Monday, January 29, 2018

Climbing Sisnaajini

This summer I plan to return to the magical playground of the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountains and the San Luis Valley of south-central Colorado, a place I visit as frequently as any other on the continent. It is a special place of challenging high peaks, seductive hot springs, and tasty micro-brews. But its spiritual allure is probably what draws me back more than anything else, again and again. It is a magical place with hidden secrets that beckon the serious adventurer to reach beyond the ordinary into a sort of mysterious dreamtime.

The valley has been known for a long time as a place where many strange events occur, with a preponderance of paranormal activity, whether UFOs, poltergeists, spectral Indians, crop circles, or Bigfoot, and often many at the same time, causing it to be referred to as a paranormal playground. Looking at the geophysical properties of the area, it is one of only a few areas anywhere with large pockets of maximum field strength and minimum field strength magnetic energy in close proximity. This sets up what some call vortices and others call portals, tears in the electric membrane that separates dimensions. This magnetic field anomaly has been attributed to the vast quartz crystal deposits underneath the topography that generate electric fields that are so strong that they cause a momentary tear in the dimensional membrane. When you get that happening you get interactivity between dimensions, which we call the paranormal.

Wherever one finds these large quartz crystal deposits, like under Sedona, Arizona, the mountains in the area exhibit electromagnetic fields that are up to 500 times more powerful than those of the surrounding countryside. That's what it takes to get a rip in the membrane to occur. Piezoelectric discharges of bolts of energy shooting from the mountain to the sky have been observed on cold winter nights with low humidity in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the east side of the San Luis Valley. Nicola Tesla was said to have come here to investigate these discharges. It is little wonder why the military is discretely buying up the areas of highest activity and posting a guard to keep others out.

Indigenous peoples that have inhabited the area have long maintained an oral tradition of strange happenings there, as have local ranchers from the 1800's and 1900' – objects that come up out of the ground and go into space and all kinds of other strange things. It is the only region anywhere in North America where three regional groups of native Americans overlapped – there were thirteen different groups of native Americans that would come here – among them, the Anasazi, Utes, Kiowa, Comanche, Navajo, Apache, Pueblo, and Hopi. It was a sacred gathering place for all, where native peoples of different tribes did not fight because of a recognized interconnection of their common heritage with interstellar beings known to be here. That energy or presence is still very much apparent today.

The bloodless San Luis Valley was viewed by these regional native Americans as their place of origin, their Garden of Eden. It is in this valley that they describe the Sipapu, or place of emergence, a hole in the ground through which they literally crawled up into this existence. Before coming here they claimed that the Ant People were taking care of them.

Rising above the valley to the east is the holiest of all the mountains, the sacred Blanca Peak, which I will be climbing this summer. Called Sisnaajini by the Navajo, it is the place where all thought originates, where creation occurs, where native Americans say there are crystal skulls buried. There are so many UFO sightings around Blanca Peak that an observation tower has been set up for viewers to watch.  I'm really looking forward to climbing here; this mountain portends to be more than just another fourteener.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Aging with Grace

People around me are getting old. Some are dying; some are already gone. But I'm still here. I don't feel like I am getting old. I'm doing much more than just hanging on. I'm living fully with much that awaits on the event horizon of my life. What's the difference? I look in the mirror and don't see someone who is “over the hill” looking back. I don't make jokes about the wear and tear of life, nor do I identify with what I perceive as “slippage”. I feel like I am as young as I have ever been. These are the best days of my life. But a lifetime of experience has humbled me; perhaps I am wiser, and I have certainly lightened up. Where I may have been quick to judge, now I am more likely to feel solidarity or sadness at the tragic part of the human experience. Broken can still be beautiful.

I aim to be a person that widens, not narrows, with age. My contribution is what I give to the world each moment. That's a good enough legacy. I don't fret about the things I will never do; I'm too busy working through my ever- expanding bucket list. I'm not regretful about the “road not traveled”. I did it exactly the way I chose, and that was good enough. Everything happened exactly the way it was supposed to. If I want to do it differently, I'll do that the next time around.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

a Universe Built on Questions

More and more, it seems that if you want a good answer to any question, you ask a computer. Machines are really good at giving answers — and not just simple answers. They are getting better and better at dealing with really complicated issues.

But machines are not very good at asking questions. What we'll never have enough of are good questions. Good questions are like a discovery - a way of exploring “what if?” But it turns out that questions are not very efficient. We have this world of the Internet and smart phones and GPS where answers have become cheap and ubiquitous and pervasive, and unimaginably abundant. Machines are really good at all the things where efficiency counts, where productivity and efficiency count; those are the kinds of tasks we give to the machines.

What we’re left with as humans are the things that are inefficient, which also happens to be the things that we enjoy most, like discovery or innovation. Innovation is inherently not efficient, or science for that matter. Science is inherently inefficient, because if you are 100 percent efficient as a scientist, you’re not learning anything new. So humans are good at trial and error - there’s the error part; there’s the failure; there’s the dead ends; there’s the trials of prototypes. And humans are essentially really good at wasting time. We’re expert at all the things where efficiency and program-ability don’t count for much. All of these things that are an essential part of exploring, trying, and discovering, which are all inherently inefficient, are the things we are good at.

As the robots and the AIs rise — this may be one of the answers to the quandary about what we are going to do when the machines replace most of us in the workforce. There may be ultimately more opportunity for us to explore, curate, invent, innovate, love, chat, experience things, all of which are inherently inefficient and not things that machines are good at. We may have much more time to ask questions, which should lead to even greater invention and innovation.

In some ways, this resonates with the structure of the universe — which is more likely built upon a question, rather than an answer; it’s very likely that the universe is really a kind of a question, rather than the answer to anything. The answer to a good question is always more and better questions. And that may be why we resonate so much with asking questions, rather than just being satisfied with smart answers.

One can only hope that the rise of the machine leads us as a species to the point where questions become more important ultimately than the answers. The quality of asking good questions may, perhaps, become more appreciated than the quality of all the machine's answers. And just maybe the humans that generate the best questions are going to be the most valued thing in a world that is ultimately run by machines with all the answers.

Friday, January 26, 2018

the Emerging Frontier

Artificial Intelligence will likely be the most powerful force in the world over the next one hundred years and more. But the thing that is even bigger than AI is the fact that we are beginning to make a global super-organism that will impact us way beyond anything that we might imagine. This is the emerging frontier. AI will be part of it, but not the whole thing. Never in history have we made anything on a planetary basis that works in real time. It is going to be shocking to see what happens when we have a billion people working together on something in real time.

The only other thing like this that happened in my lifetime was Woodstock. I was in high school when this musical “happening” just seemed to come out of nowhere. It was like all of a sudden the same thought occurred to half a million people. People just seemed to all tune into the same message at the same time: “I need to be at this farm.” And they all showed up at Max Yasgur's farm for this wild hippy exposition and concert. I subsequently talked to friends who were there and it seemed as though they were all shocked that so many others also showed up.

I think we can look forward to similar spontaneous gatherings in the future, entirely unanticipated, where suddenly several million people from all different countries and cultures come together and use these new tools of Internet communication to work together in real time to do something collaboratively. Such “happenings” will totally dumbfound people. Everyone will wonder what happened? This will be the beginning of the new frontier, where we see the beginnings of true globalism.

People talk about globalism. We haven’t had globalism yet. But it is coming. And when we have planetary-scale institutions and planetary-scale governance, we will be an entirely new world functioning at a whole different level. Like anything else, there will be planetary problems that require planetary solutions. It will be a whole other order, however, and that’s where we’re headed after AI.

Teilhard de Chardin said: “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” A beautifully poetic image of the future. I think we’re going to be surprised by how deeply emotional the relationships we create with the things that we’re inventing right now - robots and things like that - because emotion will be programmed into them. Not that hard to do. And ethics will be programmed into them as well, which is again not that hard to do, once we decide what kind of ethics is best.

These new relationships are really going to challenge our minds and cultural standards. We’re probably not ready for how much love we might actually have for these new technologies, or maybe how much love they will express back. Imagine having something like a pet dog that could talk to you. At first it will likely be a real challenge. We already know how to program ethics and morality and even emotion into machines, but what we don’t know yet is what it is exactly that we want to program into them. 

We like to think that we, as humans, are highly ethical and moral, but in reality for many of us our morality and ethical standards are really shallow, very inconsistent, even horrible. I believe that in the process of trying to program these human attributes into the machines, the process is going to make us better. Just like parenting, we'll figure out where we’re insufficient and adjust to make our machines better, and in the process we’re going to actually become better humans ourselves. A new wild, wild west is emerging. Hold onto your I pads.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Surprising God

Be Fruitful and Multiply. The direction of the evolution of the world is in making as many new, complicated, self-organizing structures as possible; increasing the number of possibilities in the universe is why we are here. We have a moral obligation with our entry into the world to create as much as we can. That may be the role of technology, as well, in the long term – to increase the variety, diversity, options, and possibilities in an expanding universe of creative expression. As human beings, perhaps we each are encouraged by this universal dictum to surprise God with something entirely new that springs from our own inventive creativity - now, tomorrow, at every moment.

The gifts that surround and surprise us at every moment are from the generous loving Source of our being. Ours is to be fruitful and multiply these gifts in a show of our gratitude and love in return. The overriding human purpose for being here may ultimately be nothing less than to continually generate surprises in life.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Changing the World

There is no point in lamenting the world. There is no point in taking action to change the world. It is incapable of change in and of itself because it is entirely an effect. The only change we can effect is a change of our thoughts about the world. Every thought we have makes up some part of the world we perceive. Only by changing our thinking do we change the cause. The effect will change as a result automatically. To change our perception of the world then, it is exclusively with our own thoughts that we must work.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Pondering Digital

In the year I was born, it was the first time the word “technology” appeared in a State of the Union address. It was not something anybody ever talked about when I was growing up. I guess my introduction to the idea of computers came in my early teens when the television series Star Trek debuted and with the national attention given to the space program from the late 50's through the 1960's, and of course with NASA putting men on the moon before I was out of high school. It was all very interesting and exciting, but I had this deep down sense that things were going to be different in the future and that machines were going to play a much larger role.

Technology, if viewed as a non-living product of the creative mind, has always been with us. From the fork we eat with to the table we eat on; from the shoes we wear to the football we kick... these can all be considered technology. What has changed recently is that technology has become something more than just useful into something that is becoming increasingly closer to how we identify ourselves. We now find ourselves asking who we are in relation to the technology in our lives, and who we want to be.

It is becoming increasingly evident that we need to reckon with the moral force of our technological creations, and also question how we may best manage our unfolding lives with technology. Most of what we now look at as indispensable to function in the modern world is less than ten years old. For most of this technology it may be too soon to draw a conclusion about its continuing value. As we learn more about the impact of social media, people will likely become more selective in their use of it. I personally waver in my use of Face Book and have as of yet found no essential use for a smart phone or Twitter.

I wonder how we will look back upon these early times of the Internet and the large players that have emerged. How will Google, Face Book, and Amazon evolve over the next generation of users? These new giant companies with their unimaginable new-found wealth and influence have entered uncharted territory in which they find themselves with power not much different than that of national governments. They may have two billion customers across every continent who they now must view in many regards as “citizens” of a unique world that they themselves have created. Corporations have never had to deal with anything like this before. One cannot fault them, however, because they are really just making it up as they go. Corporations are going to have to evolve to assume more responsibility for creating standards and practices and expectations for the greater good of its citizenry across all borders. The divided world of nation-states is ever so gradually being supplanted by a world of information without borders.

If this has all happened in the span of less than one life time, what can we expect in the next 10, 20, or 50 years? These are, indeed, even more interesting and exciting times than when it all began when I was a boy.