Tuesday, December 31, 2013

message to India about chakras

This morning, a leading technologist form India sent me a piece on the chakras, which appears to come from the Hindu university of Florida, founded by Prof. K.C. Gupta, a prominent electrical engineer I once worked with
(who used one of the algorithms I developed in practical device design).

Here was my reply:


Happy New Year to you, too .. !

After kundalini yoga worked so well for me in 1972, when I first tried
it, I have wondered "how?" What is the underlying mechanism which
allows it to work?

And also -- why does it work so well for some people, with strong
immediate results in a few cases, but not so well in other cases?

My guess is that it depends mainly on what assumptions people bring to
the exercise.

Many people think of chakras in the same way as some Europeans used to
think about the pineal gland. They think of these as parts of their
bodies which they (their brain) can use to control a kind of
radio-like interface device to the spiritual world. And they try to
imagine the physics of whatever kind of radiation they think these
devices are using to interface with other people and with the
spiritual world.

Perhaps one reason why kundalini yoga,  traversing the chakras, worked
so well for me the first time was that it was the next stage in a
simple book, preceded by another exercise which focused "qi" or
"prana" in an interesting way, using a little mobile as a focus. (In
my case, the mobile was made up of little plastic fish, hanging from
strings to thin metal arms, able to spin about a center which itself
hung by string from an overhead light. I focused on it in relative
dark, focusing on light, feeling and movement.)

Very crudely, at some level, we are a symbiosis of "soul" and "body,' both.
If we think of a chakra as something which "we" (as soul, or operating
through the soul
"half" of our consciousness) manipulate in order to better interface
with our body
and the world of our body, RATHER THAN the other way around, we get a
better understanding of the real physics at work, and better practical
results. The power of the chakras is not how they connect to the
spiritual world, but how the spiritual side of us can use them to
better connect to the body.  It only works if enough of our
is on the spiritual level that we can focus the qi or prana in the required way.

In fact... I had a more recent experience which felt very similar in a
way to the time when
I raised the kundalini to remarkable effect when first I tried it in
1972. The similarity of feeling is very important.

The recent experience was the result of my wife Ludmilla dragging me
and my younger son to a cruise from New York to Florida and Bahamas.
(I would not pay money for such things on my own, but there are many
reasons why I am happy to go with her.) We stayed in an inside cabin,
with no natural light at all. It was a good spiritual exercise, at
night, to cross the room without turning on any light or making any
sound which would disturb the sleep of Luda or of our son. At first,
seeing in the dark seemed impossible,
but after a few days it was not so hard. I deliberately did some
exercises at that time, to test and strengthen that learning a bit.

As I learned to adapt.. I noticed a sensation towards the back of my
head. And I noticed that I could accelerate my adaptation to the dark
each time by recalling and strengthening that sensation. In fact... it
seemed that it worked best if I sent exactly the same kind of feeling
and energy to that area as I once had, years ago, to the chakras.
I then realized... this area is of course also the area of the primary
visual cortex. It is the area one must stimulate in order to create a
visual image directly in the cerebral cortex.

The truth is -- years before I believed in spiritual reality, when I
thought that all our mind is in the brain, I was very interested in
learning how the brain works. I took Harvard's only course in
neuroscience in my freshman year, and I knew the basic geometry.
Because I believe in using empirical evidence as much as possible in
science, I decided to search for clues by doing some introspection,
watching the flow of events and information in my own brain -- for
example, in crucial places like the thalamus, which lies in the very
middle of the brain, perhaps a bit towards the front. It was not so
long after I started such experiments (in 1966-1967) that the
anomalous experiences started to happen which opened my mind, and put
me on this path.

What physics does the soul use to perturb the brain, the chakras and
the body as a whole -- and other parts of the world around us? There
is still a gap between what we really know in physics, and what we see
in life; there are many prerequisites we must master first before our
guesses about this are worth much. I have been working very hard on
those prerequisites.... and I do hope others will be able to continue
that after I die of old age.

Best regards,



Added later:

As I think further about this example of seeing in the dark on the ship...
I naturally think about what it would take to "to see in the dark" in Washington DC,
in the murky world of complex decisions and murky motives and so on.
It reminds me of an ingredient which I took for granted in the dark room of the ship at night --
the Will to See. Of course, that will was there, and very intense, when I did not want to bump my foot or make a noise which would wake someone up. The Will to See is not always present in DC. In fact, people often quite willfully work to keep their eyes shut, for fear of what they might see. It is worse than what Greeley described,
in his really important report "Are We a Nation of Mystics?"

But even I have my limits, when I know it is not time to receive additional information, because I am not yet ready, and because I have a lot of other stuff I must cope with first. In working on physics challenges, I am often very conscious about structuring my focus, on one issue at a time, to prevent overload... within a context which still includes the other stuff, but focuses very hard. But.. a few days ago, I withdrew at another level, in a way I haven't since graduate school (a brief incident I never wrote down).

A few days ago... when trying to understand how calcite polarizers work ... I decided to put my little $20 calcite crystal on the night table next to my bed. Why not? And when my mind reached a "cosmic consciousness" level
in my usual nightly meditation in bed, and I was thinking in a more normal way about the issue of how light travels in these crystals (and how to model it)... I decided why not pick up that crystal, and look for a moment from a different perspective, and try to get another angle into how it works. I did get to the answer I was looking for (briefly summarized in the extended appendix of my new vixra paper)... but to my surprise I saw a bit more.
The powerful additional image... well, it reminded me of where Icelandic spar actually comes from. 
(Volcanoes in Iceland, I think.) But then I was also quite aware of time symmetry at the time, and the flow of two directions... but I didn't want to get from.


What was the thing that happened in graduate school? One of many things that happened, but unique in its way.
For a couple of years, I lived in a graduate student dormitory, Child Hall, on the second floor. My room was on the side away from Harkness Common, where I went to eat and have tea with my friends. The dorm also had a small open common room (a bit like the reception areas in wings of NSF, where there are just a couple of couches where you can wait when you enter). It was decorated by a big color map of temperature variation,
showing how the gap between high and low temperatures in Boston was very extreme, "second only" to Siberia,
which was also on the map.

One evening, I was deep in conversation with a couple of friends in the Vedanta Society and with another friend,
Leo Cohen, in the clinical psychology PhD program, when the conversation got so deep... yet fuzzy in a way, because it was very late... when it seemed my consciousness was beginning to slip directly from my body to one of the others. THAT I recoiled form before it happened. I have at times wondered what would have happened if I had not recoiled.

Last night I had an assumption/materialization experience which was more interesting, but perhaps a bit much even for an obscure blog. BUt why not a very crude summary? OK -- assumption into student wanting help
in an ecological university of the future (whose very existence even as a possibility is somewhat cheering),
all goes well; then he comes back, meets female friend in his room, decides it is time for me to go. But she decides otherwise, creating what I now analyze as a conflict of wills. So I just plain materialize as I am, an old man, sitting on the couch, a third person, with even some echoes of other intellectual old men in the background. Not at all a ghost scene (something I have seen before, albeit more from the ghost perspective); the only lack of perception  of me on their part was lack of clearly seeing I am an old man compared to them.

Whatever. Can't prove anything of course, and don't ask for anyone else to take it seriously. Could be like the last part of Solaris, which we watched again yesterday. (Luda and I watched it... our first time in decades.)
Who knows? But I do wonder, as there have been veridical aspects in previous experience with assumption.
Actually, the most logical interpretation for me is that this was all at an "astral" level, a kind of simulation
within the noosphere, where future possibilities (with later veridical content) can play out in surprising detail,
and where assumption certainly can occur, sometimes at four levels at once in my experience. But is it that simple? For now, our hard core physics needs to hang on very tight to 3+1 dimensions, because we need to understand 3+1 dimensions better than we do; however, the larger reality might or might not be so simple.
We do not yet know what time games might ultimately teach us.  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

What happens to the souls of spiritual couch potatoes?

As I write, it is a beautiful calm Christmas morning. As I eat some delicious duck soup and milk… I feel called to pass on a few things from our family get-together yesterday for Christmas Eve. Last night, a friendly relative (let’s call her “Kitty”) from a “red state” asked good questions – which is an important spiritual activity in itself. And so she evoked some candid truth.

First – the tale of the spiritual couch potato.

Decades ago, I was one of the people who set up a new Quaker school focused heavily on three key goals – to nourish and strength the full power of children’s brains, bodies and souls. What would happen to our physical bodies if we treated them the way some people treat their souls?

Imagine a kind of lodge or living room for people dedicated to physical fitness. Physical fitness is the supreme goal they pursue in their lives. Imagine them all sitting on a gigantic couch, drinking beer, in front of a gigantic TV screen. They don’t just watch football – they dedicate their lives to watching football. They feel proud that they are devoted to physical fitness and to football, and that they have tremendous loyalty to their team. But the only exercise they get is screaming for their team and against the other team.  Their bodies become hopelessly fat, diabetic, diseased… and prematurely dead, in the end. One day, when a guy walks into the lodge with a normal body shape, sweating and a bit quite after a grueling fifty mile hike, they all look at him – even scream at him – with contempt. Where is his loyalty to the cause of physical fitness, as witnessed on the TV? To his team… And as for exercise, that is heresy, except for the one exercise of screaming… which really isn’t the best path to health.

Not that exercise of the soul is easy or trivial. (Nor is exercise of the brain or body.) It was a major large effort in setting up that school. Beyond the scope of this post.

Kitty pressed hard to everyone in the room at one point: “Do you really believe in the existence of a higher, greater intelligence?” After she and the younger generation stared at each other, I said: “Please forgive… but it’s time to tell a joke. It’s really not true but it feels right for this moment: For my part, I really do believe in a higher intelligence, but I am deeply troubled by the question of whether it runs on Linux or on the Mac operating system. It couldn’t be running Windows, because if it were lots of people would have hacked the universe by now.”

Later, more quietly, I felt she deserved a better answer. “To be honest, Kitty, I was convinced that all that spiritual stuff is totally absolute nonsense, until I was 19.  But then … “ I told her the Mao/newspaper story (see http://www.werbos.com/Space_personal_Werbos.htm). “After that, I decided I would be 50-50 about the possibility that life is more than it seems. I was NOT convinced to just reverse my thinking, but I was convinced that I should be open-minded and open eyed… and look very intensely to try to see what’s going on. The effect of that over a few years… was pretty heavy.

“I remember going home to my family then… My mother was an intense Catholic, but my was never part of that when I was young.  I told my father that I was  changing my views of life… and I wondered whether he would say I was losing it. I was a bit surprised when he said: ‘We were wondering when you would finally start to grow up. What do you think both sides of your family have been doing for centuries? And what do you think my business is based on? For many years, my clients have learned that if they take me out for lunch and have enough beer… I can tell them their future.  And…’  I asked him why he never told me all this before. He replied: ‘Because it has to come from inside of you. If it comes from some kind of belief or ideology from outside you, it turns into a useless fantasy, or worse. It blocks you from seeing  or appreciating the real thing.’”

But Kitty was still not satisfied. (Good for her!). “But you still haven’t told me. Do you believe in a superior being or not. You told me about Quakers, but what do Quakers BELIEVE?”

I did mention how Quakers in this area can generally be clustered into Christocentric Quakers (who view themselves as a sect of Christianity) versus Quaker Universalists (which is where I would put myself here). I said... for people rooted in experience, experience is complex, and we hesitate to try to reduce it to a few simple words which we expect people could misunderstand one way or another. "But... I can tell a story which gives some feeling for it. I remember years ago when a woman named Mary Lord got up and spoke in Meeting.  You should understand – people are not supposed to get up and speak in Meeting unless they feel they have really heard an authentic voice of the spirit, what you might call ‘the Voce of God.’ Mary had spent years exercising the meditation practice of Quakerism, and in working for world peace in a serious diligent way. And as she did so, she began to appreciate the importance of world environmental problems, and the Gaia movement, and the spirit we share in common on this earth. So she spoke in Meeting: ‘I realized the importance of better tuning into our mother, the earth, but it didn’t come naturally to me in my practice, and others I talked to could not help me with that kind of real spiritual attunement. Who could introduce me to our mother? And so I realized – who knows our mother? Our Father of course. So I asked him, and he took care of it, and it worked.”

“That’s a pretty personal way of looking at it,” said the uberMarine sitting next to me on the other side.  “Yes… real life IS personal.” More precisely – that which is alive has personality (unless you count the universe itself, which is not “alive” in the way we usually use that word). I view “Gaia” as a kind of popularization or shorthand for the concept of “noosphere,” which I have talked about in a more detailed technical way at times in this blog.

So that’s the basic story, but there are a few postscripts.

One time, when we had a meeting of Quakers and parents to discuss setting up the new school, we had some discussion of things we could do to exercise the soul.
At one point I said: “Posing a really hard math challenge is one way to do it.”

I remember the face expression of the woman (a parent) who looked puzzled and then said: “I guess I can see that. If the math problem is hard enough, you could generate some really intense sincere prayer..” I felt a bit like laughing. That was valid, but it wasn’t what I was thinking. I was thinking of… something I would now call.. the pure clear light of truth… an exercise of the whole mind, freeing itself from the usual invisible Lilliput ropes of society and thought which ties us down.. a hard exercise, like climbing a mountain,  but an invigorating and healthy one too.

I was very happy on Christmas Eve to receive an email from good old Eshua of the House of David, saying he liked my latest venture in pursuit of the clear light of truth… in foundations of quantum theory, a subject he is getting into more himself.
The newest paper is supposed to be posted on arxiv.org today – and my next homework assignment is to explain how to CONNECT the two new papers, the methods for discrete and continuous variables. Bouncy basins of attraction and all that…

A couple of other minor notes…

We showed videos of our road trip last summer
including West Point. “I was surprised that West Point was founded on almost the same three points as our Quaker School! But for development of the soul, they mainly chose football..”

And: I mentioned how a woman asked me this week: “Are you a Believer?” I didn’t say much in response.. but perhaps the real answer is “I am less of a Believer than anyone you have ever met in your life. It is better to see than to believe… and it is better to face up to uncertainty when you do not see or know…” (Though facing up to uncertainty does Not mean acting like a jellyfish or picking negative extremes.)
Yet… a certain kind of “faith” in staying alive and moving?

There are a lot of things in life today which require a whole lot more of what some folks call “faith,” keeping at it… as the old Disney children’s films used to emphasize. In discussing that with Luda this morning… it reminds me of the time I walked from a waterfront town in Italy, called Moltrasio (sp?), towards the Swiss border. The walk started with a stretch of trail I found very hard at the time, labeled with The Twelve Stages of the Cross.  If you think of the goal of getting to the end of the trail, you could fall into despair.. . but if you focus on one stage at a time, you can see that despair is not needed or rational. I was worried at the time, because I knew the whole trail was much longer... but somehow, after the top of the twelve stages, the clearer air invigorated me and it was easier to go much faster. With so many big challenges today, there are people who think of the big challenge and get lost and confused… and others stuck in the mud who make no real progress… but seeing what the stages are ahead, and how they fit together, and struggling for one at a time… well, it sounds pretty easy, but for most of the challenges I deal with most people have freaked out, given up, or otherwise lost their way.

But next… one of those, the hybrid quantum optics things…

Merry Christmas

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The next round of shutdown and deep sequestration cuts

January 15 is the scheduled time for the next round, and it's pretty serious.

Here are some thoughts I posted to the Lifeboat list about what's going on... from what it means to
how it might be contained:


About two weeks ago (see nss.org/EU), I expressed great excitement
about the POSSIBILITY that a new DARPA program, XS-1, and follow-up on
a recent NASA-funded
study (see link posted at nss.org/EU) could restore our hopes of
getting affordable energy from space, and many other activities based
in space.

There are many threats or obstacles to making that real. The one which
worries me the most right now is sequestration. See:


The current sequestration path would imply VERY deep cuts in all of
DOD, NASA, as well as DOE, NSF, education and food for hungry
children. Budget negotiations which do not include entitlements or
taxes would basically revisit the same old budget space, and be
unlikely to change much on a partisan basis. Mitch McConnell says
there WILL NOT
be another shutdown in January... but folks said that kind of thing
before the last one, too.

With the same players in motion, and with the Tea Party encouraged by
recent polls on the President's popularity, there is not a strong
logical basis for ruling out another shutdown, followed by the same
old sequestration trajectory  and the nasty irrational politics about
specific budget items which deep cuts are likely to entail. CBO, for
example, has begun circulating the idea of just zeroing out humans in
(Will humans on earth be far behind?)

... So... it begins to get beyond my field (let alone what any of the
organizations I work with take a stand on)... but it begins to seem to
me that new balanced nonpartisan actions EITHER on Obamacare plus
Medicare (aimed at  preventing future cost growth
and maximizing efficiency, so as to minimize the payment by taxpayers
plus patients for the same level of medical benefit overall), OR on
tax reform, are pretty much the best hope of averting this kind of
disaster. A friend noted that this would cause elimination of some
jobs in healthcare (since improvement in efficiency would require
that, as well as cut some profits)... but the only alternative is to
cut jobs in the other areas, given the deficit constraint.

I have heard that there are certain changes and efficiencies which the
president really wanted for himself at the start, which he didn't push
because stakeholders would object;
however, a quietly arrived at deal between both parties would be freer
to allow more of that, so long as the ideological center of gravity is
not moved. (For the conservative side,
I could envision more opportunity for midwives and home births, and
less for unnecessary Caesarians, and also a prohibition on funding
through these venues of deep brain stimulation in medical treatment of
humans. My libertarian side was really
alerted by:
http://www.tvworldwide.com/events/bioethics/130819/ . Yes, there are
folks chomping at the bit of a huge new gravy train... but in a time
of triage, there are many many reasons** not to
prepare to pay for that.) (On the technical side, I see lots of emerging possibilities for new "five cents" types of tests to displace "$200 tests priced at $2,000.")

Just two months... I do hope they can do a whole lot better than what
the URL above suggests! Otherwise a lot of us will be in trouble,
especially at the cutting edge.

Best of luck,


** I have heard many stories from people in a position to know about
how Parkinson patients, the group with the best claim to benefit, have
had brains fried by their implants.
For the general case... if you went to an auto mechanic, and he said:
"I have no idea how
your engine works, but I have a big hammer, and if you pay me I can
make a bigger one.
Just pay me, and I will take a big swing at your engine..." Like
frontal lobotomies of old.
Many people trust doctors much more than they trust auto mechanics
(though not everyone these days), so people have gotten away with
that... but I would hope
instead for a major research push to actually UNDERSTAND that essential system,
the brain, far more than we do today. A long story... but efficient
focused R&D need not be anywhere near as expensive as what people want
for DBS deployment.


For those who want to dig even deeper:

Towards the end of the discussion, people raised a point: ANY system
which reduces the combined payment by taxpayers and patients for
medical care will end up cutting costs which take the form of jobs.

I thought of an extension of the image of "ten people to screw in a lightbulb."
One screws in the light bulb. Four act as advocates for now allowing
it, hassling both doctor and patients. Four act as advocates and
record keepers for the action. The tenth person, who would normally
oversee many light bulbs, has to be full time on this one, to keep on
top of all nine other people.

But what of the lost jobs if we streamline this and only use one person?

A key point we didn't get to in the discussion:

To a first approximation, ANYTHING we do to reduce the deficit results in a loss
of jobs SOMEWHERE. If there is no deal between Administration and
Republicans to reduce costs in a technical way for Obamacare and
Medicare, there will still be deficit reduction...  by sequestration.
So an "equal number' of jobs will be lost anyway -- in
sectors like defense and research and education (not to mention food
for the poor), where
the damage will be more than just the jobs. That's VERY real as we
look ahead to January 15. (Indeed, that's why I hope for serious
action on this front, or on tax reform, or both, by January 15.)

Cutting out all funding for deep brain stimulation under Obamacare and
Medicare, by contrast, would mainly cut the growth of NEW JOBS in that
sector. Of course lots of folks are salivating over the hope of lots
of new money... but that's exactly what national budget planning needs
to worry about.


However... to honest, that is all just a first approximation. I have
looked a lot more deeply into the technical economics of this,
especially when I worked in Specter's office in 2009,
and was asked to give a Congressional briefing on the job impacts of
different climate bills.

IN THEORY, we could meet the deficit targets WITHOUT reducing jobs at
all (maybe even adding some) by exploiting what I call an "x-y"
strategy. Some government commitments (spending or tax breaks)
generate a lot more jobs (x) than the usual, while others generate a
lot less (y).  Thus by expanding x and cutting back y, at least for
the duration of high unemployment rates, we could increase jobs while
not affecting the deficit (if we start from a base of adequate deficit

But the practical problem is that x-y is too high level math for a lot
of key people
in the US, and the specific elements of x and y are highly political.
For example, many
tax breaks today (especially oil breaks) are of the y variety, passed
on more like Christmas presents, not really changing actions or
investments to a measurable degree.
On the other hand, the old "cash for clunkers' program had a big x
(because it was like a MATCHING fund eliciting legitimate private
sector investment); the "White House of Japan" developed a program
"Three Pillars of Eco-Economy" which they estimated would have three
times the multiplier effects of ordinary spending or public debt,
building on the clunkers idea, with matching fund incentives of
various kinds, moving in directions we know we need to move into

Still, if we cut out inefficiencies, there is hope that the Fed or
fracking will result in enough new jobs to keep us from going bust
altogether as a result of deficit reduction.
It scares me that this is only a hope... but... one day at a time.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Author of Ender’s Game Explains Egyptian Book of the Dead

Ender’s Game is a powerful new movie we saw last week at an IMAX theater near us.  It’s based on a famous science fiction novel of the same name, by Orson Scott Card, a very important author. Before I get to the Book of the Dead, I should say something about Orson Scott  Card himself.

Orson Scott Card is not just entertaining to read (he is). He is thought-provoking in an important way.  All of us need our thoughts to be provoked a bit, to help us think out of the box, and see a bigger picture. There are lots of science fiction authors which provide only empty entertainment (which bores me to death usually),  but Card is much better than that. I have read dozens of his novels… just as I have read dozens of the novels of Modesitt, another equally interesting sci fi author who happens to be Mormon. Card often defends the Mormon establishment, while Modesitt is often very clear about characterizing its limitations and even satirizing it, but both are valuable to read.

But to be honest – my respect for Card goes deeper than this. In my view, Card is a genuinely inspired writer – a writer who gets inputs from the noosphere, which some would call “divine inspiration.” That’s a very real thing, in my view, however you explain or understand it. In fact, Card even has one cycle of books (The Song of Earth”) which talk about how “divine inspiration” MIGHT work, in physical terms, which has influenced my thinking on some technical points.

But of course, having “divine inspiration” does not make one infallible. No humans, and no other living creatures, can possibly be infallible. Thus reading Card, or Modesitt, or the Bible or Ayn Rand, is like watching a TV news show in a way – some scenes of incredible acuity and useful news, mixed in with a few obnoxious lying commercials and random pablum. One has to be mature enough to sort it out, or at least suspend judgment and consider some alternatives, to gain value from it. Believing everything in one of these books is a recipe for schizophrenia.  Even our own direct experiences need to be scrutinized very carefully…

As we planned to go see Ender’s Game, Luda  mentioned that some folks were boycotting the movie. I said: “Oh, that must be because of the silly, insensitive and inflammatory things he said about Obama in those newspaper columns. That annoyed me too, but that shouldn’t stop people from benefitting from this movie.” (I also wondered about how much sympathy he had towards the enemies of the US Constitution, in this book series Empire.) “No, it’s the gays and lesbians, who didn’t like some insensitive things he said about their causes…” Oh, well.  We didn’t see any picketing.

For years and years –there has been a kind of uncanny resonance between whatever I was thinking about at a deep emotional level and themes of Card’s current novels. For example, about 15 years ago, Card published a novel which my children undoubtedly thought of as “just another nice fairy tale” about someone establishing a magical relationship with a Russian princess. Turns out – that was exactly what I was doing right then in my life.  It’s OK for me to post, so long as I don’t give more details. By the way, Card was one of the four writers I mentioned in a previous post:
(There has also been some resonance at a different level with Dan Briown's novels, which tend to refer to specific people and groups I've been working with... but he wasn't one of those four writers.)

OK – now that the casual reader has been bored enough to give up, on to esoterica…

But still a little background first.

Back in 1972, when I accepted BOTH that “psychic’ or “spiritual” phenomena are real, and that they connect in an important way even to my own life… I became very interested in learning what I could learn from the experience of other people down through the millennia, in all cultures, filtered and laden with commercials as it may be. So long before I read Orson Scott Card, I read stuff like the Upanishads and… well, a lot of stuff. And tried to see through to rational explanations and the greater truths (and real experience) behind them all. That was  quite a challenge. For example,  how could you make real sense of “chakras” – after your first attempt at kundalini yoga generates results you cannot ignore? That was a first puzzle. And then… how can one make sense of notions like “etheric plane, astral plane, etc.”? That is a bit more natural; I have previously posted some sense of how I explain those kinds of experience in the “noosphere” context (being careful not to go too far in the level analysis). It is preposterous to imagine we each have “six bodies” or so, as theosophists sometimes say,  but there are levels of experience which can explain how they ended up with that idea.

And then, what of yin-yang and the Tibetan Book of the Dead?  Am tempted to say more, but it would take too many words to analyze them here and now. I have been to China (and Tibetan autonomous prefectures) enough to have a fairly complex understanding of what goes on there.

Many years ago, I recall that  a Rosicrucian source suggested obtaining the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Egyptian Book of the Dead, as some kind of prefatory reading. I did look at the Egyptian book briefly, but it left me cold, and I never returned to it. Like the theosophists, they postulated “more than one soul,’ a ba and a ka – and I simply could not relate to that at all.

But just about a month ago – I went to the library, and borrowed the first two books of a new trilogy by Orson Scott Card, the Gate Thief trilogy…

It was enjoyable, as usual with Card,  but I was disappointed at first. It seemed like just another coming-of-age world-of-mythology, much more human and entertaining than most of them, but just entertainment.  It has bits of old school Christian theology which raise my skepticism.

However… getting into the second novel.. he gets deeper and deeper into the concept of ka and ba. He anchors the idea in the flow of experience of the protagonist. And as I compared that with the flow of my own experience, I can begin to make sense of it… enough to be able to use it (like yin yang) as a kind of practical tool, a tool worth using, an additional window into the world which I can now make sense of.

He describes ka as “inself” and ba as “outself.” It is quite possible that he is confusing two distinctions here.. but in essence, he sees the ka as the real active and energetic self, and the ba as the extensions we create in the noosphere.

This fits nicely with the idea that the esoteric, psychic and spiritual reality we experience (which matters directly to us) is 99% a matter of “interaction within the noosphere,” where the noosphere is a kind of invisible large neural network intelligence of which we are parts. Our “souls” (ka) are like multichannel neurons within this larger brain. (Of course, I have also asked myself what the physical substratum might be of that large “invisible brain” – but the physics involved is pretty advanced, and we are still at the stage of learning to count “one little, two little, three little photons.” I have entire blog posts on the early elementary parts of the physics part of the story.) But --- tissues are made of cells and matrix. In fact, for neurons, the matrix and context are also partly a matter of other cells and other types of cell.

And in fact – the Gate Thief is also about gates or connections. Gates and connections are a fundamental aspects of any real intelligent system, beyond the very primitive level which I now call “vector intelligence.” (Probably someday I should post the slides for the plenary talk I gave last month to the international conference on extreme learning in Beijing, or the paper for Narendra’s workshop on learning and intelligent systems, defining the term in some detail.) Even at the level of fish, brains exploit concepts of symmetry, gating and attention essential to coping with the complexity of what we see in the world. It seems as if – the world itself may be structured as a 3+1-dimensional system (or  maybe a few more), but mind organizes its understanding into a different kind of structure, more like “graphs” (networks),
implemented by gating and connection.

All of this turns out to be especially relevant to unique aspects of my own life.

Aspects of my own life –

I remember some years ago when the current Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. Joe Bordogna (from the cognoscenti circle?), led a major awards ceremony in the big public room next to the main entry to NSF. I was there as part of the group receiving an award for cross-cutting collaboration, for interagency research in education.  Near the entry to the room, he was holding forth to some important person about the great challenge of getting people to break out of old paradigms, to think of new connections. “They are all so narrow and so rigid,
Even the most brilliant people we have. Getting them to think out of the box is like pulling teeth.” But then he looked at me and said: “Except for that one. That one acts as if there is no box there at all.”  Not a bad summary.  I have often wondered: why is it, when I see a new tricky problem, why is it that I can just look at the problem, and keep thinking about it, when almost everyone else I know seems to get instant paralysis?

In truth, it is not at all easy for me when the problem is hard enough. When I spent years trying to really understand quantum-classical equivalence, part of my motivation was to test my mind in a context where I knew I couldn’t accidentally “cheat” by using some form of unconscious telepathy; I focused on challenges for which no one on earth knows the answer.  I found it incredibly difficult to push ahead on these and many other topics, when it was just me and basically no one to talk to. It felt as if I was moving ahead at only 10% the rate I could achieve if there were someone to talk to and share it with.  And yet.. making any headway at all, it was clear I was at least moving, when other folks were not moving at all – and that gave me a unique responsibility to DO that kind of thinking, instead of spending time plotting career advancement and ego publicity which society tends to require of people.  Part of what was special was my will Not to be totally run over by social pressures (pressure by society to be less productive to society???). But also… there was a kind of “ba/ka” aspect, like the feelings in Card’s novel.

Many years ago, I remember giving a plenary talk on how to build a  brain, and talking about it with someone. “It was so inspiring for a day or two… a whole new way of thinking about things, which leads to new ways to make them work… but somehow… it was hard to remember… it slipped my mind…” and then he felt into the way of thinking of the majority of people in our society. Not enough matrix or ba? A kind of forgetfulness, or regression to the mean.. carried away by the matrix….

But on the psychic level… I do have some ability to force some matrix, a bit like the character in the book. Not those specific types of gates… and not just gates… but building up a kind of “ba” or infrastructure is very important, just like the more mundane cognitive mapping, in the  very highest level of creativity.

One final note. The issue of gates and connections and symmetry… spatial complexity… does occur at many levels of complexity. It is clear that the human brain does NOT make use of the most powerful symmetry principles available to intelligent systems embedded in n+1-dimensional hardware (with or without quantum entanglement). My claim is that the “noosphere” DOES, and that additional gating or connection is crucial to understanding how that level of intelligence works. The mathematics is advanced, but it is mathematical.

What of that other 1%?  I remember once saying to myself: “Their speculations are like fetuses debating the sex lives of their unknown parents. They should be careful not to take them too seriously.” The noosphere we can see every day, but it’s a big cosmos we live in. Earth (well, our solar system) is complex enough.

Best of luck…


And, oh yes -- what could Card have been confounding in his ba and ka discussion?
Card describes the Ka as "the real self/soul," and suggests that when we die, our whole self is there somewhere, as the ka.

But in fact... our "whole self" as we normally experience it is a kind of symbiosis of our brain and of our "personal soul" ("the multichannel neuron").  When the brain dies, we do lose a lot. That's the way it is. "Divorce of the alchemical marriage." How much gets lost? In a way, Gurdjieff's school of mysticism can be summarized as "try to store as much as you can on the hard drive, not on the volatile
storage, so it survives the next power outage." Some folks lose almost everything. (For example, those Moslems who shun Itzjihad and believe that following rules is enough.. and fundamentalists in Christendom or other realms of the same ilk... or even true nothingness-style Zen Buddhists..,
basically dissolve away like dry paper turning to dust, blown away on the wind. It is sad to see.) But exercise of the hard disk creates a longer-lasting human heritage.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

a suggestion to prevent economic disaster in EU and also great progress for all of humanity

See nss.org/EU.

When this position paper was approved, 7-2, by the National Space Society, different people had different reasons for supporting it. For myself - I wrote it because I view this as a concrete action that would help with THREE important subgoals important to the larger goal of preventing human extinction, which I worry about a lot.

In the World Space Forum, I posted:

What are some good strategies to really help space? Liddell-Hart told us that the best strategy is one which tries to "kill two or three birds with one stone." Von Neumann told us to seek win-win or Pareto
optimal solutions. And so, at nss.org/EU, you will see a new position paper aimed at three goals -- to seriously reduce the risk of the EU falling into a depression, to accelerate low-cost forms of solar farms on earth, and to set the wheels in motion for serious market-oriented investment in space solar power (http://www.scribd.com/doc/182928418/Space-Solar-Power-At-Competitive-Price-A-New- Opportunity-and-How-to-Capture-It).  I really hope that some of you are committed and capable enough to follow up on this lead. There is a lot at stake.

IN FACT -- avoiding economic depression in the EU was a major part of my motive here. Back in 2009, when I worked in the office of Senator Specter, I was asked to evaluate the jobs benefits of various climate change proposals. I studied the best CBO report on that subject, and the economic analyses they cited; the head of CBO attended my briefing on what we really know about creating jobs, and what we can learn from multisectoral econometric models. At the end of the day, it's clear to me that all of the Big Three -- EU, US and China -- are facing very serious risks of falling into much deeper unemployment and recession. But lots of the bankers in the EU and even the classic greens seem to be in a kind of paralysis, arguing with each other, but not being creative about how to get out of the box. I do hope that the positive and creative energy of the space community can help in overcoming that paralysis, not only for the sake of space but also other goals.

Here is a brief explanation I wrote for a noneocnomist in NSS. Then I will add more details on why I think that this "small" measure could have huge benefits to the European economy.

To the noneconomist: ========================================

I haven't said a whole lot more about the economics aspect, because, so far as I know, Mark and I are the only ones in NSS leadership with graduate degrees in economics. But the economic aspect is serious, and the EU is in serious danger right now. The Germans know that if Greece goes under (and then Italy and Spain, and then France), their economy is not immune. But they also know lots of reasons why they don't want jobs in Greece to be preserved at the cost of sending money down the rathole of the Greek government. Stimulating PRIVATE SECTOR jobs, based on private investment, in the sunny nations of southern EU, could be a very big deal; the electricity industry involves trillions of dollars of capitalization, more than enough private stimulus, if it can be mobilized. High-cost solar farms aren't really worth the investment, but the feed-in tariff sets a cap on what people get paid, and encourages the lower cost versions more. (In fact, I hope it stimulates the lower cost dish-style solar thermal solar farms, which do not depend on buying PVs from China.) The immediate investment in earth solar farms would be greater than the immediate investment in deploying solar power satellites... but if we do a good enough job on the other fronts, it COULD start entering the real market as soon as a decade from now. Having a clearly defined market NOW is crucial to the investments NOW to prepare for what we can deploy a decade or two from now.


More details:

EU, US and China are all facing problems with aggregate demand versus government debt. In all three areas, true Depression was averted in 2009-2013, because of government spending at levels which now appear nonsustainable... yet other sources of demand have not risen enough to fill the gap. The resulting dilemmas actually work out in very different ways in the three areas. In the EU, the essential problem is that central banks are hitting limits on what they can do to support governments in the south of the EU, while rising unemployment already has rising politically nonsustainable aspects all the way form Greece to France.  Key questions: how can we fill the gap
with new private sector investment, on a large enough scale, while staying within the constraint that the investment must be real investment, with measurable payback?

This proposal would stimulate immediate investment in making solar farms in the sunny regions
of the EU, where jobs are most needed. Because it is based on making existing markets more competitive by allowing new entries (presumably in the 15-20 cents slot), it is a valid investment lowering costs to consumers (without compromising on environmental and security objectives which EU leaders have rightly already been committed to). I sit big enough? At about ten cents per kwh,
world electricity generation is t about $2 trillion, with a capitalization many times that; a major
new capitalization, with new solar farms (and grid investments), we already get numbers big enough to
dwarf the budget deficit of Greece, for example. This one small step would not be so small.

I tend to suspect that a feed-in-tariff of <=20 cents for solar farms would give much more incentive to
large solar thermal solar farms, where more of the jobs stay in the EU, than PV farms which rely so much on imported solar panels these days. 

Of course, all of the Big Three depend a lot on each other, and it's important to all three that no
one just "falls off the horse" (as all three are in danger of doing right now!).


Best of luck,