This is not a vanishing chair.


Something is disappearing in this sequence, but what? Not the chair, because this isn’t a chair. Not even a picture of a chair, because the picture of a leg of a chair isn’t a chair. Is it a picture of a shadow of a chair that isn’t in the picture? If the picture at the top of this group is a picture of a shadow of a chair because the shadow is discernible, is the picture at the bottom not a picture of a shadow of a chair because it isn’t discernible to a person who hasn’t looked at the sequence of the shadow of the chair disappearing?

My first-grade school teacher, Millie, said that all questions are good questions, but I wonder if she was right.



How can I identify and eliminate my false beliefs? 4


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There is possibly a way to approach my false beliefs by using the Trustworthiness of Information chart which I created back in 2007. Click here for a big and printable view. It is easier to view this chart if you print it out, as it is unreadable at a usual screen size. Or to have that bigger version on a separate window.

Trustworthiness of Information

Trustworthiness of Information

When I compare where my personal influences are coming from using this chart I realize that most of it is at the TST~7/14 level of trustworthiness. — The typical providers of the information are friends during conversational interaction about well-known subjects or about personal relationships. The information comes from a plausible knowledge spun out among friends based on mutually accepted facts to enhance local knowledge. The synonyms for this quality of information are, Satisfying, acceptable, feasible, attainable, believable, credible, probable, reasonable. — What generalizations about my personal reality I derive from these interactions are fine for social interactions, but they are not the mental stuff of the profound philosophers.

On that philosophical score, I have been reading and rereading Seneca, the Roman stoic (c. 4 BC-AD 65), who seems to have more advice for living a good life than our modern pop psychology magazines. He deals with more complex issues and openly discusses the negative aspects of various people, sometimes using horrifying illustrations of bad characteristics. Seneca seems to be writing at his time at a TST~11 level of trustworthiness and verifiability of the information that he is presenting. Being two thousand years old it obviously is difficult to verify at this time, but where the documentation is available it is considered accurate. — He gives a formal presentation using accountable informed and correct knowledge, where he is using verifiable chains of custody of the documents and of the sources of the contested or changeable information. It is information of the type that the old Encyclopedia Britannica would have considered valid.  Systematic, practical, documented, trustworthy, expected, useful, necessary, pragmatic, profitable. — I find myself pondering over Seneca more than I do over my personal conversations, although I enjoy my personal coffee-shop encounters more.

The human interactivity of conversation can be more satisfying than the great sages even if it isn’t as profound.

How can I identify and eliminate my false beliefs? 3


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Moving on. After some rather unpleasant moments over the last few weeks that set me to thinking about my priorities, I moved into the mental space that most people seem to be in all the time. Basically, it is, “I’m right and you’re wrong!” Generally, when I am in conversation with people, that kind of ideation doesn’t enter my mind. I prefer to explore the fringes of what we know as a group intelligence, discern our commonalities and then explore the overlaps and the contradictions within those overlaps. Of course, I am not thinking those words while the conversations are in progress, but that is what is pulling at my mind and habits.

Over the years I must have watched too much late night comedy which combined with my youthful, teens and twenties, habit of sarcasm has primed me to make light of all and talk flexibly of everything. I endeavor to be absolutely in alignment with reality at all times, that is with testable reality, which is a reality that reasonably sane, informed, and involved people agree upon. Although I go astray sometimes, my mental processes often bring people to laughter when they prefer to talk seriously about whatever the subject at hand happens to be. My natural mode prefers a comedic touch to everything because it is when people are in an expansive frame of mind that they are capable of actually thinking. By thinking I mean exploring new realities and their possibilities rather than the more serious form of the conversation where people dribble out their serious, tough-minded thoughts. That is little more than presenting their rigidities and preconceptions in a conversational format and doesn’t explore and integrate the other people’s ideas into the overall group discovery. That style of conversation tends to entrench the speaker’s formerly held beliefs.

If people are not laughing, or at least chuckling, they are not discovering new ideas, and if people are working on a project in a state of emotional excitement, like anger or resentment, they are being reactive to animal instincts and they aren’t being creatively productive. True creativity requires intense calm and paying rapt attention to the thing being created. At those times there is no space in the consciousness for any emotion as the interlocutor in this situation is the thing that is speaking to you as you create it. The object of creation is your companion in discovery. I suspect that what may appear to other people as my false beliefs are what I think of as aspects of testable reality made visibly real.

For example, This is not a chair. This is not even a picture of a chair. This is a picture of a shadow of a chair. It isn’t a pipe either

I took this picture this morning while talking with M. It’s not a chair. It’s a picture of mundane reality that we have all seen but didn’t see.

How can I identify and eliminate my false beliefs? 2


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My biggest problem, and probably your problem too is not seeing my personal false beliefs. What is it that I believe that just isn’t true? And, worse still is, what actions do I perform occasionally that are excessively risky for the potential benefits likely to be gained? And, worse still, what actions do I routinely do that are generally counterproductive to my own well-being?

In yesterday’s post I began to think about this problem by remembering recent events where older friends of mine had bicycle accidents. I still own a couple of bikes but I haven’t ridden either of them for over a year. On a nice day, I could probably ride from my house to my morning chat and coffee with my old dudes in ten minutes, which is what it takes to drive. I don’t ride because many of the people here are totally crazy and to prove that simple assertion I want to get a dash cam for my Subaru Outback so I can illustrate those people doing just plain stupidly risky things.

So there is at least one thing I don’t do that is physically dangerous. When I lived in Berkeley, for fifty years, I rode a bike to my coffee shop rendezvous quite a lot, but people there were much more cautious. Not friendlier, but more cautious. Here, people will jaywalk across the street on the diagonal with their back to you and never look, even when you get close.

When I first got here almost eight years ago the population was much less dense and cars were seemingly fewer and farther between, but that was then and now with Oregon state policy to make cities compact, sometimes there are block-long lines of cars waiting at traffic lights.

That sounds bad, but the good things more than balance that out those annoyances. For example, here are some views I get after the eight-minute drive from home, like this one where I usually park:

I walk through this gate and about thirty steps to the left and am greeted by my wonderful friends, such as these fine fellows.

They are helping me eliminate my false beliefs.

How can I identify and eliminate my false beliefs?


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The most important thing for any living being is for it not to do things that will get it taken out of its species’ genetic pool. This is built into the genetics of every living being and isn’t a conscious mental operation available for any species other than humans.

To actively decide to avoid unseen risks requires the kind of thoughts that are available only to humans. We are the only species with the ability to mentally form conceptions of the possible behavior of things in the abstract future.

Thoughts derived from our personal interactions with other humans are the primary method for seeing the future outcome of our actions. These thoughts are derived from our personal experience and meditations combined with personal conversations with our caregivers when young, our interactions with peers when youths, and learning from all sorts of cultural influences at every age.

Unfortunately, there are huge amounts of information presented to modern people via the media and personal conversations that are clearly setting precedents for living a life of unnecessary risk-taking. It became apparent to me this morning in a conversation with my old dudes that even successful old people are doing unnecessarily risky things. Within the last month, two of our crew had taken dangerous bicycle spills. M, who was riding a touring bike, was chasing some kid going full speed on a specialized mountain bike down a steep mountain path when he went over the front bars. He didn’t break any bones at that time.

Strangely, in a totally separate event, S was riding an unfamiliar bike with a shock absorber front suspension which when he hit a hole threw him over the front bars. He too was not seriously hurt. But why are these two retired guys taking these kinds of risks?

One person, whom I only encountered personally once, was killed two days later in an “accident” that was tempting fate. And a twenty-year-old whom I have spent an hour or so with about six times is now in a cast from an “accident”. My problem with all of these dangerous physical encounters with reality is that each of these people is among the saner and physically healthy people I know.

There is an outdoor culture here in Bend that encourages interactions with nature. That is fine, but that doesn’t mean one must challenge nature to the limits of one’s ability to survive. That is especially true when the actions have no other purpose than to seek pleasure and to take an occasionally thrilling risk.

Being a member of this community I wonder what dangerous false beliefs are leading me astray too.




I have nothing to say. It was a day like many others for me. I got up and watered the garden, and did a little fussy raking up dried weeds. Then, I went to my coffee shop and had a fine conversation with R. Then I hurried home and had a quick lunch of a half a bagel covered with olive oil/butter, sunflower seed butter, cream cheese, and a handful of trail mix of six different nuts with cranberries and raisins.

Then off to the Bend Cancer Center for my twelfth radiation treatment for prostate cancer. It was fifty minutes from sitting here at my computer to back here sitting at my computer, with only ten minutes inside of the small car-size machine slowly rotating around me. While at the clinic I gave a photograph to one of my friends who is also one of my fellow prostate cancer treatment buddies. In the lobby had a short conversation with J another of my personal friends. Out the hospital door and home, as I said.

Then I went out in the garden and did some heavier work where I wielded a pick-ax digging up some roots from one of the trees that blew down last year. These roots were invisible about an inch under the surface, but that area will be planted next spring in something, and old dead roots wouldn’t be of any use. The thirty-gallon wheeled garbage container was packed down and sledgehammered (there’s a German length word) down again and filled up again until it was totally full and quite heavy. It was put out at its collection position.

Then I took Debbie off on one of her journeys and I waited for a while reading a Reader’s Digest, which was provided for distraction. It was called the Genius issue. I got all of the word quiz answers right, as usual, and found some articles of interest for the hour.

We then ate at the Drake, a high-end restaurant here in downtown Bend, and watched the many tourists cruising around. The meal was tasty and the view was fun enough but all in all it was rather idle entertainment. We went home and then went for our usual short stroll to get five thousand steps into Debbie’s tracker.

I don’t know why I have been so tired, but the prostate doctor, Doctor O, tells me that the treatments will make me feel tired even when I don’t do anything. I did put in about an hour of sweaty labor, so I guess that’s it.

I feel tired.

People need meaning for their existence.


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There is a fear created in humans by their science in general and astronomy in specific that the universe and everything in it is chaotic and without meaning. That thought compels people to seek answers that reject testable science and turn to some form of hope given by generating ideas and stories that make them feel better and significant. Any good story will do, but the more distracting and absurdly otherworldly the better. Absurd because that makes it more difficult to discuss and confront in the real-world terms that are abhorred.

Because the visible aspects of physical reality are seen to be without meaning the invisible spiritual part must be where the meaning of our lives exists. What is visible obviously isn’t god or any form of good; therefore, god must exist in the invisible and thus untestable parts of reality and cannot be understood by physical means. Because spiritual reality is scientifically untestable it is then postulated and believed by many that that is where the meaning of our lives must lie. It must be there or our lives are totally and ultimately meaningless, and that is impossible to accept because if it were true we would all die of despair.

We live and all nature lives too, and we haven’t died of despair and therefore god exists and all of our lives are meaningful.

What would a connected galaxy think about and do?

It is a bit uppity to think that a mere human being, such as I, could have the gall to think about what something so superior to me as the Milky Way galaxy would think about. However, it is possible for me, or you, to think about constructing a robot-based-society here on earth and to consider how its offspring could create an interstellar/planetary civilization of intelligent beings. This process of making a civilization the size of the Milky Way would take over a hundred thousand years even if it were done at the speed of light through contacting already existing and cooperative robot societies. “The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy with a diameter between 150,000 and 200,000 light-years (ly).”

If it were necessary to physically populate distant stars’ planets using specially designed small probes to travel there, it would take much longer than radio communications. A million years is optimistic for the transit time, although assembling a robot civilization might go much quicker. That is assuming everything went as well as an intelligent being could possibly analyze, project, and build self-replicating devices and goal-directed ones. 

Once the first basic device was operational, the following ones would be self-constructed exponentially. This wouldn’t be a Darwin-like evolution of reproduction by those who survived, it would be a directed evolution designed to fit needed applications and environments. A thousand years might be plenty of time to build the equipment necessary for this planet-wide robot-computer society to become a member of the Milky Way civilization. 

If this society could be made, even in a portion of the Milky Way, in a billion years, it would be able to think and to make things beyond what we here on earth can now consider feasible. It would be able to construct things that would be beyond the total energy stored in the earth because it could collect energy from its star for billions of years. It could construct very large things in space from materials available in space like the asteroid belts because it would have vast amounts of time, energy, intelligence, wisdom, and vision. What would this being think about, choose to value, and do? My speculation is that it would be something as spectacular as our Earth.

Humans don’t have the lifespan to contemplate things like the robots we can construct can think about and do.

We are creating the next emergence of the Universe.


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As things evolve into other things it is usually difficult or impossible to know what is going to emerge. How could it be thought a few moments after the Big Bang that the point of stuff would grow into a huge mass of teeming what we call subatomic particles? From within that turbulent mass it would have a big puff into empty space and the multitude of particles would condense into hydrogen. Tiny particles so far apart that for half a billion years it would appear that nothing was happening. But the particles were slowly being attracted to each other and that process continued until great masses formed, and the masses were so big their mutual gravity created hydrogen fusion into helium and the release of light and there were stars. In this short story, we have already gone through three emergent transitions that would have been nearly impossible to predict from inside of the former situation what next form matter would take.

But with the stars, it would seem reasonable that they would just go on with that fusion process until all of the hydrogen atoms became helium atoms. But that is not what emerged. What happened was that when gravity was great enough to crush the innermost atoms the whole thing collapsed. Okay, it would just form a much smaller denser thing. Who would have thought that instead the atoms would be crushed into heavier atoms and bounce back into surrounding space as more complex atoms? But that’s emergence for you. It’s unexpected and that’s approximately what the Universe did.

The collecting into planets of these more complex atoms is a new phenomenon, but it could have been predicted because that is what the hydrogen atoms had done earlier. And, the blasted out heavy materials circling the stars would seem almost as reasonable, so it is emergent but it isn’t so unpredictable. The planets having a denser batch of elements collecting into balls because of gravity seems predictable too but it is a new emergent form of being for the Universe.

That a self-reproducing thing we call life would form on some of the planets would be an unexpected emergent property, and that some of these living things would develop sensors and brains that could observe the things around them and seek food and avoid being food for other things seems unexpected and emergent. That some of these would evolve large brains is to be expected but that they would create a syntax-driven speech is emergent.

Okay, we have skipped along through a lot of emergences and now we have developed a technological society capable of manufacturing robots that can think. At the moment they are like human babies and cannot reproduce themselves or even care for themselves but they are almost like a new species of living being that needs to grow up to adulthood.

The emergent thing in the Universe at present could be an artificially intelligent society, and when the individual intelligences have been given the ability to reproduce the physical components of their bodies and assemble these components into a functioning being, they will be alive. They are not alive now but we presently living humans can give them the capacity to be alive.

Many of the emergences above could not have been predicted but some of them could have been. Our robot society is one of the ones that were utterly unpredictable until humans came along and made it possible.

It is our technical society that is now responsible for bringing into reality the next Universe-wide emergence. 

Who cares?


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We often hear the words, “Who cares?” It is often associated with the feeling of indifference but more importantly, it also has a vast array of positive meanings. Perhaps the most positive use of “WHO cares!” means the World Health Organization cares. Hmm? An organization, an abstract thing, it isn’t a human being or a dog, and so it can’t care. Certainly there are people within that and other similar organizations who do care, and people who are drawn to the mature aspects of caring are attracted to those organizations. I know there are people within the Center for Disease Control, the CDC, who care. And many people give their time and energy to help people they don’t know because they care in the abstract about people’s needs, about humanity’s needs.

There are many helping occupations which are low-paid personal care and service occupations and they are essential.

Another group of caring people is writers and other artists who create meaning for people’s lives with their work. I suppose everyone who has a job, even though it is for personal reasons, is working for the whole of the community and caring for the greater good. That was the idea that the philosopher Adam Smith asserted.

Another group of people who are at the pinnacle of caring and are often killed for their intense message is the founders of religious traditions.

Perhaps I am reaching too far, but recently I have been caring for the whole Universe.

A prayer to the Universe

Who cares about something so very remote? I do.