Saturday, 29 April 2017

Consciousness is an emergent phenomenon of matter.

Consciousness is an emergent property of matter, or more properly, of matter/energy/space/time. The building blocks of life from hydrocarbons and even an amino acid have been detected over and over in space.  The properties of long chain carbons, organic loops, the alcohols and sugars will appear whenever conditions permit their propagation.  The double helix is a possible solution everywhere in the universe. There may be a couple other replicating combinations which will show up in locations with different chemical feedstocks.  Locally we have a lot of oxygen, carbon, water, as well as temperature and light gradients that have proved propitious for the appearances of life on earth.   What's next, I wonder?

This line of thought predicts other non-earth life forms will show up and many of them will have properties that resemble our own. This is because DNA folding machines are likely to pop up elsewhere and trial and error in those environments will result in convergent evolutions.  On earth, eyes are formed from different tissue in houseflies, squid and marmots but because of the information available in focused light, have developed homologous shapes to resolve that data.  The underlying properties of light are driving the solutions.

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel,

Our amazement at how clever we are and our fierce individuality are compatible with being emergent phenomena.  "Individual" means that which is not divided.  If the source is undivided, the result can also be undivided.  Each of us fiercely advancing our cause and that of our near kin is reflecting the "character" of this emergent property.  Peculiar evidence is the name we call our selves to distinguish ourselves from background noise.  In English, it's "Me" and "I".    More than a billion of us use the same I.D.  

I bridge "individuality" to physical "law" with this thought:   Every particle/wave/string/thingy is constantly moving towards a new equilibrium, like the breaking crest on the surf.  They/it are always reacting totally in the now to unique tussles and sparks of action, being bumped, being pushed, being transformed, consuming, being consumed, burning, being burnt.   It's always everywhere about being individual but doesn't rise to the level of dinner conversation until noticed in ourselves.

Getting from DNA folding devices that copy bodies and make new ones..... getting from there to people who self-report having consciousness.... is a step not decoded.   But the next step beyond into A.I. is already being coded.  More activities that people consider human distinctives are being handed on to computing devices that do it better with less effort.

We (that are starting to be left behind but supported comfortably) are spending hours texting, Wall-E where devices seem to be looking after stuff and people are largely plump passive things like larvae in a networked cocoon.)
playing solitaire, watching groups fighting to control balls and pucks, developing skills of small value, because we feel like it.    (A movie illustration is the cartoon

We are even leaving ourselves behind, finding it unnecessary to reproduce, or just making one or two copies, not enough to keep our population numbers up.   We still use naturally produced DNA instead of superior custom-designed product.  We still mostly use wombs for the reproduction workshops because we didn't have superior safe places to get the job done.  This is changing.  This future won't eliminate old ways, just displace the ones that can't hack it.

I've watched a grassland fire, seen the thin line of fire steadily advance across the field, consuming the consumables and moving on.  Today I think we are some of those consumables and tomorrow may be a place where the fire has moved on and left behind most of us and most of the robots too.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Grisly folk art

This grisly folk art is near White Lake in the Okanagan where Dean Gillette's body was found January 2017.

Family members point fingers, quote scripture and grieve while making a memorable and quirky showpiece.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Second Opinion Usually Changes Diagnosis

A Mayo Clinic study of several hundred patients who went for a second medical opinion, shocked me.  Two thirds of the diagnoses were significantly modified and another one fifth were changed completely.  Only 12% of the original diagnoses were confirmed.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic examined 286 patient records of individuals who had decided to consult a second opinion, hoping to determine whether being referred to a second specialist impacted one’s likelihood of receiving an accurate diagnosis.The study, conducted using records of patients referred to the Mayo Clinic’s General Internal Medicine Division over a two-year period, ultimately found that when consulting a second opinion, the physician only confirmed the original diagnosis 12 percent of the time.
Who goes for a second opinion?  People with mortal diagnoses.  People who have doubts of their own.  People who have already done on-line research with Google.  People who don't trust everyone in a white coat and a degree.   My anecdotal evidence is of a neighbour whose husband was dying. She did some research and got a second opinion after he had been direct to a hospice.  The cancer was re-evaluated as a commonly treatable one in a bad spot and his life was saved.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

News from Outer Space, April 2017

Near Miss.  Most of the potentially climate-changing meteors have been found but a little guy, the size of a car, was discovered just the day before it missed us by a mere 10,000 km this week, flying below our geostationary satellites.  It would have made a nice fireball and a bang but little else.  Don't be too relaxed.  About once a month,'s chart of fireballs shows one that was travelling in a nearly straight line.  This may be space junk from outside our planetary system, not from the Oort belt, not something we will ever be able to predict.

Image published in the Daily Mail
Two young stars,viewed in the constellation Orion, spiralled into each other and "kaboom".  They were only a couple hundred thousand years old and only 1350 light years away.  Remember the dinosaurs?  They've been gone sixty million years.  These were baby stars.   The appallingly beautiful aftermath will be noticeable for another five hundred years. The energy released is equivalent to the total output of our sun for the next ten million years. Interesting pictures at the link.

A new type of cataclysmic event was
spotted a couple weeks ago.  A galaxy 3/4 of the distance to the other end of our universe disappeared in a ball of light that lasted for a few hours and was gone.  The galaxy location flared up 1000 fold and died back to a dot of light.  "No astronomical phenomenon that scientists currently know of can explain the behaviour.".

Then there are some puzzling bursts of radio light lasting milliseconds. Almost two dozen have been observed so far but their source isn't known.  The news is that a local on-earth source has been ruled out.  One has been localized to a single galaxy.

Earth's oxygen is raining down on the moon!  About 90 metric tons of earth's oxygen whisks daily out into the tear-dropped magnetosphere around the earth.  For about five days a month, the moon is positioned downstream of that magnetosphere and shielded from the sun's harsh bombardments. Some of earth's oxygen in the magnetosphere escapes downstream. About 26,000 oxygen ions per second per square centimeter are landing on the moon during that time.  This also explains why some oxygen isotopes were found on lunar samples that would have been appropriate as exhaust material from plant life on earth.  This doesn't add up to a fuel supply for lunar explorers but is still a WOW moment.

Amateur astronomers joined a crowd-sourced project and found four candidates for Planet Nine. Sixty thousand people took part after being given access to the raw data.  They analyzed five million objects to come up with the four candidates. The largest distant objects like Pluto are somewhat clumped which implies some other object much further out and about the size of Uranus and perhaps in a non-standard orbital plane has been interacting with them.  "We have achieved four years of scientific analysis in under three days".
Related, some Australian amateurs found four new exoplanets, after analyzing data made public.

The first serious space tourists are lined up to go.  Elon Musk has sold two SpaceX tickets to go round the moon once in 2018.  Stephen Hawking has accepted a free ticket on Virgin Galactic's ship to the moon, a few years in the future.    Blue Origin is offering rides to the edge of space and back for 2018 for about $200,000.

Ivanka Trump, role model and "Yi Wan Ka goddess" in China

President Trump's right-hand daughter is widely admired in China by upwardly mobile women. The New York Times wrote it up. This is true diplomacy and augurs well for peace between China and America.  Culture is senior to Politics.

Ivanka ("Yi Wan Ka") has a booklet of wise sayings that you have never seen but is read by millions of Chinese women.  It's on line.   See examples below.

What does the NYT say they love about her?  "elegant"
She's an elegant symbol of power and ambition.
She reflects Confucian values, converting to the Judaism of her husband.
She started her own fashion brand instead of focusing just on her father's real estate business.
She's called a "goddess" on Weibo.

Millions on Weibo watched her daughter sing in Chinese. (The daughter actually speaks  Chinese, learned from her nanny).
"A lot of people think Ivanka is the real president. We think she has the brains, not her father."
They seek to emulate her tenacity and  confidence.
They study her speeches on how to make a sales pitch.
And most shocking of all:
“She represents what we’re looking for—
to marry into a decent family, to look good,
and to also have your own career.”
This is true diplomacy.  We exported rock 'n roll to the world.  This is better.

Some of Ivanka's "Wise Words"


What did Trump and Xi Jinping talk about?

Can there have been any less news coverage of the top meet-up yet between Donald Trump and a foreign leader than there was for the 24 hours Xi and Trump spent at Mar a Lago. Crickets and a hopeful sign.. El Sisi, Abdullah II, Netanyahu, Merkel, May had bigger photo ops,and made joint public statements.  It was crickets, however, for the meeting with the leader of the second-strongest power on earth, leader of the world's most populous nation, leader of America's largest source of imports and leader of the country most able to position itself as a warring enemy or a respected competitor.
On top of that Thursday night, after the steak and before the sorbet,  president Trump told premier Xi that he's bombing a Syrian airfield.  I jumped out of bed Friday morning to hear the joint communique.

No communique.  Instead, intriguing bits of goodwill.  "Lots of very bad problems will be going away" was the extent of American verbosity plus a cute moment of the grand-kids singing in Chinese to the guests.      This reads to me as a peace indicator, not a warlike one.   Keeping things private and personal is the right setting to explore new ground. Everything public would be posturing, locking un-examined positions in place.

And what's with "Yi-Wan-Ka" and the Trump grandchildren singing in Chinese?  Another indicator for co-regency instead of war.   Ivanka is a life model to many Chinese women.

Two days later, a little information emerged.

Forget about world peace

An all-time great bumper sticker:
Forget about world peace.  Visualize using your turn signal.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

St. Joseph selling houses for New Agers

A gifted and agnostic friend wants to sell her house.  She heard a rumor that if you plant a statue of St. Joseph in the ground, upside down, this will bring you a buyer.

To cover her bets, she went to a Christian book store asking for a statue of St. Joseph.  "Which one do you want?  The one for selling houses?"

Canada's Ho-hum Birthing in the British House of Commons

The National Post has a wonderful write up on the passage of the British North America Act and the creation of Canada. 150 years ago this month,   The Colonial Secretary apologized for taking up their time. The order paper was shared with The Criminal Lunatics bill.  Voting in part of northern Ontario was amended from being open to "every British Subject" to being open to "every Male British Subject". Sir John A. McDonald, who observed from the gallery thought it was treated like a “private bill uniting two or three English parishes”. The next bill up stirred greater debate.  (“I see no reason why the duty payable for a greyhound should be reduced 75 per cent, nor why the tax upon poodles and pug dogs should be reduced”)

Detail from an engraving showing the British House of Commons in the era when it debated what would become the British North America Act. Enjoy.

Mark Twain: “If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you're mis-informed.”

As the tasks of civilization shrink, human nature goes obsolete.

Baked in human behaviour for mating and resource capture is going obsolete.  This is not just for culture but for the human life form itself.   Life-time sex pairing doesn't mean the same when a lifetime is twice as long and none to two children with near 100% survival rates are reared.  Seniors' mates are chosen from a different pool than young singles use.   Sexual norms don't mean what they used to mean, now the food supply allows girls to reach menarche before 12 instead of closer to 18 and boys can impregnate much younger,too. In the past, kids weren't in a position to have their own to raise until they themselves were adults and "marriageable".     Even the pleasures of sex evolved to ensure successful propagation of our genes in the next generation.  The next generation is way less important than it used to be but sex just as much fun.  This helps explain the Gender vs Sex battling.  Again, because specialization has produced a welfare state to look after many needs, we don't need children to look after us in our dotage.  The result is we have consumed now and put debt onto future generations that matter less to us.  Hello deficits and governmental debt.  Indenturing someone else's offspring with our current consumption is a genius benefit of prosperity and specialization.

In resource capture there is food for calories and protected territory for hunting and gathering.  Who needs it when a day's office work can provide a week's good food and the problem is obesity, not hunger?  Most of us don't have neighbours who will kill us, steal our cattle, burn our fields, rape or kill our spouses.  We don't bother to put up fences around our homes and stone walls around our towns.  Men and women don't need to divide the survival tasks up by hunt/fight and gather/care but our baked-in nature still does.  

The etiquette of civilization is going obsolete as the tasks of civilization shrink, are delegated to specialists or simply passed onto software and automated devices.  The near future brings loss and unexpected change, though rewards will accelerate for many.  Our baked in human nature can't keep up but our tech-driven potential will surge, with or without us.   We're coming up on a world with many surplus but nonetheless well-fed and fairly content people on the sidelines of life.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Dumbing math down to the feelz

math teaching .jpg
Copied from who copied it from someone else.  It's been around for years.
Copied from ace

Mauldin on Men Without Work - an out of the box view.

Four keys from John Mauldin's March 28th  letter and the underlying book being reviewed, "Men Without Work" by Eberstadt.    Canada has an advantage.

Male participation declining for 60 years.

Work age males have been steadily leaving the paid work force for 60 years. Who knew? The loss of male workers was masked by the many females who entered the workforce from 1970 to 2000. Net participation is on the decline again.
Male and female joint participation rose for 30 years
and has been falling for 20 years

At the same time, life expectancy for white males in the 45-54 (top earning) range has been increasing in most developed countries but has not in the United States. This is noteworthy because Canada next door has not taken part in the U.S. stagnation. The chart is in deaths-per-100,000 people.

The U.S.A. has about 20 million people with felony records and more with dismissed felony charges. These are mostly men, their population has quintupled since the sixties thanks to policy change, and they have a hard time getting hired.  There is no door back in for them.

Lastly, who is most likely to be full-time in the work force?  It's not race and education. It's who is married and who is a first generation immigrant.   These are the males most likely to be at work this morning.  They are the most motivated groups.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Print your house

Apis Cor, a San Francisco startup, is perfecting the printed, insulated concrete house. The video released in February 2017 shows big improvements over video from last year.  Structural voids formed with polymer concrete can be foam insulated, the exterior finish is smooth enough to apply paint with a roller.  The shapes are wonderfully flexible, accurate, and can be put together in a day. That includes a flat roof and extra man hours to set windows into place and completed for 70% less money.  I'm in the business of fabricating roof trusses and before seeing this video, had been spouting off earlier today about looking ahead to some decades of a similar market before the roof truss business joins cooperage at the roadside of life.  NOT.

Caution:  There's a blitz of cutesy promotion near the front end of the video but lots of detail follows. For example, they put up a tent and build the show home in 24 hours in -35C weather.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Precision death bombing takes out Al Qaeda leader

The story is the picture, not who died.  From above came perfectly targeted death, penetrating a moving vehicle.  No explosion.  No kaboom.
No nearby building collapsed.  A smart, massive bullet steered itself to within inches of its target.  Feeling safe at home in your favourite chair? 
The story about the late Mr. Masri is in the NYT and the photo at a twitter feed linked therein.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Orbits of Mars and Earth have an occasional resonance that drives the macro climate.

For years people wondered why earth's paleo-climate has warm spikes every hundred thousand years or so and other long range fluctuations, Mars may be part of the answer.  Earth and Mars orbits have some slight entanglement which every so often resonates, transferring some angular momentum from one planet to the other, making a small disturbance of the axis and orbit vis a vis the sun.    This is a bit preliminary but there's a signature in alternating layers of limestone and shale laid down some 87 million years ago in what's now Colorado and that's where it points.  Beautiful!!
Excerpted from where I first read about it.

More perspective from an article at
"We know that orbital patterns known as Milankovitch cycles have been responsible for swings between glacial and interglacial conditions over the last few million years. These are a result of three things: Shifts between a more rounded and more elongated (or eccentric) orbit, the tilt of the Earth's axis, and the season in which Earth is closest to the Sun.  Meyers claims that during the Cretaceous, Martian gravity helped determine the first of these."

Friday, 24 February 2017

Human distinctives

Found in male and female forms, humans live in colonies, have concealed ovulation and almost no pheromones  (Think about that), long gestation times, and high survival rates.  They hide their stools.  They walk on hind legs and have a capacity to learn language.  They specialize food jobs by sex (hunting and gathering),  deceive group members about status, practice monogamy but are opportunistic for adultery and polygamy,  prefer meat but eat anything, trade food  (and other stuff) across the species with individuals that have different DNA, have a male form a little larger than the female form, show evidence of neoteny, have females modified to feed their DNA offspring with milk. Males mate frequently with females but females reproduce rarely, bearing one or at most two young in a year, and  generally have both parents invested in the young's survival.    Colonies are hierarchical with status defined for both females and males.  Competition is chiefly with other members of the same species for status, males with males, females with females, as well as males with females competing with each other for mating.  The head organ has grown dramatically in the last five million years, unlike other members of the ape and monkey families, but rather like the bottle-nosed dolphin which outpaced other dolphins and whales.   This may be to win mating competitions with complex displays of fitness.  Recent technical developments are making some of this irrelevant, perhaps making ourselves irrelevant too.

Thanks for much of this to Matt Ridley who wrote  The Red Queen - Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature.  

Monday, 13 February 2017

Justin meets Donald. Two observations and a picture of small hands.

First the small hands.  The photo shows our prime minister's hand buried in the larger hand of the U.S. president.

I was puzzled last night that President Trump tweeted he'd be meeting with our PM and some business women today.
That seems to be exactly what happened except the business women didn't get a high profile news conference.  What is our man doing as part of this joint US/Canada group, standing behind the ladies with his smile? Did Donald Trump think the roundtable discussion was a bigger deal than a meet-and-greet with the Prime Minister of Canada?  Perhaps it was.

  Both Trudeau and Trump called on lesser-known press reps (including The Daily Caller Blog) and got substantial economic questions from them, as Breitbart reports. Mainstream media whined, as The Washington Times reports.  They wanted gotcha questions to embarrass Trump over Flynn, not analysis.
“By handpicking reporters, Trump manages to get through a news conference without being asked about Flynn,” New York Times reporter Peter Baker lamented on Twitter." (See several other quotes at the Washington Times story link.)
Update 8:20pm PST: Breaking news, Flynn has resigned with the finger pointing to credible evidence that he could be blackmailed and with evidence that he lied to presidential staff about talking to Russia about sanctions.  Added:  His letter of resignation posted on line.
Update: CBC has an informative report on the meeting (which I should have read first). It's noteworthy for being reportage, not persifilage.

I've seen the future: You get a real butler, not Siri, Alexa or Google.

Today we're toying with corporatist assistants from Google, Apple and more.  They can influence our vote to support a Trudeau and shun a Trump.   They shape the news we see, guess the ads and maps we will ask for and stand ready to answer whims day or night. Google tells me it's time to leave for the airport because it read the ticket in my inbox, offers a map of YVR while I'm there and comes up with a review page of the restaurant I'm sitting in.   Our characters are so varied that ultimately only a custom product will serve.  This means default "OK Google" and "Siri" software will be displaced by hundreds of competing and customizable apps that will be like a friend and like a servant.

Authors Ezrachi and Stucke write:
 "As the digital butler seamlessly provides more of what interests us and less of what doesn’t, we will grow to like and trust it. Communicating in our preferred language, our assistant will develop the ability to anticipate and fulfill our needs and requests. They can do so, based on our connections, data profile, behavior, and so forth.     The digital assistants have the potential to usurp the current super-platforms, namely Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. Not surprisingly, each of these companies is now seeking to become our digital personal assistant. The winner will become our primary interface."
I disagree with the last sentence.  The big players will have an influence, just as Windows can be found in many computers without controlling what you do on them.  Competition demanded by the millions of nearly unique users means big players will be swamped by startups.  Compare how a few network broadcasters and newspapers owned the news twenty years ago and now dozens of medium sized sources and thousands of smaller ones are being watched and read every day.

I look forward to my first fully customizable butler, available online and off-line, a butler with a sense of humour that amuses me, a butler who can take a hint, that will go look for stuff I need or am curious about, a butler who asks unobtrusively if I want to send a thank you note to Aunt Tottie for the slippers.

Neil Stephenson wrote about a future where you buy a suitcase and say"Follow me" to it.  The rest is looked after.   We'll be shopping for personal assistants too and saying, "Follow me!".

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Iraqis who'd kill you on the street if you walked alone are angry that Trump's EO will vet them.

A security contractor in Iraq asked his co-workers what would happen if he went out on the town by himself.  They said local people would torture and kill him within the hour. The ex-marine asks, then why would we want you in our country?   Three and a half minutes, 44 million views already on YouTube, h/t Fox News.