Teach what you most need to learn to do and sell it.

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When we set out on a new task there are things we need to know to bring that enterprise to a successful conclusion. It is therefore necessary to list the various skills you will need, and to learn and practice them beforehand. One of the proofs that you have attained sufficient skill to do a certain thing is to sell it for some amount of money. It doesn’t matter how much money, because the idea is that someone, anyone, is willing to give you something they value for your product.

I have observed many times people of modest ability with a not particularly interesting product pursue this obvious course and go from being a starving student to becoming a person of worldwide importance. The key is to get the thing out there and sell it for money. Some people who followed this plan started in college, and some even before high school. Ray Kurzweil is a good example. He pursued his goal of being an inventor from the age of five, and he is now at Google. He was hired by Larry Page when he and Kurzweil agreed on a one-sentence job description: “to bring natural language understanding to Google”.

Any brilliant person can succeed if they get started early in life.

How to think better.

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Perhaps the most important two words I heard today, this month, this year was — to think better we need a clean signal. Our brain can’t hope to function well if it doesn’t get a clean signal from its environment. And, what does the brain’s environment consist of, you may ask. First it must have a comfortable, warm environment with fresh, healthy blood free of contaminating chemicals, and without that there is no hope of it producing results that will optimize its being’s relationship with the world it is immersed within. Thus, we must prevent physical trauma and chemical toxins from entering our bodies, and if they do we must clear away the harm as quickly as possible. Furthermore, when contaminants are in our bodies we should refrain from making important decisions, or otherwise put ourselves in situations where physical danger is likely.

A second essential for a brain to function well is for it to get clean signals from its environment; that is, from a healthy body, and from a relationship with the world around that is honest and accurate. This creates a real problem in the modern world because there are entire industries dedicated to providing us with distorted information. It is called benign names like advertising, politics, education, entertainment, drugs, and religion. We are told that consuming these sources of information is for our own personal benefit. Of course, behind each of these mountains of information is an organization that is benefiting economically from your buying their products.

Okay, this is a bit much, but to live in our modern society we must confront all these sources of spun information every day and fend them off, and that takes personal energy. It is energy that could be put to better use, if we knew what a better use consisted of.

I’ve been pursuing the idea that life consists of solving problems, that a life that doesn’t have any problems is boring and soon depressing. Our task is to find problems that are big enough to be interesting to us, but of such a quality that we can solve parts of them on a daily basis. We feel good when we are successful. The best kinds of problems are ones that help others as well as ourselves live more satisfying lives. Generally that means building things together that help us all live better lives.

Thinking better means to help our minds to help everyone participate more fully in our world, and to do that requires clean signals from our world.

Argus Dome deep-space refrigerator

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When it comes to storing things for a very long time, generally speaking, the colder the better. At a temperature below —40° F. or C, there is a minimal amount of biological activity. Also, a few humans have chosen to have their bodies deep frozen immediately upon being declared legally dead in the hope of being resurrected at some future time when their cause of death can be reversed. The problem of course is how to maintain a super-cold temperature reliably for hundreds of years in a temperate climate.

I have an answer for the problem of keeping seeds at the EarthArk, and animal bodies too, super cold even for thousands of years without maintaining a perfectly operating technical society. We could call it a deep-space refrigerator. Deep space is very cold and NASA has already considered having a capsule placed on the Moon deep in a polar crater where the sun never shines, where it would reach a very low temperature. Of course, it might cost billions of dollars to get a small capsule to that location, and additional billions to get it back to Earth. The chance of a catastrophic loss for this round-trip operation is high. Fortunately there is a cheap and safe way to create a super-cold refrigerator that would keep materials very cold for thousands of years.

At the top of Antarctica there is an area called Argus Dome at Lat/Long -80.367 77.352, where the altitude is over 13,000 feet and the sub-surface temperature is about —55° F. In addition to that low temperature, I have a plan where a container buried there could be made even colder. The project would be to build a large container which is exposed to the —100° F. winter temperatures and sealed closed during the summer months. That simple procedure would lower the year-around temperature to something approaching the winter cold. But, much lower temperatures could be achieved by visually exposing a black surface to deep space for the four Antarctic winter months. If this large container were insulated from the world for the rest of the year, the cold temperature achieved in winter would be maintained. A thick wall and floor of high quality insulation would protect a large heavy object from warming. The insulation is aided by the low air density at the high altitude. Much lower temperatures could be achieved in this refrigerator by exposing a black surface to visual deep space, which is only a few degrees above absolute zero temperatures. The black surface in the container would radiate infrared light into deep space and cool the contents of the container.

Once a year as winter approached the top door would be opened to let infrared light out, and once a year as spring approached the top door would be closed to keep the contents cooled. This door would be highly insulated too. An alternate way to transfer heat would be to have an elevated horizontal black radiator where the snow would be easily blown off, and a solid copper shaft to conduct the cold into the container, which could be protected from the weather by being buried. This system could be totally passive, if the conductor were designed to expand and disconnect whenever the container temperature was colder than the conducting rod.

EarthArk temperatures can be maintained at —100° F. for thousands of years without any human maintenance. 

 

We are the chosen ones. We chose ourselves.

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Today there was a great discussion that began with the question, “What does it mean to live from the heart?” Soon it came the idea that we should act as little children, but that was instantly challenged because children live so much in the moment that they don’t regulate their outward expressions and they hurt other people. The idea evolved that we should live in the moment, as children do, but that wasn’t quite right either, because with a little forethought we could change our moment in such a way as to make our future moments much better, better for those around us and better for ourselves. There was a general consensus that we are responsible for our personal actions, and that we should act with loving kindness toward our fellow man. That meant to approach even dangerous people with love and acceptance. That was stated, but there wasn’t much of a clue how we could do that in practice. I mentioned my method of looking down at the dangerous person’s shoes, smiling at their absurd uniqueness, and then looking up at the person with a loving and warm, flexible state of mind.

Another way to approach difficult situations was to begin with a “What if the situation was perfect? What would we do then?” With that frame of mind we can be more open to new ideas, and a possibility of developing some good things out of the present moment. The basis of that line of thinking was to get out of beginning with a negative judgment of the approaching situation. Some were looking exclusively for the good things that may come out of a situation and ignoring the bad ones. That didn’t sit right with some of us, because simply ignoring bad things doesn’t necessarily prevent them from wreaking misery.

We discussed what the basic idea of love could be, and were liking the statements around … love is a level of communication that is based on a positive feeling interacting between beings. Someone’s child had had a tantrum and went away for a while, and when they came back they said, “I love you, and thank you for loving me.” We all welled up at that statement, and remembered that out of the mouths of babes comes profundities. An adult filters their behavior, out of respect for the other person, but a child often simply states their feelings of the moment, regardless of the effect.

One idea that floated by was, “The Universe thinks more highly of me than I can think of myself.” That was a strange statement, because it is generally thought by humans that the Universe doesn’t think at all, let alone make moral judgments of various people’s value. The Universe is a system that behaves with nearly perfect  predictability, in the near future, but it doesn’t think, and thinking is dangerous because one can never predict where thought will take a person. Thoughts are unknown, and unknowable until there are actions, and the actions made by a person are a better indicator of what they think than are their words.

We live in a great game, evolved by the complex forces of nature, and by my understanding of it we have no choice but to participate. Therefore,

Pay attention to your local environment and participate.

What to do when you come to a fork in the road

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There are options all the time, and there is the standard conundrum supposedly reserved for the likes of Buridan’s ass. He was the foolish donkey in Aesop’s Fables who got stuck halfway between eating one pile of hay or another one the same distance to his other side. A much wiser man was baseball coach Yogi Berra  who opined that when you come to a decision, make it, or “when you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

I’ve noticed that when I come to a fork in the road there is an abundance of options, and a lot of Americans seem to have made their decision based, somewhat arbitrarily it seems to me, to go right or to go left no matter what the consequences. Another option is to follow in the tradition of the Classic Greeks, and when faced with an impossible decision ask the Delphi Oracle, and do exactly as they instruct, because the Gods have spoken to you, and no matter what the trials on the chosen trail, you must persevere. Some people may toss a coin when faced with that type of arbitrary decision, but that seems very weak, compared to the Gods speaking their commands, and likely to lead to returning to the junction when the going gets tough. Some people, I think it’s the Marines, claim the tough get going when the going gets tough. Returning to the decision point just leaves you tired and with less energy to pursue the other route.

There are of course other obvious options that generally are not spoken of in that postulated predicament; and one is you can simply turn around and go back to where you came from. Another option is to just wait there until something happens, like someone coming along one of the roads whom can tell you what they know of the different roads.

Commonly at the junction of roads there will be a town with a lot of interesting things to do, and you might just decide to stay there forever. Why bother with going anywhere? Just participate in the life that’s available where you are at. That is like my quip, “When you come to a fork in the road, pick it up; it might soon be valuable to you.” Also, if there isn’t a town at the junction, perhaps there should be, and by staying there you could found a town and name it after yourself, and have your name on the map. Probaway, Oregon, sounds as good to me as Grand Junction, Colorado, or Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Someone must have come to a fork in the road and not been able to decide, so Truth or Consequences it was, and they just couldn’t go any further. They could have named it Buridan.

Should two courses be judged equal, then the will cannot break the deadlock, all it can do is to suspend judgement until the circumstances change, and the right course of action is clear. — Jean Buridan, 1340

Of course if we were not on a road, but on a trail, I would recommend the A trail, and avoid the B trail.

The EarthArk is shockingly uninteresting.

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There are many EarthArk posts on this blog, and it is one of my favorite big projects, but today I got a shock when a group of seventy-eight liberal-minded people demonstrated zero interest in it. There were thirty-one posted interest groups, all of which got some signatures of interest, except for the EarthArk, which got zero. This is a group that one would be expected to be especially interested in saving the living DNA of our planet.

The basic idea of the EarthArk is to store all of the seeds and other DNA in deep-cold storage, so they would be available later. This is an important goal because many species of plants and animals are going extinct, and this is a simple and cheap method of bringing them back to life at a distant time, or in the near future after some catastrophe, like a major war. The storage site of the seeds, and of DNA, would be at the top of Argus Dome in Antarctica, (Temperatures at Dome A fall below −80 °C (−112 °F) almost every winter, while in summer they rarely exceed −10 °C (14 °F). The highest point of the ice sheet (4,093 m (13,428 ft or 2.54 miles) above sea level by GPS survey is at 80°22’S 77°21’E (-80.367 77.352)) which is not far from the South Pole. The subsurface temperature is probably below minus 50 degrees, and with some special preparations could be made much colder. At those very low temperatures the DNA would remain stable for thousands of years, and thus seeds could be replanted and grow. Many varieties of domesticated plants are presently at risk because the genetic diversity is being lost to higher-producing hybrid species. The problem with that is that these hybrids are genetically identical and are susceptible to massive die-offs.

The basic plan is for a few people from different places all over the Earth to be given a pre-addressed envelope labeled the EarthArk, McMurdo Station, Antarctica. All the recipient person is asked to do is to collect local seeds and a small sample of the plants from their local area and drop the envelope into the local mail delivery system. After arriving at the McMurdo Station mailbox, the seeds would be trucked or flown to the Argus Dome seed depository.

The whole EarthArk Project has gone through many iterations in hopes of finding a way of presenting this planet-saving idea in a format that would generate interest. So far, as was demonstrated today, that goal has not been reached. If the EarthArk is not created –

A child born today may live to see the irretrievable end of nearly all life as we know it.

A Dictionary of New Epigrams – Fear

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A Dictionary of New Epigrams

Fear

Excess forethought generates fear out of an infinity of impossible problems.

The best amount of fear is that which goads you to your best efforts.

Looking to your final goal will show you the way beyond your fears.

If you prepare properly with flexibility as part of your plan the unknowns will benefit you and hurt your competition.

Become familiar with working in the unknown by frequently attempting things that are outside of your experience.

If you don’t fear death, and don’t fear the opinion of others, what have you to fear but your own self-deprecation?

To promise to do something is to set yourself up for punishment for nonperformance, and thus to create a free-floating fear for yourself, until your performance is approved of.

When you have fear lurking in your core, you set yourself into a rigid state of mind of fight, flight, or freeze and deprive yourself of flexible thinking and appropriate response.

Being locked into fear before an action precipitates probable failure.

We don’t learn from having survived fear-ridden situations, because our natural instinct is to suppress our inadequate responses and remember our lucky successes.

Fear is always in the mind, but we feel it in our squeamish guts.

With ample practice with given situations we can desensitize our fears and learn to behave in an effective way.

Learn to cope with fear by intentionally getting into dangerous situations and intentionally setting your fear aside.

With practice you can turn fear off, like a light switch.

To fear death is to fear the unknown, but when you realize that you are created out of the stuff of the Universe, and death is just returning to become that stuff again, why worry?

There is no sense in being afraid of what we are made of.

When you let yourself be locked in fear, everything is a boogeyman.

What a coward seeks is the promise of security, and there are plenty of liars who are prepared to sell it to him.

 

 

Some daylight in your eyes helps you focus better.

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It was reported in Nature magazine, “East Asia has been gripped by an unprecedented rise in myopia, also known as short-sightedness. Sixty years ago, 10–20% of the Chinese population was short-sighted. Today, up to 90% of teenagers and young adults are. In Seoul, a whopping 96.5% of 19-year-old men are short-sighted.” This increase in myopia has been confirmed in large studies in the US and Australia. There have been several inquiries into the possible causes, and several hours per day of reading or close computer work doesn’t seem to be the primary cause. What does seem related is not spending much time focusing one’s eyes at a distance. Because going outdoors automatically focus one’s attention on more distant objects, and generally keeps the eyes moving from one subject to another, the eyes get more exercise at focusing at a distance. People who grow up with an outdoor lifestyle rarely have myopia, but it’s still unclear if it’s the outdoors and bright light or spending a lot of time focusing at close distance that is creating the condition.

A study was mentioned where birds had their eyes covered with goggles of various sorts, and it appears that if these birds grow up with diffuse vision, as was created with some of the goggles, they lose their ability to focus well when the goggles are removed when they are fully grown adults. There are studies where children in one grade school have an hour class per day outdoors, and those in a neighboring school are kept on the regular indoor routine. The results are preliminary but the outdoor kids after one year had significantly less myopia. It appears that the developmental period for myopia is childhood, and preventive factors include having access to outdoor bright light and focusing one’s eyes at a distance.

Okay, so what’s to be done? We are told not to go outdoors because we will get skin cancer, and to protect our eyes when outdoors or we will get cataracts. Now, we are told to go outdoors to protect our eyes from becoming near-sighted; at least this seems to be true for children when their vision is developing.

What seems obvious is that we gain a lot by getting outdoors every day for over an hour. If we walk with a partner, we get some pleasant social interaction, and we get some exercise, and now we discover we get some eye improvements. I would suspect that when walking we should protect our eyes from direct sunshine by wearing a billed hat, but sunglasses in addition to the hat may not be essential, and really dark sunglasses would probably be counter productive.

Go for a walk every day, smile at the sky and enjoy a friendly companion. Walking a mile to school or work would be perfect.

Irrational Man by Woody Allen – movie review

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Tonight my Socrates group discussed the movie Irrational Man – written and directed by Woody Allen, and starring Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey. Several of us had watched it together last week, with the intent of discussing it tonight. The conversation was about the ethical issues, and the conversation was lively, but I had a problem with the whole irrational concept of a philosophy professor’s life suddenly taking on meaning because he plans and perpetrates a murder. He rationalizes that the murder of a civil judge is legitimate because the judge has made some decisions a woman didn’t like. He then plans and executes the murder because it gives his supposedly empty life meaning. The premise is silly because the so-called crimes would have had normal judicial proceedings, and if the judge were found to be at fault his decisions would have been reversed and he would have been removed from office. To gain a personal life meaning from the murder of a minor public official for doing a mediocre job because he was biased would probably condemn every one of them. Many people might cheer, but it would make modern society impossible because everyone makes a poor job of their tasks sometimes at some level.

My worry was about Woody Allen, because to write and direct such a destructive, and self-destructive, movie must imply these themes are coming from his inner soul. In this blog I have written several times about not following people who have self-destructive behaviors as a major theme in their life, as it can not help but send their follower down that channel into those same thoughts of despair. It makes more sense to discover the ways to make one’s life happier and more productive, rather than wallow in those thoughts that come of looking into the ugly pits of human problems. Why not find good problems to put one’s attention and efforts into and live a more interesting and more fulfilling life?

The Irrational Man shows yet another series of thoughts not to bother pursuing. 

My face is a jungle covered with bacteria.

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Microbes, bacteria and viruses are everywhere; they are especially prevalent in our guts, on our skin, and on our face. Almost all that reside permanently with us are benign and help us to live our lives better, but some microbe species live their lives at our expense. The question becomes how do we help our good microbial  companions to thrive and impede the ones that make us sick from gaining a foothold in and on our bodies. The natural processes occurring in and on us are like a jungle, with hundreds of species of bacteria, and other microbes too, struggling to find a place to live and find their daily food. In this example, we are providing these living things with their home and their food. It may sound a bit disgusting, but we are constantly exuding stuff from our skin, and in the long run it’s a good thing. So, our plea becomes, “What should we do?”

Antibacterial soaps are designed to kill every bacteria they come into contact with, and that is a good thing in a disease-ridden place where there are open wounds, like a hospital operating room. However, in a normal home the standard practice for over a hundred years has been soap and water on our bodies, and to limit heavy-duty cleansers to the floors and other surfaces. Nowadays there is an ongoing epidemic of obesity with younger people that probably isn’t caused by overeating, but by using antibiotics and antibacterials that kill off too much of our natural bacterial environment. Of course, we must control the evil germs, and they are ubiquitous, but they are normally in very small quantities and isolated, and it takes a large number of them to colonize and infect a healthy person. So what I am proposing is keeping the bad microbes diluted and separated from each other, rather than killing them. The problem with killing them is that by using strong antibiotics we kill the good bacteria too, and it’s those bacteria that protect us.

What I have been doing recently, and it seems to work so far, is bathing daily with plain water, and scrubbing my hands and face a couple of times per day also with plain water. After my hands are clean I shake off the water and with wet hands rub my face. I rinse my hands and rub my face three times and then pat dry. It only takes about fifteen seconds. Of course if I was doing something that got my hands dirty, I would use soap, but after I do use soap on my hands or face, after drying I rub them on the sides of my stomach to get some fresh bacteria and natural oils back on my hands and then I rub my face. That restores my hands and face to their natural state of wild jungle.

Outside of our civil society we are living in a wild jungle and should behave in ways that fit our natural condition.

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