human minds with a purpose: to communicate more efficiently and connect human minds through language, sound and images.

The Internet evolved similarly, out of a human capacity for creating a system of programs that could connect us electronically – but the Internet too would never exist just to constitute a network of cables or wireless connections.

The Internet as hardware would never have evolved.

It exists only to move messages and meaning.

So again, working backwards, if the model for all of this is our own brain, and by extension, our nervous system and even our more automatic or autonomic physiology that is programmed genetically – we probably need to ask – what’s the software?

Unfortunately if we ask this question sincerely, answers do not come easily, and they are open to much debate, but at least they are the result of serious questions and not the obvious and deliberate avoidance of deeper issues.

My own suggestion would only be a self conscious pointer in two possible directions where we might look for more answers.

First inside ourselves, because deep self examination of one’s own programming is the only real access we currently have to our software. Observing others is possible at this point only in terms of their outward manifestations, verbal descriptions, and the data of brainwaves which is at present inconclusive in terms of that troublesome concept: meaning.

The second direction might be the same road some aspects of quantum physics have taken – namely East. The descriptions of meditative states and the reality of consciousness described by Eastern thought seems to dovetail nicely with the observations or “data” of quantum physicists, to their everlasting dismay.

The apparently dualistic state of light as simultaneously both wave and particle phenomena is a real paradox, just as we might argue about the “cause” or primogenitor of evolution.

It is quite possible that both neuroscience, and very likely astrophysics and astronomy, will have to be led kicking and screaming into both of these new directions – directing their investigations inside ourselves as organisms comprised of hardware (physiology) and software (essence, spirit, soul or mind) -- with a perspective broadened by the meditative practices of the East.

Only then will we perhaps be receptive to a download from somewhere or an upgrade of something that we ultimately evolve into Humanity 2.0, or failing to connect successfully and log in to something higher -- our species may degenerate into a lower life form, or become extinct, like WordStar and the Eagle computer.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Whose PC Is It Anyway?

Has this happened to you? You return to your Vista PC and find that either the screensaver is running or you have the log on screen on your monitor, and you realize that the computer has rebooted in your absence?

If all you have to do is log back in, it’s a mild inconvenience but it’s still a bit creepy…

But if after you log in, your entire desktop is GONE? That happened to me recently. Being fairly experienced, I located the actual files in my Desktop folder under my user name, so I knew the data was safe. But suddenly Vista had given me a whole new blank desktop with the default wallpaper.

And, for good measure, when I opened my browser, I found that my start page was back on MSN and my history was gone. Cool, huh?

Obviously this was the result of an update, necessitated by Microsoft’s well founded security concerns.

But it’s a lot like the manager of my building coming into my apartment and rearranging the furniture while I’m gone – or locking the doors and windows.

I don’t like it, and combined with the other inconveniences of Vista, I’m sure lots of other people don’t like it either.

What are those other inconveniences? They are too numerous to mention but how about incompatible hardware and software, new CD and DVD formats that don’t work, and interminable file transfer times?

What makes it worse is that as always, there are no solutions. I recently had a data dump, otherwise known as the blue screen of death, and when Windows returned I was told it had recovered from a serious error (it had used System Restore – the same way I got my desktop back from the other incident) and did I want to know more details…

Sure I clicked Yes, figuring I’d get the usual inscrutable information that told me nothing but this time NOTHING is exactly what I got. Nada. Zilch. No explanation whatsoever is available for a “serious error.”

How long has Windows had a blue screen problem – how about EVERY INCARNATION? Maybe it’s impossible to correct given the disparate hardware on which the platform is located, but how about providing a clear and understandable EXPLANATION of how it happens and what you can do to recover?

Here is what I mean by clear and understandable. NOT “you had a fatal error or system exception at memory base 4M60XQIC0M;’T.XOM.”
No – here is what I mean: the last program you used was _____________________________.
When you clicked ___________________________ it conflicted with ______________________.
To prevent this from happening you should uninstall ______________________________ or reconfigure ______________________________.
Alternatively you could delete _________________________ from StartUp under MSConfig.

System Restore is nice but scary. It’s like you’re waiting for the patient to come out of the ER. And there is no chance to talk to the surgeon afterwards – “Oh, we took out some malware and now the system is fine.”

I would feel a whole lot better with a clear and concise explanation of using System Recovery and Safe Mode – I know they exist but they are documented only for IT professionals. When a “normal” user crashes he may as well invoke a voodoo chant to get his system back.

It is wholly inexcusable for Vista to reboot and destroy your desktop on the one hand, requiring System Recovery, and provide no clearly understandable information on how to protect your system or bring it back from a data dump.

"Windows 7" promises a whole host of new features, including a touch screen "coffee table" interface -- I have a better idea, how about an understandable, reliable system that just works consistently?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Our New and Improved (?) Digital Washer/Dryer

Several weeks ago I left my apartment only to discover that our building had replaced our perfectly functional “analog” washer/dryers with new digital models. What sets these apart are black LCD screens with digital read-outs that show the exact length, in minutes, of the remaining wash or dry cycle.

The display also goads you into forking up an extra quarter for a “bonus” rinse cycle, but it’s optional. The only thing it doesn’t do is send a message saying, “hey– take out your clothes, another tenant needs the dryer!”, or tell you to have a nice day.

Is there a message here – besides the digital read-out? Well the old washers worked pretty well as I recall, although the lint screen on the new one is a lot nicer – but that’s because it’s new. A lint screen alone might have cost what, two bucks?

It is nice to know exactly how much time is left in a cycle, but if you’ll pardon the pun, it’s fluff.

It’s excess for its own sake. Like the SUVs and mini-vans that are now extinct, it speaks to an insatiable need, now completely programmed into our brains, to see lack where there might be satisfaction.

It also makes one think of the perfectly functional and beautiful homes that get knocked down for newer, bigger mansions, whose owners might have made do with what they had.

And it speaks to the message of the Dalai Lama, on the east coast this week and probably being largely ignored, who chastises us for always wanting more, more and more.

As you may know, his country, Tibet, is being mauled by the country that is emulating us in the more, more and more sweepstakes – China, along with also fast growing India. But both of these countries are raising extremely low standards of living a bit higher, while we are generally raising generally very high standards of living (by global comparison) higher and higher.

But the problem really isn’t us, is it? The company that built the new and improved digital washer/dryer is considered innovative, and is manned by a marketing team hell bent on convincing the world that knowing the exact length of the rinse and dry cycle is critical.

That need has flowed down the electronic synapses and dendrites of our society to the point where we need to check our email every hour, or more, and keep up with the news, while being programmed to buy more digital washer/dryers.

There may have been a lesson to be learned from the older analog washer/dryers – from that inexact interval between the end of the cycle and the time you actually remember to take out your clothes.

In that ten or fifteen extra minutes, if you aren’t checking your email or scheduling your next appointment, you might actually sit back and reflect (as the Dalai Lama might) on what the heck you’re doing anyway?

Instead of checking your email, check your reality.

In case you missed it, CNN ran a story the other day with the headline: Scientists: Humans and machines will merge in future.

No, they weren’t talking about a Yahoo-Microsoft type of merger. They were suggesting that you and I might be made new and improved with digital read-outs. Optimally, email might be downloaded directly into our brains, bypassing the laptop or iPhone entirely. According to the piece:

“Transhumanists… anticipate an era in which biotechnology, molecular nanotechnologies, artificial intelligence and other new types of cognitive tools will be used to amplify our intellectual capacity, improve our physical capabilities and even enhance our emotional well-being.”

And the proponents weren’t worried about this scenario, they seemed to welcome it as an inevitable improvement in human “efficiency” (my interpretation).

When I think about how entities like credit card companies, utilities, software manufacturers and others take advantage of new technology to pad my bill and increase my customer dissatisfaction, I have to wonder about the ultimate advantage of becoming “transhuman.”

Most of the people I see walking around shouting into their cellphones barely qualify as human.

I’d hate to reach the voicemail system of a “transcorporate customer” support center. I am sure they’d have a sensational mission statement, but the underlying reality would be far less benign.

And I’m not sure that a new and improved version of my brain or my body, complete with digital read-outs and a wireless connection to an ATM, would improve my life very much.

When I look at the other “transhuman” byproducts of a digitally improved emerging Humanity 2.0 I also have to wonder: dead birds, dying bees, beached whales and dolphins, poisoned oceans, unbreathable air at the Olympics – perhaps what we’ll be digitally replacing won’t be our brains but our lungs.

Maybe I’m making too much of the digital washer/dryer – after all, I haven’t had to wait for the dryer since they installed it. And the lint screen is impeccable. But for some reason I can’t quite fathom, I find myself checking my email more and more frequently. I think I’m becoming – transhuman.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Meaning of Sofware?

My old Webster’s dictionary (1960) does not even list the term “software” in its entries. As recently as 50 years ago in the “development” or apparent evolution of man the concept was not widely known.

Today millions of us use software, and many humans are even well versed in the concept of “programming” – designing or directing a series of symbols to perform intended tasks using electricity and silicon.

At the same time another industry is using the most powerful computers on the planet to decode the complex set of instructions in our genetic code – the genome. It has discovered not that the genetic code is “like” software (an analogy) – but that it is in fact exactly that. Genticist Juan Enriquez has stipulated that organic life is literally an “application” – behaving according to a programmed set of instructions in its DNA.

While we still cannot create life (although scientists predict it will happen) we can reprogram it.

Here an interesting puzzle is presented.

Could software have come into existence without man – or at least intelligent life? Hardly. It is difficult to imagine software appearing in an inanimate, mechanical universe devoid of life and intelligence. Clearly in a world without humans (or intelligent life) there would be no technology.

But if Life is actually software – programmed intentionality in organic matter – is it reasonable to think that it could have “evolved” out of inanimate, mechanical stuff?

Certainly the implications are troubling – wherever the original intention behind Life’s programming – whatever its ultimate “source” – what might have created or caused that? An infinite paradox for theologians, scientists and seekers.

But the problem may not be the paradox, but the language framing it.

In posing this puzzle, we assume a level of linear causality that we have recently discovered may be entirely missing in another area of scientific inquiry – quantum physics.

Without stooping to the level of simplicity that says that all physical law is “mental” or connected to the observer or consciousness at the subatomic level (which is hard to fathom much less explain intelligently) – although it can be “felt” –

...we may nonetheless also “feel” the possibility that if our own “nature” is in fact decodable based on a set of symbols (numbers, letters, zeroes, ones), then concepts of reality pointing to the primacy of Mind over Matter – which are the basis of many ancient teachings – may be onto something very deep and true.

The decoding of the genome, for example, points quite directly to a “meaning” and “intention” in our Being – first survival – then replication – and perhaps ultimately – what? Evolution or transformation?

The development of software is a double edged sword. On the one hand it provides the potential for unparalleled control over humanity in a 1984-like scenario. What some may term degeneration of free will or involution.

On the other, it points the way toward a different level of meaning. By introducing the concept and the actual experience of an “application” – something artificial (man made) that performs intended tasks according to a [human] mental directive – an electronic being – based on human intelligence and intention – it shows how mind can shape materiality in a direct way. How a mind can exist through electrical impulses and silicon to perform intelligent, intended tasks on the human scale.

One may well ask, on what scale or in what realm of creative mental space might whatever have placed the intention or meaning within Life – our genetic code – exist?

It (God, She, He) need not exist on a material level at all. We experience the realm of thought within whatever software coexists in the operating system of our brains.

Might not a living, sentient level of thought be galvanizing the material realm, and Life on our planet, for purposes that we can barely fathom and are at a loss to explain with our feeble logic?

Monday, May 5, 2008

More Vista Stupidity

I haven't posted in a while - one reason being that maintaining my Vista "home network" is such a joy. It goes out willy nilly for no apparent reason, keeping me from moving files, accessing the web, or both.


This weekend I spent an hour resetting the network instead of watching basketball - the key point to remember is when this happens - nothing has changed - it just stops working.
I have finally learned to use the wonderful Network and Sharing Center which has the typical Microsoft circularity of diagnose and repair, which of course solves nothing.
Some of these issues are covered in the Annoyances.org website - not surprisingly the Vista Annoyances book is 664 pages long. Besides the obvious stuff I've covered here like files taking forever to move or burn to a DVD (if they even do that), and the idiocy of never having a consistent set of options in the Explorer Window (why would ever NOT want the Date Modified to appear for finding and/or sorting - yet it is NEVER there even after it's been added previously) - not being able to access the Desktop folder in Explorer in less than five clicks - the most flagrantly ridiculous aspect of Vista has to be networking.

I have been networking my PCs with Windows since 3.11.

Finally I decided to go thru the Vista web site and try to find explanations to some of my "issues" - amazingly the duplicate IP address came up as a common problem with an apparent solution - which I clicked on -- mind you this is from the Vista web site --


Forget about the inscrutable text - note the "relevant" Applies to section - it's all about Windows NT and 3.11! From the Vista web site!

Can there be any clearer testimony that this company does NOTHING to increase the stability of its product from iteration to iteration? I don't need the AERO interface - I need a networking infrastructure that WORKS CONSISTENTLY - even on Sunday morning when I want to watch basketball.

Here is a clue - if the network is working Saturday night and I DO NOTHING - it should still be working Sunday morning.

Moreover, is it too much to expect, as a home business user, that in the decades since Windows 3.11, or the five years since the initial post of this "knowledge base" article - that Microsoft might deign to actually fix the problem if IP conflicts - and perhaps make the fix transparent to the user.

...Or - failing that - at least clearly explain what the heck an DHCP server even is -- is that too much to ask?!?!

Instead they concentrate on new "features" - leaving a hole in a service that every business or even home user has a right to expect will work and perform stably.

Could a problem be the router? Of course -- since Vista needs all kinds of hardware and software upgrades to work properly.

I also saw a link for a listing of Vista supported Routers - great, another peripheral I need to upgrade for no reason. But I ran the diagnostics for my older router in Vista and it passed - so that is not the reason for my problems.

Finally, the symptom of my problem (which is nowhere covered in the Vista web pages even in the section on Win 3.11) is the sudden appearance of a duplicate network. This requires me to get rid of it by restarting my network adapter. Doubtless Windows tech support would inform me that this is a "hardware" issue -- but let's face it -- if they haven't solved the IP conflict issue since Windows 3.11 then apparently the modus operandi of making excuses instead of creating a stable working environment is not going anywhere any time soon.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Do the Math - the Meaning of Technology

Technology is often considered an indicator of the evolution of humanity, freeing it of many physical struggles and evidencing the progress of the species.

But if we grant that the essential nature of man (and woman) has not changed much in thousands of years, could the meaning implicit in technology not also be a catalyst for more profound level of evolution?

What if technology is a teaching?

Jacob Needleman, in his book “A Sense of the Cosmos”, suggests that the outer world (the physical world and the universe) is considered within many ancient religions to be the lever for the transformation of human beings from unconscious to conscious.

How might technology, as 21st century humans experience it, be instrumental in that process?

From personal experience I resisted technology early in life. As an English major I had disdain for the engineers on my college campus who had multiple pens in their breast pockets and merely tabulated, calculated and later collected sizable salaries.

Later in life I had occasion to have a number of significant experiences.

First in my reading I became fascinated by theories that the ancient Egyptians (or perhaps others who had visited Egypt) had encoded mathematical principles of the highest order in the pyramids and other ancient structures.

These structures were also speculated to have been temples (not in the modern sense) of initiation, where human consciousness might have been transformed to a higher level.

I intuitively appreciated how mathematics – the simple perfection of absolute Law (2+2=4 must be true everywhere and anywhere) might somehow be connected to such higher consciousness. On the physical plane such perfection is barely possible – exact measurement is rarely achieved – although the architects of the pyramids certainly came closer than many modern builders.
Then later in life I became fascinated by computers. My first experience was with a series of disks programmed into an IBM work processor that “taught” me how to use it.

Later I loved the process of teaching myself new “programs” – essentially active verbs or possibly even virtual life forms within the silicon that could do things and accomplish amazing feats of calculation and even graphics.

Occasionally I would hit a glitch and something “would not work.” When I was able to solve the problem it often happened that the computer had been “right” – whoever had designed the program had programmed according to a logic or math that I had not grasped – with which I was out of tune.

This alerted me to the possibility of higher impersonal intelligence. What was right was not morally right in the normal sense of the term, but rather correct in its alignment with principles of which I was yet unaware.

Becoming aware was literally enlightenment.

Now as I struggle with the meaning of my own waning physical existence I have become exposed to teachings that take a similar view of the cosmos.

They interpret the teachings of sages like Jesus, Buddha and others as not teaching insights in line with a higher personal Creator or God, but rather being in line with Nature or Life’s innate higher intelligence, as Eckart Tolle writes so eloquently in "A New Earth."

As “modern” beings we are not likely to understand the notion of physical objects as intelligent.

But what about energy?

What do we truly understand about the nature of energy?

We know that electricity is in our brains as impulses of our own thought. And we have now programmed similar electrical impulses

We know that unimaginable bursts of energy emanate through the universe and from stars like our sun.

Astronomers have speculated that remnants of the Big Bang (perhaps the first real conscious event that initiated all evolution of consciousness) still resonate throughout the universe.

If one broaches the subject of higher intelligence today the label one is given is a proponent of Intelligent Design, which is usually a front for institutional or evangelical Christianity as proof of a personal and angry or beneficent deity.

But there is a reasonable alternative – one that is being approached in science at the molecular and interstellar level.

I have written that my problems with religion began with the horrific experiences of my parents in the holocaust. My mother lost her faith while my father attributed his survival to his beliefs.

I can now take a new perspective on my father’s point of view. One winter we went to services for Yom Kippur at a congregation where we were not members. We were sent to the basement and all during the service, piped into a cramped room on speakers, we were solicited for cash.

My father left very angry, and later in life when he retired he avoided synagogues saying instead that he can commune with God just as well at sunset by the ocean.

While he never lost his belief in an anthropomorphic deity, I believe that he sensed a connection to nature and Life, based on his experiences, and of an intelligence and power of a much higher order and sought solace by connecting to it intuitively.

Technology shows us that logic and mathematics are of that higher order – they approach perfection in their certitude and also point to the inevitable fallibility of human nature.

Technology shows the potential presence of increasingly complex systems which our own ego driven and emotional natures can only dimly comprehend.

If you don’t believe this, watch the video of geneticist Juan Enriquez on the TED web site that explains how life behaves like a computer application, executing its genetic code with exquisite perfection and according to predictable mathematical principles. Of course, the ultimate complexity and level of these principles is still a mystery and withheld from our knowledge, and the subject of continued scientific inquiry.

It goes back to the experience of not understanding something about a computer but when the mystery is solved, realizing that the solution points to a system of logic that makes complete sense when understood from a perspective different, and perhaps far more advanced, than our own limited intelligence.

Ultimately technology, logic and mathematics point the way to the inevitability that life has meaning on a scale well beyond our own level of existence - where things may make sense in ways that humans cannot understand without evolving from their present state of inhumanity.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Vista Ultimate (Yeah Right)



I booted back into Vista on my desktop yesterday because it is the Ultimate version and I needed to run Virtual PC 2007, which won't run on Vista Home on my laptop. Not surprisingly after being dormant for about a month, the OS choked and on the first boot up nothing worked, including my mouse (it froze on almost every icon). I tried again and the OS came back -- I did my work (amazingly Virtual PC worked nicely) and then I figured what the heck, reward the OS with an update and its Service Pack. I got into Windows Update, saw the updates ready to download (all 398 megabytes worth) and left it alone. Several hours later I got this dialog box.

I returned to the site and tried the update again. Twelve hours later this window was still opening. How long does it take to 'prepare' to install updates. And were they ever downloaded?

The problem with Vista is it's a full time job. So I rebooted back to Windows XP. Let the sucker hibernate for another month til I need it again.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Corporate Predators

Last Friday I attended the premiere of "Burning the Future", a documentary with which an old friend is associated that provides a disturbing overview of how corporations are raping the environment of West Virginia, Kentucky and other states by cutting off the tops of entire mountains and destroying the land, killing wildlife, and poisoning the water. Here is the trailer:



This harkens back to an earlier blog entry speculating that corporations are literally the dominant life forms on the planet. That they are also predatory is no longer in question, as this film shows -- the big problem is that since they are basically etherial and virtual life forms they permit their human components to function without conscience.

Interestingly these life forms worship science and materialism as the highest value, so that their efforts induce their human components to act in a way that is pro-science, and against their conscience. The quality of conscience has atrophied in the "humans" that speak and act on behalf of these corporate monstrosities.

Unfortunately their actions also affect the livelihoods and lifestyles of millions of other humans, who must turn off their consciences in order to go along with the choices that these corporations manifest and promote through the corporately controlled mass media.

In the Q&A following the premiere the film maker made a point that in all of the CNN debates among candidates this issue was never raised, and even global warming was barely mentioned and never addressed with specificity (as a result of coal mining, for example). At the same time "Clean Coal" was a major sponsor of the debates.

Finally it is my view that the most imminent ecological disaster facing humans and all life on the planet currently has not been addressed with any sense of alarm since the days of Jacques Cousteau. The pollution and death of our oceans is almost certainly a condition from which our species will never recover and is no longer a matter of conjecture or debate. The fact that our beaches are spoiled is the least of our problems. When the reefs and sea lifeforms are dead we will starve and perhaps most profoundly higher life forms (cetaceans) will also become extinct.

Life will go on but homo sapiens may not survive. There may be some justice in that, since it is homo sapiens who triggered the evolution of the corporation -- basically a soul-less entity that is having disastrous effects on all life on this planet.

(Please see "Thoughts on the Holocaust" - February 11, 2008 in Archive)

It may well be as some have speculated that corporations and other similar institutions are harbingers of our (de)evolution into less conscious life forms like ants and bees whose identity is no longer individualized but manifest in a hive or colony.

Perhaps that is what Life has in store for us because of the threat we pose, in our corporate and institutional structures, to the totality of life on earth.

While we may see technology and the Internet, for example, as evolutionary quantum leaps forward, to the extent that they enable the continued atrophy of individual conscience and compassion, these aspects of "progress" may well result not in human empowerment, but in the control of the masses by the most venal and power hungry among us.

If that happens, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Hijacking Intelligent Design

Since 9-11 it is commonly asserted that fundamentalist Muslims have “hijacked” their religion from presumably more reasonable and mainstream believers in their faith.

Anyone who has followed the news in science recently might say exactly the same thing about the concept of Intelligent Design, and once again the culprits are fundamentalists who have co-opted a set of beliefs, in this case scientific findings, to virulently promote their own narrow interpretation.

Particularly in the fields of quantum physics and genetics, there is an increasing awareness on the part of scientists that natural phenomena cannot be explained or predicted without taking into account the presence of an underlying mental component. Heisenberg and even Einstein first introduced these concepts in physics; in genetics the implications are more subtle.

We are increasingly told about the genetic code; the genome (which is the code underlying an individual or species) has been sequenced (interpreted as a series of alphabetic letters) and at the TED conference in Monterey last year, geneticist Juan Enriquez described the apple as “an application.” When it receives enough energy from the sun the apple “executes” its code (just like a computer program) and falls from a tree.

If you’ve ever worked with computers you’ve had an experience that points to what this means (and I acknowledge that scientists are uncomfortable with the notion of meaning). You’re working on a new computer program or application, or even installing a peripheral, and it doesn’t work. You reread the manual or maybe even call a help desk, and the problem gets solved – and here’s what happens: You realize that the computer was right.

What you then realize is the device or the program functioned exactly as it was supposed to, but you misunderstood something in the instructions. The malfunction was not some random event – when you understand it from a higher perspective it makes total sense from the vantage point of your new understanding. When you can align yourself with the system that conceived the program or device, suddenly everything about the incident becomes clear – it is no longer seemingly random – it is the obvious result of comprehensible intelligence.

This is precisely the current predicament of science. As it tries to decipher nature its findings are incomplete, but in every nook and cranny they point to something unmistakable – previously the province of mystics and pantheistic religions – there is an unmistakable order, a plan and symmetry at work in nature.

But when they venture forth with these findings the results are not pretty.

Ben Stein is addressing this issue in an upcoming film, “Expelled the Movie”, in which he asserts that scientists who question some of the theories of Darwin are being expelled from universities and ostracized by their peers for being religious kooks. This is of course a frightening prospect; if findings can be empirically verified they should be allowed into science and if alternatives to Darwin’s theories are rational they should be taught.

But it’s a false conundrum. The problem isn’t Darwinism or even Evolution – it’s the issue of what originally started the ball rolling. Strict scientists believe that random acts like lightening could have triggered evolution and hence life is a random event with no meaning or mental component at work. Mystery solved.

But is it? Some geneticists claim they are years away from creating life in a test tube – but have they? It seems so far they have only created one life form from another.

If their scientific colleagues who are brushing up against the evidence of paradox in the form of a mental or intelligent component at work in nature are being unfairly banished from their positions as scientists, that is an absurdity that results from only one thing – the fact that this concept which is entirely legitimate for scientific exploration has been hijacked by fundamentalists in this country.

They want Intelligent Design taught in schools as a theory of the existence of God – essentially an anthropomorphic construct with obvious problems. We do not know anything about the existence of a God, much less which God is the right one, or what His or Her motives may be.

But we cannot allow earnest scientific investigation into a mental component of nature to be torpedoed by such a fundamentalist interpretation when it may yield immense breakthroughs in the area of medicine, space exploration and fields as yet unforeseen.

The finite human mind seems incapable of accepting an effect without a cause, and yet science is coming up against that paradox inside the atom and at the edge of the known universe. Scientists like Mani Bhaumik, inventor of Lasik and author of “Code Name God” have already begun to compare and even reconcile findings in their fields with ancient religious theories – but totally within the context of accepted scientific discovery. But such scientists do not necessarily contend, and in fact Bhaumik would surely not believe, that locating the presence of intelligence in nature proves that the earth was created in less than a week, or that a puppet master was pulling the strings in the universe or directing the lives of individuals on this planet.

Freeing ourselves from the constraints of this dichotomy, between limiting the scope of scientific inquiry or accepting beliefs based only on faith, is very likely a key to the next great quantum (pardon the pun) leaps in both science and health and we must grant our greatest minds the freedom to explore nature in its fullness, even if it leads to the conclusion that far greater minds exist.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Memories of a Survivor - Part 3

Video of my mother's recollections from her unpublished memoir,
"The Next Chapter." Her focus is not only the Holocaust, but the psychological toll of trying to readapt to a "normal" society. She also speculates about the Nazis' use of mind control and experiments in psychological terrorism on captives.
Mind games, returning to a hostile home, and reflections on God.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Memories of a Survivor - Part 2

More of my mother's recollections, focusing on techniques she observed by the Nazis for breaking down human will and ego and creating a slave labor force.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Memories of a Survivor

My mother wrote an unpublished memoir about her experiences under the Nazis called "The Next Chapter", because it mainly focused on the psychological difficulties of "readjustment" to a "normal" life. These are some portions of a video interview I conducted before her death.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Thoughts on the Holocaust

The central issue of my life has been how - if God exists - two people as incredibly loving and wonderful as my parents could have been subjected to the horrors they experienced.

Jewish thinkers like Dennis Prager have addressed this point - Prager --- argues that Jews that use the Holocaust as a reason not to believe in God are intellectually dishonest because other similar atrocities have happened throughout history . So what? I don't see that as an explanation - that nonJewish-related evil also existed so the Holocaust is what, nothing special? Hardly an explanation likely to make me embrace an angry anthropomorphic God.

And besides, as my mother told me many times, Jews were not the only victims of the Holocaust - generally free thinkers - homosexuals, communists, gypsies, Catholics - anyone who resisted "the program" were subject to extermination.

Interestingly my father still attributed his survival to his Jewish faith, while my mother completely lost her belief in any human-like higher being or power.

I have struggled with this for decades and have come to the point, like many of my contemporaries, of abandoning organized "religion" entirely.

Recently I have become exposed to a new set of ideas which have led me to the certainty that higher levels of intelligence and Life exist, and that we are subject to these forces.

I believe that technology has given us both the tools to understand, and serves as a metaphor for the existence of such higher forces - as we decode the genome we get a sense of the level of powerful intelligence required for the forces of evolution to work as they have over eons of time.

But how do we reconcile the existence of higher powers of Intelligence and Life with human barbarity? I think the answer may lie in animals as another metaphor.

When I think of the horrific world of the Nazis and the experience of my parents, I am taken by the image of ANTS. When I see nature programs of the ravages of army ants and similar insect populations slaughtering and enslaving others, I cannot see EVIL.

But is the ant barbarism genocide? Perhaps, but I see an automatic (programmed) lower form of life doing what it does.

As a child I watched with horror Disney's Living Desert where a wasp stings a spider, renders it paralyzed, and lets its babies devour the helpless spider alive.

Is this evil? No this is what Life has programmed it to do with incredible levels of intelligence beyond human comprehension.

Man, however, is the animal that can choose, can love or hate, or can revert to an automatic barbaric subhuman level of animalistic inhumanity.

Man is more and more responsible (with the growth of technology) for the environment in which animals and humans coexist.

Man may develop a conscience and act lovingly if he raises his or her level of being and influence life around him to evolve and thrive, or revert and die.

For example, man has allowed certain animals to live in his environment. In their native state, cats and dogs might be tigers or wolves. In a nurturing human environment they respond to the conscious and conscience in humans and act lovingly, manifesting in many ways the higher aspects of human beings.

But in the wild, they simply do what they were programmed to do, survive, unable by their lower nature to be receptacles and purveyors of Life energy or love. That is why killing a cougar that has ventured into "civilization" in order to survive, is appalling to many of us. We recognize that it is doing simply what Life has programmed it to do.

But humans have the ability to go either way. Their nature is determined elsewhere - be it will, conscience, heart, heredity, environment, genetics - the complexity of possibilities is endless.
Experiments in which subjects have applied torture to others simply because they were told to do so by an "expert" or "authority" show that man can either embrace a higher level of being - perhaps it takes a level of discipline or intellect and love - or be an animal - refuse responsibility, deny a conscience, and simply perform automatically - be an ANT.

Nazis learned how to program their people in this way. On a certain level they were responsible for their horrific actions but in their low level of being they were simply insect life forms inhabiting human bodies.

So how do we change ourselves to become higher life forms, incapable of genocide?

The answer to me may be in the concept of evolution. We must use technology as a lesson for how programming can lead to de-evolution (loss of responsiblity or conscience) while at the same time using the connections and immense power of technology to continue to evolve, and share the higher levels of being within us with others of our species.

The survival of our species is by no means guaranteed.

My reading has convinced me that the secret, if there is one, to such evolution is in a recognition of levels of consciousness that literally affect a reality we create through our lives and exchanges of energy with our environment and other beings.

Perhaps our task on earth is to be the intermediary of evolution so that wolf energy becomes dog energy (loving), and similarly cougar energy may evolve into cat energy - metaphorically or literally - alternatively leading to the absence of life - extinction - darkness and lack of light (evil, hate, or whatever human terminology or language may apply).

If you are interested in these ideas I highly recommend Mani Bhaumik's book Code Name God. Dr. Bhaumik is a man who went from the lowest caste in India, met Ghandi, and became a co-inventor of the Lasik laser technology, among other things. Acquiring immense wealth, he realized the shortcomings or a materially based life and investigated eastern thought from the perspective of a brilliant scientific mind. I find his analysis and suggestion that a unified field theory which may have existed at or prior to the beginning of Time (Big Bang) is analogous to the monotheistic concept of One source of Creation, and the scientific evidence that its vibration is still audible and present throughout the universe, quite an impressive synthesis of scientific and religious thought.

Another book that I have found immensely powerful is Jacob Needleman's "Why Can't We Be Good?". Needleman is a subtle proponent of some powerful ancient ideas and in this book he uses a classroom environment and his own impressive scholarship to make them accessible to readers and students.

These books and others have led me to the threshold of reconciling the paradox of a conscious and loving universal law with the reality of human cruelty. The task of man is to mediate between the animal and higher levels by living in harmony with higher levels of being, and not reverting to the programming of his physical and mental components. The higher center in man does exist, but it must be nurtured and fed with the right types of energy, and only in this way can humanity truly become human, and not live according to its insect nature.

The important thing to realize is that these are not metaphorical or figurative concepts - they are actually what is taking place on this planet through us at this moment in Time.

Attack of the Updates

Got Flash? Everyone does but it still requires a new update and occasional reboot.
Today my Vista Dell box choked on my wireless, and during my reboot my Flash update wanted to be installed - again. Then my system crashed completely.

Vista went into some kind of Restore thingee - which did not go to an option to restore to a former point as promised - and instead promised to "fix" my problem. Cancel was NOT an option. While it did its thing I mentally calculated where all my latest versions of backup were.

Miraculously it came back, offering to tell me what happened. Alas, the screen was the same useless set of files that XP used to offer, but then - shazzam - a dialog box informed me that the culprit was --- my LogiTech webcam - which needed - an UPDATE!

I clicked the link and instead of going to the proper location (which I know I could go to if I just did the update all programs thingee) I went to the main Logitech and of course the have a gazillion different web cams. I guess I will do this later - after I actually get to do - my work?

Meanwhile Flash is a mystery. Is it updated and does it need a reboot? Go figure. And then, on the desktop, come the periodic windows begging me to update/install iTunes/QuickTime.

You would wonder what the 'founding fathers' who wrote the Constitution would make of all this?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Real Meaning of "Survivor"

While watching football I could not help but be assaulted by promotions for the finale of the hit show, Survivor.

For me the term survivor has always had special significance because my parents were both actual survivors of the Holocaust. My father somehow made it through World War II, and my mother was selected to live by Mengele at Auschwitz and managed to be liberated after building airplanes as a slave laborer.

But sometimes when I am watching TV and reference to survivors of the Holocaust is mentioned, I can almost hear the collective groan in the audience – no one wants to hear about it anymore. Not the Jews again.

Still, my mother often pointed out how in her horrific past, it wasn't just the Jews, but also homosexuals, gypsies, dissidents and Communists who were systematically exterminated.

So why are people in general so tired of hearing about the Holocaust – and why is anti-Semitism so clearly on the rise? Just this week there was a brawl in the NY subway when someone said “Happy Hanukkah” in response to “Merry Christmas”, and a house in Miami was covered with Nazi graffiti.

The question remains: why are the Jews targets and why are they so despised? Certainly the perpetuated story of our killing Jesus is one reason but remember that Jesus himself was a Jew. And of course a great deal of the tension in the world can be attributed at least superficially to the presence of Israel in the midst of hostile neighbors.

So my alternative theory came about while watching "Survivor" for the first time. It occurred to me how surprised I would be if a Jew had ever actually participated in that show.

I could almost hear the dialog, “You want me to jump into that swamp? Are you insane?" Are the worms and cockroaches kosher?

Of course Jews might have written the show, but if they did, they went on strike. But the fact that I can write this openly and that Jews can be satirized in this way, and everyone will laugh, is what makes them targets.

We can take a joke. We have had no choice.

Sure, if someone says we like to Jew down the price, we may get offended. And we have the Anti-Defamation League for serious abuse – like cross burnings and murder. But most of us will shrug a stupid Jew joke off as ignorance. Plus we don’t like to fight (except the Israelis) – we’d rather go out and eat Chinese. Seriously stupid remarks by the likes of Jesse Jackson years ago will ruffle some feathers, but most of the Jews remain socially liberal and let’s face it, we love basketball.

Everyone else takes themselves very seriously and they become offended if their group is ridiculed for even its most innocuous foibles or stereotypes. Evil and hostile blacks and Arabs are hard to find on politically correct media, and even though uptight Christians have taken their lumps lately, they are quick to respond with evangelical alacrity. Look at the lawyers – they tried to pass legislation against jokes at their expense.

The Jews? They write the stuff themselves. At a comedy course I took years ago the teacher said, “Think Jewish, write gentile” – in other words, take full advantage of all of the neuroses and annoying traits you see in your (fellow) Jews and attribute them to non-Jews. People will laugh.

Name a character Finkelstein or Goldstein and you can make him the butt of almost anything.

But people who identify strongly with interest groups don't quite get it. What is it with the Jews - don't they understand that existence is serious business?

Gays can make fun of other gays, but no one else can. Ditto blacks, women, muslims, latinos – you name it.

Which brings me back to that “reality show” - Survivor. Isn’t anyone laughing at this show? These people are in “tribes”? They have serious psychological strategies? I’ll do this so they’ll think that and then this person will no longer be friends with her. I got past most of this stuff in high school.

Come to think of it, that’s why the show is obviously a success. Many of us peaked in high school.

But let’s face it, any Jew on that show is behind the camera. Wherever it’s being shot, we’re staying at the Holiday Inn.

Come to think of it, that’s probably why everyone else is pissed off.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Modern Life - Part 2

It started with noticing a charge for LA Times delivery on my credit card that seemed excessive. Like many I suppose I don't go through my bills as much as I might, and as it turned out, a phone call and long hold later, I discovered that I had in fact two subscriptions - one at a promotional rate that I knew about, another at the full rate I did not.

But as I explained to the person on the phone -- I only have one paper. She cancelled the correct subscription and arranged a credit for several similar charges. Great.

Only the next morning - no paper arrived. So another call, another hold, another explanation.

Such is life in the information age where getting a live human on the phone is a mixed blessing.

This morning I got an email from my cellular carrier telling me that the credit card where I had autobilling set up was not working anymore. That is because my credit card provider, in its infinite wisdom, had "upgraded" me to a better class of disservice.

So I tried to take advantage of this to combine my cell bill with my main phone provider (think AT&T) into one convenient bill. 45 minutes later and 2 wrong transfers to the wrong department and this was actually arranged, although it means ignoring my cell phone bill in the mail for 2-1/2 months and then paying a larger amount pro-rated. Why? Because that's their system... I had him explain it twice but there was really no fighting it. I need the phone.

And I may need a second blood pressure pill to get through the day.

But while waiting on hold I watched an episode of Cranky Geeks from PC Magazine that confirmed that I am not alone with my experience with Vista (You Cannot Be Serious - see below).

Serenity now?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Intelligent Life?

The impact on organized religion from extra-terrestrial visitation may not have materialized - yet - but the same impact can be gleaned from recent developments in computer science, nanotechnology and biotechnology/genetics.

Why does the idea that neuroscience, genetics and perhaps other fields - with their incredible complexity -have programming at their core, and show evidence of our brain or our DNA having been "intelligently designed" - buoy conventional fundamental religions?

If anything, this evidence would suggest that our anthropomorphic concepts of an angry (or loving - evidence of that?) gray bearded all knowing guy in the sky is flawed and outdated.

What this evidence might indeed suggest, instead, is that the natural universe is not an accident but that its source of creation and the laws that govern it are far beyond our comprehension.

What it may well indicate is that our senses are constrained and limited in their ability to comprehend reality, or that we must rethink our very concept of mind, matter, spirit, energy and particularly intelligence.

Humanity's invention of the computer (which has led us to the concept of programming and its mathematical principles as a living metaphor) may just be a fundamental step in our evolution from primitive mob driven religions to a deeper understanding of our true place in life -- with the realization that its mysteries are far deeper than previously thought.

As we discover evidence of programming (i.e., conscious reproducible instructions) in genetics and neuroscience (which would have made no sense before the Enlightenment and advent of technology) we need to expand our cosmology and religious concepts accordingly.

For one thing, the level of sophistication of the "program" that suggests that all life is indeed intelligent (or created) makes it obvious that the level of knowledge and power of whatever created life (since we can't) and programmed it in ways we are just beginning to comprehend is of an order of magnitude higher than anything we can even remotely fathom.

Calling this God without a scientific definition based on empirical evidence in line with modern science is ultimately meaningless. It is like assigning it an ultimate variable for which we have no value.

From this perspective, organized religion seems to be like the musings of an ant living in a giant garden or a huge estate in pontificating about the true nature of the king or president of the country in which the estate is located - so far removed in level and knowledge that all of its prattling is idle chatter.

What the presence of a mind (or an incomprehensible intelligent energy or force) behind life at its core (in the brain and in the genes) suggests instead is that our brain is limited in its capacity to even understand a fraction of its true nature.

If you have any doubt about this, go outside at night and look at the stars and try to comprehend the vast distances they represent. Then try to think outside of that space.

You can't. If you could, you might begin to understand the meaning of an intelligence behind life.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why I Skipped CES

If you go to CES you can look at a billion bluetooth headsets, not learn how to create programs for cell phones or really find anyone who knows what Bluetooth is and can explain it in english. Ditto InfoComm. PowerPoint LIVE thrives because it still captures some of that energy. People are solving content creation and delivery problems but basically that whole community is in the Presentations Council, PowerPoint LIVE, the PowerPoint MVP/Newsgroup and that's it.

So the Post COMDEX InfoComm/CES world is devoid of real emergent software issues - it's truly dumbed down plug and play with only three major players left in the interactive software space - Microsoft, Adobe and arguably Apple (apologies to TechSmith-anyone remember Ulead?). They have their own conferences for their own developers and high end users and there is no overlapping conference for people trying to make sense of the whole thing (because that is no longer remotely possible -anyone here use Vista?).

The Flash/Macromedia/Apple people look down on PowerPoint (and the rest of the Presentations world) and have their own conferences and inhabit different solar systems. Programmers and Game Developers are in different galaxies.

While AV has merged with IT, the IT is now redefined as web/security/network/telcomm-hardware oriented. There is not the same intellectual challenge in terms of mastering new software or techniques - there is security and dealing with the muddle of Vista/Office 2007 but everyone does video now, everyone uses PowerPoint, everyone makes animated GIFs, sets up projectors and makes web pages and blogs. Even though Microsoft tries to pretend that there is really new stuff in Office, it's mostly window dressing and it's not significantly growing or expanding in scope and features (only in frustration).

The real experts creating breakthroughs do it in isolated silos of software and by our nature, as generalists, we are becoming obsolete. That is until someone needs to connect a projector to a laptop. Then they call us or read archived editions of Presentations or figure it out on Google.

The train has left the station as far as all encompassing venues where people from different technology worlds and tracks interact, grow and learn. Chances are we're all doing our own blogs and reinstalling Windows but it you want to see the future get a satellite set top box/DVR - it's dummy proof, you can figure it out without a manual, it rarely crashes and when it does you call a guy in India who hangs up on you. That's the future of computing.

19 Years to Move 3 Folders?


... I'm not sure if my battery will make it that long. This is in addition to the time it takes to "calculate" how long it will be. Apparently Microsoft has a Vista patch to take care of this issue, but you need to contact Tech Support.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Vista - You Cannot Be Serious


This is how Vista burns a DVD! Your options are to purchase an upgrade to a burning program because the ones that worked with XP don't work with Vista. You also need to check your settings because if you choose incorrectly the disc will only be readable on Vista... maybe...

Thursday, January 17, 2008