This planet, Earth

On the middle part of the North American continent, with noncontiguous parts involved, a 24-hour period of time set aside to remember dead humans who swore to protect and defend a social group, an organised cultural entity called a government named the United States of America.

On this day, many celebrate family ties.

Some, like me, spend time with family but also spend hours in a work shift collecting blood from donors to save lives of civilians and government military workers as needed.

Our species is built to compete against and cooperate with members of its kind for planetary resources, resorting to organised violent attacks sometimes.

Remembering the sets of states of energy no longer actively participating in our daily lives helps us relearn what they learned but also to live and learn more.

The apparent opposite poles of war and peace are illusions.

We flesh eaters burn a lot of energy, that is all.

How we burn energy in the future is the debate of which I’m most interested today.

The dead and fallen give us the right and permission for such a debate any day, of course.

Let’s start now…

Recognition

Mr. Hawking,

We don’t talk to each other but your words reach me all the same.

I understand your concern about humanity’s future.

The solar system doesn’t care, it will go on even if civilisation collapses in this millennia-long expansion of our species’ boom/bust cycle.

We may not be the civilisation that expands into the galaxy.

I hope we are but it’s not a requirement, only a possibility.

We may just send probes that float out past the solar system.

It’s not enough, you and I want more human space exploration, but our species wants more, too — refrigerated/processed food, quick(er)/automated transportation devices and holidays away from home.

Who’s going to sacrifice their beachfront megaresort moneymaker (and high social/economic/environmental infrastructure cost) for a Martian R&D outpost?

Which offshore cash-rich corporation will volunteer to pay more taxes to fund space exploration rather than reward stockholders?

Who’s going to tell little Johnny that he’s not going to get his own all-terrain vehicle because it burns polluting fossil fuel and tears up land where a rare flower grows?

That, Stephen, is the dilemma we face when the commoners are bombarded with mimd-numbing political/sports/entertainment news from birth.

I love science and engineering but it’s never an easy sell, especially when Chicken Little is crying, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

Let’s show the people how space colonisation is an integral positive part of the entertainment network and they’ll play along without batting an eye.

Sincerely,

Rick

Grand eloquence

In the global economy and more specifically, locally, war is big business — metallic ballistic missiles, cyberwar, etc.

With war follows the lawyers defining legalities.

And everywhere, statistics.

In the midst of all that, I live.

What “I” is will always be up for debate but generally I is enough of an entity on human timescales for other humanlike entities (including animals, insects, plants, bacteria, etc.) to respond to.

In other words, it’s the scale that matters.

Scalar.

Blind justice.

Location data tracking.

Windmills.

Asphalt shingles.

Rotting decks.

We pretty much understand the meaning of the last six words/phrases in our time and on our timescale.

Which reminds me, I need to clean off the sticks, twigs and limbs that have collected on my roof since it was replaced a year and a half ago — yeah, I’m that lazy.

In my thoughts, I give myself the freedom to live wherever I please, the only true illusion of freedom I have because scale has no meaning in my imagination (although in reality, scale means everything to my thought processes).

At my age, I have explored most of the thoughts and subcultures I’ve wished or been able to explore.

My curiosity thrives but my willingness to move this post middle-aged body diminishes slightly.

Yet, billions of people live together on this planet, some newly released from their incubating wombs, some returning to a womblike state ensconced in a coffin — millions and millions of them yearn for a life full of sated curiosity states, regardless of scale.  Some will satisfy themselves with the simple lessons taught them by parents who wish to carry on old traditions, curiosity not encouraged or thought of.

Who am I to say what is right or wrong about how any one of us lives?

All I can do is observe and learn, applying the information, knowledge and wisdom I’ve gained to myself at timescales I can work with, using the tools at my disposal or the materials I can reach/afford to build my own tools.

This week, I relax, take a break from pushing my writing capabilities that can inhabit the thought sets of people unlike myself — be me for once.

I pull back into the scientist/engineer role most familiar to me, analysing data from experiments set up for my use.

It frees me to explore the universe without getting involved in local subcultures and accidentally revealing trade secrets in my confessional style of writing.

I don’t like keeping secrets.  I left the world of commercial electronic product development in part because I was no longer interested in climbing the corporate ladder where secret plans and pacts increased the higher you climbed.

The same is true of the subcultures I’ve participated in.  When participation requires keeping secrets, I return to my core self where I can be whomever I wish to be and write about it.

I’ve chosen to limit my friendships and work relationships in return for my personal freedom.

My father, a cousin of mine and friends in corporate management never understood that I could keep secrets like the best of them, even better than some, and yet was willing to walk away from a lucrative career for so-called intellectual freedom.

I don’t have a dogmatic philosophy to fall back on and quote at this point.

All I have is this space here, where I can write to myself everyday just as I used to sit with my mother after school everyday and recount in boring detail what happened at school, or talk on the phone for hours with my father, recounting what for him was thrilling detail about my corporate advancement, while I sought advice from both as to the best way to proceed with interpersonal relationships.

My wife has served as that sounding board until recently when I wanted to explore the mental possibilities of life without her; I then brought her into the conversation to give me something to write about after the fact.

I should walk around with a warning sign around my neck, “If he gets bored, look out!  He’ll find a way to make life around you thrilling enough for him to write about!”

That’s it for today.

I’m switching from the day shift at work to the evening shift, freeing my days to be by myself again, releasing me from the pressure to have to pretend to want to spend time with my wife and friends.

One thing about my self-aware autism, it borders on being sociopathic, which means I try to make up for it by turning on my empathy network when I’m with other people, which burns me out eventually.

It’s best when I’m alone with my own thoughts to analyse in cold, detached nonemotional laboratory conditions.

It’s why I love my life as a blood courier, helping to save lives while I’m left alone to drive for hours at a time each day, watching the world go by like an amusement ride, entertaining my own thoughts while I think up a new blog entry to write, turning on my charm and empathy as needed.

Pushing through the muck

Lee had not forgotten about life on Mars.

The colonisation process occupied the widest path in his thoughts.

Lee practiced being human and detoured from the path to remind himself of the frailties he once faced daily.

He reminded himself of love, what it was like to converse in realtime without the safety of the Internet between two people, having to see into each other’s smiles, smell each other’s bodies, risk tripping over words and word meanings.

But Mars was always there.

He challenged himself and the team to make AI entities more humanlike for the human tourists who visited the Moon and Mars.

Not “uncanny valley” human.

Less mechanistic.

More compassionate and understanding, able to read emotional states in silent interchanges between AI and humans.

Not just behavioural science but a more scientifically holistic approach to human-machine interface.

How to understand unspoken painful memories.

How to interpret sarcastic statements without knowing the socioeconomic subcultural history of the speaker/writer.

Lee expected perfection and settled for nothing less.

He set the example of himself to the team, willing to face his own deep, dark secrets and painful memories to program and test AI algorithms against the rest of the team, refining the code so that it was not tuned to a single personality archetype or body type.

He had been an artist from childhood.

But he was also a scientist and engineer.

A computer engineer and social engineer.

Computers programmed to perform only a few functions could be seen as megalomaniacs and single-minded narcissists from the wrong perspective.

Lee preferred the 360-degree view.

Act Two enters Stage Left

Lee walked around the wooded neighbourhood with his wife one last time.

He wanted a pleasant memory to go with the times he’d hiked with her on the Appalachian Trail when they were 14 years young, or when they tubed down a river near Banner Elk, NC, at the age of 12, burning their skin to blisters.

Penpals for six years, dated for six years, married for over 30 years.

After their walk, Lee lit a small piece of peat turf he’d brought with him from Ireland, a nod not only to the times he’d worked on the Emerald Isle but also to shared ancestry with his wife and their recent trip to England and Ireland.

Lee lived a narrative tale, thought out years in advance, able to laugh at the universe and its way of interrupting plans, rewriting narrative, redirecting storylines and plots.

Lee hadn’t meant to meet Guin.

But it happened.

As his wife said, she had pushed him for 25 years to go dancing and she was losing him to very thing that she thought she wanted to do more than he did.

But she wasn’t losing him to dance.

She was giving Lee the extrovert freedom he’d craved from their honeymoon onward, noticing she shushed him and slapped his arm whenever he acted like himself.

She had given him stability when his extroversion knew no end.

But it had driven him to suicide, knowing inside that his extroversion was a symptom not the cause of his acting out.

Guin had given Lee free rein for his extroversion, which was the calming effect he didn’t know he had sought.

They had fallen in love and fallen out of love, walked toward each other, almost ran, bouncing up and down, itching to dance, and walked away, exploring other avenues of thought and action, not talking for months.

Lee watched men and women come and go in Guin’s life, not getting in the way of her freedom to be herself.

Sometimes, neither thought the other might show back up.

But they persevered.

It was for something greater that they had become friends for life.

Lee drew a long breath of turf smoke into his lungs, igniting memories of Ireland, old memories, centuries old, of working the land, of close-knit communities, of families helping families.

Lee loved life.

He loved living large.

He also preserved time to write about his life.

Lee watched cars go by the front of the house from his viewing point in the sunroom, the steel-blue sky silhouetting trees standing still in the hot spring evening like statically charged hair standing on end.

Would this be the last time he sat out here alone?

How did Guin fit into the rest of his life?

A tree frog glued to a sunroom window croaked.

Lee sipped tea from the tentacled mug he’d bought at Lowe Mill, becoming instant friends with Sycat, who turned clay into art from which one drank tea or served cookies surrounded by an octopus or lizards frozen at play.

How did Guin fit into the rest of his life?

He didn’t need to ask her.

They were artists at heart, just like their shared group of friends and their friends they didn’t share.

Artists fit into each other’s lives like jigsaw puzzle pieces that changed shape at will, making a bigger picture together.

Lee no longer worried about a future without Guin.

Lee knew where he was going.

He’d planned it for decades.

He just hadn’t known who was going along with him.

He saw his face reflected in a sunroom mirror and smiled at himself.

He nurtured enough of his doubts to give his confidence an extra balancing boost, his form of mindful meditation, a built-in self-diagnostic test he’d developed in conjunction with his work on CPUs as a teenager in the 1970s.

He didn’t mind looking back on his life and recalling the fond memories he’d shared with others, including his wife; after all, the memories had formed and would continue to form who he was in the moment.

Accepting rather than denying his whole being, the everchanging set of states of energy in motion, had taken him to this moment, a moment full of anticipation, full of uncertainties, full of thrills, chills and falls.

Lee nodded.

One more trip with his family in its current shape to celebrate a college graduation, Mother’s Day and a couple of birthdays.

And then…?

Is it already too late for humans? Or is it never too late?

Whether sitting in an ivory tower or the Eiffel Tower, one understands that the meditative stance is the trance one achieved long ago.

Detaching human names from accomplishments, ideas and pronouncements, one observes the local phenomena of fractal spinoffs in a single solar system and nods in agreement with oneself that all is as it should be.

In one’s life, briefer than a wooden match burns to light a candle, one learns that being busy is not the same as goal-oriented activity.

One’s goals include lighting a candle for every human one knows and two for every human one does not know.

Do lumens illuminate?

What are names?

Only labels or symbols?

If an infant is assigned the name 345#%9*0hoj4;ls’, what is the effect on that person’s life?

Is your name a password?  To open/access what?

What is language?

The Sun speaks to the balls of rock and gas circling it in a language of its own star class within the larger class of celestial bodies in motion.

We make headway in social changes using our own unwritten languages, forging agreements in thin air, in brightly-lit spaces and dark, dank rooms.

Two ideas in opposition meld when mutual benefit is found in the right bullet points.

Violence is not inherent in the system, simply a carryover of our barbarian, animalistic behaviours when civilisation was still in its infancy — it will be part of our civilisation for many, many more generations to come, no doubt, coded in our genetic traits such as “fight or flight”.

Changing the topic, the subject, the object of inequality is a choice we make, deciding where the imbalance of the flow of natural resources is, finding its weighted center and shifting it first in our thoughts and then in our physical actions.

Working with those whom we perceive are pushing the inequality on us is not always the first choice in our tendency to see violence and resistance as part of the natural order.

We can choose to be Sisyphus or the boulder.  We can take the boulder away from Sisyphus and replace it with an idea whose weight is determined by its impact on others, giving Sisyphus a new meaning while performing the same task.

The best way to address inequality: change the rules of the game, change the playing field or choosing not to play?

What if the word inequality itself is a misnomer?

What if one side falls into the trap of believing it’s supposed to play the role of victim or victor?

In the competition and cooperation for the use of natural resources — locally limited, nearly universally unlimited — one makes choices, one has opportunity costs, sunk costs and hidden costs.

Avoid doublespeak in one’s thoughts to directly address the concept of inequality.

Use one’s language to understand the core issues, listening to the description of the core issues in the languages of others to see where the language barrier is the strongest and sometimes only core issue.

Inequality is a concept.

Equality is a work in progress, the daily interaction that requires nothing more than understanding we who use this language are humans sharing the same genetic code.

Lord of the Dance of the Crane Flies

What is the future?

The future, as they say, is now.

And Now.

Now.

And Then.

The future is another illusion, but one we can work with using project schedules.

Lee looked at his reflection in the puddle of water.

He felt young but looked old to people, even to people older than him.

He was old and wise.

Hundreds of marsyears had wisened him up.

Age was just a number.

As many times as Lee had renewed, recycled and replaced his body functions, he was ageless in a way that only scifi writers had dreamt of.

The algorithms coded in his wetware parts optimised themselves in their own wise feedback loops, running self diagnostic tests against subassembly test result expectations, rarely reaching his high-level “conscious” internal running commentary but he knew they were there.

Cancer had been cured, extending lives and changing society — retirement was another illusion, work no longer something to be feared as delaying one’s few years of freedom before death.

Inequality lived on due to barriers for entry into closed groups but the group types changed.

Lee meditated upon his image.

He let his face age, his ears droop, his nose grow wider.  He valued the perception of aging as a reminder that he was still partially human in the old-fashioned sense.

But he was no the natural-born human named Lee.

He was an approximation of that person, with qualities like “better than” or “worse than” impossible to say.

He was different.

Always had been.

Just like everyone else.

He was not even “he” in the classic sense.

He had learned the secret to longevity — it included a genderless mode that encompassed and bypassed a single gender at the same time.

Lee had fought the secret for a long time, trapped as he was at the time in preserving an imaginary society of fixed gender roles given to him by his parents, who had convinced him to join secret societies that perpetuated the same myths handed to them by ancestors.

Lee was not an ancestor worshipper.

Lee was Lee, an illusion of self, falsely convinced by a mirrorlike reflection of a self-contained, self-sufficient sets of states of energy in constant motion.

Lee was the center of Lee’s imaginary universe.

And when Lee discovered that, Lee was free of being any one Lee for any period of time.

As far as Lee knew, Lee was the universe.

Which meant Lee was everything and nothing all at once.

Thus Lee was able to live on Mars without the restrictions of a natural-born human.

Lee was everywhere at the same time.

But Lee had to make that transition a public event, with the usual expectations of gossip-fueled misinterpretation, resistance, acceptance, support and denial.

Lee started out living in the world of humans but didn’t end up there.