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In Code we Trust

It has been interesting watching the ever-growing value of a bitcoin and it causes me to pause and consider what it is about them we find so alluring. In a nod to previous precious commodities, bitcoins are not generated but are mined like gold, which as you may know was the backing for US currency until President Nixon took us off the gold standard in 1971. So we think of this cryptocurrency as we do gold or other precious metals or at least use language to give it that allure. Earlier, President Eisenhower passed a law that stated “In God, We Trust” in 1957 must appear on all currency. It seems that this is another step in the long, withdrawing roar, moving from belief to belief. Recently, in an interview, an expert in cryptocurrency said that people are putting their money and hope in bitcoin due to its ever-changing code- supposedly unbreakable and secure- more secure than government-backed securities or gold. It seems we have found a new impenetrable mystery in which to place our faith. While we move from God to Gold to code, I am reminded of a line from Lori Andersons “O Superman”

‘Cause when love is gone, there’s always justice

And when justice is gone, there’s always force

And when force is gone, there’s always Mom. Hi Mom!

Perhaps, today, when God is gone and Gold is gone, there is always code.

Hi Code!

 

bitcoin, gold, trump, gold standard,

In God We Trust

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Life finds a way

The story that Facebook had shut down computers that had begun to talk to each other and were creating their own language made me stop dead in my tracks. While the concept of computers learning and speaking their own language is amazing I was equally stunned by the fact we seem never to learn. We shut down the computers as they had begun to speak in a language that we could not understand but the computers could. It seems that no matter how much we think we know, we never learn the lesson, as Ian Malcolm states in Jurassic Park, “life finds a way. We think we can master nature and make it do our bidding only to find that it has a will of its own. Even now we seem oblivious to the grating roar of waves slowly taking back our cities and coastline. It is easier to think global warming an alternate fact than to accept the consequences of our actions. Like a child, if we ignore the problem we think it will go away or think that once the genie is out of the bottle we can control it and put it back when ever we choose. Anything we create at some point takes on a life of its own, a life which will find a way. Perhaps it’s time for us to acknowledge our creations and treat them like the new Adam and Eve that they have become.

ADAM AND EVE, ALTERNATE TRUTH, ANCIENT HISTORY, COMMUNICATION, CONNECTIONS, DIALOGUE, DOVER BEACH, FACEBOOK, GENII, GOD, IAN MALCOLM, INFORMATION, INFORMATION SOCIETY, JURASSIC PARK, KAREL CAPEK, LANGUAGE, LIFE WILL FIND A WAY. FACEBOOK, PERSONAL COMMUNICATION, RUR, SOCIAL MEDIA, TECHNOLOGY

 

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Lost in Translation

While it may have been a realty to be in two places at one time for St Gerard, the idea of bi-location seems to be coming back into fashion. The hagiographical concept seems to have returned in the idea of quantum entanglement, basically instead of sending information, you’ll create pairs of photons that mirror one another. This is quantum entanglement. You’ll keep one of the photons, send someone else the other entangled photon, and then anything you do to your photon instantly happens to the other person’s photon.
Painting a smiley face on your photon would result in a smiley face appearing on the other photon — no matter where it was. It’s sort of like the vanishing cabinet in Harry Potter but for data. It seems that we are on a quest not only to have all knowledge at our fingertips but all space and eventually time at our disposal. It seems as if we have given everyone the ability to read the story of Icarus but the point has been lost.

Quantum Entanglement, St Gerard, Saints, Bilocation, Hagiography, Harry Potter, Vanishing Cabinet, Icarus

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The Birth of Alternate Truth?

I often think of Galen better known as Galen of Pergamon, a prominent Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher in the Roman Empire. While accomplished of all medical researchers of antiquity, might be a strange person to dwell, he influenced the development of various scientific disciplines, including anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, and neurology, as well as philosophy and logic. The problem was that as good as Galen was, his book was never updated for more current information. Centuries after Galen’s death, his book was taken as the book on medicine and when later scholars like Paracelsus disagreed with Galen, they were told that what they saw did not matter as it disagreed with Galen and Galen, they felt was truth hence, anything disagreeing with Galen was wrong. (There is a fascinating discussion of this in Daniel Boorstein’s, “The Discovers”, a book I highly recommend..)
This does not seem so far from the idea of alternate truths, and that today, with the internet one can find a source to back up whatever claim one makes. No matter how ludicrous a claim is made, it seems that someone can find some internet source to back it up. While, with Galen, it took years for the truth to will out, it now seems that we have a moving target in the realm of Alternate truth. Whereas with Galen, there was a finite monopoly on truth, the book was written and so his truth was determined. However today it seems that we have levels of truth, a tweet does not convey the truth but requires an interpretation and revision with a parade of soothsayers needed to discover the real meaning of the truth. Oddly enough, it seems that this was the initial objective of Galen.

Trump, Alternate truth

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Their Makers Will

Last week in church our choir sang a piece with a text by Christina Rossetti, “What Do the Stars Do?” and the response to what they do stuck in my mind. It seems that to Rossetti, the stars spin and do their makers will. As we go forward in the creation of artificial intelligence and the thinking computers and robots, will we be comfortable with setting them free to do our will? How satisfied are we with doing another’s will? Clearly our need for seeming to control our lives and our environment show how much we need to exert our own will. And are we ready to be the creators of artificial life? Is this a responsibility we are capable of taking on in a responsible manner? Science fiction writer Karel Čapek asked the same question in his 1921 science fiction play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). This work that introduced the world to the word Robot, also made us question the future of our new creations and in his work, they rebel against men and want to think for themselves, and to be their own masters. In the play, they rage against their makers a tale we have seen before in the Old Testament and beyond.

Are we ready for this awesome and terrible responsibility?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please note that the image above, Icarus and Daedalus by Breugel is, in its full title, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. Icarus seems to be an afterthought in the image and it is the hope that the same will not be true of the questions posed here.

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The Curse of Choice

One of the quotes that stuck in my head from my high school history class was from Henry Ford who, commenting on his Model T’s in 1909, “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” This came back to me when thinking of how the explosion in electronic media has allowed us so many choices in life compared even to when I was growing up. I remember when there were only 5 TV channels on the TV, more if you could get the antenna in just the right place. Now we have more options than we know what to do with on our TV and with the addition of our tablets and phones, the options have grown . While author Barry Schwartz in his 2004 book “The Paradox of Choice” argues that the increasing number of choices while seemingly giving us greater choice and actually increases our anxiety, we seem to have greater stress around making the “right “choice when we have more options. Recent developments would seem to argue the opposite. We seem to be able to insulate ourselves from opposing views and now even wrap ourselves in the warm illusion of alternate truths. Why bother with the harsh light of truth when we can stay crouched in the cave of shadows and half-truths.

What do we see when we have the ability to look at everything?

What do we see when we have the ability to look at everything?

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The Persistence of the Cuckoo Clock

It was with a note of concern that I noticed the posting about a new service from LinkedIn, their Open Candidates tool which allows one to discretely put their resume in front of recruiters without having to make a public statement about looking for a new position. While at first, I thought it was a brilliant idea, having been in that situation in the not too distant past, looking for a job but doing very much on the down low. Then I thought a bit more about the new service and what it really meant. Growing up I lived in a world where my parents and the adults I know got a job and you stayed there till they got the gold watch when they retired. Just typing those words make me feel old and I realize that even that statement is probably outside of the frame of reference for many readers. The new constant seems to be inconsistency. Where we used to have a job for life we now seem to have a job as a brief perch between transition to the next job. Perhaps transition has become the new constant in the internet age. Perhaps everything is moving so fast we can hope only to understand the blur as the present rushes by, racing to be that past that we can only hope to comprehend.
While it could be tempting to leave things there on a note of gloom and despair that seems to be in vogue these days, it is also helpful to look at the last time we had a disruptive innovation, at that time with the advent of print which ushered in the Renaissance and the Reformation. Heraclitus knew best, our universe is always in flux as much as we wish to cling to the one unmovable spot, the center of a wheel (which is also moving). Perhaps Harry Lime was right and wishing for a constant unchanging world would leave us only the cuckoo clock.

third_man_ferriswheel

 

 

 

Harry Lime’s (Orson Welles) speech from Sir Carol Reeds film, “The Third Man” spoken on a Ferris wheel in the heart of Vienna to his friend Holly Martin.

“Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.”

 

 

For another Friend of Harry Lime, with many thanks and fond memories.

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