Bill Gates: “We Need an Energy Miracle”

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Killing the fallacy that Capitalism and Markets are effective and efficient. And it is especially true when viewing the slow unfolding climate disaster.

Bill Gates on the surprising wisdom of government R&D: “When I first got into this I thought, How well does the Department of Energy spend its R&D budget? And I was worried: Gosh, if I’m going to be saying it should double its budget, if it turns out it’s not very well spent, how am I going to feel about that? But as I’ve really dug into it, the DARPA money is very well spent, and the basic-science money is very well spent. The government has these “Centers of Excellence.” They should have twice as many of those things, and those things should get about four times as much money as they do.”

Read more on the Atlantic.

Fixing Myself to Fight Getting Older

One of my favorite quotes is from the movie Dune by David Lynch, Thufir Hawat: “Remember, the first step in avoiding a trap is knowing that one has been set.” This concept is really fundamental to all problem solving, to fix a problem you need to know of its existence and understand it well.

It’s the kind of thing that must currently drive Elon Musk crazy, since they do not yet have the right data to understand the recent Falcon 9 fueling accident. For Elon, accidents are just part of the path, unfortunate but an opportunity for learning and improvement to achieve reliable and full control.

Being older is not obsessing me as might be common in our youth obsessed culture. But I do feel a slow down. My mind is fine, but the body is clearly showing some wear. One elbow seems slight arthritic, my sleep has become very disrupted, and a creeping weight issue has created “more of me” than I would like.

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My basic approach this year has been to “map the problem space.” And I have to say that Withings has been with me on this as has my Apple gear. I have really become to like their Healthmate app, which is tracking my weight, BMI, HR, and other environmental factors with their Body scale. I have started tracking my sleep with the wonderful Aura, which tracks my troubled behavior via movement and HR picked up through a sensor underneath the mattress – no need to wear a wrist device or headband. It also tracks light levels and noise. It features a neat “go to sleep” color light and sounds and wakes you gently at the right time (I tend not to need that.) I exercise with an HR strap reporting with my stationary bike cadence into Wahoo app. After realizing some trends, I have been able to take action.

  1. My weight has continued to ever so slightly keep shifting in the wrong direction. I faced the tough choice and have started to cut our carbs and now track calories with MyFitnessPal. The trending plot in the Healthmate app really made things clear. My iPhone and Apple watch are tracking my Activity level.
  2. My sleep patterns has worsened after getting better. I am reviewing changes in a few supplements and am switching back to an easier regimen and sources. I am also more careful about keeping regular hours and reducing exposure to blue light in the evening with Apple’s “Night Shift” screen settings and the wonderful f.lux on my Macs. It’s free but so nicely designed, I would gladly pay for it.
  3. I had been tracking my blood pressure. On a daily level. I saw a sudden dramatic and persistent spike to dangerous level that persisted for several days. Definitely unusual and most likely stress related. I took steps to reduce stress and ended up getting a Withings Blood Pressure Monitor that I am now using mornings and evenings automatically averaging my readings. I am happy to say I am back in the safe zone.
  4. I am also planning on starting a daily log about how I am feeling to see correlations and detect long term trends.

I don’t think it is just my playful fascination with gadgetry that makes this process more fun using devices. But the integrated tracking on iPhone and web really makes it easier and keeps me with the program. It also supports gradual changes that are easier to handle than trying dramatic change in one step.

However, I might have to get more proactive in heading out to a medical professional in some areas – like that painful elbow. Just like a car that is not maintained and gradually declines to become a wreck instead of a classic, we get “old” before our time via gradual diminishment and aches that we do not deal with.

Time to be proactive in self maintenance!

Robert Hughes & John Berger – Art as a Way of Perceiving the World

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A long time ago we were fascinated by the series “The Shock of the New” by Robert Hughes broadcast on PBS. It was both captivating and enlightening, one of the few programs I remember vividly. I had been thinking about it lately and looked for it on Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, but without results. Oddly, I ran across the series on YouTube.com apparently captured from VHS. Since our streaming is poor, I downloaded the series for later viewing.

The wonderful impact of art is that it makes us more aware, it teaches us to look and hear, it makes us see! Art is the mirror of a culture and must be seen as deeply important to the culture’s participants. If you lose art, you lose the mental and emotional commons.

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While I waited, youtube led me to John Berger and his equally fascinating series “Ways of Seeing,” which I had not been previously aware of. He was interviewed interviewed as part of the 2012 Serpentine Memory Marathon. This interview is rich with perspective, but one that really struck me with a memory from my youth was the following observation.

After the fall of the Russian system clearly displaying all of communisms fault, how could anybody have believed or still believe. The answer is that today nobody would know the hope it embodied, the hope for a more just system.

I remember feeling that before my disillusionment.

The Illusion of Separateness

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Looking at the odd history in the making in Europe with UK voting to leave the EU, it becomes apparent that we generally look and understand parts better than the whole. This is certainly true on the political stage, where we often do not know, what we have lost abandoning the bargaining table. When Prince Escalus says “all are punish’d” in the final scene of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, he might as well have referred to all European nations and especially Britain in place of the Montagues and Capulets. They lost their most precious children in exchange for nothing. In the UK, it is the young who will lose the most being partially blocked from a larger world, which is struggling to become whole despite our common lack of vision.

I am starting to think that it is a peculiarity of our vision that makes us so fond of finding differences, of loving the parts more than the whole. Vision shapes our way of defining models. Delineating lines of shadow and dark, seeing colors instead of the continuity of the full spectrum is a trick our mind & vision use to make sense of the complexity of the world with limited capability. We simplify, reduce, decide under the illusion that seeing the parts we understand the whole. This is true even in science, where reductionism has given us progress especially since the Enlightenment. We are delving ever deeper taking the world to bits to find the Higgs. But even finding this God particle, our search is not at end. I sense, we are going about it wrong.

Perhaps we are about to enter the next age, where we look at the world with new eyes and try to understand it as one system – from the way we look at nature, our bodies, our societies, our ecosystem, and the world. Systems theory clearly shows that the most interesting emergent behavior is on the larger level of simple elements working together to shape much more complex behavior. This is where all of our answers lie, maybe even to our quest for purpose and the meaning of the universe.

The separateness of anything in the world is an illusion. The world is one system. As we look at the apparent boundaries in detail, they disappear to the point that we cannot truly tell one quantum particle from another. Our bodies are in continuous interaction with the micro-biome in us and surrounding us. We are seeing that our old disease models are simplistic. We are truly and deeply connected with our environment. In cyberspace, our minds and thoughts are exchanging thoughts and concepts at increasing speed. It might be a struggle, but I believe in seeing and making things whole, we truly find the solution to all of our issues. Being in and with this world and each other will give us incredible progress and peace and prosperity past anything we can image. It is the key to our humanity!

All we need to do is look at the world differently.

“What we think, we become.” — Buddha

We need to become one with each other and the world.

The U.S. Is Failing in Infant Mortality, Starting at One Month Old (NYTimes)

There is really not much one can say – except “what is wrong with us?”

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Aaron E. Carroll: “The U.S. Is Failing in Infant Mortality, Starting at One Month Old “

“Many more babies die in the United States than you might think. In 2014, more than 23,000 infants died in their first year of life, or about six for every 1,000 born. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 other industrialized nations do better than the United States at keeping babies alive.”

Anthropocene

We are in the Anthropocene

There is a growing voice among scientists that would like to label the current epoch as the Anthropocene distinctly following the Holocene.

The Anthropocene is defined to begin when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems. Our growth is accompanied by an exploding reduction in biodiversity. We large scale destruction of habitats followed by species extinction only paralleled by the major past extinction events like the Permian extinction.

We see the dramatic changes an extinction of wild life species on land, but the catastrophic impact of over fishing in the oceans tends to go unnoticed. First you might see a reduction in the size of the fish being caught, then you stop finding particular species altogether. If you take a look at peak catches over the last decades, you can see a dramatic reduction averaging 58% – and this was from 1964 to 1992 (I could not find more recent data.) We know that the impact of the last 25 years has been even more dramatic leading to complete collapse of certain species. This is solely due to unrestrained fishing not just catching the fish we want to eat, but also destroying numerous other species of “junk fish.” And BTW, many junk fish have been promoted to primary catch to replace species now gone.

Our techniques of industrialized over fishing and brutal drag net techniques not only decimate species, but also completely destroy supporting habitats. We unbalance ecological chains further destroying local ecosytems.

But this happens under the water surface, so the vast emptiness we are creating goes unnoticed.

Now we add to this the dramatic impact of climate change, which some of still debate fumbling at the edge.

If you look at the previous extinction events, you will likely note that it always ended in the destruction of the apex species, usually in the early phases. We pride ourselves as being the apex species. Good luck to us!

Earlier today I ran across a link on one of my favorite sites. Justin Hickey write about a fascinating book Open Letters Monthly In What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins Jonathan Balcombe writes about the research of the conscious existence of our vertebrate cousins in the water. Justing Hinkley provides a thoughtful review, which I could not do justice here paraphrasing. Just read it.

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I was left with my ever increasing wonder about this world we inhabit.

I firmly believe that not only our model of human consciousness is “not even wrong,” but we seem incapable of appreciating the mental existence of all the beings that share our world. There is a tremendous agree of shared awareness and emotion – the experience that drives action. And the ability to suffer is universal.

We pride ourselves the apex of creation. But we are not only blind to the suffering of our fellow humans, but we are completely insensitive to the suffering we cause in our farms, in our forrests, in our oceans.

How will our epoch be remembered? I can only think that future species able to express it will call the Anthropocene blessedly short in duration and dominated by a species that was given much promise, the ability for sensitivity and greatness, but turned out to be a brutal aberration of butchers.

I am not proud.