Connecting Insights: 12/6/16

Photographer: mindluge (image cropped by author)

It’s been a few weeks as I stuffed myself full of the holiday. As a reward for your patience here’s a collection of some of my favorite longer readings and links from November (to match the super-sized quantity of food I was lucky enough to eat last week…). Be ready to work with some heavy topics like the nature of reality, the techno-philosophical intersection, and the end of the world…And if you feel compelled I’d love to hear (via comment or DM) what thoughts or reactions were provoked by any of these.

1. The Technium (from: Edge.org) — This is a sprawling, fascinating and mind-bending interview with technologist and WIRED founder, Kevin Kelly. Though the interview is already two years old, its content is still rich and likely to be prescient, as Mr. Kelly has been over the past several decades with his predictions of the effects of technology on society. If you know me at all you’ll see why I was enthralled reading this start to finish. Its long, but well worth diving into, broken into short parts including:

· “Evolutionary change vs. developmental change”

· “The next twenty years are going to make this last twenty years just pale”

· “You can’t learn techno-literacy by hanging out”

· “The real excitement is in looking for ways to collaborate together”

· “Coveillance and convivially tracking each other”

· “New platforms for art and connected differences”

· “The exceptionalism of America will be challenged”

It’s a great reminder that while we sometimes feel like we’re simultaneously at the peak of evolution and caught in a whirlwind of change, we’re just part of an eternal unfolding, and our current cycle of change is only just beginning. [20 min. read]

2. What Are the Odds We’re Living in a Computer Simulation? (from: The New Yorker) — The world that exists at the intersection of technology and philosophy was lit abuzz this spring when Elon Musk was asked this question. As the above article with Kevin Kelly explores where technology and humanity may go, here Joshua Rothman does an excellent job bridging the worlds of reality (or at least how we perceive it) and the possibility of different realities that may exist beyond our reach. Its surprisingly accessible for even a luddite like myself, and if you find yourself exploring questions of perception, reality, or even spirituality (Buddhists will have a lot to read into here), you won’t be able to put this article down. [12 min. read]

3. How to Welcome The End of the World (from: The Lion’s Roar) — If you read the above and believe we are simply part of a computer simulation and our great overlords could at any moment hit the power button, then take the time to read this…In seriousness, an interesting aspect of the Buddhist view of the world is managing the gap between our inner experience and the outer world. In a sense, the world we experience is a simulation created by our own internal operating system, and the end is in fact always here, in every moment. One bullet in this article that really resonated with me is, “We don’t need to know how it’s going to come out.” The Controller in me says he needs to know how it at least might end, whatever it is (projects, games, life etc.) so that he can effectively plan (and win.) Letting go of attachment to any outcome has been a large part of my inner work. [10 min read]

4. The Illusion of Reality (from: The Atlantic) — This interview with cognitive scientist, Donald Hoffman, provides a nice book-ending perspective to this list. When we step back and consider that our experience of reality is simply the sum of our senses and perceptions, it can be easier to see how the world that we, as individuals, experience really is a kind of simulation. (Or as the old stoner question exemplifies, “Dude, what if you’re green is my blue?!?”) Hoffman postulates, “According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but is just tuned to fitness. Never.” But what if classic evolutionary theory focuses mainly on physical fitness, and exploring mental, emotional or spiritual capacities actually opens up a new evolutionary horizon, one that seems to be unique to humans on this planet? Hoffman again, “I call it conscious realism: Objective reality is just conscious agents, just points of view. Interestingly, I can take two conscious agents and have them interact, and the mathematical structure of that interaction also satisfies the definition of a conscious agent. This mathematics is telling me something. I can take two minds, and they can generate a new, unified single mind.” Whoa, Dude. [17 min. read]