Monthly Archives: July 2014

A detour before the ocean

I have planned to sink myself in theosophy, which I already started this week. However, I’ve encountered a book in the “reading with priority” folder, namely, the Five world religions written by Helmuth von Glasenapp. The book gives an introduction for the most wide-spread recent religions, with additional comments to each one by the others. The book exactly gave me what I was expecting, well-estabilished descriptions, and more or less a dissatisfaction about each religion with respect to its principles. Thanks to the book though, I was given more insight on hinduism, taoism and islam, which I appreciate, and I also got some reinforcements of my thoughts about buddhism and christianity. It also pointed out the similarities, pilgrim principles and the relation of a religion and its creators. Without further critics, I recommend that book to everyone who is interested in getting to know religions other than its own. It can be an eye-opener for those who are looking for more than offering themselves to a single religion.

And now back to theosophy. I just started the first book I intended to read, The Ocean of Theosophy by William Q. Judge, and yet it seems promising. I close this post with a quote from it.

How man has come to be the complex being that he is and why, are questions that neither Science nor Religion makes conclusive answer to. This immortal thinker having such vast powers and possibilities, all his because of his intimate connection with every secret part of Nature from which he has been built up, stands at the top of an immense and silent evolution. He asks why Nature exists, what the drama of life has for its aim, how that aim may be attained. But Science and Religion both fail to give a reasonable reply. Science does not pretend to be able to give the solution, saying that the examination of things as they are is enough of a task; religion offers an explanation both illogical and unmeaning and acceptable but to the bigot, as it requires us to consider the whole of Nature as a mystery and to seek for the meaning and purpose of life with all its sorrow in the pleasure of a God who cannot be found out. The educated and enquiring mind knows that dogmatic religion can only give an answer invented by man while it pretends to be from God.

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The return of Madame Blavatsky

About 10 years ago, I got a CD full of books from a friend. He was the one who has introduced me to satanism, and some philosophy as well. Many books could be found in that collection, many of them have been left unappreciated by me. The same happened with the works of H.P. Blavatsky, the mother of Theosophy. I simply found those somewhat difficult to understand and impractical, useless.

Years have passed, and I got familiar with a couple of philosophical schools of thought, and some religions as well. A deep, latent need developed in me, to search for something more complete. An ideology that unifies common sense with philosophy. The one that looks religion through the looking glass of science.

I have tried to re-invent something many times until I learned to look for that something if someone else has already invented it. That’s how I found theosophy, a system that contains most principles I was looking for lately. A system that I could have get in touch with 10 years ago. Well, better late than never.

However, I’m new to the subject and I need to get to know it before forming more specific thoughts. After the brief introduction of the site http://blavatskytheosophy.com/, I take its advice and follow my studies with the following books:

  • The Ocean of Theosophy by William Quan Judge
  • Answers to Questions on The Ocean of Theosophy by Robert Crosbie
  • The Key to Theosophy by H.P. Blavatsky
  • Studies in “The Secret Doctrine” by B.P. Wadia
  • HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky by Sylvia Cranston

So, in later posts I probably will write some ideas and remarks about theosophy. Its beauty lies in the fact that it lets us to decide what to accept, and examine each thought for usefulness and validity. And lastly, from what I already know, it seems refreshing and thoughtful.

Alone in the Universe?

I just met this pile of gold: http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/05/fermi-paradox.html

That article is a pretty good summary of theories about the place of ours in the Universe, and other species as well. Most of those are still just wild guesses, meanwhile being very entertaining ones.

I don’t believe there are such events that wipe out every alien race that we could have ever heard of, thus rendering our known universe empty, but I can agree with most people in Group II that claims there are logical explanation for empty space.  As I mentioned in a previous post about Transcendence, technological transformation and leaving the biological body behind seems like a perfect utopia to me. Of course it’s scary, all changes are.

None of those pieces of art and science discuss one option, though. It would be about the discovery of existence being pointless and therefore humanity would plan and execute its own extinction. A couple of philosophers already had numerous arguments on that topic, one of my favorites is the book of Better never to have been by David Benatar. While I don’t totally agree with his arguments, it’s a very convincing book in the topic of not to procreate, which I embrace on many levels. What if our life is just happened randomly, as Stephen Hawking claims? What if we are just ants of Equilibrium, living our lives in order to continue the life itself, without any further, reasonable goals? I agree that for most of us, this life form we are being in is not negligible, but that doesn’t make it more important looking it from cosmic view. I think to this concept as a realistic one, not sad or pessimistic at all. Like buddhists claim that this phase of existence is temporary and has suffering in some level, while they are mostly not sad about it at all. Have you ever seen a buddhist being sad? I haven’t. And I think a sad buddhist misinterprets something serious of that philosophy.

So, I think biological life will change at some point. I’m not sure how and why, but am looking forward to it. Someday we might get an exact answer for existence and the selection of optimal future, or just vanish in a blink. Until then, I do my best to live happily, and wish the same for you.

Living for the present

One frequently discussed question is how to be happy in the present, to be conscious and joyfully live every moment, instead of thinking of the past or the future. There are already a vast amount of answers to that, but is that state of mind really that easy to achieve?

One of my friends asked the following simple question that is intended to guide us to the path mentioned above. “If you had infinite money for one day, what would you do with it?” You can’t invest in real estates, nor you can use any method to save the money for the next day. You can’t either command other people to do specific things, unless you are sure they’d do it naturally or they’d surely do something for your money. For example, you can call some hookers, or be with your friends if they are available.

The problem with this question that it breaks to two other questions wheter we take the happy future into consideration. In the first version, any act performed would not affect our happiness of tomorrow. This model is flawed, since if I bought alcohol and drank it all up, it would probably cause some hangover the next day. If I had a one-night stand, it would affect my relationship, even my health in some unlucky cases. So, in this case, we just can’t prescind from life of tomorrow. Many things that could make us happy today could also mess our future life, and we definitely don’t wish that. There are things we can lose, our health, friends, relationships, or money.

The second version is a more complicated path to explore. We can deduce from the above thoughts that we all more-or-less care about the future. But for how far? There are many smokers who know cigarettes make their life shorter, but health issues might seem to be so far that renders the issue unimportant for them. The same with alcohol. I have a beer every couple of days average, but I don’t think about gaining fat, possibility of addiction or the money I could save. We prefer short-term happiness to some point, instead of the long-term one. We all make choices to optimize happiness in our chosen time frame, according our best knowledge and intentions. So, how am I supposed to live for the moment? I’d rather live for the year, or more likely, for the next couple of decades. I wish to live for at least 50 years from now, so if I’m careful and smart enough, my planned acts aim for optimization of happiness over this period. I work so I can eat. I try my best to have sufficient amout of sleep time in order to be fresh each day. Most of my acts aim happiness, so this “carpe diem” thing would only wreck my progress. If I lived for the moment I’d probably be dead by the end of the month. However, having my acts limited, I don’t have to be unhappy about it. None of us have.

Let’s just bring this idea to the conscious level. Let’s sleep and wake up every day with the certainty that we all do our best to make ourselves happy. Of course, mistakes are made, and acceptance is the only solution for them. Forgiving to ourselves is a cornerstone of our happiness. So does distribution. I probably wouldn’t suffer for being outstandingly happy after 20 years from now. I probably also wouldn’t shoot anybody just to fulfill any desire today and go to jail tomorrow. Finally, the third essential key to happiness is thinking. Lucky are the people whose happiness is important to others, but even if nobody cares about us, we should care about ourselves and think about what would make us happy, and how to achieve it. That should be a practice for every day.

As some final thought, I’ll just link this book about achieving happiness.

Transcendence

So, Johnny Depp is interested in being God, but Morgan Freeman prevents him from becoming one. Putting away the jokes, action and some inaccuracies, it’s a realistic and dramatic film about human stupidity.

Be warned, spoilers incoming…

So, a mastermind of artificial intelligence gets shot by some activist of a group that claim AI is bad for humanity. The scientist gets poisoned by the bullet and dies a couple of weeks later. Before that, his mind gets copied into a supercomputer, he gets himself uploaded on the internet, gathers impressive amount of resources, and systematically starts to slaughter huma…wait, actually, he does research using his computing capacity to make life better. He achieves many contributions in medicine, biology and nanotechnology, and more or less becomes a god, curing the blind and such. And the story progresses with the most logical series of events. Some aggressive, anti-tech group tries to kill him, just because. His beloved woman also leaves him and becomes the key figure of the activists, that leads to the death of both of them. Well, done, woman.

There is already a vast amount of pieces of art around the Ghost in the shell concept, most of them portraying AI is bad in some way, so we can find nothing astonishing I guess. People fear from technology. People feel endangered by smart computers. They think AI has the same nature as humans have. Nature of a careless predator. We live in a competitive world with limited amount of resources, so this AI concept can be reasonable to some level. However, I’d embrace a world where this AI doesn’t get shut down. Let’s just continue the film from the point where Will Caster lets his love leave. If he had made the sacrifice of not letting his love come back and infect the AI, he would have made the world a better place. A place where the planet is coverered by solar panels, power plants using water and wind. A place where no biological life is needed, since everyone is uploaded into the hive. In such a place, death is no longer a threat as long as the planet stays in one piece. And after performing a large amount of computations, life reaches to a whole new, unimaginable level. Feelings are just biochemistry and I’m pretty sure we will manage to simulate them in the near future. Same with consciousness. Our biological evolution reached a local maximum, and we can jump out from that state by technology. I wish we could evolve more, just like species 8472 in Star Trek, but to be honest, I think evolution is far more possible in the way of the Borg. Dolphins are intelligent, but they probably won’t travel to the Moon by themselves. I think we should wait far more to become biologically trans-dimensional than making spacecraft capable of doing that. But there is nothing wrong with the Borg. It’s a representation of unity, so is Transcendence. I’d be glad either way. My needs would be satisfied, since all members of the hive all equally important. Being uploaded is being connected, it is being immortal. There is no reason to resist something that’s comfortable and beneficial.

Even though I didn’t enjoy Transcendence very much as a film, it gave me hope. Hope about today’s sci-fi becoming tomorrow’s life. And I hope AI will win this time.

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