Essentially all wars look like this: confused individuals, ridiculous justifications, and lots of terrifying gore. The Conquest of Mexico scene from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain:
February 6th, 2013
February 1st, 2013
December 29th, 2012
An animation project made by Toby Fox. In it I narrate some of my ‘visions’: scenes I see when I close my eyes.
November 26th, 2012
November 4th, 2012
On Free Will
In a way, in our contemporary world view,
It’s easy to think that science has come to take the place of God.
But some philosophical problems remain as troubling as ever.
Take the problem of free will.
This problem’s been around for a long time,
since before Aristotle in 350 B.C.
St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas,
these guys all worried about how we can be free…
if God already knows in advance everything you’re gonna do.
Nowadays we know that the world operates according to some fundamental physical laws,
and these laws govern the behavior of every object in the world.
Now, these laws, because they’re so trustworthy,
they enable incredible technological achievements.
But look at yourself. We’re just physical systems too.
We’re just complex arrangements of carbon molecules.
We’re mostly water,
and our behavior isn’t gonna be an exception to basic physical laws.
So it starts to look like whether it’s God setting things up in advance…
and knowing everything you’re gonna do…
or whether it’s these basic physical laws governing everything.
There’s not a lot of room left for freedom.
So now you might be tempted to just ignore the question,
ignore the mystery of free will.
Say, “Oh, well, it’s just an historical anecdote. It’s sophomoric.
It’s a question with no answer. Just forget about it.”
But the question keeps staring you right in the face.
You think about individuality, for example, who you are.
Who you are is mostly a matter of the free choices that you make.
Or take responsibility. You can only be held responsible,
you can only be found guilty or admired or respected…
for things you did of your own free will.
The question keeps coming back, and we don’t really have a solution to it.
It starts to look like all your decisions are really just a charade.
Think about how it happens. There’s some electrical activity in your brain.
Your neurons fire. They send a signal down into your nervous system.
It passes along down into your muscle fibers.
They twitch. You might, say, reach out your arm.
Looks like it’s a free action on your part,
but every one of those– every part of that process…
is actually governed by physical law:
chemical laws, electrical laws and so on.
So now it just looks like the Big Bang set up the initial conditions,
and the whole rest of our history,
the whole rest of human history and even before,
is really just sort of the playing out of subatomic particles…
according to these basic fundamental physical laws.
We think we’re special. We think we have some kind of special dignity,
but that now comes under threat.
I mean, that’s really challenged by this picture.
So you might be saying, “Well, wait a minute. What about quantum mechanics?
“I know enough contemporary physical theory to know it’s not really like that.
“It’s really a probabilistic theory.
There’s room. It’s loose. It’s not deterministic.”
And that’s gonna enable us to understand free will.
But if you look at the details, it’s not really gonna help…
because what happens is you have some very small quantum particles,
and their behavior is apparently a bit random.
They swerve. Their behavior is absurd in the sense that it’s unpredictable…
and we can’t understand it based on anything that came before.
It just does something out of the blue, according to a probabilistic framework.
But is that gonna help with freedom?
Should our freedom just be a matter of probabilities,
just some random swerving in a chaotic system?
That just seems like it’s worse. I’d rather be a gear…
in a big deterministic, physical machine…
than just some random swerving.
So we can’t just ignore the problem.
We have to find room in our contemporary world view for persons,
with all that that it entails; not just bodies, but persons.
And that means trying to solve the problem of freedom,
finding room for choice and responsibility…
and trying to understand individuality.
- Waking Life
More than anything I am inclined to think that we live in a deterministic world. Overall, in a universe infinite beyond our understanding of infinity, we are in a fish bowl, unable to conceive of what might be outside of the water, and all our actions- that is, the ones that we perform and the ones by which we are affected- are the result of a combination of initial factors. Looking from the fourth dimension, we are stills describing a beautiful set of shapes, ideas, movements as Tralfamadorians would agree (see Slaughterhouse Five). Rather than a rhetorical cry for finding some importance in our selves as beings free to choose our own doing, I find it more comforting that some responsibility is taken off of me in this predetermined understanding of my life and my perception of all the lives around me.
However, about a month and some days ago I willingly put a tiny neodymium magnet inside my finger which gave me some new insight as to reality, our perception of it and the question of free will.
The neuroscience of free will- taking an approach that deals with humans as potential rational agents- undertakes the question of agency on an individual level. As much as this is futile with regards to the fishbowl possibility of everything and everyone collectively being an unraveling result of the initial set of factors of our universe, it is actually relevant when considering the impossibility of each human being constituting her own enclosed universe with her perception of her self and of reality, which may or may not have anything to do with the objective reality outside her perception. Since, again, it is almost impossible to declare a true connection between one’s perception of reality-if there is such a thing- and reality itself, we can think of the individual as an agent, for now with or without free will.
So then, like Waking Life suggests, we may all be results of electrical activity in our brains. Whatever the nerve at the tip of my finger communicates to my brain, I am at its command. In fact, it’s been proven that our nerves know what we are about to decide a split second before we realize we’ve made the decision. This means that what we tell ourselves to be our own rationality and decision making processes may just as well be the negotiations that take place between our various nerves and the result these produce.
By implanting a small rare earth magnet in my finger, I added a new element to what my nerves take into account when commanding me to perform certain actions. Thanks to this magnet, along with probably another thousand people in the world, I can now feel electromagnetic fields. Whenever I place my hand near a microwave or a computer adapter or even when I’m walking on the street if there happens to be an electromagnetic piece of machinery under the ground my finger gets a tingling sensation, much like it’s raining in there. Essentially, my nerves have now started to communicate to my brain a piece of information completely foreign to me before this implant.
Perhaps my nerves knew before I had even realized that I was going to have a magnet placed inside my finger but now that I have, I feel that I have some command over my perception of the world and that I may have burst a bubble I do not know for sure exists. I now have a piece of the outside world in my body, letting me feel things I chose to feel. This neodymium magnet is a manifestation of the neurosicence of my free will.
I can also pick up small metal things:
October 16th, 2012
drags the ends of his words
he has got to discipline his gaze
corporal share sliced into three
conscious patterns loaned to all bodies
he has got to take care.
responsible from the life of a battery
going to die
going to fall a class
he narrates quietly
little is known to corpses not divine
the omniscient removal
of good and evil
educated as he is in his master’s tongue,
he twists and turns, unaware, on the fragile skin
alienated, the other, prefers to retreat to the corner
water falls because he says so
do not command an end to my bleeding
it is the moon’s fault, not at all my bidding
devouring his prevailing wishes
lost in silence shouting,
and truly present within.
September 4th, 2012
If we’re looking at the highlights of human development,
you have to look at the evolution of the organism…
and then at the development of its interaction with the environment.
Evolution of the organism will begin with the evolution of life…
perceived through the hominid…
coming to the evolution of mankind.
Neanderthal, Cro-Magnon man.
Now, interestingly, what you’re looking at here are three strings:
development of the cities, cultures–
and cultural, which is human expression.
Now, what you’ve seen here is the evolution of populations,
not so much the evolution of individuals.
And in addition, if you look at the time scales that’s involved here–
two billion years for life,
six million years for the hominid,
years for mankind as we know it–
you’re beginning to see the telescoping nature of the evolutionary paradigm.
And then when you get to agricultural,
when you get to scientific revolution and industrial revolution,
you’re looking at years, years, years.
You’re seeing a further telescoping of this evolutionary time.
What that means is that as we go through the new evolution,
it’s gonna telescope to the point we should be able to see it manifest itself…
within our lifetime, within this generation.
The new evolution stems from information,
and it stems from two types of information: digital and analog.
The digital is artificial intelligence.
The analog results from molecular biology, the cloning of the organism.
And you knit the two together with neurobiology.
Before on the old evolutionary paradigm,
one would die and the other would grow and dominate.
But under the new paradigm, they would exist…
as a mutually supportive, noncompetitive grouping.
Okay, independent from the external.
And what is interesting here is that evolution now becomes an individually centered process,
emanating from the needs and the desires of the individual,
and not an external process, a passive process…
where the individual is just at the whim of the collective.
So, you produce a neo-human with a new individuality and a new consciousness.
But that’s only the beginning of the evolutionary cycle…
because as the next cycle proceeds,
the input is now this new intelligence.
As intelligence piles on intelligence,
as ability piles on ability, the speed changes.
Until what? Until you reach a crescendo in a way…
could be imagined as an enormous instantaneous fulfillment of human,
human and neo-human potential.
It could be something totally different.
It could be the amplification of the individual,
the multiplication of individual existences.
Parallel existences now with the individual no longer restricted by time and space.
And the manifestations of this neo-human-type evolution,
manifestations could be dramatically counter-intuitive.
That’s the interesting part. The old evolution is cold.
It’s sterile. It’s efficient, okay?
And its manifestations are those social adaptations.
You’re talking about parasitism, dominance, morality, okay?
Uh, war, predation, these would be subject to de-emphasis.
These would be subject to de-evolution.
The new evolutionary paradigm will give us the human traits of truth, of loyalty,
of justice, of freedom.
These will be the manifestations of the new evolution.
That is what we would hope to see from this. That would be nice.
- Waking Life
I am all for playing an active role in evolution. In fact, in Waking Life Series #3, I will actually talk about implanting a tiny magnet in your finger and its implications on free will. For now, however, I can’t refrain from mentioning that placing a rare earth magnet under your skin to gain a sixth sense is, in fact, one of the most creative and concrete ways of taking evolution into your own hands.
Now, about the relationship between evolution and competitive vs collaborative nature of the human race:
This article: http://www.psmag.com/culture/conclusion-the-judgment-of-fairness-45934 explains how a study of the archeological record of Keatley Creek, a place in the Fraser Canyon northeast of Vancouver, produced some insight into the evolution of inequality and sharing.
Living in nomadic communities, barely above the level of survival, sharing all the resources such as food, water, and shelter evenly would produce the highest level of survival for the whole group. This collaborative lifestyle was the case until there was an abundance in the number of salmon in the creek. With such an abundance, the nomads found it only just to give a little larger share to he who provided the salmon for everyone else. As those who could procure the salmon started taking advantage of their risen status, they had more and more power in their community. This is what I would call a primitive Bourgeoisie.
This proves two things:
1- That the practice of inequality was caused not only by human greed but by abundance of one resource. It seems fair, right, to give more to he who went through the trouble of going to the creek and hunting the salmon? So, what is it that doesn’t work in our current economic system if it’s based on this simple principle of fairness? The middleman. But that’s another post.
2- When looking out for the group’s best, the collective survival, the communities were living in cooperation. However, as soon as the abundance of salmon entered the situation, competition was born.
Now, in this monolog from Waking Life, we see that perhaps active evolution, evolution in which humans are the masters and not the pawns, will eventually lead to a more collaborative society rather than a competitive one. The stronger will not kill the weaker but instead, will invent a revolutionary education system that is geared towards dsylexic children, a cost-effective drip irrigation system for small land farmers, or a prosthetic arms that is nothing short of a real life one. We will, once again start focusing on the survival of the group, not just the top 1% individuals.
What is even more interesting to think about though, is the fact that while an abundance of resources may have been the first spark that unleashed bourgeoisie, a gap between the rich and the poor; the powerful and the weak, an abundance for the whole of human race, meaning, a more equal distribution of technology, as technology becomes more and more affordable, will eventually guarantee that humans return to a collaborative existence, rather than competing with each other. I wonder what that will look like.
In short, it’s all about resources.
September 3rd, 2012
The reason why I refuse to take existentialism…
as just another French fashion or historical curiosity…
is that I think it has something very important to offer us for the new century.
I ‘m afraid we’re losing the real virtues of living life passionately,
the sense of taking responsibility for who you are,
the ability to make something of yourself and feeling good about life.
Existentialism is often discussed as if it’s a philosophy of despair.
But I think the truth is just the opposite.
Sartre once interviewed said he never really felt a day of despair in his life.
But one thing that comes out from reading these guys…
is not a sense of anguish about life so much as…
a real kind of exuberance of feeling on top of it.
It’s like your life is yours to create.
I’ve read the post modernists with some interest, even admiration.
But when I read them, I always have this awful nagging feeling…
that something absolutely essential is getting left out.
The more that you talk about a person as a social construction…
or as a confluence of forces…
or as fragmented or marginalized,
what you do is you open up a whole new world of excuses.
And when Sartre talks about responsibility,
he’s not talking about something abstract.
He’s not talking about the kind of self or soul that theologians would argue about.
It’s something very concrete. It’s you and me talking.
Making decisions. Doing things and taking the consequences.
It might be true that there are six billion people in the world and counting.
Nevertheless, what you do makes a difference.
It makes a difference, first of all, in material terms.
Makes a difference to other people and it sets an example.
In short, I think the message here is…
that we should never simply write ourselves off…
and see ourselves as the victim of various forces.
It’s always our decision who we are.
- Waking Life.
Basically this is to say that the person is a social construct, and in choosing to see oneself as the culmination of their actions, one assumes the responsibility of shaping that social construct. I love thinking. However, it is true that unless I choose to express these thoughts, unless I write them down, unless they lead me to stand up, go out, get into a plane, talk, or simply refrain from doing any of these things, they are contained and do not have much value. Although at first this understanding ofexistentialism might seem like a lot of responsibility dumped on the person, it’s actually liberating once you think that your person, the collective of tissues and memories and abilities that you are, can be changed just like that! Waking life is a lucid dream, and in fact, through this monolog the film tells you how to turn real life into a lucid dream. By taking action. Nobody will give you what you want if you don’t tell them you want it. Existentialism is about choosing to combine the you inside with the you that interacts with the world around you. Overall, the meanings ascribed to the actions you perform cease to exist once you are done, and move on to the next set of performances that determine who you are, now. It’s about taking it one step at a time. There’s never a step two. You are always on the first step, but the first step changes constantly.
August 31st, 2012
August 9th, 2012
August 9th, 2012
Abandoned places in the US, 2009.
August 9th, 2012
I watched Murmurs without knowing what I was going to watch and a while into it, I still had no idea whether I was watching a play, a dance performance, a mime, a magic show or a comedy. Murmurs is the story of a young woman’s surreal experience of moving out of her home.
The charming protagonist, Aurelia Thierree, is Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter, and the director is her mother – these are facts I learned post watching. What was incredible about the show is that the magical reality it drags the audience into is completely natural. Moving buildings, faceless men with an unknown agenda, a couple dancing in the air, an ocean that appears out of the blue, sweeps everything off the ground only to disappear and leave the world untouched, shoes that know which feet to fit and boxes that digest furniture and spit out working light bulbs, broken umbrellas and a woman getting to know her new world with confidence constituted a beautiful new reality to walk into with Aurelia Thierree’s lead.
April 9th, 2012
March 9th, 2012
Consistency is really the best we can hope for.
In a discussion I was reading on Quora about reality and human perception, I saw that one of the users, along with his stance on there being no way possible for humans to know what may exist outside of their senses and how that senses care to perceive reality, mentioned that as the situation is such, “consistency is really the best we can hope for.”
Although I do understand that this statement rings true, it does elicit some questions about the times and efforts through which humans choose or end up having to disrupt their sense of reality; their consistency.
First of all, why is consistency the best we can hope for? It is important to distinguish the two types of consistency at this point. What the Quora user was referring to is a consistency between reality and our perception of this absolute reality at different instances in time. From this perspective and within a framework of trying to understand reality, this kind of consistency makes complete sense. What I am more interested in, however, is consistency within perception itself. As it is essentially impossible to verify the accuracy of perception (everything comes down to perception, and as there is no way of interacting with anything outside of ourselves, there can be no comparison between perception and something else that would help define it- other people’s perception of a common object does not count, since we’d have to perceive that perception in the first place as well), any kind of consistency is going to be consistency within how we think we perceive the world.
This second kind of consistency, I would think, is just as important as the first one. It provides people with just as much a basis for life as the former would. It grounds our existence and hints at the fact that there is probably a high chance that we are in fact perceiving reality- otherwise, why would it be so consistent? At the same time, however, it is intriguing to think of a world where perceptive consistency is not essential let alone desired.
To a certain extent, this is already the case in our world. Inconsistency happens.
At this point I’d like to think about the idea of setting precedents. Precedents are important. Some things don’t even function without precedents. For instance, the practice of law is all about setting precedents. Often a case may not elicit a judgment as a result of its own contents but the implications of making any judgment will affect similar cases to come, so the decision sets a precedent. Politics often share the burden. A simple example would be Kosovo’s undetermined state of statehood. Will it set a precedent is its independence is recognised? Precedents are everywhere. Hell, I ate a piece of cake right before leaving a party on Saturday and immediately after, my six friends about to leave as well went after the cake even though no one had touched it earlier. This is all to say that precedents if not always determine, certainly influence what is to follow next.
Now, to go back to discussing the second kind of consistency I mentioned. Would it be too far fetched to say that the consistency of our individual lives lacks a precedent? I don’t remember how it was when I first came into contaxt with the world. I don’t know what I felt, I don’t know what I saw, I don’t even know if I had thoughts.I was a baby. Even a few years later, though, I must have been clearly interacting with my surroundings but the Ece that is me now, does not remember what life was like then; what the continous being that is me perceived back then. To go even further with this, I am alarmed by the fact that most my memories fade away, I don’t even remember how exactly I perceived the world a few years ago. I doubt that I am the only one, since memories tend to disappear and get re-written through the lenses of a new kind of perception- a perception of the now. So it’s possible to say that the consistency of my perception, contained within my life has no beginning, it has no precedent to determine its entire course. Why then do I trust this consistency as much as I do?
To add to the complication of it all, inconsistency happens, and inconsistency is sought after.Inconsistency happens because even at our healthiest, we are not very precise in our perception. We think we’ve heard something when there was no noise, we catch a glimpse of a shadow that doesn’t exist, our memory is hugely unreliable and we generally like to think what fits our already set paradigm is what actually takes place in reality. As this kind of inconsistency is inevitable, we all learn to deal with it and move on. In addition to these often small scale misconceptions though, some people choose to disrupt their consistent reality on purpose. When I was sleeping polyphasically, (20 minute naps every four hours) I felt as if time moved more slowly, as if my window offered me a brighter view to the world outside, and as if the infinite number of stimuli that pass me by every second were clearer. Did my newfound sense of reality, if consistent in and of itself, replace my old one entirely? If not, what did it contribute? One idea behind Aldous Huxley’s recreational experiments, W. H. Auden’s Funeral Blues, and my favourite Beatles song, Because, is that the inconsistency in reality has something to look out for, something to consider and something that extends the scope of the world as we may know it.
February 12th, 2012
February 9th, 2012
Slides taken in Jordan in the summer of 2009.
January 11th, 2012
Damascus, summer of 2009.
January 9th, 2012