January 29, 2006

"To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person.

Bruce Lee inspired a generation in the way only those who live short lives can. The tragedy of his death and his accomplishments in life would provide him an undying epilogue in the minds of those who admired him, many only posthumously.

What is more important? Life or Legacy?

Six billion people now inhabit the thin surface of an interstellar body we call earth. Yet how many do you know? A few thousand by name, a few hundred in person, a dozen maybe less that you'd say you knew well?
How many of them will remember you in twenty years time? A century from now will anyone be alive who even remembers my face?

In man aspects a personal legacy may well exist invisible to those it touches. How many people thank Newton every time they board a train or Turin when they switch on their laptops? On the other hand everyone knows Charles Dickens or Audrey Hepburn.

It's sobering to think that for every face and name that goes down in history there must be a million of us passed over by the eyes of time. Our lives are all we have, yet do they really take on any more significance than the fall of a single leaf.


October 17, 2005

"Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President …

… should on no account be allowed to do the job."

Those immortal words of Douglas Adams ring more true every time I read them. Such is the cutting edge of humor that while many a skilled converser can easily turn pirouettes past the soldiers of logic, all writhe in tormented fluster beneath the wit of the comedian's tongue.

Inside its power to amuse and belittle our troubles to sweet laughter lies the bitter sadness of truth, for we laugh at the absurdity of how things are more than anything else in life. Truth will always be stranger than fiction perhaps (no narritive imperative to worry about), but it will definetely always be funnier as it is always more tragic. I wish we all new how to laugh.


October 12, 2005

THE HOUSE OF JUDGMENT by Oscar Wilde

Just a little contribution by one of the most eloquent men who ever graced our humble sphere.

POEMS IN PROSE:

*5. THE HOUSE OF JUDGMENT*

And there was silence in the House of Judgment, and the Man came naked before God.

And God opened the Book of the Life of the Man.

And God said to the Man, 'Thy life hath been evil, and thou hast shown cruelty to those who were in need of succour, and to those who lacked help thou hast been bitter and hard of heart. The poor called to thee and thou didst not hearken, and thine ears were closed to the cry of My afflicted. The inheritance of the fatherless thou didst take unto thyself, and thou didst send the foxes into the vineyard of thy neighbour's field. Thou didst take the bread of the children and give it to the dogs to eat, and My lepers who lived in the marshes, and were at peace and praised Me, thou didst drive forth on to the highways, and on Mine earth out of which I made thee thou didst spill innocent blood.'

And the Man made answer and said, 'Even so did I.'

And again God opened the Book of the Life of the Man.

And God said to the Man, 'Thy life hath been evil, and the Beauty I have shown thou hast sought for, and the Good I have hidden thou didst pass by. The walls of thy chamber were painted with images, and from the bed of thine abominations thou didst rise up to the sound of flutes. Thou didst build seven altars to the sins I have suffered, and didst eat of the thing that may not be eaten, and the purple of thy raiment was broidered with the three signs of shame. Thine idols were neither of gold nor of silver that endure, but of flesh that dieth. Thou didst stain their hair with perfumes and put pomegranates in their hands. Thou didst stain their feet with saffron and spread carpets before them. With antimony thou didst stain their eyelids and their bodies thou didst smear with myrrh. Thou didst bow thyself to the ground before them, and the thrones of thine idols were set in the sun. Thou didst show to the sun thy shame and to the moon thy madness.'

And the Man made answer and said, 'Even so did I.'

And a third time God opened the Book of the Life of the Man.

And God said to the Man, 'Evil hath been thy life, and with evil didst thou requite good, and with wrongdoing kindness. The hands that fed thee thou didst wound, and the breasts that gave thee suck thou didst despise. He who came to thee with water went away thirsting, and the outlawed men who hid thee in their tents at night thou didst betray before dawn. Thine enemy who spared thee thou didst snare in an ambush, and the friend who walked with thee thou didst sell for a price, and to those who brought thee Love thou didst ever give Lust in thy turn.'

And the Man made answer and said, 'Even so did I.'

And God closed the Book of the Life of the Man, and said, 'Surely I will send thee into Hell. Even into Hell will I send thee.'

And the Man cried out, 'Thou canst not.'

And God said to the Man, 'Wherefore can I not send thee to Hell, and for what reason?'

'Because in Hell have I always lived,' answered the Man.

And there was silence in the House of Judgment.

And after a space God spake, and said to the Man, 'Seeing that I may not send thee into Hell, surely I will send thee unto Heaven. Even unto Heaven will I send thee.'

And the Man cried out, 'Thou canst not.'

And God said to the Man, 'Wherefore can I not send thee unto Heaven, and for what reason?'

'Because never, and in no place, have I been able to imagine it,' answered the Man.

And there was silence in the House of Judgment.


October 10, 2005

"In a minute a computer can make a mistake that would have taken many men months to equal it.

A stramge quote from an anonymous source. A rebuke from those mechanical number crunchers we use everyday perhaps? Would that be a the killer point when we decided machines had finally reached our level of intelligence?

Can a computer someday equal a human mind?

Yes, no, certainly, don't be daft! are all common responses to this question. Are we on the verge of knowing the answer within a century of Turing's breakthrough of insight on the nature of our modern computer?

Computationally speaking we're close. Moore's Law has been strictly followed to this day only struggling recently as we ever near it's naturally implied limit. Other design structures and perhaps the budding vein of bio-tech computers may soon give us the computational capacity to simulate the mechanical workings of the human brain within 20 years.

Yet even with all the number crunching computer power we have could we really create a mind? Inject intelligence into the craft of our hands and take onto ourselves the mantle of creator?

Could the machine ever have a soul?

Who knows? It really depends who you ask which effictively means no one. Some think we're entirely physical constructs and so it's natural for computers to reach our present level of consciousness. Other's belive wholly in the sanctity of life and find the idea that we might somehow claim the power of creation a gross arrogance. To succeed in any venture of this form would in fact require God's personal touch to breathe a soul into the construct of our fashioning. Many people just don't know, although most lean one way or another, this fence ain't too easy to sit on.

Why are our reactions so typically extreme or confused?

Fear seems a likely candidate for both extremes. Typically those purporting no discernable difference between a machine and the mind need to believe in this view fot it holds true with their largely secular stance. To admit the existence of a soul admits God no? Similarly to admit we can create life and intelligent life is blasphemy to the ears of most of the devout, be it Christian, Muslim or Jew (etc).

Personally I more or less fall into the former camp. Yet I don't find the idea of us building intelligent machines irreconcilable with a belief in a creator. If God exists and he really wanted to create an intelligent species would he really just snap his fingers and pop there they come? Surely we don't give him enough credit. This virgin race would need time to adapt to their new home and fit into the ecosystem. Likewise the world he'd fashioned as their new home surely needs time to adapt to this new influx of visitors. Now God's a clever guy so why not build in this necesary adaptation as a natural process? Scientists call it evolution or natural selection.

Now if the Creator could do things using a plan as elaborate as natural selction then why not another? The thought which really strikes fear into many of us is not perhaps the thought of machines as our equals but of them surpassing us. For if we're nothing more than elaborate number crunchers then from what we see of the advancement of tchnology machines surely will and the day approaches ever faster.

Perhaps this is all just another phase in the plan. Our purpose: to engineer the next stage in intelligence, a race of machines to succeed us. A lacklustre fate for the human race to some. Maybe wonderful to others.


October 07, 2005

"Never express yourself more clearly than you are able to think.

The quote is from Niels Bohr, a Nobel Prize winning Physicist and one of the geniuses of the 20th century. His research fundamentally changed the face of science and the world of today.

How did he accomplish this?

Long has the idea of difference lodged in the depths of my mind. The difference between Bohr and Hitler, Ted Bundy and Florence Nightingale. How is that all of us who were born as fundamentally human reach levels such vast distances apart in our lives. Scientists may aspire to the power of discovery, politicians to the power of control and the leaders of business to the clink clink clink of silver and gold.
Yet none of this explains the influence of our lives to history. In our times the rich are celebrated but the names of great thinkers endure and the actions of our leaders are transcribed for later judgement.

Who has more power?

Is obscurity the worst fate? Or the ultimate blessing?


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