Archive for October, 2009

Maybe the universe has consciousness

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

If consciousness is the result of complexity and not a unique phenomenon of life, then it stands to reason that anything complex can give rise to other forms of consciousness. That complexity, of course, needs to be mind bogglingly complex.

This entire premise can be discredited by someone demonstrating that consciousness is merely an illusion. We think we think, whereas the reality may be we follow perfectly logical algorithms.

Be that as it may, even if consciousness is an illusion, it still holds that an incredibly complex system can create the illusion for itself that it is thinking – how weird is that?

Now it has been said that the human brain is the most complex thing in the universe. This means human consciousness is the vanguard of a new phenomenon in time and space. This presupposes that we are familiar with all the complex things in the universe, which clearly we are not as we cannot account for 90% of it! So if the universe itself is a complex system, it could well be that the universe ‘thinks’.

What would it think about?

Consciousness is the sap on reception

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

After years of indifferent and heavily diluted science programmes, Horizon (BBC last night) eventually came up with something half interesting. I say half interesting because I am fascinated with consciousness and so was already familiar with practically all of the content in the programme. My ten year old son however, watched it and was spooked by it, so for anyone not familiar with the material it must have been full on interesting.

One criticism of it though was the assertion in the programme that only humans, chimpanzees and orangutangs possess self knowledge. As far as I am aware, experiments have been carried out with elephants that demonstrate they too have self knowledge (I actually read about it on the BBC web-site) so why weren’t they included?

The most astonishing item which surprised me (if it is true) is that an experimenter could predict six seconds beforehand which decision the presenter was going to make by simply observing the electrical activity in his brain. Six seconds.

It suddenly dawned on me that our bodies are like a large organisation and that consciousness is the representative on the reception desk who is the last to know anything important that is going on within it. The management (our brains in constant contact with all the other heads of department – excuse the pun) decide the firm is going bust (for example) as it has been doing for quite some time. It goes bust then decides to inform consciousness. The beauty of it is, is that the sap on reception believes he or she is in control and is making all the decisions as they immediately forget about the memo they have just been sent.

Where does that leave free will?

Telephone preference service update

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Got another one of those pre-recorded telephone messages selling me a debt cancellation service or something. It did not identify itself in any way and invited me to press 5 for a free, no obligation chat that wouldn’t cost me a penny (I will wait for my telephone statement and check for lies). This I chose to do and got a pen poised over a blank sheet of paper ready to take some details. A bored sounding girl answered the ringing tone with a ‘how can I help?’ question.

I asked for her name. Immediately, she put the telephone down on me.

These people know. They know they are working outside the law and run from anything that sounds investigative. A pox on their lives.

Cartoon number 6

Friday, October 16th, 2009

SatNav cartoon 6

Serendipity

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Today was the kind of day that gets turned into a movie script.

I  cycled into town. In my pocket was my completed tax return which I intended to drop off at the tax office which is housed in a sixties built concrete tower block adjacent to the ring road on the outskirts of the commercial centre. Such is the state of this part of town that it has been years since I was last in this vicinity.

Once I had safely delivered the tax return, curiosity made me take a look at the row of shops opposite the tower block. Usually, such low rent parts of town house unique and interesting shops like comic book stores or tattoo artists. This was no exception.

One of the premises was an art gallery called The Wall. The sign on the door said ‘closed’. I put my head against the glass window and peered inside. I could see a lithe dark haired man moving about the spacious gallery hanging pictures. He saw my face pressed against the glass like some child’s at a sweet shop and mouthed something before coming to the door which was unlocked.

“You are closed”. I said ironically.

“Yes I am,” he replied. “I’m changing some pictures around but if you want to come in and have a look around you can.” He looked down at my bike. “You’d better bring that in or it will get nicked.”

This was great! I has spied some interesting pictures and I would have the whole place to myself.

After talking with the owner for a bit  and dropping in the conversation that I was an artist myself, he asked me if I made a living from it. I said most of my money came from caricaturing but my background was fine art and I still indulged myself with canvas and oil paints. He asked me what I was called and when I told him ‘Ivor the Artist’ he claimed to have come across my website. Then I went upstairs to look at more of the pictures.

After some time he came upstairs and asked if I had seen anything I liked. I was admiring a Mike Jones picture at the time, acrylic on paper and, to my mind, the best picture in the gallery.

“Yes”, I said. “This one is exquisite. I know It has class because it looks good from ten metres or ten centimetres.”

He then quizzed me about my caricature work – how did it work? et-cetera. After explaining to him the usual format at a typical wedding or dinner, he then offered an idea. He suggested I set up an easel in his gallery during an Art Walk and charge a fee for doing a drawing (an Art Walk is a scheme whereby several art venues in the city stay open late in the evening so that people can walk from one to the other and see different art). This seemed like a win-win situation; I would be meeting people, artists and potential customers alike, making some pocket money and the owner of the gallery would be able to promote his venue in the media with something novel. It was in midweek so it was unlikely that I would get a full fee enquiry on the same date. I then suggested a possible contra deal which might persuade me to buy the picture I was admiring, He balked at this and re-presented his original suggestion as a good deal for both of us. I liked this man. He was smart, curious, inventive – all the things that a creative practitioner or entrepreneur should have. I pointed this out to him and told him of my other career as a professional speaker and trainer of creative thinking. To my amazement he claimed to have come across my speaking website as well and proceeded to tell me a bit about his background and his involvement with a cutting edge architectural practice and the occasion they invited a prescient designer in to talk about his green roofs. This was the guy who was commissioned by Ford to build a factory for them and who insisted that he would only take on the project if he could build a green roof. I had seen a television article about the building and how skylarks were now nesting on his meadow roof. This was marvellous good fortune and we recognised each other as members of a particular tribe but more was to come.

He then proceeded to tell me about his daughter who works for O2 and how she was always telling him they were looking for speakers who had an inspirational message. Why didn’t I give him my details and he could pass them onto his daughter. And whilst he was at it, he said, he could also pass them onto this architectural firm he used to be associated with.

Now it was getting Hollywood. I only came into town to drop off a form and here I was negotiating caricature gigs and potential hot leads for O2 and a vanguard architectural practice. I thought I had better depart before something really improbable happened like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz walked in and asked for some ceramic red shoes. I shook hands with Malcolm (we finally got round to introducing ourselves) and left the gallery.

On my cycle ride back home I reflected on the afternoon’s events. There was a seamless quality about them, it was as if I was in the eye of some magical storm and I needed to make the most of the moment.

Once home I checked the date we had discussed for the Art Walk and found it to be available. I had meant to discuss the possibility of buying the picture I had been admiring in the gallery with my wife but some ineffable thought process coursed its way through my body and reached a bold conclusion in my brain with a conscious thought; ‘It’s a sign. Buy the picture now!’

With that I telephone Malcolm and confirmed the date was good and asked him to please place a SOLD sticker on the picture. I arranged to pick it up the next day and at the same time to give Malcolm a five minute run through my SatNav for the Soul® presentation on my laptop so that he could accurately report the value of it to his daughter.

Isn’t this how all the great stories start? I’m hoping the rest will be history (which, of course, it will be, come what may).

The poisoned chalice with optional dvd player

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

On long car journeys our two young children would sit in the back and either play with some toys or stare quietly out of the window. They never said, “I’m bored” or “are we there yet?”

But we saw other cars with dvd screens on the back of the front headrests and thought it might be nice for them to have dvd’s to watch on the journey for a change. So we bought a portable dvd player and that was when all the problems started.

There was only one dvd player and they had different tastes in the type of content they wanted to watch so arguments started about who was going to watch what and in what order. If one of the children lost an argument and had to wait for their content to be viewed they would complain about having to listen to the sound coming from the dvd. This meant sourcing some headphones so that the other child was not disturbed but then complaints started about uncomfortable headphones.

On arrival at our destination the children didn’t want to leave the car as they were in the middle of a dvd and they had to find out what happened next. Once inside the holiday venue they just wanted to continue watching the dvd’s they had brought for the journey.

This is how consumerism works and in this instance, I realised I was the unwitting perpetrator of the evil.

Previously, the children were great travellers and found enough interest in the world outside their window or in their imaginations to occupy them on the journey. We saw other travellers with ‘gadgets’ and we, the parents, invented a need from our curiosity. We bought the product and discovered it generated more consumerism while at the same time diminished our quality of life by promoting envy, division and isolation. We would be far better off without the player except that now, the children are used to the player and getting them to go back and make do without it will be a major undertaking. Rationally explaining to them that their quality of life would be improved by this subtraction will not work. The dvd is too seductive. Even if we ‘lost’ it, the children would insist that we simply buy another.

Isn’t this the story of consumerism? And yet, if, by some catastrophe, we were to lose our power and petrol, I’ll bet it wouldn’t take us long to rediscover the forgotten pleasures of improvisation, collaboration, participation.

The Swedish Pirate Party

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

I’d come across this group only through the mainstream media (is mainstream media a pejorative term now?) and their representation was criminal and comic in that order. They were thieves and they were being prosecuted for it.

Well, here is an interesting article which demonstrates either their cleverness and guile or their intellectual understanding of history. You decide.

The despicable side of consumerism

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

I am reliably informed that today is, ‘Grandparents Day’ as designated by the greetings card industry. Their quest for ever more profit is still skirting the line of moral acceptability but what with the creation of vulture funds, as a legitimate way of making money, it won’t be long before they abandon any pretence of acceptability and create occasions just to fill up the calendar.

Here are a few of my guesses as to what they might come up with but you are invited to add your own in the comments.

• 9/11 terror Day
• Amputee Day
• Suicide in the family anniversary Day
• Gender change operation Day
• Murder victim remembrance Day
• Buy a card just-for-the-hell-of-it Day

Bird poop obliterates dog poop sign

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

bird poop

bird poop tree

Underneath a bird roost I came across this. The sign says, ‘pick up or pay up’. I just thought it was ironic.