30 November 2005

Consciousness Studies from Wikibooks

One of the many nice things about the internet is the ability to find reference materials and textbooks about a very many relevant topics. I consider the dissemination of instructive and illuminative information so important that have made it a point to provide links to several different websites that provide free online ebooks. One of the recent sources of free ebooks to come to my attention, is Wikibooks. Wikibooks is provided on the web in the same format as Wikipedia.

Consciousness Studies is one such Wikibook. It provides a useful introduction to consciousness research for those who are new to the field. It also provides a good introduction to neuroscience for people coming to the field from philosophy, linguistics, computer science, or other non-biological areas.

Wikibooks has ebooks in many categories. Another way of browsing the categories of ebooks is here.


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26 November 2005

Do It Yourself and Self Teaching

Here is a useful set of links to do it yourself webpages of several types. Enjoy thesedo it yourself science links for kids from a number of different sites, courtesy of The Science Club.org.

Here is some information on self teaching resources. These are several links to homeschooling organisations in the US and around the world, including Canada. This is an excellent source for Canadian homeschooling information.

Online Great Books, freely available for the price of a mouse click.

As a special added bonus, a one-time only link to a never-ending list of eclectic science links. Keep scrolling. Just when you think there is nothing more, another big group of surprising links appears.

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The Well Educated Mind

Curious. Most curious. Children are the most curious creatures you will ever find. They want to learn, and they learn fast. If nourished properly, this natural love of learning would last a lifetime. If developed wisely, the child would educate himself with very little adult enforcement. In medical school, we first watched a procedure, then we did that procedure, then we taught that procedure. We were still children, in many ways. And we thrived performing procedures of incredible sensitivity.

On a less life-threatening level, children are capable of learning. Children can learn declarative knowledge--factual knowledge, and procedural knowledge--how to do things.

The Well Educated Mind is the kind of book that shows anyone how to learn on their own, from readily available resources. Our culture is drowning in available knowledge resources, but most adults are not prepared to use them for lifelong growth. Here is a pdf excerpt from one of the chapters.

Procedural knowledge is somewhat different, and involves learning long sequences of actions, along with contingencies. Diagnostic skills and real time monitoring skills are vital for skilled procedural knowledge. Here are two popular sites for acquiring how to knowledge for basic everyday skills.


It is important for children to learn basic skills fairly early, so that they can build on the basics in learning more advanced skills. Our children are being shortchanged in this area by the system that is supposed to prepare them for the future, and by their own parents who should know better, but were unfortunately taught by the same system that is ruining their children.

The best way children learn "how to" is by watching the people around them who can already do something well. That is one of the advantages of homeschooling, having an adult around who likely has some actual real world skills. See one, do one, teach one. It is not just for medical students.


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25 November 2005

Most Vile Murder by School

The government school system has become an organised crime racket. So much money changes hands that quasi-criminal vested interests have achieved control of the established mechanism. Just like an organised crime syndicate, it will take a great deal of effort, perhaps violent effort, to dismantle the abbatoir, the gas rooms, the areas of mass execution.

The remarkable scholar Dorothy Sayers had much to say about the absurdity of the school system, several decades ago. Sine then things have become immeasurably worse.

When we think about the remarkably early age at which the young men went up to university in, let us say, Tudor times, and thereafter were held fit to assume responsibility for the conduct of their own affairs, are we altogether comfortable about that artificial prolongation of intellectual childhood and adolescence into the years of physical maturity which is so marked in our own day? To postpone the acceptance of responsibility to a late date brings with it a number of psychological complications which, while they may interest the psychiatrist, are scarcely beneficial either to the individual or to society.

We shut children away in isolation chambers, confined with many others of the same age and state of ignorance, expose them to an indoctrination into political correctness and unimaginative drivel for several years--keeping them from as much responsibility and real personal challenge as possible--and somehow expect them to grow into capable and responsible adults. This is an absurdity and a crime.

Please go to Ms. Sayer's essay linked above, and read it thoughtfully. Remember it was written several decades ago, before the political correctness police and postmodern idiocy took hold of teacher's training colleges. Now things are much worse.

Here's an excerpt from This and That blog, discussing the above essay and one other that bears on the same topic. I have shamelessly copied from This and That, out of pure laziness on my part.

Ms. Sayers is best known as the author of the Lord Peter Wimsey mystery novels (you should read them, they’re awesome). She was an accomplished scholar of languages, and among the first recipients when Sommerville College at Oxford began granting degrees to women. At Oxford she was one of the cool kids in the clique with J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

Mr. Whitehead was best known as a mathematician and physicist. He coauthored the gigantic Principia Mathematica with Bertrand Russel at the turn of the 20th century. That three volume set attempted to define the foundations of mathematics from the ground up. Years later his theories on gravity were the main competition to Einstein’s general relativity. Mr. Whitehead’s theories held merit until 1972 when they were finally discredited by experimentation.

Both of them were taught with the trivium method and both believed that England was being damaged by the abandonment of that technique in its schools.

The Lost Tools of Learning
by Dorothy L. Sayers

When she first presented this in 1947 she was already warning us of the dangers we would face if we grew up in a world full of advertisements, bombarded with claims of every sort. How would we know how to separate the truths from the fallacies when schools no longer taught logic? You don’t have to stretch your mind very far to understand how many thousands of times more important that message is given our information-overloaded society.

I also particularly like her argument for having students learning Latin or Greek (or other highly inflected language) at an early age. The reasoning being that by learning the formal mechanics of language first, the rules of proper grammar in our modern non-inflected languages can be more easily understood. It sounds better the way she presents it.

The Place of Classics in Education
by Alfred North Whitehead

Mr. Whitehead presented this essay in 1929 in his bookThe Aims of Education and Other Essays . One paragraph begins:

The function of Latin literature is its expression of Rome.

He goes on to say that you need to understand Rome if you are going to understand Western culture (which he defined as England and France). Rome was the pinnacle of Mediterranean civilization and shaped everything we know today.

There’s a great bit in there on why he believed it was important to read the Classical works in the original Latin rather than in translation. I’ll leave it to you to find out his reasons.

But then that might be expecting too much, since it is rare to find a government school teacher capable of reading Latin, much less capable of teaching Latin.


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24 November 2005

Death by School

I am referring to the "cognitive death", the murder of the mind, a ghastly crime committed against millions of north american students every year, by government schools. Here is a quotation from a conversation between cognitive scientist Seymour Papert and Brazilian radical Philosopher Paulo Freire:

Paulo Freire: Yes. Absolutely. To me this is not a statement yet. I state that school is bad, but I don't state that school is disappearing and will disappear. That's why I am appealing to all of us who have escaped cognitive death by school -- who are the survivors here -- to work on modifying it. For me, the challenge is not to end school, but to change it completely and radically and to help it to give birth from a body that doesn't correspond anymore to the technological truth of the world. . . . .
. . . . .
Seymour Papert: Will there be school? I'm not saying that school is going to go away. It depends what we mean by school, but I think that what we need to note and very clearly … and this is something else I learned from you, actually - is that we must be conscious and critical of what it's about fundamentally.

And now what's wrong with schools is not details. What's wrong with school is absolutely fundamental. It is so fundamental that to say you're going to correct that is not very far from saying we don't have school.

Freire wants to radically modify school so it will stop killing the minds of its students. Papert is suggesting something more radical.

As the slow evolution of school lags further and further behind the rapid evolution of society, increasing numbers of students all over the world see school as irrelevant to life. Many drop out. Many more drop out mentally, emerging from school with poor skills and negative visions of themselves and the society they are entering.

Throughout Papert's work on education, the theme recurs of replacing the total obsolescence of modern schools with something more effective, more stimulating, and more relevant to the future the students will be forced to face.

Here's Bill Gates: America’s high schools are obsolete.

By obsolete, I don’t just mean that our high schools are broken, flawed, and under-funded – though a case could be made for every one of those points.

By obsolete, I mean that our high schools – even when they’re working exactly as designed – cannot teach our kids what they need to know today.

Training the workforce of tomorrow with the high schools of today is like trying to teach kids about today’s computers on a 50-year-old mainframe. It’s the wrong tool for the times.

Our high schools were designed fifty years ago to meet the needs of another age. Until we design them to meet the needs of the 21st century, we will keep limiting – even ruining – the lives of millions of Americans every year.

It is much worse than Papert and Gates might lead you to believe. Not only are today's schools poorly designed for the challenges of tomorrow (even today), they are being run so incompetently, corruptly, and even maliciously, that even if well designed they would be destroying children.

But it gets worse. Schools are not only inept, poorly designed, corrupt money sinks, and welfare programs for bad teachers, they are also actively at war against boys.

Boys have brains that on the average fit the demands of engineering, theoretical computer science, physics, and mathematics, at the higher levels of difficulty. If boys are being "warred against" by schools, no wonder there is a dificit of qualified engineers, high level computer scientists, and physical scientists. Schools are driving away the very sort of mind that can work with mathematical and spatial concepts the best. Death by school. Societal suicide.

This is a huge problem, because north america is running a severe engineering deficit. "America is experiencing an engineering deficit. Compared to twenty years ago, 20,000 fewer U.S. students now graduate college with engineering degrees. Europe and Asia now graduate 3 to 5 times as many engineers as the U.S." Excerpted fromengineeringand.com . What is true for the US is true for Canada. Canada is importing more and more of our engineers, like the US.

Government schools are incubators for all manner of delinquency. Government schools are best seen as preparation for being dropouts. Any type of social problem you can identify in north america is made worse by an order of magnitude by government schools. Crime, unemployment, bad race relations, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, lack of civility, obesity, sloppy thinking, ignorance.

Why do taxpayers continue to support the people who are ruining their children? The people running the north american school systems are causing far more damage to our societies than any muslim terrorist or saboteur. We are being gutted and roasted on the fire by our own cooks and utensils.

5% of people do 95% of the work. That may be the magic goal for proportion of next levels in a post-singularity world. We are creating entire generations who will not be able to adapt to the rapidly changing future. We will have to take care of them. Feed them, clothe them, shelter them from the elements, entertain them, heal their wounds, injuries, and illnesses, diagnose and treat their depression, help them live long, healthy, satisfied lives. This will be our obligation, our burden, our privilege.

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20 November 2005

Memory Prediction Theatre

Carl Carpenter lays out his theory of the science of consciousness, entitled "The Memory Prediction Theatre." Drawing on the work of Jeff Hawkins, Bernard Baars, and D. Antanitus, Carpenter briefly presents a theory that ties together various strands of consciousness concepts. Update: Carl Carpenter has a blog where he updates his efforts. He is providing a valuable service in helping to promote and clarify these important concepts.

Understanding consciousness will be difficult for most people, perhaps because they have been trained in government schools, trained in politically correct, hyper-static dogma of the acceptably banal. Anyone who studied in government schools in the past ten to twenty years is handicapped in trying to understand our complex reality. A Jesuit education is far more useful, but not available to a large proportion.

Consciousness is a dynamic process dependent upon a large number of cells, some in proximity to each other, and others far distant. Each cell depends upon thousands of organelles, and tens of thousands of genes, with their regulatory networks. The complexity of what is happening is mind-boggling.

Perhaps that is why people with backgrounds in physics, engineering, and computer science, are contributing so much to this field. They have training in mathematical modeling and conceptual abstracting, that is necessary in achieving a meaningful and falsifiable simplified model.

The plot is thickening, far faster than most people realise. Too many are stuck on the limitations imposed by Searle, Weizenbaum, and Dreyfuss. The possibility of circular path around the obstacles was not foreseen. More of the "straight line" thinking, when lateral thinking was called for.

A lot of work remains to be done. The surface is still barely scratched. Opportunities abound.


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19 November 2005

Dreaming, Flying, Falling, Away

Searching for a dream, for a wonder, for the magnificent moment when everything fits. Troubled by the incongruity of the pleasure of perfect flow with the comfort of luxurious attainment. You cannot hold a crashing cataract still in a crystal goblet. A dynamic mind perfectly balanced on the wave of flowing ions will not rest contented in the food or drug sated condition.

While the masses pursue the calm of slumber, the repose of intoxicated diversion, the eccentric and exceptional few cultivate the vintage of growth, forward momentum, evolution. The euphoria of discovery, the enchantment of invention, the elation of creativity. These intoxicating enterprises demand long hours of exacting effort, to reach the point of effortlessness, of completion.

Yet if the world of reality is a fractal entity, there can never be completion. Merely the attainment of another level. Retirement is not an option. The chase goes on as long as contenders step forward to the pursuit.

Most between levels humans will be content to rest, to eat, to drink, to sleep. The commonwealth will provide the provisions for their survival. It is presently an exacting and exorbitant obligation, but necessary. Even after the attainment of millions of next level humans, the need will remain to support the many billions of between levels who will never achieve the transition.

The lion's share of next levels will devote their time to the goals of understanding space, time, matter, energy, and mind. A few will feel an ancestral obligation to devote a tithe of their time to providing support for those who cannot cross the gulf. Intelligent machines and automated factories and plantations will provide the goods and foods for the between levels who cannot or will not work. For the between levels who wish to work, ample opportunity will be given for the creation of small scale economies. The only prohibitions will be on weapons of great lethality, and on acts of violence. Coercion and inequality will be inevitable in any between levels society. At least the basic necessities will be provided.

Most of earth's land mass will be devoted to the housing, recreation, and well-being of between levels humans. Next levels will tend to occupy islands, and mini-cities located in more isolated areas of continents.

Everyone dreams of something. A utopian dreams of more utopia. A creator dreams of more creation. A drunken sot dreams of more drinking. A criminal dreams of more satisfying crime. A playboy dreams of flocks of willing and seducible females. A slut dreams of ever more men, and plenty of time. A lot of people seem happy with 500 channels of cable, high speed internet, and a surfeit of snack food and full beer or wine bottles in the pantry.

Humans fear the nightmare of hell, of eternal slavery and subjugation to something evil, something that demands everything and gives nothing. The fear of being nothing but an object for something more powerful. The fear of being sucked dry by vampirish exploiters who cannot be denied. That was indeed the experience of life for those under Pol Pot, for those under the Taliban, for those under Idi Amin, Kim Jong Il, Khomeini, and Robert Mugabe. These modern vampires of state gladly expand their empires of blood as far as possible. You see the fangs of an Osama bin Laden, or an Iranian theocrat, a wahabi imam. You watch the blood drip from the ever thirsty lips of a third world dictator. Hell on earth. That is the future without next levels.

Next level humans will require little in terms of land area. For the time spent on the planet's surface, little acreage will be needed. If next levels become prolific in numbers, that will take place away from this planet. Dispersal of next levels is likely to be profound.

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05 November 2005

Clash of Civilisations

Paris is burning, and typically most of the world's news media studiously ignores the implications of widespread muslim lawlessness in the middle of the City of Light. The City of Love, the gentle city of intimate passion, is being overrun by barbarians that spilled over from decaying Islamic civilisation. Night by night the riots extend further across France, and into neighboring nations. Germans are in denial about their own precarious position, very much like France's. All of Europe is under a de facto siege from the barbarous excess of a bankrupt culture.

This was predictable and widely predicted, if somewhat premature. A smarter group of barbarian invaders might have waited for more opportune circumstances. These invaders are anything but intelligent. Violence is their primary feature, what they consider their best feature. It must be prominently displayed or they fear they will be seen in less than their best light. They have no choice.

For a civilisation to propagate through the centuries, and millenia if fortunate, it must be able to defend itself while nurturing the best of its own. If the civilisation grows too weak to defend itself, or too decadent to nurture its best, it will collapse and be overrun.

In the tens of thousands of years between the origins of spoken human language, and the origins of written human language, what civilisations may have come and gone, lost to time? If we could only observe those far-flung human laboratories of genuine sociology. The rise and fall of religions, tribes, cults, ideologies. Limited in time and place due to limitations on indoctrination of followers to spoken word propagation. No less poignant for all that.

The insurrections of modern day France are preliminary skirmishes on the home front of western civilisation. Not since the gates of Vienna has Europe been threatened by outsiders. Will these clashes be the needed innoculation against decadence that the west has needed? Or will they be the signal of collapse of Europe?

Western civilisation must survive in some form, or the next few hundreds of years will be horrible for humanity. If the future of humanity rests in the hands of Iranian mullahs, Saudi Imams, or Chinese communists, the outlook will be bleak. Western civilisation is not perfect, but compared to every other it is incredibly enlightened.

Will the barbarians win by default? It is not an academic question.

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01 November 2005

Enter the Chakra

The East, land of mysticism, oriental land of subtlety and enigma. Yogic mind and body control, buddhist meditation, acupuncture, subtle body energies and chakras. Exquisite control of motion in the tea ceremony, or the aikido throw. Mastery of the self.

Westerners scoff at anything that cannot be seen, measured, and visibly manipulated. That attitude has served the west in its dominance of the planet. Yet westerners are running headlong into the fractal nature of reality. Getting from here to there is no longer accomplished by traveling a straight line. Brute force cannot accomplish many of the necessary intermediate and long term goals. More subtle means of sensing the flow of knowledge may be necessary.

Information science and other problem solving disciplines utilise indirection and lateral thinking in solving complex logic problems. Such methods begin to stray from the stereotypical western "straight-on" approach. Chronic pain has so burdened employees of western enterprises, that western physicians finally accepted acupuncture as a valid discipline. Acupuncture lacks the dependency problems that often come from the pharmaceutical treatment of chronic pain.

Western music has often been a path to the mystical, from medieval monastic chants, to modern new age and trance music. Manfred Clyne, a neuroscientist and musician, discovered a path to spiritual regeneration when researching emotions and their connection to music. For westerners, Clyne's method of exercising and purging the emotions would be an extremely useful practise.

The eastern concept of chakra is another portal through which westerners might possibly step into fractal reality. The act of visualising various energy centers within one's body could conceivably tap into the body's proven [PDF]neuroendocrine axis. Since white blood cells carry neurotransmitter and hormone receptor proteins, the immune system is part of the same axis. Norman Cousins explored the territory in his own battles with serious disease.

Western civilisation has developed amazing tools for analysis and exploration. The overwhelming dominance of the western world attests to this. Even China, center of the eastern world, has only been able to shake itself partially out of its age-old slumber through adopting many western methods in finance, engineering, and science. It is past time to admit that the western world is capable of learning from other civilisations. Matter without energy is inert. Energy without mind is blind. Mind without spirit is futile. Spirit without freedom is despair. Update: Aristides
demonstrates that freedom without spirit is also despair. Many thanks.

Reality is fractal. To understand and deal with reality, the west needs the east. The straight on, brute force approach must be supplemented with indirection and subtlety. The mind must make peace with the body, and emotions, each working with the others. Together they must reach out to something higher: a possibility, a dream.

By embracing a larger complexity of life and possibilities, humans can incorporate a larger portion of enchantment into their realities.

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