false dawns

To anyone worried about climate change the announcement by Lockheed Martin that it is developing a fusion reactor that will be ready for market within ten years could be seen as a cause for hope. Though I’ve yearned for this development for years, now I’m not so sure. Our technologies are causing ecological degradation and climate change. But what is technology except an amplifier of the effects that our minds have on the world? It […]

Daoism’s Uncarved Block and the state of our world

The Dao De Jing, the ‘bible’ of Daoism, in various places refers to the Uncarved Block that loses something essential when it is carved. The Uncarved Block could be a baby free to become any version of themselves before their upbringing, their experiences and the culture they are raised in ‘carve’ them into the person that they grow up to be. (This interpretation resonates with a previous exploration of how a thought remains fluid until […]

the intelligence trap

Many believe that human intelligence has escaped the gravity well of ‘animal stupidity’, and that now we roam an unlimited space of thought where everything must eventually come within our understanding. Beneath this belief lies another: that humans are set apart from other animals – an idea that may be an expression of species neuroticism, and that finds its clearest expression in many religions. This special pleading has been eroded by the discoveries of science, […]

anchoring digital texts

A core advantage of digital texts over printed ones is that they remain fluid. Printing a digital text fixes it like a fly in amber. However, a text that exists entirely in a digital form is vulnerable to change, whether accidental or deliberate. If a time came when a printed copy of Moby Dick no longer existed, there would be nothing to stop the integrity of that text being degraded. Even if an accurate digital […]

the Scottish Referendum and the community of Britain

The community of Britain and Northern Ireland, formed by hundreds of years of intermarriage and shared history, is too strong to be broken by Scottish independence. It seems likely to me that all that such independence would be is a ‘coup’ whereby the northern part of that community wrests back some of the political power that is increasingly concentrated in London. Before the north of Britain was deindustrialized, power and wealth was more equitably shared […]

Syrian children

A Crusader castle is the latest victim of the Syrian civil war, but the damage to Syrian children may leave a more permanent wound. When some ancient site or remains are damaged by conflict, by the encroachment of habitation or industry, I feel sad at what may be lost. I felt sad when I heard about the looting of the museum in Bagdad, and a few days ago when I became aware that the Crusader […]

when LEGO lost faith

I believe that LEGO is a toy/tool that once allowed children to build models at a sweet spot intermediate between thought and physical reality, and that, by losing faith in that breakthrough, the company has lost its way. LEGO as I knew it as a child consisted of simple bricks. Complexity was achieved by assembling bricks, rather than being inherent in individual bricks. (Admittedly, the purity of this abstraction was somewhat broken by angled ‘roof […]

digital makeup

Dramatic performances ask of their audience that they suspend their disbelief. An aspect of this can be that we are asked to believe that actors, mostly unrelated, are actually blood relations. Film and TV close ups make this more of an issue. How long will it be before computer post production allows actors, that are supposed to be blood relatives, to have their faces digitally modified by means of an inbetweening algorithm so that they […]

beauty is in the eye of the beholder

I have an ongoing preoccupation with vision – not only ours, but that of other creatures. For us vision is such a dominant and personal way through which we experience the world, that it can be surprising to learn how limited it is in comparison to that of other creatures. We have more limited perception of colour – for example – than not just birds, but also lizards, amphibians and even many fish. The retinas […]

the once in a 100 million year experiment

As we consume fossil fuels, we humans are carrying out a once in a 100 million year experiment. The coal, oil and gas we have burned so profligately in the past 200 years or so are a legacy of ancient sun energy laid down in the Earth’s crust by organisms at least 100 million years ago (300 million in the case of coal). We began exploiting these reserves where they were easy to reach; at […]