Saturday, September 11, 2010

False Enemies & The Pursuit of Intelligence

The possession of knowledge is not intelligence, but intelligence is essential to turning information into knowledge. Knowledge is the "storage" of experience, facts and patterns. We mistake the ability to quickly recall this type of information and to synthesize it in some productive way as being "intelligent". Intelligence is the dynamic and robust acceptance and understanding of that which is most basic, timeless and immutable. As a result, there is very little difference between the quest for scientific knowledge and a spiritual journey. They differ in terms of approach, and perhaps ostensible motivation, but I believe they both lead to the same place ultimately. As their expeditions reach the pinnacle, they might very well be met by the "opposing team" coming up the other side of the mountain.

Knowledge is just a database, intelligence is more akin to Linux, Wikipedia or other ever-evolving software and/or information "hubs". Intelligence is not the number or size of entries in Wikipedia, or the lines of code in Linux, at a given time, rather it is the constant process of organizing, rationalizing and inter-connecting of insights and capabilities. Intelligence is the process itself and therefore quite fragile, much like life itself. Life and intelligence are more defined by energy than matter, but while energy is never lost, it can transform into forms not supportive of intelligence. It is the degree of order or chaos that defines energy as being intelligent or merely possessing the potential for intelligence.

The internet can be perceived as the natural result of scientific development, or it can be part of God's "grand design" (you can choose your desired phraseology), but I do believe it is part of the sequence of events leading to our becoming more intelligent as a whole. Presently, the internet is better at gathering and providing access to information, but the process of well-intentioned cooperation, "truth distilling" and "co-educating" is just being.

Man is not remotely "intelligent" at present, and we are laughably arrogant to think that we are. At present, our rudimentary intelligence is housed in a culturally-conflicted, biochemical/hormonal laden, reptilian brain-based "House of Mirrors". We don't know where we are, we don't know where we are going, we don't know if what we see is real or just a reflection of our own imaginations. Worse yet, we are paying for the experience and even if we successfully navigate the maze of our own self-delusions, we will likely just end back on the thoroughfare of the carnival. Yet, if you take a step back and observe the progress of mankind over many centuries, you will see that the internet is not just a technological milestone, but an evolutionary one that marks the initiation of the stage of development where individuals, and civilizations as a whole, can learn about each other, share knowledge and generate the momentum required to achieve the critical velocity needed for man's potential for higher order intelligence to take flight.

Intelligence is the motion towards the core of existence, creation and universal purpose. Intelligence is not a state of being, it is the intense and committed struggle to maintain objectivity, increase one's awareness of all things, to discard no scenario without fair and informed investigation. Human intelligence is not just motion, but commitment and sacrifice. The sacrifice comes in the form of having to abandon that which is most familiar and comforting, and the pain of having to admit that past decisions were made out of ignorance.

The pursuit of knowledge, in all of its forms, and the commitment to a better understanding of God, is not at odds, mutually exclusive or contradictory. If God is the creator of all things, then to know more of all things is to better appreciate and understand God. So the bickering between atheists and "believers" is really quite juvenile and counterproductive. The more we learn about the universe and the phenomenon that constitute its existence, the more fascinating and visibly intricate it becomes. The "creationists" try to use this information to "prove" the existence of God and the "secular rationalists" take the same information and support the notion that God had no hand in it. I truly hope the "rational secularists" and the "faithful fundamentalists" can reconcile their adolescent grievances and just accept the fact that we know very little, but we are learning, and that the "truth" will be revealed in due course. We can all carry our personal "hunches" in our backpacks, but let's agree that the exploration is worthwhile and that we can help each other along the path even while we are trying to prove how "right" we are.

If God exists, and nothing pre-existed God, and he created the universe, then thought must have surely preceded physical existence as God must have been aware of his own existence and had a notion of what he intended to create before he created it. So from a faith-based perspective, in the beginning there was God and his thoughts, and from that all matter and energy emerged. While we humans need "energy" to think, God's thoughts may not have needed such a device and I suspect that one of the greatest surprises that lies before us is the realization that thought has more "substance" than we can ever imagine. Man was supposedly created in "God's image" and so it should not be surprising that despite the many earthly desires and distractions that we, and every generation before us, grapple with each day, that we always find time to think, wonder and ponder as thought is the ultimate primordial substance and the primary thread that is woven into the fabric our very being. We are most "with God" at those moments of reflection, even if we do not believe in him. If there is in fact a God, I believe him to be a "loving" God because true love has order, promotes order and has a lasting quality and beauty, much like the physical universe, but like aspects of the universe, it appears at times to erupt in violence, explode, and/or dissipate, only to re-emerge in another elegant form. Hate is chaotic, destructive and transitional. Hate is the "evil" emotion, but only through it can the power and persistence of love be demonstrated. Love appears to be the name we assign to the unique quality that energy possess, indestructibility. Perhaps our intellectual "restlessness" is a form of "hate" born out of intellectual immaturity. Perhaps our efforts to know more will just result in us returning full circle to the realization that true intelligence is not based in knowledge, but is "movement" in thought without physical dimension or energy dissipation, the ultimate perpetual motion machine.

I am not taking either side of the argument as to the existence of God. What I am maintaining is that the differences of view may be much more subtle that most would believe and that our current differences of opinion should not be used as a rationale to obstruct each other from seeking knowledge, refining our intelligence and/or rising above our current limitations.

I believe knowledge conquers hate and we live in a world where information, a key ingredient to knowledge, is becoming more abundant and accessible. Yes, it isn't always used for the most virtuous pursuits and the shear quantity of information is making the location of the "right" and most useful information difficult, but it is getting harder and harder to keep anything secret or to avoid global scrutiny. Perhaps our journey is all about truly understanding that biting into the "apple of knowledge" will never sustain us for an eternity. Perhaps it is gaining the wisdom to understand the difference between intelligence and knowledge. Perhaps the reference to man as "children" of God is not just about lineage, it is about our humble intellectual beginnings and our destiny of intellectual growth and evolution into beings that can have the capability to grasp the greatness of the Creator or of the Cosmos, wherever your loyalty or interests reside.

The real question is the whether genuine "purpose" truly exists. For now, we have a lot of work to do just to become adequately intelligent, and part of that process is finding purpose in promoting cooperation, tolerance and understanding between scientific, religious, business and political leaders and their constituencies. These categories have no universal purpose or meaning. They are "earthly" and therefore of little relevance in the context of the full dimension of time or space. Human energy needs to be conserved and focused on achieving a better understanding or our world, our universe and our existence, as well as addressing the problems that prevent many from having the luxury of pondering such abstract goals.

Knowledge can only strengthen those that know the "real truth" so even though we disagree on what that is exactly, the end result of a successful effort would be to prove one side correct and enlighten the other. Either way, a worthwhile or sought after goal would be achieved by everyone.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Debate is Not Dogma

I just added the link for the trailer to "Transcendent Man" ( ) to, not because I think Kurzweil is either a prophet or infallible, but because the implications of just the possibility of a Singularity are profound enough that people need to begin the process of understanding the phenomenon and how they and their children may choose to adapt, especially if certain milestones are achieved (i.e. robust artificial general intelligence, orders of magnitude improvement in computing technology, highly effective means of human intelligence enhancement, etc.). I have heard Kurzweil speak several times and he is not "demanding" anyone to abandon their current belief system or way of life. He is simply stating his vision of how he thinks the future may play out and how the scenario many vary. He openly admits the uncertainty and dangers that the rapid progress of technology may present.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Football Season Is ALMOST Over

"Football Season Is Over"

"No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun -- for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax, This won't hurt."
- The words of Hunter S. Thompson written just prior to his suicide.

Yes, Hunter, the Football Season is almost over, but as you should have remembered, spring soon follows. You once searched for the American Dream. You once trained a dog to hate Nixon. You oftentimes sought to escape the real world, or at least to be in a "medicated" state to see the world for what it was, or what it wasn't...or was it to see the world in the way you wanted it to be, or was it to see something no one else had seen. I have read many of your words, but I am still unsure what you were really trying to accomplish in that regard. Were you striving to be the "Picture of Dorian Gray" for the American Dream. Did you think that by pushing the limits of Freedom of Speech, by elevating the "Ugly American" to an art form, by causing havoc with guns and explosives, by exposing the Hell's Angels and then by living a life similarly hedonistic, by attacking politicians and then becoming one, or by mourning the impending death of the American Dream that you could in some way suck the venom out of its faltering soul? Were you a written and real-life caricature of what made America great as well as desperate?

I miss you Hunter. I did not agree with much of your political views or your pessimism. I did not much care for the way you treated people at times, especially near the end. Yet, you brought us virtual reality before X-Boxes, HD 3-D and the Internet, and you did it in a way that made you think, question and thirst for adventure and experience. I learned your lessons well and I have the regrets to prove it, but I owe you much. I have moved on from fast cars, masochistic poor choices and existentialist self-absorption, but you always made me ask three questions: 1) Is the American Dream dead?; 2) Am I living by self-imposed boundaries that are counter-productive?; and 3) Is the ugliness that is just beneath the surface in all of us render us hopeless, or is there a beauty and purpose in what we are and have done?

Not much has changed, and everything has changed, since you left us. We have a President that I think you would have liked, but the doubts about the continued existence of the American Dream are as intense as they have ever been and he is struggling to restore confidence, much less optimism. The "Ugly American" is now truly an art form and we call it "reality TV". Many claim to have originated the idea that the ugliness within us can be entertaining, but we both know you were offending people and bringing chaos wherever you ventured to many people's delight long before cable.

I referenced "The Picture of Dorian Gray" earlier and within it Oscar Wilde wrote:

"The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful."

I know you yielded to many temptations during the course of your life, but I fear your soul was sick nonetheless as you raised the barrel to your head and soon after took the gift that was your life from us. I hope you found peace.

As for me, I believe we are in the fourth quarter of the last game of football season. Up till now, I believe man has been playing a game against himself and nature, but the real business of deciding the future of human society, the human race and the purpose for our very existence is about to begin.

Hunter, the American Dream is not dead, it was never even sick. It was just metamorphosizing. The chrysalis is a tomb for the caterpillar, but a womb for the butterfly. Just as it is surprising to see what a caterpillar really is once it is fully evolved, it is similarly surprising to learn that the American Dream is not even American, it is a Human Dream. The "shell" of American culture is in the process of being shed from the distilled essence of what was once known as the America Dream. America was always just the mechanism by which the virtue and purpose of our species could be cultivated, nurtured and shared. I know it was hard to see at times what with all the violence, discrimination, waste and excess, but freedom, democracy, education, wealth and tolerance is spreading well beyond US borders. It is far from perfect, and the next 50 or so years are going to be challenging, but compared to where we came from, and what we endured over the last few thousand years, the next few dozen shouldn't be so bad.

Wish you were here to see it happen. Believe it or not, the "bad craziness" is going to become quite good.