Saturday, February 25, 2017

An Illusion?

One of my favorite contemporary philosophers is Daniel Dennett.  (He looks the part, doesn't he?)  He tackles the problem of illusion this way:  We experience a world full of other people, plants, animals, home runs, problems, opportunities and mistakes.  To scientists, the world is made up of molecules, atoms, electrons, gravity, and all that Steven Hawking stuff.  Dennett seems fully aware that most of us will say: "Okay. So what?" and move on with our day.

So, for us complex creatures, he introduces the idea of competency without comprehension.  This was the genius of Steve Jobs, et al.  Make it easy to use and carry around, and the mind-numbing complexity of the systems behind it all are of no concern.  Thus, illusion keeps it going.

What about our subjective inner lives?  Are we ready to see them as illusions? Are we ready to succumb to the furniture vs. the molecules?

I agree this is eye-rolling stuff, but these are the kinds of questions we will have to deal with politically now that the robots are among us, taking over our work,  and maybe being in the process of developing minds of their own.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Singing the Illinois Blues

No, I'm not talking about the sorry state of the Bulls and the Bears.  Their ownership deserves our contempt.  It's just so sad to be a fan.  I'm talking about other "ownership" deserving of our contempt -- the politicians.

It was good "pol-watching" at Gibson's a few weeks ago.  George Ryan looked fit and happy.  I guess a few years out of jail gets your bounce back.  The Illinois Blues goes like this:  first we vote for them, then we hate them, then we jail them.  And they just keep their big fat pensions through it all.

Jesse Jackson stopped by to schmooze with George.  Everyone's a pal at Gibson's.  And, we're around to pick up the check.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Who will Survive?

One of my favorite experiences was when Bill, Natalie and I went from Melbourne to Phillip Island.  The lure was the arrival every evening at sunset of hundreds of penguins.  They would emerge from the ocean, cross the beach and climb the slopes to their natural nesting place.

The Australia tourism people -- always in good taste --had erected stands where we could watch the penguin parade but not interfere.  We were instructed politely to maintain quiet and no cameras.  It was magical.

The recent article in The New Yorker about the survivalist billionaires reminded me of my "back to nature" moment.  Despairing of our institutions, or maybe fearing a revolt, they are "getting away from it all" by burrowing down in bunkers in Kansas.  Or, buying up property in remote New Zealand at such a rapid pace that the natives are feeling invaded by nervous Yanks.

I don't know if there are penguins in New Zealand.  But I'm sure there are other sea creatures who eye the shore.  Maybe they see the panicky humans searching for a nesting place. Making sure "I've got mine."  Maybe they just turn around and return to the sea.