The Ghost in the Machine – is it us?

Is this gorilla self-realized? How about the other wild animals? How about the people that put up the mirror in the first place?

To me, “self realization” implies realizing the very core, or nature, of one’s self – to realize oneself as separate from matter, I suppose. The ghost in the machine which is us.

According to Wikipedia, self realization is defined as the “fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one’s character or personality.” To me this appears convoluted – a definition that misses the mark.

Maybe if we could sit still, I mean really still – call it meditation or what have you – then we could see who we are. And maybe then we might be able to realize the truth of the self. Maybe we’d see, oh yes, I really am just a combination of the chemicals in my brain, or oh no, I’m something different.

Typically, scientists think our inner selves, our being, our self awareness, is ultimately just a connection of neuron and chemicals. It can be duplicated with artificial intelligence (AI).

We’re using AI all the time now days. My phone’s got it. Google’s got it. Amazon’s Echo has it. Siri has it. IBM’s Watson, the famous Jeopardy winner, has it too. Heck, some cars even park themselves, or drive down the road without you touching the steering wheel. They have it on all four wheels.

You own a smart-phone, right? A computer? A programmable coffee maker maybe? Does anyone really think these things know what they are? Does IBM’s Watson know? Your car? Your coffee maker? Your laptop? Yet we seem to be aware of ourselves.

I sat by myself a few days ago thinking about this. I think. I have feelings. I can communicate. I would be described by a visitor as intelligent life (or so I’d like to believe).

But animals can do it too. At least a little bit. Take gorillas for example. They can learn signing. They can communicate with you via signing, a common language shared by them and their trainers. They really do express emotions, like sadness or happiness. Even Brandi, my overly sized Canaan Dog, certainly expresses the emotion of happiness when I come home from work. She can listen, and obey (sometimes). She can talk too. She can say “I love yoouuuu” so clearly it’s disconcerting. My parrot Hamlet once asked me “Where are you going?” when my wife and I were getting ready to go to the movie theater. So are gorillas and dogs and parrots conscious? Obviously the answer is yes, it seems so.

At least a little bit. And no, parrots don’t just repeat what they’ve heard. I know you repeat that because you heard it, but in reality those birds can learn meaning of words. We never taught Hamlet “where are you going?” and yet the bird put together a question all by itself. The bird put together a sentence better than some of the high-school graduates that work where I work.

But does the ability to learn, or the ability to listen, or speak, mean the ability to be self aware? To be, shall we say, self-realized? Is that gorilla or dog or bird conscious of itself?

You look in the mirror, see your reflection, and comb your hair or lack thereof. But can animals look in the mirror and see themselves? Can they understand themselves?

There was a time when people called me “self-realized.” I was an “enlightened person,” a guy who, presumably knew what a guy like me was all about. Well, obviously that didn’t pan out at the time. I was no more self-realized than the average Joe on the street. But if I could see myself – would I realize my true nature? Would I see that ultimately I’m not just heavily influenced by chemical reactions in my brain but I am myself the chemicals in my brain?

Or perhaps I might discover a different kind of world. A world that really doesn’t seem to behave by the laws of physics as we know them, somehow. Would we learn of some different dimension where we exist that we might called our spiritual self? Would we ultimately find that we are part of this mysterious consciousness that is an extension in someway of God himself, or would we see that we rose from ashes and we will return to ashes, but it’s a fun ride while we’re here? Perhaps we collectively evolve and change as a species, both physically and metaphysically, trial and error, learning by mistakes of the past, but in the end die as we were born – a biological entity undergoing chemical reactions and transforming to dirt in the end.

We’d like to think otherwise. We’d like to have eternal life. People go to church. They pray. They think that people who don’t do as they do will go to hell, an eternally bad place, and hopefully they will go to heaven, an eternally good place.

But will we really?

There have been subjective realizations, visions and so-forth, some well documented, of religious experiences throughout human history. When we look in our microscopes and our telescopes and our understanding of the laws of physics, it doesn’t seem probable that there’s a God out there somewhere, just beyond the Oort cloud, or the dark energy that pulls us all apart. But is there? Could there be something else that we’ve missed – something inside us that is at the same time separate from the body and the brain? Could we be, as the Hare Krishna’s say, different from our bodies? Could we be that something inside that thinks “I am,” perhaps?

If there is, I haven’t found it yet. I may never. I’m still looking inside – trying to get a handle on it. I know many wise and intelligent people before me have done much better at this than I will ever accomplish. But I’m soon to be 64 years old. Bill Paxton, the actor, a couple of years younger than me, just died. Do I have to wait and see what happens when I die? Is that what happens to all of us, or can we find out before hand?

I need a moment to think about it. A really quiet moment without distractions. I’ll let you know if I find whatever it is. I didn’t figure it out earlier in life. I’m sure not going to suddenly have the ultimate epiphany and tell you what it is here. Go figure it out yourself. This is just a blog.

Star Trek and Pluto

Rational Thinking 101

It’s round. Big enough that it’s own gravity makes it a sphere rather than a lump of coal or a cube or some other oddly shaped object. If you were on the Star Trek Enterprise, went into orbit around this object and looked outside your view screen, this is what you’d see. You have arrived at the Planet Pluto.

Or have you?

Astronomers who “decided” Pluto wasn’t a planet but a dwarf planet, have not only disappointed generations of mankind, but were wrong.

They were wrong because a dwarf planet is still a planet, as much as a dwarf star is still a star. Indubitably.

Many people don’t know that our sun is a dwarf star. There are two kinds of dwarf stars: yellow dwarfs and the more common red dwarfs. Our sun is a yellow dwarf. Still a star, just a dwarf star. 

So just because our sun is…

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The Binary Model 

Astronomers believe most stars are part of binary systems rather than solo systems. A binary system means two stars orbiting each other.

They think Pluto is somewhat of a binary object with its inordinately large moon. The center of gravity between the two is outside Pluto itself.

Similarly, in a binary star system you have two stars going around a center of gravity that lies somewhere between the two of them but outside the sphere of either.

This happens a lot in space. Even here on Earth our own moon is relatively large. This is one of several explanations for the Earth’s wobble (along with droughts) and certainly why the moon wobbles. When that wobble becomes such that essentially both objects wobble around each other that’s a binary system.

Such bodies can be two stars, two planets or even two black holes that revolve around each other. Even a galaxy behaves in such a way that the stars orbit a center of gravity outside of themselves.

Recently astrophysicists have even wondered whether our own sun is part of a binary system revolving around an unknown brown dwarf hiding somewhere in the Oort Cloud.

But binary systems are only part of the story. Out there where no man has gone before there are trinary systems or even more.

The universe is not well understood though we like to think we know more than we do. There are great mysteries out there we may never understand.

Twilight Hour

Musings Plus

As night descends within the twilight hour
Crickets sing songs full of joy and power
Above the trees looms a dark cloud so dour
Giving to Earth a much needed shower

Quick flashes of white and sound fill the night
Creatures take cover and hide from the might
The wind rushes by each wight holding tight
Natures creations enduring the fight

The storm now over although it was brief
Each creature now breathes a sigh of relief
Unforeseen forces break in like a thief
Nature is saying that she is the chief

The rain subsides a fresh scent fills the air
The land now quenched life hums without care
A night of fete given for each to share
Crickets again sing with gusto and flare

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Health Care should be like Automobile Insurance – everybody’s got to have it.

Did you know, you must pay a tax if you watch TV in England? Even if you use rabbit ears or watch TV on your computer you have to pay this tax, but if you have no TV you don’t have to pay. I don’t know how they know if you have a TV or watch TV on your computer.

Speaking of which, some insurance companies offer less expensive automobile insurance for good drivers, but everyone, nonetheless, has to have automobile insurance. People don’t say, “Why do I have to have any at all? I never have accidents.” You just have to have it.

Similarly, people should have to have health insurance, both the young and healthy and the old and infirm. Young, healthy people shouldn’t be able to opt out because they never go to a doctor. Think of it like automobile insurance. You drive a car, you have to have insurance. You live in the United States, you have to have the insurance.

Seen from that perspective, affordable health care would be more affordable, because in reality it’s the people who don’t need the health care that are paying the benefits for those who do. The young are taking care of their elders. It’s not supposed to be the young don’t care for the elderly, because one day they will be elderly.

If we could simply implement that one idea, then call it what you like, Affordable Care Act, Obama Care, Trump Kick out Obama Care and put in Trump Care (same difference), if everyone had it, that would make it good for everyone. Wouldn’t it?

Nothing Profound

In the computer room again. A special room set up for our computers. All two of them. One for her, one for me; hers running Windows 10, mine Linux Mint 18.1. Pets lying around sleeping.

My wife’s writing poetry for her blog, me fooling around with Linux. Presently I’m using Linux Mint’s Cinnamon version. She ordered speakers for her computer today. I ordered a Bluetooth USB plug so I can connect to my JBL Bluetooth speakers via the computer, not just my phone.

Now she’s gone back to watch some TV and I’m alone here awhile.

My diet’s going well. My face looks thinner, but the scale is stuck at 236 lbs. That’s a lot better than the 275 lbs that I logged the summer before last. My target is 180 lbs by the end of September this year, but we’ll see. The scale has to start moving downward sooner or later, doesn’t it?

I decided the ghost in the machine is due to WordPress online editing software, so I’m writing this using the open software Libre Office (screw Microsoft). I use it on Linux, but you can download it (free of course) for Windows or OS x by searching for Libre Office on Google. When I’m done, I’ll simply copy and paste.

Originally I had something profound to say here, but alas. It is what it is, a simple rambling on of nothing important. Important stuff will come another day!

Exploding Samsung Note 7s. Remember Them?

Apparently Samsung wants to bring back refurbished Note 7s, the famous exploding phones that derailed the company’s phablet market. But would you buy one? Would they let you use it on a commercial flight? I think not.

Read it here.