Saturday, August 23, 2008

TED Talks, the Future, and Collaboration

If you haven't seen this one yet, Clay Shirky talks about the differences between institution and collaboration, and what social interaction is going to look like in the future. If you're a fan of open source, what he has to say may hold very promising. From what I understand, he's saying that the huge influx of our information age enables organizations to sort information and contribute knowledge, not by professionalizing (or institutionalizing), but by opening the gates to everyone. The results are far from anarchy. Instead we see a major increase in participation, innovation and progressiveness. He uses the example of Linux and open source software- the fact that one person can develop a program, never be hired professionally, and better Linux without every looking back, is a new and vital tool for media developers, social networks and so much more. In short, I think, open-source is the future. A flexible way to handle the information age without getting overloaded (at least not too much.) Flickr, Digg, and Reddit come to my mind instantly; can you name a few more? The future doesn't look so bleak after all...  

here's the video:

Sunday, August 17, 2008

2081

"Everyone Will Finally Be Equal," seems like an awesome film! Originally a story by Kurt Vonnegut, it tells the tale of a dystopian future, where everyone is equal- but not in the way we idealized.

The website writes,

Based on the short story Harrison Bergeron by celebrated author Kurt Vonnegut, 2081 depicts a dystopian future in which, thanks to the 212th Amendment to the Constitution and the unceasing vigilance of the United States Handicapper General, everyone is finally equal... The strong wear weights, the beautiful wear masks and the intelligent wear earpieces that fire off loud noises to keep them from taking unfair advantage of their brains. It is a poetic tale of triumph and tragedy about a broken family, a brutal government, and an act of defiance that changes everything.



Vonnegut was certainly big on social commentary in his writings (so it seems), and I look forward to this film. It is definitely taking a swing at the relativism/pluralism/politically correct ideologies of the present day, and warning us of a future they may bring, should we not be careful what we wish for. I'll definitely be checking this one out when I can.

You can watch the trailer here:

Letter to a Post-Modernist


The dissolution of the meta-narrative allows us to see the underlying vast network of "micro-narratives," as if unearthing a simplistic skin to observe a networking root of vines, earth, and complex structures. Like lifting a rock to see the vast life beneath, we see what we have been missing from our understanding. The importance of each leaf, twig, tunnel and worm become vastly more interesting than the concealing rock above, but take note; it is important not to forget how these vast web of life is itself a greater picture. Note the worm that builds the tunnels, that the beetles crawl through, observe the spider, spinning webs around roots, the centipedes and millipedes- all these things are interwoven, no matter what their individual intricacy.

See the wonder of this microcosm, but do not hesitate to sink deeper into the earth, to see the greater flowing networks that bind life and, dare I say, a new grand-narrative, a web of holistic patterns emerges- one that is always flowing and growing, emerging and manifesting in vibrant patterns like life itself. Your awe, wonder and adventure within each microcosm may be valued to greater and greater degrees, but do not forget that all that is, no matter how small, is in relation to other. There are revelations in recognizing the spider web, and not getting caught one one thread or another.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Thich Nhat Hanh

"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"The Clash Between Reason and Faith" - Sam Harris

Found an interesting video of Harris discussing the basic points given in his books. Watch it, and let me know what you think of his points.











Monday, August 4, 2008

Post-Cognitive

Beyond our faculty of knowledge, the mind rests in 'being.' Ultimately "Budh," to awaken, know or perceive- Bodhati. 


We look, therefore, to see if it is possible that the mind and consciousness itself have greater functions than cognitive. We ask if we may already have a, "Freedom from the known." We may perceive "gnosticism" - true know, which is not merely apprehending knowledge through memory and reason.


Mysticism only appears to be elusive due to its wordless, transrational nature. Its functioning is post-cognitive. That meaning beyond the reasoning faculties of the mind. It somehow utilizes a higher, more direct faculty which apprehends "what is" on a direct and non-conceptual basis.


Zen Buddhism, D.T. Suzuki (Excerpt)

"I said that Zen is mystical. This is inevitable, seeing that Zen is the keynote of Oriental culture; it is what makes the west frequently fail to fathom the depths of the Oriental mind, for mysticism in its very nature defies the analysis of logic, and logic is the most characteristic feature of Western thought. The East is synthetic in its method of reasoning; it does not care so much for the elaboration of particulars as for a comprehensive grasp of the whole, and this intuitively. Therefore the Eastern mind, if we assume its existence, is necessarily vague and indefinite, and seems not to have an index at which once reveals the contents to an outsider. The thing is there before our eyes, for it refuses to be ignored; but when we endeavour to grasp it in our hands in order to examine it more closely or systematically, it eludes and we lose its track. Zen is provokingly evasive. This is not due of course to any conscious or premeditated artifice with which the Eastern mind schemes to shun the scrutiny of others. The un-fathomableness is in the very constitution, so to speak, of the Eastern mind. Therefore, to understand the East we must understand mysticism; that is, Zen.


It is to be remembered, however, that there are various types of mysticism, rational and irrational, speculative and occult, sensible and fantastic. When I say that the East is mystical, I do not mean that the East is fantastic, irrational and altogether impossible to bring within the sphere of intellectual comprehension. What I mean is simply that in the working of the Eastern mind there is something calm, quiet, silent, un-disturbable, which appears as if always looking into eternity. This quietude and silence, however, does not point to mere idleness or inactivity. The silence is not that of the desert shorn of all vegetation, nor is it that of a corpse forever gone to sleep and decay. It is the silence of an "eternal abyss" in which all contrasts and conditions are buried; it is the silence of God who, deeply absorbed in contemplation of his works past, present, and future, sits calmly on his throne of absolute oneness and allness. It is the "silence of thunder," obtained in the midst of the flash and uproar of opposing electric currents. This sort of silence pervades all things Oriental. Woe unto those who take it for decadence and death, for they will be overwhelmed by an overwhelming outburst of activity out of the eternal silence. It is in this sense that I speak of the mysticism of Oriental culture. And I can affirm that the cultivation of this kind of mysticism is principally due to the influence of Zen."

-Zen Buddhism, D.T. Suzuki

A Call for an Open Spirit

Who are we now,
But boxed candles,
Consuming our last gasp?

What are we but,
Spiraling bubbles,
Tumbling to the surface?

Evaporating,
Merging,
We never left from the start.

Being,
Fighting,
Who is there between the water's edge,
And the roaring sky?

Do not fret,
You are already there.
Do you see?

Opening,
The sun peers over the timeless earth,
Closing,
The Moon stretches over vibrant night.

There is nothing more or less to be.
What more do we have to see,
to remain in the place which is neither
Dusk nor dawn?

The sun tempts to rise again,
Lose yourself,
at first light.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Answer to Post Modernism

No matter what academic department you'll find yourself in, this is the most they can or want to offer:


Modernism: Belief that reason is humanity's trump card. Rational thinking and high-cognitive faculties are our greatest potential. With them, we can understand and explain away everything. We can even create grand-unified theories.


Post-Modernism: Reason is not humanity's trump card. Things are much more complicated than that. The world is a dynamic, complex environment which simple abstract thoughts over-generalize and often marginalize many points of view. Science, reason and the enlightenment age are not the answer.


But Post-modernism doesn't provide anything but a critique of modernism: break things down, complicate them, see the dynamics, see how everything is ultimately relative- too complex to ever generalize. 


Well, if you look at that for a few minutes, you begin to notice it's not really doing anything but critiquing its predecessor. 


All it can do is tear down a flawed house, and point out every flaw within it.


But it offers no alternatives.


In a metaphor, it is likened to two men lost in a forest. One of them has developed a close-circle logic on how to get back to camp. It failed, not taking into account the dynamic nature of the trees, the hills, etc. It didn't fit nicely in a box.


So his friend yells at him, telling him, "It's way too wild out here, no way to box it in like that! Now we're just lost!"


But there is a third option here neither are getting.


Say they bump into a third man, who, instead of either build up artificial concepts, or breaking them down, just decides to look at the trees.


And he starts to look at the hills.


And starts seeing natural patterns that arise.


"There is a river, we were by the river. Maybe if we follow it..."


And so he ultimately overcomes the sea of complexity by discovering patterns, and tendencies in the intricacy. 


This is in itself a more evolved form of science, because it requires a more developed sense of perspective. Nevertheless I argue that we all have it.


But, the answer to post modernism is simple: Pattern, tendency, Potential and Correlation.


Seeing underlying causes, roots within the intricacy. Ironically, the best of both modernism and post modernism.


To give one final example:


Notice if you will, that a brain up close appears to be a complex, overwhelming network of cells, organic and not clearly fitting into right angles and grids. It's a mess up close, or at least appears to be.


But if we take a step back, and start looking at the patterns, the net, we see different parts, different functions, deeper parts and more root functions.


We see that the brain has evolved from its former state, the reptilian brain. Yet the reptilian brain stem is not "Inferior" or "oppressed." It isn't over-looked or neglected. It is seen as a part of a larger, functioning whole- in which we don't have hierarchy but obvious layers of increasing complexity, and eventually, consciousness.


And imagine if the only thing we did, was to simply say: Too complex, too organic, too dynamic to understand. We would never have gotten this far in the first place. So I leave you with a thought; that critique, de-construction and dispelling of generalizations is a vital tool for understanding (And in a sense is a way of seeing deeper perspectives), but so too is seeing the forest through the trees. Thankyou.


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