Wednesday, September 30, 2015

saving your eyes -- a slight update

First eye stuff, then some reflections on politics and such....

Six days after cataract surgery on my right eye, I know more things which
are important to us "users" which somehow are hard to find on the web or even in all but very few doctor's offices.

One thing stays -- IF you don't have cataracts, or if you are marginal, DO use sunglasses a lot,
and do take lutein/zeantanin supplement (like Costco's orange plastic jar, much better than Ocuvite)...


I thought it was a mistake that I did not buy the $18 three-pack of reading glasses from Costco years ago, so as to reduce eyestrain when reading. After cataract surgery, I thought I would use them a lot
(due to lack of distance flexibility of standard "monofocal lenses" which I strongly recommend for now).  But this week (from last Friday to today, Wednesday) I have done LOTS of experimentation on my vision, and I did buy reading glasses form Costco. They simply did not do what I expected.
For images (like books) between, say, ten inches and two feet from my face, I expected NO CHANGE in image size or quality, but CHANGE IN HOW FAR IT SEEMED TO BE.
So if I read a book 20 inches away, I would expect it to look like a book twice as big with letters twice as big 40 inches away. (The same "angular resolution.") NO way. A big disappointment.
Above all, they worked only in a narrow window, for books something like ten inches from my face.
Also, even when I took care to clean the lenses a lot, the "noise" (blurring) through the glasses was noticeable.   In conclusion: needing glasses for driving has been no problem at all for me, they worked well, but I doubt I will use reading glasses much no matter what I choose next.

On the positive side, the EnVista intermediate range lens worked quite well.
No need to rely on weird imprecisely specified numbers from tricky eye tests.
I can just switch between my untreated (dominant) left eye, and my treated right eye.
I especially remember looking both ways at a tree far behind my house, our "totem"tree, which looks just like a totem pole with no leaves and two faces carved in it , carved somehow by nature.
The new eye has at least a factor of ten more resolution! When I use my old driving glasses on the left eye... even still, the right eye without glasses seems maybe a factor of 2 better.

But it was a great downer on my last Friday first checkout to move some book... form about 24 inches to 20... and see a blur in reading which I never had before! That was truly awful.

There is a tendency for all businesses and government enterprises to fall into routines, and try to make one size fit all. Since most older people suffer from "presbyopia" (far sightedness), they can immediately see the improvement when they get far-range lenses implanted after cataract surgery.
Doctors may feel insecure if patients deviate from that script, and it took some resolve on my part to
insist on intermediate instead of far for my right eye. I am VERY glad I was so resolved!

T%he lifestyle questonnairre in his office did help some. It asked -- which is more important to your lifestyle and happiness - playing golf (far), working with computer or TV (intermediate), or reading (near). I thought it was a no-brainer that reading and computers are 'way more important to my life than playing golf, which I do not play at all. OK, I like to ride a bicycle without glasses, but I could do that already; only driving REQUIRED far glasses, and, OK, some conference talks with small
print on slides. And so... with my right eye at intermediate, I ALREADY have a big improvement and all I really need on the far side; the question is how much I need to cut back on things involving intense fine reading.

Fortunately, I can read a book now reasonably well 26 inches or so form my eyes, even with just one eye really tuned to that distance. I also find that "two eyes are MUCH better than one," that even my old myopic left eye fuses with the right in a way which strongly increases reading ability, So I can continue reading WITHOUT reading glasses.

But what of the choice between TWO eyes treated for "intermediate" versus one intermediate and one near? I am even now vacillating on that. Eyestrain (and adaptation) has something to do with defining the right choice, but I have the impression that eyestrain damage... is like Li ion battery lifetime... an arcane subject where almost everyone is just guessing or imagining. (One of my last actions at NSF was to recommend funding for a highly recommended proposal that could have changed that, but bad guys who support clients in the Middle East and oil patches said "no way." This had a lot to do with my retirement, but growing eye problems also contributed, along with many other factors.)

The doctors warn that some people have real problems in coordination and binocular fusion when
one eye is far and another near (a common option, called "monovision"). They want people to try it with contact lenses to see  if it works for them. But today.. one web page says "near": is optimized for abut 12-14 inches, FURTHER than the present focal length on my (very myopic!) left eye.  Since I am having no problems in fusion this week, I would expect none next week. A tiny bit of dizziness? I don't know, but my eyes NATURALLY adapted to this kind of specialization years ago....

How important IS it to put an equation in fine print or a puzzle with my little annotations 14 inches form my face (or read labels in medical packages in fine print)? Is that important enough to warrant "near", for the next part of my life, versus the advantages of two "intermediate" eyes?

Now that I see people aren't ready for 1+1=2, how much should I tilt my plans to enable more equations?

12 hours to decide...

See the bottom for the story one day later.


Meanwhile, we all keep up with Presidential politics, and I "listen to the wind."
There is a curious Hindu perspective. Of course, the nation which "owns" the Upanishads should appreciate the very basic idea of trying to see through many eyes at once, for truly powerful fusion of images. (And yes, my left optic nerve seems to be part of that for me!) But the images here...
well, there is a less elevated, older, more mythological part of Hinduism, as in Mahabharata.
I own it, but have never read it much; I found it much more natural to read Journey to the West, a similar tall tale for Chinese Buddhism. But my brother showed me a very well-written children's book, Ramayana, which I read in his house, and which fit nicely with what we actually saw in India in March/April.  A tale of Gods and demons, more or less. The demons usually have sneaky plots in mind, and appear as humans, until they get power and cackle and show their claws and wheels and bad friends.

And so.. image of a Republican cast mostly made up of exactly that kind of demon (like the ones who cackled as they gave Cheney many green lights to screw up many things)... but three main exceptions: (1) Donald Trump, acting as an incarnation of Siva; (2) Kasich sort of an incarnation of Vishnu, but with limited support as with his friend Boehner, as we all see preserving the status quo is not good enough now; (3) Carson, a pious itinerant monk, due for great lessons and great struggles but not quite ready for the Presidency -- unless we wish to share those struggles. (Actually, "W" was in a way halfway between his brother and Carson... and he did have some struggles, and did learn a few things.)

AS this came to me, I asked: "What of Democrats?" On this stage, Hillary Clinton strikes me as very much a real human being. It's curious how much of an oddity that now seems. But those folks might say... an election between Trump and Clinton might be a lot like a popularity contest between Lakshmi and Siva.

You may recall... HIndus tell me Siva is both destroyer and creator.  That makes me nervous..
but this past week, Trump has done a number of things to suggest he really is capable of both.
Suing the Club for Growth... well, I am surprised he did not get more media credits for that.
Since I worked in Specter's office, and that Club was the force that knocked him out...
I still remember their VERY AWFUL unAmerican antidemocratic dirty tricks, like when they were caught organizing disruptions to Specter's town hall meetings, a rightly sacred institution in the US.
The second I saw that growling first questionner in Trump's town meeting.. it seemed very familiar... I couldn't help wondering...  that club IS on a short list of an important threats to the Constitution and the American way of life, in my view (analogous to folks who wear a cross while engaging in sodomy).. and they have done lots of dirty tricks before... Maybe this time, maybe not, but I couldn't help wondering, as it was just TOO perfect... but do advertizing dollars buy them a lot of help from the media?

More seriously... Thursday news reminds me how many people value their personal hatred of Assad over the minor question of the Third Caliphate movement destroying the entire world. McCain says "Russia has bombed a group trained by the CIA." That's nice. But wasn't Osama bin Laden (Al Qaida) also funded and trained by the CIA? When I said that, Luda responded, "No, this one was just affiliate of the same group." The real threat in the US is from folks who still would fund Al Qaida, who thing that a few hugs from an oriental rug dealer make him their 100% ally and friend forever.
Bush is still that naive. Trump has shown he is not, and that Third Caliphate is more than just an empty slogan to him. Whatever other pros and cons... that is certainly not one to be ignored!


As for Sanders... I think of him as Obama II, or candidate for the position of Queen of England: well intentioned, but not with the kind of experience it would take to rescue an admin situation as scary as what we are in.  More could be said, but no reason to now.

AS for Biden... this is not a time to relive my childhood. Of course, he is/was a kind of neighbor...
in a world not at all like India, but capable of even more Sivaesque action than Trump if and when the demons press too hard.  Beware the munchkins if their back is to the wall.

Reminds me of the curses of Moses hitting the shariacs this year... and some other evident actions of the noosphere.


More eyeball stuff, Thursday, after doctor's appointment.

Right eye tests as 20/30 for distance vision, correctable with -1.something lenses to 20/20.
I asked: "Could it be corrected to better for far vision?" Answer: "We don't do that. Perfect is good enough." (Luda just smiled. She mentioned how her father took the "far" option, and was 20/15 coming out of the operation, without correction. BUt for me, it was a VERY conscious choice, that intermediate and far vision are more critical to my life, so long as my far vision is good enough,)

Issue of intermediate versus near for the left eye... was hard. Luda sometimes gapes as she sees how fast and decisive I can be when I have a clear basis for going ahead... but on this, I didn't. I had a deadline, I felt, in order to get the surgery scheduled as soon as we should (October 22), so I needed to MAKE a decision, but I kept on seeing pros and cons up to the end.

In such a case... wanting the right decision, I naturally felt I should have a serious "talk with God and talk with Luda."   I told Luda: "God is more patient with all the precise technical details?"
"Ah, but does he even care?" "Good question, but at least he has practice 'drinking from a firehose.'"

So at about 3AM today, I felt I really should shift from my preliminary decision back toward "near," my immediate first impression back when I saw the "lifestyle questionnaire.' Lots of complex thoughts. One -- that I HAD a nearish left eye and farish or intermediate right eye, back when I was at Harvard (probably late graduate school),  when I had much more powerful vision than most people but my eyes had become more myopic due to hours and hours pouring over computer printouts looking for bugs. "Myopia was NEVER a bad thing. Back then, it was a natural adaption to the real needs I had, and not so extreme to interfere with things like driving or mountain climbing.  Two or three years ago, when it became MUCH worse, it was still a good adaptation to growing opacity in my eyes, as nature tried to make the best of a difficult situation, and I needed to read to do my job at NSF." (Not that the new Bo Xilai type cheerleaders would deign to read much themselves.)

And so, at 3AM, I thought... let me be real. Specialization between left and right eye was my natural way, optimally adapted to my real needs.   Even with a weak left eye (6 inches focus now, and correctable only to 20/40 or 20/50)... I fused both eyes very well this week, and having that left eye "miraculously" improved the quality of my reading two feet in front of my face, improved it a lot compared to using the right eye alone. With a STRONGER left eye, focus at the "usual near lens distance of 12-14 inches," it should be much better. If reading is the biggest gap n what I have right now, that should get attention. If I can fuse that old left eye well enough even with distance (as I do right now), then a "near" better left eye should work fine. A lower risk solution, allowing me to hold a few things closer to my eye (like equations or contracts, where it helps to fill my whole retina with the desired image). And then, if even EnVista lens should get a little cloudier through the years, I could still read with reliability.

Some folks would say: "Hey, who ever needs to fill the whole optic field with the desired equation? Isn't it enough just to make it out clearly from 24 inches away, and let the brain handle all the rest?" That sounds good, but as I observe myself solving hard puzzles.. it's amazing how simple things like quality of lighting affect quality of my   reasoning. Many people always feel that they are "all there" all the time, and at their peak by definition. I know better, both form science and form experience. So, to help this little brian do its best, at a time when it is often stressed to or beyond its limits, why not choose "near", to improve what I see on paper (including what I write myself in notebooks)?
Why not restore what you had after all the debugging at Harvard? Sure, I then become very dependent on my new right eye for distance vision... but risks of people killing me are probably greater than the risks of me just losing that right eye somehow.

Then the discussion with Luda, who was a bit put off that I would reconsider so late in the game. "Didn't you tell Irena yesterday over the phone that you decided on intermediate?"
"No, I was ready to just go along with that in the email last week, but on the phone, in the discussion which mattered, I only committed to surgery on October 22. I asked for one more day, to decide on near versus intermediate AFTER some further discussions, such as discussion with the doctor."

One key question: "As the week goes on, can't you ALREADY read well enough? Wouldn't another intermediate eye make the fusion even better, and let you read more? Do you want to pay all this money (85% from insurance) just to replace one myopic left eye with another?" And I had images of her and me riding horses in the wild, with far vision to support it... and wondered if we had ever done just that in some past life. (I once met an old mystic of a central Asian school who said we had both had a time in such places... but in this life, Luda's family comes from "the people of the horse," and mine do not.) But: "I don't expect us to do that in this lifetime. That's not a major consideration. Nor even jigsaw puzzles, which also go at intermediate distance."

Yet... I don't have much reason to expect EnVista lenses to deteriorate. They have yet to be around for decades, but I did pick them exactly to get minimum deterioration. Luda notes -- simple chemical deterioration is a factor with plastics, natural or artificial, so even with her sunglasses she can't be sure this will never happen to her. In the worst case, if they do, there are still reading glasses.
The full power of binocular vision is not to be underestimated. AND... "intermediate" is ALREADY a bit "myopic" by normal vision test standards (as I saw in the tests this morning)! If my optimum mix at Harvard was SLIGHTLY myopic, then shouldn't double intermediate ALREADY do as much as what nature already wanted to assist even tasks like debugging based on microscopic scrutiny of printouts in small print? So wouldn't "near" be overkill?'

I also told Luda: "You are more important to me than my eyes anyway. So if you would feel bad about my taking the "near" choice... intermediate is certainly good enough... I will choose that just for that reason. I do not want YOU to be upset." But she then said: "Well, if you pick intermediate and then feel bad about the quality of reading for the next 20 years, I don't want YOU to be upset." So in a way, we just reversed, in the car, going to the doctor's appointment. "Hey, this is just like that O'Henry story, where both sides ... consider their feelings about what makes the other one happy. But this time, BOTH possible endings are happy really, so it's not so bad." I also mentioned an economics professor I had decades ago at Harvard, who said: "People spend two much time agonizing over choices which are difficult because it's hard to tell which has more 'utility.' When the two choices are so close in value, it doesn't make much difference anyway.'" Ah, but sometimes the agonizing is because we need to reduce our uncertainty bounds, so that we get a better idea which is better... and one MIGHT be a whole lot better, if only we thought it through.

First step in the doctor's office was eye exam for the right eye (and a little on the left.). The 20/30 to 20/20. A friendly Latina (Rosie?) did the test, asked about my experience, and answered a few questions. Yes, I am "totally off restrictions." Cheer number one -- now I am allowed to bend over again. (Not til I lived with that did I see how much of a hassle it was!) Cheer number two -- I can take a full shower, including my head. (Because infection was such a concern, I DID take showers this week -- while wearing sunglasses in the shower, lowering the showerhead to make sure no water flowed onto my head, and using baby wipes carefully for cleaning my head away from my right eye.)
Cheer number three  -- only two eyedrops per day for the next month, instead of seven. Some folks continue with drops like Visine to make water/tears forever after cataract surgery, but a lot don't, and I am hoping to be in the latter group.

I explained that I am more than happy with my far vision, and all vision form two feet on out, but am deeply worried about how WELL I can read, especially since reading glasses don't work for me. She suggested that the +2.5 reading glasses I chose from Costco might well be too strong, and that +  1
or +1.5 might work better. (Costco's "eye bar" to choose the strength of reading glasses does not do the job!). But she also said it might well be pushing it to do two intermediate. She also told me how -1.x glasses get me to 20/20 now (in the right eye).

After she left, I asked Luda to let me quietly stare into space and digest the new numbers before the doctor came in. IF -1.x gets me to 20/20, and if -2 would get me to optimal far vision, then could it be that intermediate is indeed ALREADY as myopic as the best my natural body came up with at Harvard? Didn't that support Luda's position? And yes, I had -2 glasses for several years, from about 2000 to a few years ago, before the cataracts became catastropic. But then... I didn't need driving glasses BEFORE 2000 or so, suggesting that quiet cataract type deterioration had already set in by 2000. And what of the RISK aspect, as EnVista has not been tested for decades? At one point, Luda said: "The doctor has seen hundreds of cases by now. Why not just trust him and leave it at that."
I said: "But he may be missing some of the key numbers as much as I am. And how much does he see the whole longitudinal picture of his patients and what they experience afterwards?"

But when the doctor came in... I explained precisely what my uncertainties were,and why.
It is hard for me to predict how well I will read if I have just two intermediate eyes (let alone deterioration issues, which I did not raise). Yet certainly I appreciate the huge power of image fusion. He said a bit more about the experience of people who choose "monovision," like one eye far and one near. "With such a gap, the eyes sometimes cannot work together, the drop out for a bit; some people freak out at that, but some people are not bothered." Maybe I should have noted: I am NOW
working with a MORE NEAR left eye, and have never had any drop out at all, even with very far distances (e.g. in the car with Luda looking far ahead)."

Then I was surprised. It seems that IOLs do NOT come in only three ranges (near, far, intermediate).
It is basically a continuous variable. So he proposed a "more near" IOL, nearer than what I have in the right eye, but close enough to make image fusion near guaranteed. I just said yes, and thanked him. And in general... when and (the expected utility of two options x and y) are close but worrisome because of uncertainty, simply picking (x+y)/2 is one way to reduce risk. 
I don't know whether that was the BEST decision, but as of now, that's all the past, for me. Time now to worry about fusing other types of images, at other levels.

I did also ask myself how this choice would interact with the spiritual side of my life... but we will see. That got into even more uncertain stuff, like what I will really do with my next few years.




Friday, September 25, 2015

Francis greets Luda and Paul the Pirate and views of sufis

Francis greets Luda, Paul the Pirate and views from Sufis, Buddhists

So much to say and report... a busy week... but I must take it easy this week.
On Wednesday, Luda went downtown to see Pope Francis (picture above), while I followed directions to prepare for cataract surgery and watched the speeches of Obama and Pope Francis on TV. I would also have wanted to tune in hard to Francis's speech before Congress right when it was live, but my surgery was scheduled for 9:45AM (scheduled weeks before) and happened at 11:30.

Both speeches of Pope Francis were quite important.  Just now, on Saturday Sept. 26, I was able to see the full Congressional speech, and really tune in. I will discuss these speeches at length, and only at the end append comments about my eye experience and those other viewpoints.



Luda joked: This has been amazing fair turnabout, almost like karma.  First, we visit the Vatican, and the old Pope resigns. Then he visits here, and Boehner resigns. First, we talk about de Chardin and Greeley as exemplary sources in Catholicism, and then he talks about Lincoln, King Day and Merton.  In truth, I see the real, concrete operation of spirit – of flows in the noosphere – in all of this, and just possibly a bit more. But when we visited the Vatican, I had a clear image of pater galacticus and of the need for a return and reassertion of authentic spirituality. What will be get after Boehner? That I do not yet know. Reasons for worry, and reasons for hope, and reasons to imagine the usual mix of a bit of both.


In truth, Obama’s speech on Wednesday was also powerful. As I heard him, I felt very deep regret that there are people making shallow, overconfident (even sinfully arrogant) assertions about Obama’s faith, when the truth was so clear. Yes, Obama has many human limitations (some of which really hurt me last year), but we should not let that blind us to something as serious and powerful as his speech, and the Pope’s, on Wednesday. I hope that back-to-back sequence gets the attention it deserves,

But then... Thursday.

On Thursday, Pope Francis made it clear he was speaking not only to Congresspeople but to the people they are responsible for representing. 

Early this morning, Luda and I discussed the word “dialogue,” an important word indeed. Pope Francis said his main mission in this speech was to try to open a dialogue with American people – specifically working people, retirees and youth, which Luda and I have all been.  He said “dialogue” at the start,. An d in closing, but when he talked about climate change and the camera panned to Senator Inhofe, he used the word “conversation.”

“Dialogue?” asked Luda. “Isn’t that what a business guy says when he wants to force you into whatever he wants to foist on you?” “No,” I said. “I agree that the ‘word ‘dialogue’ has bveen abused by cynical and greedy people, just as the word ‘intelligent grid’ and even ‘god’ have been abused in the same way. But that is no excuse for ignoring the original concept.”

“In fact... in a way this word ‘dialogue’ needs to be fully respected as a kind of word of power in human culture and in the noosphere itself.  Just a few years ago, I learned the full depth and power of the word ‘zhengqi’ in Confucianism, and then last year the word ‘aloha,’ which is more than it seems. Then I checked into ‘oy veh.’ In a way...
‘dialogue’ is a word of similar gravitas, especially in Quaker and some core Christian cultures, but also a universal true concept like the others. OK, some of us might choose ‘peace’ or ‘light’ instead, but it is important.”

Why is it SO important?

In a way... the most important spiritual action which we are called to perform and expand IS dialogue... inner dialogue where we listen and speak within our souls to the souls of others,  in communion with the larger noosphere of which we are part. We are not called to cut ourselves off from personal spiritual experience and connection, as fraudulent power seekers pretending to spiritual authority often demand. We are not called to demand our own personal desires in the noosphere, or to be entirely passive. Barbara Marx Hubbard, a follower of Teilhard de Chardin, has an apt phrase: “We are called to be Co-creators” of “Gaia,” of “the noosphere,” of humanity and of the earth.

Pope Francis said much the same, and pointed in a uniquely positive direction. Would that other leaders of religious institutions would be so positive and in tune with the spirit! As Obama said, it is Francis’ own spiritual characteristics more than his title which resonate with the spirits of people in he US and in the whole world. (Those who do not resonate tend to be either coldly responding onbly to his title, or, worse, responding based on cold personal ambitions which they hope to advance through various types of hypocrisy and pretense.)

So, OK, hye’s a nice guy and a real person, in a VERY important and fundamental way. And he said lots of important things about that. Thomas Merton was his concluding example.

But... for real dialogue, I do have some duty to get into some fine points.

One fine point: both science AND experience tell me that our call to advance and defend life is NOT AT ALL restricted to “human life.”  The long introduction to “The Phenomenon of Man” defines the “noosphere” as a crystallization of the minds of HUMANS, and that is dead wrong. I have written before on why cats have souls. In truth, both from experience and from science, I would go further: a litmus test for whether one has any true spiritual vision is the realization that dogs and cats have more  consciousness, soul and connection to the noosphere than a three-month old human fetus. (I remember the folk song from a Southern guy saying he would not even accept to go to a heaven that wouldn’t also take his dog... and how happy he was when he found god agreed, and found that the guy who excluded dogs was only the devil pretending to be god.”  Thus outlawing abortion would be grossly inconsistent and spiritually wrong if one did not with equal force outlaw the eating of meat.

Of course, that violates centuries of political commitments of pontifices maximi, from even before the time they adopted a Christian mantle. . I would NOT ask Pope Francis to nullify the past history, as we must be realistic about human minds – yet this aberration reminds me a bit of aberrations introduced by various Roman emperors and by ulemas in Islam, without one hint of true spiritual input.  Just a lot of freak out faces, like the face of Fiorina when she expressed her conviction that Planned Parenthood is doing barin transplants (or Trump suggesting that Obama is a Moslem).

The truth is, of course, that Jesus never said a word against abortion or birth control, or about the spirit entering the body at birth. What links I have to the original culture.. say they viewed the fetus as partaking of the soul of the mother, until the very moment of birth, the first breath or “anima.” And Jesus certainly stood up against Pharisees to defend women’s rights against those who would stone them.

Where did tis weird abortion fetish cpome from? Why do so many people fixate on that matter of legitimate difference  of belief, when life on earth itself is threatened in a much more urgent way?

The answer lies in history. When I was young, the abortion fetish was mainly a Catholic thing in the US, and conservatives were proud to stand for freedom and for the right of Protestants to live by THEIR principles, as they have since the great time of the Spanish Armada.  But power hungry political types saw how they could exploit
what Catholic activists got from this cause, and embraced it for that reason. At about the same time, the church organization was also teaching that birth control and books and movies they disagreed with should also be banned for everyone; in a visit to Quebec, I saw first hand how moving such beliefs into power wold result even today in things like what the English struggled with to get out of the Dark Ages.

How did it get into Catholicism?

It came back from Aristotle... a history I know ever so well, compared to a lot of those cognoscenti. Back in Byzantium,  even those “Christian” emperors tended to view the Bible as an exoteric text (or, more precisely, as a middle-level text), with the inner circle still following in inner mystery school of Stoicism, which they took great pains to try to propagate even in the years when they could see the Eastern Empire falling.
The old Catholic theological texts cite Aristotle as if it were an incontestable foundation of Christianity. (Whence some of the Copernicus unpleasantness. Jesus never said the world was flat either.) Aristotle stressed the idea that proper humans... are true to themselves... their own nature... a lot like the zhengqi of Confucianism, but commonly without accounting for the qi or spirit side. And so, without spirit, a natral human would behave just like the human depicted in the book “Sociobiology” by E.O. Wilson. They strive to survive and reproduce above all. Long ago, I realized -- if Aristotle is telling us to be true to our biological nature, as if that were a spiritual imperative, would not refraining from sex be even more unnatural and unacceptable than birth control and abortion?  

A true Aristotelian would say it is often more natural to refrain from sex, because what matters is the ultimate outcome, the end, and enlightened people would not like the end which may result form ill-considered sex. But by the exact same token, a true Aristotelian would be concerned about what unlimited population growth can do in the end on a larger scale, looking ahead, as he says, "a moderate number of generations" into the future. 

It is ever so weird that Aristotle’s description of what a natural human does without a soul got translates into an ETHICAL imperative for the spiritual side of human nature!

The Rosicrucians do say that we should strive for an “alchemical marriage.” Creating a balance of what we want from our body and what we want from our soul.  It is grossly weird and confused to imagine that we have a spiritual obligation to eat, fight and reproduce whenever our body impulses point that way even when our body brain says that this is not even rational from a pure body point of view! This is an extreme example of “category confusion.”

Still, there are those on the other side who do not respect basic family values as much as a sane human, spiritual or not, would do. When Pope Francis spoke of family values, I wondered whether he fuly understand just what a strong ally Chinese culture could be on that?

I do not agree with what Dan Brown says, in his novel Inferno, that sustainability is ONLY about population stability. But like it or not, it IS part of it.  A big subject; maybe I should not say more, since already says more than I can here today. Female education and women’s rights, as well as their spiritual growth, are ever so important to whatever chances we have of survival on this planet.

All of this leads up to a more serious, fundamental and "true" question:
what kind of universal social contract, to apply to all people in a large society, would  allow the society to avoid decay into overpopulation, and ultimately nuclear war and human habitat destruction, even when the individual members of the society pursue a natural mixture of biological and spiritual goals, supported by theit individual beliefs? In fact, this subject of social contract is right at the heart of what Yeshua is now discussing, unavoidably tightly coupled to the issues of peace, love and community which he stresses. So far as I know, the US constitution, and the later constitution developed for Germany after World War II, were the most credible efforts to develop such a social contract anywhere, ''way beyond the instabilities of earlier systems like twelve tablets of Rome, Ten Commandments and sharia. Yet in recent years, we see how a legal contract by itself is not enough for enduring peace and stability, when powerful elements WITHIN the society fight for narrow but powerful changes, de facto or de jure. This is an important subject, beyond the scope of today's blog.

Enough for now.

The a bit on my eyes:

But for now... the eyepatch is off. Surgery Tuesday, patch off today Friday morning (but still around to use at night for a week, to be sure I do not injure it in sleep). Outcome exactly as I was predicting to myself as most likely outcome... and not what social pressures suggest, pressures sometimes too optimistic and sometimes too pessimistic. I am glad I chose intermediate over far. Even now, when I look at the "totem tree" behind out house (about 100 feet) I can see it MUCH more clearly with my right eye now than with my old left eye.  That means I can continue to right a bicycle on the local trails without glasses, just as I have done recently in the past. Maybe I will still need glasses when driving; maybe not. But my far vision has been good enough, and will be better.

More serious is the near range. It is a weird situation where I can read well eight inches away (using left eye) or two feet away (as I am now doing with the computer), but if I lean a bit closer the letters get out of focus. When I try to read a hard copy contract (as folks have asked me to do)... it is really awkward because I have to hold it some distance away...  and for just one week, they say not to bend down at all while the eye heals more.  Not bending over is weird... keyboard... shoes...

Yet to decide: left eye also intermediate, or near, or untouched?

Sent to my doctor’s office today:

All is going quite well. Based on what I now see, I am hoping you would be able to schedule the exact same procedure for the left eye -- EnVista intermediate -- as soon as possible before November 11.  (After that, our travel plans could get in the way of recovery.)

Dr. Hoang did say before "If you do one eye intermediate, I would recommend doing the other the same." It was not easy for me to reach real clarity on this, but I am now ready to commit fully to that recommendation.

It was very quick and easy for me to decide against the three other logical options -- left eye far, no operation on left eye, or multifocal left.

For far -- my far vision really seems more than adequate for me and my lifestyle already in the right intermediate eye; for example, when I look out at a tree far behind my house with my old left eye and my new right eye, the right eye has at least ten times the resolution! Since I feel I can ride a bicycle safely enough even with my old eyes, without glasses, I will certainly still be able to do that.  I hope I can even drive without glasses, based on what Dr. Jain told me, but it would not be so bad for me to wear driving glasses anyway. Probably I will ask for a prescription for transitions lenses and optimal far vision, to use for things like driving and like walking in big outdoor parks to see vaster nature.

For operation or no operation -- the contrast between my old left eye and the new right one has been very graphic, at all distances. I might have anxieties about eye tests... but the difference between what I see on the left and what I see on the right is very impressive! And Dr. Jain said the right will be even better a month from now. Only at a distance of 6 to 8 inches or less from my eyes doe the left show any advantage. I even worry that keeping the left eye as it is too long will encourage my brain to just write it off!  
For multifocal... since EnVista is a Bausch and Lomb product, but CrystalLens also is, and I liked the CrystalLens booklet you showed me, I did do another check. If t looked good, I would have asked if it is too late for the left eye.
But as I do another literature search (with the help of the new right eye!), it seems as if their materials technology for glistening-free EnVista does not yet transfer to CrystalLens, and, worse, that all the multifocals still have buigs to work out at the intermediate distance.  

BUT: intermediate versus near for the left eye took a lot more thought.

My biggest disappointment has been the difficulty of reading hard copy books or contracts now.
With the right eye or both eyes open, there is a very sharp gradient at about 20 inches to two feet from my eyes. So right now, at a bit more than two feet, I get sharp images of the words on the computer screen -- and I see a LOT of them. But if I get closer, just 20 inches, it defocuses. And my left eye saves the day only at about six inches -- not any real cooperation between eyes!

So with a "near" left eye, after cataract surgery, I'd expect more resolution and better cooperation between the eyes -- but I am just speculating on that! Probably I would not need reading glasses, and I have never needed reading glasses ever before. I do a huge amount of reading, and it's important to my life. (I'd guess it is the same for Dr. Hoang too!). Even in college, my left eye was more near-sighted than the right eye, so I guess it would be OK with my brain. I have felt a tiny bit of on=again off-again vertigo and pain... more yesterday and early morning than today, and probably less than what most people experience. (( briefly learned of two other of Dr. Hoang's patients from Thursday, and it sounds as I did better. I* hope I was cooperative on the table! I have almost no memory of 
that time...)

But for now... if both eyes are the same, and if I use reading glasses for reading, I suppose that will minimize both eyestrain and adaptation pressure on both eyes, and make it easier to use them together with maximum cooperation and focus.  And perhaps the risk is a little less that way. That, plus the doctor's recommendation, is enough to convince me that I should go ahead with both intermediate, and should go ahead as soon as possible (to sustain binocular cooperation).


thank you again, and I hope we can all move ahead on this.

Best regards,



And... well, just a few words on views from Sufis and Buddhists.

As I think of the deep[ly wrong strategic planning of the Third Caliphate Movement, I think of how they seem to be rebuilding the more corrupt and less sustainable First Caliphate, while failing to appreciate the huge importance of the Second Caliphate. Such Moslem pseudo-spiritual political leaders seem to have envy of those Christain crusaders who would reinvent the Old Testament... inoring the progress achieved by Jesus in seeing further.
In my view, Rumi is to Mohammed what Jesus was to Moses, and Moses and Mohammed would both agree now. The greater spiritual vision of Rumi, building on previous revelation but going beyond it, was crucxial to the great spiritual strength of Sufi and even Janissary orders, which were the real foundation of the enormous power and creativity of the Second Caliphate. False imams say “God would not speak to anyone after Mohammed, he is the last prophet” – but in my view those statements are basic anathema, and violently deny the true power and mercy of God. They are power-driven psychopathologies, and a litmus test of people whom no one should trust.

The wisdom and spiritual authenticity of Sufis is thus widely respected all over the world. I certainly remember gatherings of Quaker Universalists where Sufi dances were on the core program, and Quaker schools where they are part of the curriculum, rightly so.

And yet... even Sufis are humans and faillible, like me or Pope Francis.

Many years ago, I had deep contact with four of the dozens of schools of Sufis, all of which have a unique character. In the US, the vast majority of sufi followers follow Inayat Khan (or his successor) or Idries Shah, whose books are available and whose people I met. Khan embraces a  cosmopolitan benevolent approach, has many followers in the West, and is probably the source of those dances I have seen in the US. Idries Shah sounds a lot like Gurdjieff, with pretensions to be “the real truth of what Gurdjieff teaches,” but I question that, since I have had other access to Gurdjieff’s sources and ideas. I was also impressed by many of the books of Corbin, who really got deep into the “real stuff,” including even links to the exercises of the Pythagorean Order, just as important as the Platonists and the Stoics in the deep inner culture of the West.

Most Sufis of the Middle East are somewhat bemused by those two American orders of sufism, regarding theirs as deeper and more powerful but st\ill happy to see a few Americans able at least to reach kindergarten.

In past years, I was honored and grateful to have serious dialogue with two orders of Sufi which, so far as I know, are the most powerful and real in the world today (though I regret I had to decline the invitation to Azerbaijan, due to restrictions from emerging powers within the US government)/ Those two – the Ummayad order, and the Mehlevi order (sp?).

The Ummaya/Ommaya order fills me stilll with profound, strong feelings of regrety, loss and guilt.

I will mention just a small part of that story here today, since it relates to Pope Francis!

Ayub Ommaya was a great and deeply spiritual friend, whose family actually ledf/leads the Ummaya order based in Pakistan. He even have me a major manual of his order, which I retain still. Part of that manual... compared the true sufi to a surfer who rides the wave of the spiritual energies of their people. Of course, I recalled Mao’s comment that the revolutionary is like fish swimming in the water of the people, but the sufi was talking more about the spiritual energies, like the qi in the noosphere.  This is EXACTLY like Francis’ understanding that “the shephrd must take on the smell of the sheep.” It is valid and powerful, far more powerful than people can know who never feel the qi.

However... Ayub got caught up in the spirit and feelings of HIS OWN people, th specific PART of the noosphere he was most connected to. And I deeply regret  that we lost touch before I could help him with one step beyond that – because the noosphere is more than just one lobe. In a way, it is LIKE what Carl Jung says, that humans who play with powerful archetypes are at VERY great personal risk, is they do not learnm certain disciplines much higher even than what Ayub had learned.

In fact... I found it a bit unnerving to go to India last March, after two really amazing enlightened people (Ayub a Moslem and Mani Subramanian a Hindu Vednata Society leader) both returned, became spiritually active... and died of sudden unexpected brain attacks. And then I went to India!  And I did not refrain from spiritual engagement as deep as either of them., on all sides. At one point, I felt first hand the kind of bad stuff which may explain what happened to them. And at a later point... there are many facets to the archetype of the Monkey God, and I did make a gaffe at one point which it took efort for me to su5rvive physically.

IN actuality, the concept of theOne God was not just an idle product of a cold theo-logician. It toks some really heavy inner energy form some people, construing it and evolving it... yes, to fit better with reality, but also to finesse teh nasty “antibodies” which existed in the noosphere.. and which exist even now for many other areas of truth, such as the truth that time is just another dimension. I suppose that “right to life” politicians are basically just like worshippers of the monkey god... though with less actual spiritual truth.

Enough for now. Mehlevis and Buddhists will wait for another time, worthy as hey both are.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Republican debates, Beaucoup Harem, Chinese launch and the value of dumb engineering

Sorry, folks, but these topics are very closely entangled with each other. But I will try to keep it simple...
ending with a quick comment on the visit of Pope Francis. 

One step at a time. Republican debates first, since they are on everyone’s mind already right now.

I was slightly alienated by how Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina rose so much in the polls immediately after the last debate, after I was struck by two very depressing sights at that debate.

The first was when Fiorina was talking about Planned Parenthood. What a shock! My wife Luda and I were both watching.

IN SOME WAYS, my ex-wife Lily is more like Hilary Clinton, and Luda more like Fionrina. Lily’s facial expression often has a gentle and loving side, as does Hillary’s, and she is more on the humanitarian side – though of course both have learned some lessons of survival in the real world.  Luda is more on the technical side, having served (and survived) as a line manager in the Soviet Union, and obtained what are recognized as two PhDs in the US, one from the Institute for Nuclear Energetics and one the Institute for Physiologtically Active Substances. Lily was a Democrat, and Luda has been mostly Republican, usually staunch, from the “Texas of Russia.”

And so... when THE MOMENT happened with Fiorina, it was interesting that Luda and I were both equally appalled, even though we had been somewhat more optimistic about her before that.

Luda was shocked: “She says she is upset about Planned Parenthood harvesting body parts of fetuses for transplants, especially brains. BRAINS? Transplanting brains? What else does this woman believe?” So... I guess one big difference here is that Fiorina has survived in a technical world, advancing her own career by liquidating what was left of Bell Labs, quick advancement as a reliable apparatchik, but not understanding even the basic facts of life. Luda woul be upset if I would identify her with that kind of ignorance.

I was shocked in a different way. As Fiorina started speaking about this subject... her eyes glazed over in a way which was familiar to me. In truth, she reminded me instantly of one of the Bad Nuns I encountered in Catholic School.  Catholic nuns, like almost any large human community, have a lot of diversity. I spent second grade, third grade and the first half of fourth grade in Catholic school and I will never forget a lot of what I saw. I remember a Very Good Nun, who radiated warmth and love, and pointed to a picture of “Jesus Christ – the Sacred Heart” with a powerful red heart depicted, and all the right constructive feelings. But I also met a nun who could remind me now of the worst stereotype of a green-eye-shade obstructive clerk (like the one in the bardo of Beetlejuice) – a truly horrible picture, whose wimpet seemed to look at times like the black wings and talons of a cruel predator... like the wicked witch of the west. Psychiatrists also knoew that kind of face, but I won’t get too technical here. Let me just say – when I saw THAT FACE, that insane and dangerous expression, on Fiorina’s face, it was all over for me. And I was very turned off later when Fiorina was catty clever enough later on to project a false image of herself as a mistread innocent girl who really knew Trump despised her for her ugliness. That was a lie she got away with projecting on TV – because in fact, Trump had seen THAT FACE before, not a matter of beauty, but exactly as Trump said, of persona. It is sad that so many people did not fully see what Trump meant by “persona” – but having seen that look on scary faces before... well, I would give that round to Trump. Trump has other issues, as does every candidate... but if people don’t sense real insanity, we could be in for trouble.

But even more, I was disappointed at people’s response to Jeb Bush’s defense of his brother – defending the Iraq war both against Trump and against Carson.

Here we are, seeing the fruits of that war...  the decision by “W” and by Cheney to push into Iraq. That push is exactly what changed Iraq into the powerful new base it is today for ISIL, for one very serious branch of the Third Caliphate movement and the Moslem Brotherhood, but only one of several branches, which collectively threaten our very existence. This is serious stuff, folks. It is not the ONLY major “existential threat”: we are facing, but it is high on the list, and every year since 2003 I have seen more and more evidence that we should take it seriously. As with climate change, I would say to most people in the US: “You are only worried because you don’t have all the information. If you did, you would be scared out of your wits. (Unless you practice very special disciplines to stay sane even under the worst of circumstances, as I do.)”

The truth is, that George W was an unwitting patsy, and Cheney a somewhat more willing partner, of  forces which consciously WANTED this outcome, the outcome of the first open announcement of the policies and pretensions of the Sunni Third Caliphate movement and beginning of the end of the old era led by the West and by the Pacific Rim. Now that we can see what a horrible result ensued... it is scary indeed that Jeb Bush TODAY, with the benefit of hindsight, so intensely refuses to face up to reality. If he does not face up to reality... the bad guys are working very hard again to  drop the second, bigger shoe... to try to create a new war of US and Israel versus Iran and Russia, hoping to see both obstacles to their world dominion destroy each other and open a path. Am I just imagining that Arabs, mere Arabs, could be able to read Sun Tzu or  manipulate politics in such a cynical, manipulative way, seeing the long picture? Are rigid religious fanatics actually capable of such plotting? For those who know a bit of history, it is laughable that anyone would even ask such a question! I did recently pass on some details to folks associated with Israel who should have figured this out... but there are also some intense sensitivities and ruthless Caliphate apparatchiks we have to be aware of, even in Great Patriotic US companies like Halliburton, headquartered in Dubai and selling serves to oil producers in that area, first, their biggest customer... and yes, their people even suborned a few key networks in places like NSA and FBI... not the agencies as a whole, but a few well placed authorized people are contributing a lot to their long-term plans. I wish I did not have such first-hand data as I do.

So... the last thing we need is another blind patsy in the White House. I did not oppose the Iraq War as clearly and emphatically as I now know I should have, in principle... but when we see what happened, I can at least learn. And in all fairness... maybe my Quakerly approach (just like Blair’s!) might have had more hope than the shrill cries of those who Just Said No (even though they were right). Who kinows?

Any connection with the other three topics in my headline?

Well, to deal with this threat in a truly deep and Quakerly way, one first remembers the basic Quaker principle: “There is that of God in everyone.”  If we and the leaders of the Third Caliphate movement are all to some extent part of the same noosphere, if They are US in some level... can we first at least try to understand where they are really coming from.

I need to avoid saying all I think about that subject here and now, because it is too long.  There are many, many thoughts in the Middle East which have crystallized into the Third Caliphate movement. Among the deepest most important thoughts: (1) fear that the West is on an irreversible path to oppress and robotize the human spirit, and destroy even simple things like the feelings one gets sipping tea with one’s friends or the sense of reality of God; and (2) belief that in a world tending towards chaos, sharia offers a kind of social contract (with analogies to the Twelve Tablets of Tome, and resonance with Locke’s concept of social contract and some concepts related to Weber’s legitimacy and Schelling’s tacit solutions to partially cooperative games).  Certainly remembering and understanding Mohammed, in three dimensions and in color, is one important part of understanding our common human heritage.

But the sad fact is that the sharia which has come down to us in history was manipulated to serve the interests of corrupt local rulers (as in the first almost entirely pusillanimous and corrupt caliphate, the Abbasid caliphate), just as Constantine rewrote the Christian Bible and injected garbled thoughts from Aristotle in ways which deeply compromised the spiritual character of Western Christianity. Long before Locke, Mohammed knew that we do need comprehensible social contracts to avoid the very worst of social entropy, and he did his best subject to the constraints of the time (like the power of local warlords), but in the end we would need a new kind of social contract to protect this world from the instabilities which threaten to extinguish it, body and soul and all. Yeshua talks a lot about that now... The stability analysis is ...  more than one paragraph... but deep and true respect for the female half of humanity, and the nonhuman part of the earth, is a key part of it.

But then: what of Beaucoup Harem?

Lots of Fiorina types would be instantly insulted and politically righteous here, even though they don’t like what they call “Boko Haram.” “First,” they would say,”That is not the true name of that movement.” Sorry, folks, but the true name is in Arabic, not English. Arabic is one of many languages on earth which does not use the Latin alphabet; there is always a somewhat arbitrary choice of TRANSLITERATION when one goes to English. For example, in Chinese, “Dao” and “Tao” are equally legitimate ways of writing the same Chinese word (more or less, let me not write a book on THAT), and “Shih” and “Xi” are the same name (as I was brutally reminded of in May). Even from Russian... it was a little sad when financial folks said “your wife has been using an alias. Is she Ludmilla or Ludmila, and why is she using an alias?” Arabic does not write vowels... and it is clear that “beaucoup Harem” is the name, not just in consonant pronunciation, but in what it really is about.

If sharia ever did anything to truly protect normal innocent people... the most well-established point there is the way that people who just take what they want, not respecting the rights of who they take it from (whether infidel or faithful), the rule is that they get their hand cut off. So these lonely, horny uneducated folks in parts of rural Nigeria  decide they won’t take it any more, and they just grab attractive young girls, en masse, and kidnap them.

So here is the point: if there is anything at all in any followers of sharia beyond self-serving hypocrisy and a banner for racism... those folks should be standing up very loudly and demanding that all of Beaucoup Haram have their right hands cut off, immediately, for the act of greed, envy and theft they have carried out, a deed much worse than mere theft of fruits in a marketplace. It is a real test, and Mohammed himself would certainly support that test very emphatically.

A big subject – but let me move on to the two other headlines for now, both just two of the threads emerging from a nice discussion yesterday with some visiting space people. (We also discussed how the same old Bad Guys  active in the US are truncating US space capabilities, both civilian and military, public and private.)

First: Chinese launch capabilities, and low cost access to space in general. We discussed how we know the reliable technology path to get us to a cost of only $200/pound to low earth orbit (LEO), which culd be achieved much sooner than most people imagine. In fact, George Mueller of NASA Greenbelt published NASA reports back in the 1960’s (!) which would probably have worked in getting us there decades ago, using technology then classified, if only Richard Nixon had not overridden him, relying instead on wealthy stakeholder friends in Utah and obedient folks at OMB who knew how to warp the beancounting to be distracted by all the wrong numbers. Really awful politics has gotten in the way of the US ever doing what it could have done even long ago...  but some of us are still trying. At a meeting at Rayburn a few months back, I even said: “The US probably has not yet lost the ability to reduce large-volume recurring launch costs by factor of 10 or 100, but we are not doing anything even to preserve that ability. How will we feel, then, if China does it first, and tells us only when they are ready to spring a Sputnik like surprise? How will we feel  when we learn they can orbit 10 to 100 times as much mass (more like 100) FOR THE SAME dollar, for all the many  purposes they might be interested in? When, overnight, China owns 90 to 99% of all human infrastructure in space?”

So: how real is that possibility? That’s a guessing game, to be sure! A few years ago, I gave a rough guess... about 30% probability of such a surprise. Do we really want to keep risking that? But it was 30% ONLY allowing for possible collaboration with other nations, such as Russia, EU or India.

Why not China itself? And why am I not more concerned? China has certainly been very creative, and leaped well past the US, in many crucial areas. We do not fully understand yet just how far ahead they may be in areas like batteries, certain strands of cyberwarfare, intelligent systems and high power lasers, for example. So why not launch? Why is China doing so well in some areas, but not others?

Part of it lies in the difference between the free market world centered in south China, versus the political/military orthodoxy centered more in the north.. though Hunan province in the south is still an important wild card. (Wild? Well, Mao came from there. I know so much more about Hunan province now than I did before I started travelling to China again n 2004 or so!) Part lies in respect for titles.

It is said that China has databases which, even more than the databases of NSA, contain intercepted copies of just about anything of technical or scientific interest from anywhere n the world. I remember when NSF discovered that they had very quietly hacked into the main servers of the Engineering Directorate, on a long-term basis, getting just about everything. They have a major supercomputer in Tianjin (about a hundred miles south of Beijing, site of a major recent mysterious explosion which raised lots of questions), modeled on a supercomputer developed in a building in Changsha (capital of Hunan) which I have ridden by a few times.
But exactly like NSA (and like me!), they have this problem: “How can we learn to drink form a firehose?” So yes, they may well have all the technical specs ever digitized needed to get to low-cost launch, but WHICH of the many files do they actually read and study?

If they are truly diligent and serious and poilitically correct members of the orthodox (northern) political class, they will of course have much more respect for a title like “President of the US” than like “senior scientist, NASA Greenbelt,” a title which doesn’t sound any better than many many thousands of others. And so they are keeping up with Richard Nixon’s brilliant design thoughts, and probably have never really deeply studied George Mueller. Sources have told me of a massive “sputnik surprise” military spaceplane project in Sichuan province (where they hide things they don’t even want the Russians to know about), based on diligently copying the specs of the old US National Aerospace Plane (NASP) program , which failed brutally due to interventions at the design/procurement stage by “wise” lobbyists (some of whom were peer reviewed by my old program at NSF!) more concerned about getting the money than about US capability. (Slightly psychopathic... but I will not violate the Privacy Act.) That’s not much better than spending billions to try to implement Nixon’s wet dreams! Will they unleash the more creative and skeptical private sectors of southeast China? Not when they see national security as such a big deal, with Great Firewall of Chin and all that keeping out new ideas.  How then could China do so well in some other areas? Well, Hunan is part of the answer, and other special circumstances have been involved. Part of the story is also how Friends of the Caliphate have held the US back in certain strategic areas, making it easier for China to coast ahead.

Which is directly related to the important big subject of Dumb Engineering.

Here is a quick caveat: I do not classify IBM Watson as an intelligent system. (In fact, I have published mathematical definitions and roadmaps, and Watson does not qualify – but I understand that different folks can use words to mean different things, sometimes even honestly though usually not these days.). It does not pose the kinds of risks that a true Termnator kind of system would. It poses risks more like rule by overgrown overempowered dumb voicemail systems.

As I see what kinds of malevolent psychopathic people have infiltrated so many spheres of life around the world these days... I am now much more reluctant to push real intelligent systems, yet baffled by the problems that creates. Probably it is harmless to push more towards what I call “vector intelligence,” explained in my 2014 paper delivered in Beijing at the IEEE World Congress on Computational Intelligence (posted in the computer science section of But again and again, I run into application areas where a higher level of intelligence seems warranted... if one uses intelligent systems at all.

And so: maybe I need to go back to control technologies more like those which my former colleagues Kishan Baheti and Pramod Karhonekar advocated, dumb linear “robust control,” for those applications where a level of intelligence higher than vector intelligence would be best. In simpler applications, like pollution control in cars, intelligent systems developed by Ford, Toyota and others have shown an order of magnitude better performance than the more ancient methods published by Kargonekar, but what of the intelligent grid and intelligent control of cohorts of robots or phased array power beaming? Perhaps it really was a wise act of God” that Lamar Smith and Kargonekar cancelled NSF efforts i those areas, in favor of more conservative technology.

But how can we advance plug-in cars and big solar farms, for example, in a world of dumb control? Well, there are three main changes we need to survive in the grid of the future. At the distribution level, it would probably be enough to add a bit more control authority (as Deepak Divan is already doing, with support from ARPAE now) and to reinvent the moderate new algorithms already used at the transmission level of the system. For the transmisison level, I recently heard folks from EPA saying “We just need to certify the availability of frequency control reosurces in the power electronics of wind turbines and such.” More concretely: vector intelligence at the level of individual power converters or wind turbines or turbogenerators (like the classic work of Harley, Wunsch and Venayagamoorthy, or even Shuhui Li and Wunsch with wind) could be used to provide that kind “of “resource”, with fast control of power electronics, so that old fashioned human balancing authorities can make good enough decisions to keep the grid from collapsing. And then... a third need is for more intelligent “demand response,” IF ONLY Americans can really learn all they can from the great watershed “Mannheim Project” in Germany using the open software platform OGEMA.

And so a combination of local vector intelligence, human leadership and old fashioned linear robust control should be good enough even for the more interesting challenges of space solar power... and I guess it’s high time I started to move into that class of hybrid design.

Without bigger changes in the technology of real intelligent systems, biology and advanced physics... we are at risk of losing it all at a later stage of the game of human survival. I have had nightmares about what might happen in the future... yet there are clear and present nightmares active here and now in the US and elsewhere.. another juggling game to move ahead in parallel with progress in dumb engineering.


Speaking of nightmares – what could Francis possibly say to folks in Congress, a dilemma for him? In his shoes, I think I would quote Jesus a lot.. and urge people to really think more seriously about some important things which Jesus (and also Paul) said... and urge them not to underestimate...

Poor Fiorina types, not understanding the difference between Jesus and Aristotle, or the ways in which celibates and political opportunists misunderstood Aristotle, somewhat sincerely somewhat but somewhat as a way to seek power.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

In God We Trust – and No One Else Right Now

A week or two ago, pollsters watching the primaries in the US said: “Eight years ago, the big issue for the American public was the economy. Now the big issue is trust.’ For awhile, I felt a very high personal resonance with the electorate ...because trust is my big problem now. But today’s polls (Fiorina and Bush and Rubio all up) suggest that really , what I see myself is a lot stronger than what the electorate sees.... I saw some things in that last debate which make me sad about the recent shift in polls.

Trust is now a very deep and fundamental problem, requiring some care and even some analytic models.

So: first some stuff on models.

Before Quaker Meeting today, we had some “early drop-in” discussion. The first person there was a guy who is both Quaker and Catholic at the same time. I told him that there are two official Catholic authors whose writings are far more important than any other official Catholic writings I have ever read, for the serious and unconstrained seeker of spiritual truth: Teilhard de Chardin, and Andrew Greeley. We talked some about Teilhard this week and last week. In honor of Pope Francis visiting this area, I had hoped to bring a copy of the one really important article by Greeley to meeting this morning – but couldn’t. It wasn’t on the web that I could finmd, not even on Greeley’s own web site (maintained by his family since his death in 2013). So for $1 cost + $4 shipping, I have bought a copy of the hard copy edition of a book which reprints his paper and others of possible interest: Consciousness: The Brain, States of Awareness, & Alternate Realities by Daniel Goleman (Author), Richard J. Davidson (Editor). An important source – but not for this blog today.

Teilhard de Chardin’s Phenomenon of Man popularized the idea of “noosphere,” which in my view is really essential to understand the vast bulk of esoteric and spiritual experience of us people on earth. But I had to agree with the guy who read the book before me that the discussion of “evolution” was implausible. Today he summarized it: “It’s not that Teilhard did not understand Darwin. It’s that he uses the word ‘evolution’ in a generic way, saying we now have new rules.” I compared that to the beliefs of some transhumanists, who imagine that sheer brain power automatically leads to a rapid positive progress – not accounting for phenomena like entropy, aging, conflicts of interest and corruption.

And so: my view of where the noosphere comes from is fundamentally different from Teilhard’s. I would not believe it at all, were it not for very compelling experiential evidence. “The real question – highlighted by what we see on TV and in PR efforts right now – is why there is any hope the whole thing will not collapse soon into total death, both of species and of noosphere. The same question applies to the human body. As above, so below. The human body has a special feature, analogous to antibodies, which I would call ‘DNA protectors.’ They detect and kill cells with bad, improper mutated DNA. Without that, our body would not last so long. The only real hope for growth to outweigh aging and entropy, even within the noosphere itself (let alone the world economy), is the expectation that the noosphere might also contain inborn ‘spiritual DNA protectors’ and that these would be expressed.... along with the things we do for growth.”

That was before the drop-in discussion proper. For the drop in discussion, we had a three page reading of an old debate between a friend of George Fox, named John Roberts/Hayward, and an Anglican preacher, about perfection of the soul and afterlife. The preacher first argued that “perfection of the soul” is not possible in this life, while Roberts argued that it is. I broke in to say that I do not believe perfection is possible in this life or any other life – if “perfection” really means perfection. But does it? In THEIR use of the term, their debate, “perfection” meant a soul being just good enough to be allowed into “heaven.” And then I realized – one could construe a definition of “perfection” as being just good enough to pass the test of any spiritual DNA protectors... which is basically a matter of embodying a few correct procedures. There is some analogy to machine-verified compliance with formal standards for an operating system to be unbreakable; it is not that the information in that operating system is perfect or complete, but that a very important fault mechanism (being hacked) is  excluded.

So – if spiritual-DNA protection plays a central role here, how does it work? Certainly NOT by being taken over by awful human litmus tests intended to verify that one is under the thumb of some corrupt power holders who write THEIR rules to keep others under control! But perhaps it is important to have a bit more understanding and respect for things like the “antibodies” in the movie Conception, things which are all too familiar to me in so many phases of life. Bad outcomes, but drawing on valid sources of energy, which could be better channelled.
Also at the drop in meeting, a woman described growing up in the deep south, and the really crazy sounding debates on fine points of theology common back then – crazy in a way we see all around us in the world, related to the serious threat of religious wars resulting in human extinction.

And thus did I walk into meeting proper....

Feeling almost totally paralyzed by the impasses and lack of trust on all sides, in all channels... new gestapos all over the world not tolerating authentic speech and dialogue... political factions using awful dark ages tactics to try to rule everything they can rule, some of them fundamentalist and some of them the grossest of hypocrites claiming to believe in freedom while working so hard and effectively to extinguish it... some  chopping away that the technology strength of the US amazingly effectively on all fronts while pretending to a patriotic motivation (but do I trust our freedom enough to name names as I certainly could?)... ever more concerned about whether any major power center in the world could be trusted with any of a half dozen new technologies I know of.... Aware that doing nothing puts us on a course to extinction, but not really seeing what could be done now...

In meeting, we are called not to stand up and speak out loud except for very rare things. So it seemed right for me to voice very loudly INSIDE the question – what can WE do to do the most we can to inject at least some hope of  survival at least of the noosphere? I can be pretty good at projecting questions sometimes.

After one brief rising by someone with a prepared reaction on Yom Kippur... not quite what is supposed to happen... two people spoke out vey powerfully as Quakers are supposed to do in meeting, both really addressing my question and both with palpable spiritual energy.

The first, on trust. What we need to work on. “Can we ever trust those in the society around us as much as we once trusted our parents... We will see.” The second started (without detail) on a problem of trust she had which led to her ex-husband not to be her present husband... but raising to her recent journey on the path of Mary Magdalene and the spiritual energies she experienced in France.

Two images coming out here: (1) some things can be trusted and should be engraved at the level of the noosphere post spiritual DNA cleansing, but not held in other places, as a major of trust and legitimate understanding of the powerful forces of abuse now around us; and (2) how free we could be to trust broader society depends a lot on the health and sanity and balance of that society, which is at a low point right now... but could be a bit better if  the kinds of energies discussed by the second speaker were better represented in human society, with more balance of male and female reducing the worst disruptive entropy we now see in places like the Middle East and the harems of right-wing hypocrites (many depending on money from the Middle East).

Of course, I still agree with Yeshua that social contracts are an essential part of this. The old ones do not seem to be enough.

Also... thinking about those theological debates mentioned by the woman from the south... part of my has always been baffled: “Why don’t these people look at themselves in the mirror, and at all the other people in world behaving the same way, getting nowhere except into fights with each other?” Basic neurosceince (see the muse learns from its experience, but the monkey also learns from the experience of others. Why don’t these people exercise the basic ability possessed even by monkeys to look at the other folks getting into trouble, taking that to heart, and avoiding becoming such idiots themselves? That question may be one small part of the solution, not just the problem.

All for now.