Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Final Solution: Dynasty

The Queen of England may be the oldest surviving member of the House of Windsor, but she’s still basically a figurehead with power residing in the House of Commons and Lords and with the Prime Minister who's currently Theresa May. But another dynasty is reigning in North Korea started by Kim Il Sung, carried on by his son Kim Jong-Il and recently handed over to his grandson Kim Jong-un. The Korean royal family are not like those in England, Spain or say Denmark. They are where the power resides and they rule with ruthless authority. The government of North Korea is definitely a family affair (minus member Kim Jong-nam who was recently assassinated in Malaysia) and now we have another dynasty emerging on the world stage and that’s the Trump family led by Donald, with a good deal of responsibility taken over by his sons Eric and Donald Jr, his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner who has emerged as an influential White House advisor. Trump has supposedly recused himself from his business interests which will be run by his children, but these self-same family members regularly attend important decision making meetings in the Oval Office and serious questions of ethical lapses are already arising within the first weeks of the new administration. Blood is thicker than water goes the old saw and Dynasty was the name of a television series. However, the current configuration of family members in the Trump dynasty may lay the foundations for America's first real dynasty, Will the House of Trump perpetuate itself like its predecessor in North Korea and go on ruling for generations to come?

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Internet of Everything and Buddha Mind

photo: I, Tevaprapas
Modern man lives in a multi-tasking paradise whose existence is fortified by the presence of ever more advanced electronic equipment that seems to have a mind of its own. Your average android will talk back to you with its Siri component while also demonstrating its talents for voice recognition like a precocious adolescent. The internet of everything is the term that’s applied to the interconnected world that awaits your delectation. Of course, there’s always pushback by those who fear that the objects of man’s creation will begin to take the wheel. Driverless cars are not even a novelty anymore. But those who navigate the Henry Hudson Parkway in Manhattan have had a rude awakening. There are no more toll booths and everything is automated which means that the humans manning toll booths who barely noticed anything but the money being proffered have been replaced by high speed sensors which detect not only E-Z passes but everything else about an automobile, including things like unpaid tickets. Patrol cars manned by State Troopers, who formerly never ventured into Manhattan, now are stationed near the site of former toll booths. Big Brother indeed, but that’s no longer the end of the story. Our cars have themselves become living sources of information and the dream of freedom and independence on the open road will even be further lost when vehicles become like planes whose automated arrivals and departures are all run by way of computer, leaving little room for human choice or error. Ironically the hegemony of the data byte will eventually end up with human consciousness occupying the lowest rung of the food chain. So many things will be going on of their own accord that the result will be a cybernetic volitional state that will be as successful in defeating human ego as a Buddha.

Friday, February 24, 2017

What Do Cars and People Have in Common?

What kind of person is the equivalent of a Cadillac Escalade?
There is no doubt that people are like cars. When you grow older you become a used car. Used cars are just like people too. There are some used cars which have amazing longevity. You’ve heard owners bragging their Maximum has l00,000 miles while there are others who complain about the lemon they’ve been saddled with that’s had congenital problems from the first day they brought it home from the showroom. When a car starts to cost more than its worth, it's time for a trade in and while few will admit to it, many feel the same way about loved ones whose illnesses make them a burden. Sometimes all your car needs is new muffler say like person who requires a mouth device for their sleep apnea and snoring. But for some cars the problem is more systemic.  Owning a car with faulty air bags is the equivalent of walking around with an incipient brain aneurysm and there are cars with the equivalent of metastasizing cancers that usually begin in their computerized ignition system. Naturally some problems are merely cosmetic. Some cars like people simply need bodywork or a paint job which is the equivalent of a face lift. Simonizing a car will definitely allow it to keep its sheen, but there are some for whom the word waxing raising the hairs on their head. Back in the days when life was simpler, kids talked about getting their first set of wheels, which was a little like those nature documentaries when you see a foal rise from the ground and start to walk on its own. Well, what is there to say? A good car has legs and a healthy person is in for a long smooth ride.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Final Solution: The History of the World Part III, The End

Do you remember the threats following the release of The Interview, the comic film about Kim Jong-un and how theater chains quickly took the film out of circulation? Remember how Kazakhstan threatened Sacha Baron Cohen with a legal suit over Borat until they realized the film was helping their tourist industry? Been there done that might have been the response say if you were a poet and novelist like Boris Pasternak who was trying to write about what was going on during the time of Stalin. But what happened to The Interview, in particular, seemed outlandish in America where the First Amendment is cherished. How could North Korea be determining what could or could not be shown in our theater chains? But imagine what will happen if and when Donald Trump becomes the subject of such a spoof. Trump has neither been happy with his treatment by the “dishonest press,” nor specifically by SNL, which has created its own Trump doppleganger in the form of Alec Baldwin, whose hairdo actually brings back the transformation Tony Perkins created in Psycho. But what will transpire when liberal Hollywood takes aim at the president on a mass scale with a blockbuster project. Meryl Streep went after him at the Golden Globes. But let’s imagine what will happen when Hollywood’s finest, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Dan Aykroyd all get together to take on Steven Bannon, Rience Priebus, Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway? Imagine A History of the World Part III: The End. When The Interview came out Kim Jong-un, whose title is the Supreme Leader, suddenly became the world’s foremost film critic. Instead of Siskel &Ebert, look forward to seeing a show on PBS called Kim & Don which evaluates films and makes sure the ones they don't like stay out of theaters.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Quantum Idealists

One marvels at the following letter to The New York Review of Books, from one Clinton C. James of Sylvania, Georgia in response to a piece by the N.Y.U. Law School professor and philosopher Thomas Nagel. The letter from James and Nagel’s response appear under the title, “Quantum Idealism?” in the 1/19/17 issue of the journal.  James writes, “Thomas Nagel suggests, perhaps inadvertently, in his review of Anthony Gottlieb’s The Dream of Enlightenment (NYR, September 29, 2016) that modern physics, specifically quantum mechanics, can only be interpreted as a theory of materialistic Hobbesian naturalism. Certainly professor Nagel is aware that the ontological status of quantum mechanics, the supposed theory of physical reality, is far from settled among physicists.” You might want to have your dictionary at hand, but you don’t have to understand anything about physics or philosophy to realize the brilliance of the formulation. The “key words” here are “materialism” and “ontology.” Materialism of course refers to what one can see and feel, the meat and potatoes of life. When you think about Newton’s formula for gravity and the anecdote of the apple, you’re thinking about a scientific theory based on the observation of physical reality. But matters in the quantum world of tiny particles are not always so visible and also do not participate in such easy to parse conceptions. For instance the notion an electron can be at two locations simultaneously is counterintuitive. Here quantum matters verge on the ontological, to the extent that they question the nature of being. Is this what Mr. James is getting at? Maybe not.