Mayer Spivack (1936 - 2011) is @MayerSpivack on Twitter. He was a consultant and advisor on organizational behavior, innovation, and learning, based near Boston, Massachusetts. He was also an artist working in a variety of media. All writing and artworks presented here are the original work and are the copyrighted property of Mayer Spivack. Nothing on this weblog is aggregated from other sources. Reasonable use involving copying with attribution, and limited sharing not for profit, are allowed. Your comments are invited. This blog is now maintained by his son, Nova Spivack. We look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your interest.
The author of this blog, Mayer Spivack, passed away on February 12, 2011, after a year and a half battle with cancer. Throughout it all he maintained his curiosity, humor, compassion, and dedication to innovation - in fact, these facets of his personality only got stronger as he got closer to his transition. I encourage you to explore the directory of topics here to get a sense of the scope of his incredible intellect. I hope that his theories and observations about the mind, design, art and science will reach a wider audience. Also don't miss his photos - this is only a tiny sampling of the thousands of photos and hundreds of sculptures he produced, many of which we will hopefully be able to show you here in the future. In the meantime, thank you for visiting and for your comments and thoughts about my father's thinking.
ps. You can read my memoir of my father's unique personality, here.
Editor's note: In order to illustrate and celebrate the accomplishments and thinking of my late father, Mayer Spivack, I've attached his CV here as a PDF. His work touched many fields, and many people. It's rare for anyone to dive as deep as he did in even one field; but he did it in many. His CV is an example of that special breed of interdisciplinary intellectuals and artists who make Boston so unique. Download Mayer Spivack CV
Nan–Nan! Please listen! You’re just my older sister, You’re not my mother. You could not have prevented any of it so try not to blame yourself. It all just happened, things happen. Sometimes they are just a chain of unconnected events. Think about all the good—no, the great—stuff you have done, the stuff you have done for us, for me, try to think about that for a minute. For example—if it weren’t for you, because of you, me and the sibs would not have learned to love the small animals that live near the stream back at the old house. But you know that already—it has been one of your gifts to us all. You have never harmed any of us.
But there has been a kind of family secret that we need to get out from under, and I guess that it’s partly out now. You know some of it, and that’s the part your worrying over, and the others know some, but there is a part that only I know anything about. It has a bit to do with animals.
Cancer is a time machine. The ‘C-Word’, once attached, clings like a burr, leaving sharp bits of itself everywhere. I cannot get rid of it. I heard the word pronounced by a creature whose eyes, dark with seriousness, were telling me the truth.
Waking up in the morning, or less fortunately in the middle of the night, I am innocent, having only to pee. Unaware, forgetting, that the definition of my life and that of my family has been twisted short and for the worse. In a few seconds I remember that I have cancer and we have been pitched steeply into an unknown. I am becoming the newest specimen in the La Brea Tar Pits and must watch us all slowly sink below the surface.
Sinking, I am surprised to notice that everything is not cast in horror-show imagery. I find that the sublime and the agape, what as an artist I have sought all my life, are right there— hidden in plain sight within the ordinary. The most sublime understanding lurks enticingly within the surface of ordinary experience.
I will embarrass myself by claiming, against all my self-training, that phrases and words like I send-my-love and heart, when seriously intended, are as buoyant for me as salt water. They float my boat, the boat in which I am now a castaway. One midnight my intestine folded over itself and blocked. Perhaps in an attempt to escape by air, I swelled, resembling an overinflated blimp. Instead, I rode a bucking ambulance to an emergency room 18 miles away and was placed on a hydration-only diet. And so my life was saved. For eight days my lifeboat was drawn down into a gyre through storms I cannot remember, with no food nor compass, but with ample bags of salt-water. There, truly disoriented in a mental black hole, time became elastic and distorted. Days confused with minutes, seconds now were equal to hours later, and sequences reversed. Much light and love were poured down that vortex into me. Very little came out in return. This is how I became conscious that I was a cancer patient in an immaculate white hospital suite.
I met nurses and doctors who did the most routine repetitive tasks without boredom and somehow made me comfortable in the slop at the bottom of my lifeboat.
That’s the love that is the foundation of compassion. The ‘C-word is changed into Compassion in a cancer-hospital where love begets love. I found that for every kindness given freely to me, I welled-up with gratitude and the wish to give something greater back. I spoke freely, feeling like an oracle, and said things to strangers that I would never have said previously to my intimates. I was also high on morphine.
The trivial became serious and vital. I pointed out that discovery frequently, giving life-lessons unasked. What did I know? Morphine pulls out inhibitions like teeth removed from under a carpet of Novocain. It also erases memory. I cannot remember faces or names from that time. I cannot remember what I said.
Finally free and on the way home in the car, my minds-ears rang with the sounds of the cancer battle in the hospital. My minds-eyes were coming open as never before. I had landed on Earth. Spaceman-me documented the amazing landscape of home with about seventy-five quick photos using on my iPhone. The photos are terrible, but no matter. They are mnemonics for ideas, for light and form, for far horizons and time, for the simple emergent from within the complex, for invention, for another chance…, for awareness and meaning–making. For being.
We now accept that voice activated computers have come of age. There are many applications of voice input that are used by people wishing to avoid using their keyboards. We read about direct brain control of the computer interface and have seen convincing demos of this in action as a prosthetic assist and as research effort. Soon that too will seem commonplace.
The profusion of technologies that offer novel ways for people to enter information into their computers will continue to amaze us. But will the keyboard ever disappear? I strongly doubt it.
Why would we not want to abandon a mechanical kluge, that is noisy, prone to repetitive stress injuries, ergonomically ridiculous in it’s qwerty modality, and slow? Even so, we writers will hang onto our keyboards with our aching fingers even as technical wizards and early adopters call us luddites.
We like our keyboards for the same reasons that we like musical instruments. They serve nearly identical purposes. Human language has deep roots. Early primate language was very likely a mixture of gesture and musical vocalizations. Imagine a lot of hand and finger waving with sounds that are part singing and part muttered intonations. Other species and evolutionary branches are much the same using body position, vibration, arching, puffing, color, and ritualized ‘dance’.
Penmanship and cursive writing served us well and fulfilled some of the same purposes for hundreds of years, just look at the fancy almost carved letter work in a handwritten document from the past several centuries. The visual text supported and illustrated the meaning of the text.
Almost every developed society has it’s own unique version of sign language for the deaf. These expressive languages are rich in meaning, art, and subtlety—and they are gesture languages. They are languages of the body, the arms, the hands and fingers, the face, eyes and mouth.
What does this collection of apparently unrelated examples tell us about keyboards? That they are a continuation of hand gestures and signing, they are in a way related to music and music making. When we type many of us ‘run’ a parallel soundtrack of the written language in our mind’s-ear as it appears on the screen. Nobody else can hear it, but it must sound right to us. This is an integral part of the creative process for writers like myself.
Is there much difference between my Mac Book Pro laptop keyboard and a pianist’s keyboard? My keyboard holds many aesthetic pleasures for me. It has a satisfying ‘feel’ that is rich in kinesthetic feedback to my fingers and hands. It is klicky and tub-thumpy. It makes satisfying sounds for my ears to use in judging if keys have been properly struck. It is warm to the touch and the keys are softly sculpted to cradle my fingertips. I usually don’t like other keyboards. Most importantly, when I use my keyboard in a writing project, I feel free. The freedom of expression that the keyboard offers to a trained touch-typist is a great pleasure. It is a freedom machine for the mind. There it is— what a good keyboard offers is pleasure in creating a musical and meaningful text. You can’t take that away from me.
Masahiro Hotta at Tohoku University in Japan has proposed an energy and information teleportation system, (Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1002.0200 Energy-Entanglement Relation for Quantum Energy Teleportation). His proposal, as I understand it, would be limited to a single instantiation event taking place in a single simultaneous pair of measurements, one in a laboratory, the other somewhere within the grand fluctuating universe.
To be useful beyond the laboratory we would need a constant seamless flow of such events. But how? Let us suppose that a locally observed smidgen, one part of a singlet (herein named Constance), is one part of a shared identity within a pair of entangled Siamese-twin-sister particles.
Today the Apple Tablet media crunch by Steve Jobs has created
an enormous demand for information. We have become a swarm of distributed agent
systems programmed to follow Jobs. “Distributed agent systems r(u)n by
themselves…You set them up and let them go.” (M Crichton, Prey, p.500). We
techies recursively crowded internet sites, and caused channel overloads?
Watching the attempt to live broadcast the iPod via http://www.ustream.tv/leolaporte, I am struck by how quickly (in a matter
of seconds) the ‘live feeds’ broke down into intermittent transmission. Viewers
of this website were estimated and 100,000 or more, and that is only one
channel.I am watching the most
rapid cycle of evolution/devolution I have ever seen.
Consider that this event is hotly anticipated by millions of
potential users. Consider that Apple must want to drive their desire and has
arranged to do that by restricting our access to the information making us beg for their advertising feeds. We fall
face-first into the feedbag and are overwhelmed. Is the process of information
overloading a goal of promotion and advetising? Is customer frustration the way
to create demand? I believe that whether these phenomena are intentional or a
function of information channels in general, they have becomethe a sub-context of the whole Apple event. The media spent much time analyzing the media because their shortcomings were so frustrating.
I read new posts on the Huffington Post several times each day. The journalistic freedom and effort there, the truths revealed and doors knocked off their hinges have become an essential isotope of oxygen for my mind. This Blog of Blogs has become an essential beginning middle and end every day.
(Please follow me at @MayerSpivack on Twitter for further articles and discussion)
Perhaps I am overreacting to a query at the end of an article discussing the implications of Quantum entanglement in organic environments—Technology Reviewby K. Birgitta Whaley et al. at the Berkeley Center for Quantum Information and Computation as published in Quantum Physics — but writing from the bottom of my limbic system, here goes —.
If there ever was an organ
that might benefit from quantum entanglement it is the brain. If there is a system in the brain that would benefit most from entanglement it will involve associative process. Consider:
Quantum entanglement for
information storage at the origin and terminus of nerve fibers in the brain
might allow instantaneous signal processing at multiple locations within the
brain that have in the past become associatively categorized and connected. This
would make the brain operate as a far more energy-efficient organ. It could run
cooler, require less sugar-fuel, and have a faster response-time and be free of
the time-lag that is a product of transmission speed as a function of nerve
fiber length. Cells located a few inches apart could be called upon to fire
instantaneously (speed of light? no measurable speed?) and perhaps also to act
simultaneously (seizure? migraine? consciousness?).
Pushing the envelope of the
possible, credible and the probable:
Were it possible that
entangled particles could be found at both ends of nerves, and that this
entanglement could be produced not only in entangled pairs, but among great
entangled families or multiples (think of: neural web), in other words—that
they could be replicated, and their tangled-together potential to interconnect could
be maintained over time by some yet unknown and unobserved mechanisms—then—quantum
entanglement might yield advantages in associative processing power and speed within the brain.
that associative memory and recall processing, (including processes of
attention direction, memory formation, and memory recall) involves a great
number of cerebral cortex end-point locations that are discrete and
separate cells. The origins (in space, time, and entanglement) of these
connections would lie somewhere among sensory systems and within the limbic
For associative connections
to be made among many such end-points, transmission and process speed would
benefit from (and perhaps require) multiple simultaneous real-time connections among
a plurality of distal end-points that were first entangled when sensory, attention
or thought stimuli first originated at a sensory organ or from within somewhere
in the limbic system, or within the cerebral cortex itself (as in the case of
thought and imagination).
Linear/logical processes (think
of: tax accounting) would not require such massive investment in cellular
connections or wiring as would associative / syncretic processing (think of: scientific
hypothesis-making, art, invention).
Hypothesis: most untrained
(unschooled), or ‘native’, ‘spontaneous’
thought process is associative, not linear.
A corollary hypothesis: education deals with almost exclusively with teaching
and training in linear / logical
processing at the expense of associative / syncretic processing.
This emphasis on logic
eventually suppresses associative / syncretic processing, causing associative
neural connections to devolve or disappear.
If quantum entanglement
among a myriad of endpoint memory cells and attention systems or cortical cells
were possible, then it might allow the communication structure of the brain to
bypass the expensive problem of wiring and wire-maintenance among all these
points. This would mean that the actual dissectable structure of the brain
would diverge from how information travels within it. The brain is complex
enough already and we are still stumped by it all.
This divergent independent
network of fast linkages would allow a kind of 'wireless neurological network'
with instantaneous interconnections and throughput to create what we call thinking and consciousness (two quite different phenomena, neither of which has
been proven to exist, at least for many people).
There is nothing outrageous
about a suggestion that quantum entanglement may be operating within the brain,
except that I am the clearly unqualified person discussing it with you.
What may be unique about my spin (intentional pun) on the subject is that I emphasize the advantages for the highly interconnected requirements of associative processing and memory as differentiated from logical, cognitive, or other operations.
The internet, and within it
the blogosphere, are not legacy media. The internet races always into the
future trailing it’s comet’s tail, a short electric past, while blogs and
websites tumble into their own archives and disappear forever. Websites and
weblogs if not kept up (and paid up), lapse, leaving only limited traces to be traced
in future decades. What wisdoms, without durable printed pages, are we leaving
for upcoming generations to contemplate?
Bricks and mortar libraries
have tended to last for hundreds of years and sometimes far longer. Digital
information and digital storage devices are more fugitive do not survive as
well, nor migrate through generations with surety. Desert caves and tombs seem
to preserve information best, but let’s not go there.
Should we invent an overview
capture system within the internet that sends information-projectiles, skipping-stone
time-capsules, that repeatedly revisit our great grandchildren’s
computer-thingys to stir things up during their part of the Long Now? Like a
benign viral pandemic, it would mysteriously appear into whatever the internet has
then become at intervals of twelve years? How would we now know what is worth
preserving and set to fast forward? The question begs us to evaluate the worth
of what we are doing now. Most Twitter content and Utube afterimages would not make
the short list. Lose the spam and the list is over eighty percent shorter with
one click. The advertisements would fight for their lives and then be smothered
by the mute button. What would remain? What do we really care about?
I think of the word intuition and the word insight as far too-comfortable and simplistic euphemisms for complex
associative / syncretic /concilliative processes that operate in the brain all
the time, and that we are too lazy to examine. We use the words intuition
and insight to cover up the fact that we do not know how creativity
operates, or what it really is. I don’t trust many of the words in common use
that have to do with the mind and the brain, and with thought.
I never allow myself to deceive myself by using these words.
Words are like stage ‘magicians’ who are distract us from what is really
happening to the rabbit. Words like these, unexamined operational terms, have
the reflexive effect of make us incurious and complacent. In this case, we end
up remaining ignorant and believing in magic instead of science.
Intuition and insight are usually identified as the sources of ideas and
sudden insights. Not so. We and our accumulated experiences, and the amassed brain
associations among superficially dissimilar (but deeply similar) things are the
sources of our own creativity.
Because I need to understand how creativity works, I
reject the illusions of intuition and insight.
Please watch the video about
the work of the artist Esref Armagan at the end of this posting.
It presents a credible
record of the process of a Turkish artist, Esref Armagan, born blind, who
nonetheless draws and paints. Despite the ‘common sense’ impression one might
have that this is a trick, his is not a ‘supernatural’ ability or parlor trick in
which he attempts to convince us that the blind can see. The video demonstrates
quite solidly how he is able to conceive of and draw what he can only touch and
This calm and humble man has
the desire, as does any artist, to make images. What is unusual and provokes
our interest is that he cannot see because he was born blind. Yet, he makes
images of objects and places that he can only know by touching and moving
through and around them, and presumably by hearing sound reflected and
refracted from their surfaces. Listen closely outside to the echoes in a quiet public
square. You will hear this effect when the environment is relatively free of
motor noise. Go to Venice and learn that the whole city is an echoic symphony.
His memory of shape, form,
and space are apparently a combination of tactile, kinetic, and probably
acoustic (passive echo-location) sensory and cognitive abilities and skills.
I think that there are
important lessons here! Mr. Armagan is not a freak talent but in some ways is an
ordinary and true artist. For us who pour over images on websites, drawing and
painting have become a kind of faux litmus test of intelligence and creativity
in animals, and we have become accustomed to novel u-tube videos featuring elephants
and other animals that can paint. We know chimps can make images of sorts.
Those animals have been trained to draw by humans, and/or have found some
pleasure in moving colors around. Those videos should not be compared in any
way with this one. Blind people are not elephants.
This video documents a man
making art using the neurological equipment and talents he was born with, just
as do other artists, myself included, (sculpture).
Sculpture-making, at least for
me, is a process, similar to the kind of 'seeing' Mr. Armagan describes and
demonstrates. What he does is quite familiar. When I am working on a piece of
sculpture, images of form 'arrange themselves' in my mind's eye. There is no ‘muse’
in my mind. I am doing the arranging, and the eye I speak of here is truly in
my mind’s visual center, but it feels much as if I am watching a mind-controlled
computer-graphics display filling out an image. This envisioning may occur voluntarily
or involuntarily with my real eyes open or closed. I can do this any time I
need to imagine an object. In any case, I choose to do much of my most
successful decision-making and preparatory conceptualization work just as I am about
to sleep in order to take advantage of the leverage of hypnagogic imagery.
Most often, when I am
intensely creative and productive, I intentionally set aside some time before
sleep to consciously think about alternative ways of solving a formal or other
problem for the next day’s studio work, and am able to evolve and to ‘watch’
various alternative solutions develop on the screen of my mind. I have learned
though that I must consciously ‘tell myself’ that I will remember all these
images when I am awake and able to draw or write them to paper or computer. Occasionally,
if I am fortunate, this process continues while I dream. This sleep-work is a
great boost to my studio work.
These images, particularly
the ones that I choose as the better ones, then become multi-sensory and
sometimes synesthetic impressions.Nearly always they combine into visual ideas or visual thought having
qualities of tactility, form, space, time, place (location), material (wood,
steel, copper etc.), mass, weight, size, structure, balance, motion, color,
texture, , light absorption and reflectivity, shadow, highlight, (and myriads of other qualities).
Visual thought integrates
the relationships among all these parts, giving to my imagined sculpture a high
degree of apperceived realism. I can rotate the envisioned object, observe it
from various angles, inspect it internally and externally for contradictions
and mechanical interferences and failures in structural logic. Making the piece
the next day in the studio is then a matter of completing this previously envisioned
solution, and inventing changes to it as the work progresses.
The analogy that comes to
mind is as if my brain were able to compose, code, and send the output data (via
a buffer) to a printer (my hands), to ‘print’ by representing the original
visual thoughts in three dimensions, or more, (my work often involves movement
and time). This print-out of the whole pre-conceived artwork develops like film
in a darkroom tray as I work during the next days or weeks. Many of my pieces
go on like this for a year or more.
All this internal
envisioning and real-time studio work is a compelling experience that one does
better as one works.
Was It Torture that the Bush administration lawyers
allowed, within ‘limits’? My first question is how could they have known if it
was or was not torture? Had they tried the various techniques on themselves or
on each other in a specially equipped legal dungeon with a dispassionate group,
twelve of their peers, observing, taking snapshots, and helping to form a
decision? It is common to expect experts in any professional discipline to have
some direct experience living, or at least working within the niche where they
advise or decide.
Now that so many people worldwide are out of jobs, as a
nation we may be grateful for the visibility of strong, hands-on famous
role-models teaching us how to get and keep a job.
I suggest that any tribunal that seeks to pass judgment on
the people who allowed torture, and those who did the torturous acts, make it
their goal to give these folks their old jobs back—with slightly altered job
descriptions. Put them back to work as evaluators who are in a proper position
to decide just where the line is that demarcates torture from uncomfortable piffle.
Their daily work, on a contract of uncertain duration—(to assure their ‘security’)
would oblige them to subject themselves, and each other, to the same
experiences they once had decreed for others. At the end of that work they will
be able to render opinions and judgments of their own, on precisely where that
line aught to be drawn.
These serious legal issues are at the core of national and
worldwide debates that only seasoned field experts can hope to sort out for us.
We trusted them and depended upon them when they made their initial
determinations, and we should continue show our trust and loyalty and support now.
In a sentence, our hats are off to the lot of you as your head(s) are off to the dungeons,
and keep up the great work!
Artists have practice in survival on minimal rations and
little income. Many make little or no income from art, but with pluck and luck
can make a side-job support their own work efforts. Peanut-butter and impasto paint
are both common artist’s materials. Peanuts in—paints out.
Some people must be paid to do a stitch of work, while
artists gladly pay for the privilege of working. That is the first paradox. The
second paradox is that what the larger economy values (not necessarily art),
has now become massively devalued and everyone else’s shirts are in tatters,
the hair shirts worn by artists are still as itchy, and covered with wet clay
While Christies and other Auction houses, and the
galleries report declining art sales, this does not much affect most living
artists whose art is rarely shown, and infrequently offered at high-end
Now, as the economic slump closes factories and stores, causing
bankruptcies and foreclosures, artists work right on into the night, their
studio lights burning brightly.
Many people who disliked their jobs have now lost them
along with their income and security. Artists still have their artwork and love
to do it. They are used to not having security and they don’t have it now. Yet,
we are not all in the same boat. Artists keep on working, creating the inherent
value of discovery and invention. They open our senses to what was previously
unnoticed, sometimes make ‘beautiful’ objects or images, and in the process
they re-create our ideas of the beautiful; and they remain busy.
They are working to create something of real value to themselves. How could art be “real value”? If I
replace the word ‘real’ with ‘long-enduring’ does that help? New breakthrough artworks become the great art
treasures of tomorrow and their value may last for generations, if not for
centuries. Notice the word ‘may last’—this is not risk-free investment. No
investment is risk-free, as today’s headlines demonstrate. It is up to the
collector/art buyer to perform their own due-diligence; to know the current art
world, and to go it one better based on their personal aesthetic choices, to
invest in the un-noticed or undervalued artists, find the significant, the
rare, and to buy and to exhibit these works, and thereby create a niche for
their growing collection.
Most of the time, the works of living artists are affordable,
because artists must meet a ‘price-point’ that smaller art collectors can bear.
Now during the economic slump these artworks are relative bargains, available
to the more prosperous collectors who have not lost their taste for art that
they still love, even though they no longer can afford the work of great
This is their time to pounce. Great art collections were acquired
this way, when relatively wealthy collectors, art patrons, galleries, and
private buyers have invested in art while others counted only their losses.
Their investments in art were often relatively so small in comparison with
their own larger economic losses (along with the losses of others), that the downside
risk was negligible while the upside possibilities were great.
Many of those investments appreciated wildly over decades
and are the reasons that we visit now museums. Museums, these days more so than
banks, continue to retain works of real value.
Now is the time for smart people to visit their local
artists, before the quick old foxes wake the lazy dogs.
Economic recession and depression are part of the larger
psychological ecosystem that interacts with individual human depression. If we
were too busy to notice these relationships before the current economic ‘downturn’,
we cannot fail to be aware of it now if we read the headlines.
We all live together in a largely unnoticed greater
context of nested interacting ecosystems. This is a way of describing and
interlinking environments of all sorts—physical, social, economic, educational,
climatic, geophysical—I could go on naming them until the list and their interactions
became too complex to imagine, let alone sort out. That is the work of science,
and this is a brief article of opinion.
People are killing themselves and each other at an
increasing rate. While what the media casually refers to as ‘gun violence’ has
always varied quite a lot, in the United States statistics have been more or
less consistently bloody with up’s and down’s but the yearly totals of deaths
by violence of all kinds is usually written in red ink. Murder is probably
easier with a gun, but without guns, psychotics would kill with knives or bats or automobiles.
We cannot hope to limit the uses of sticks and stones, bats and bullets, but we
can and must deliver mental health intervention to desperately needy families
and individuals even in tough times. Most especially in tough times. Everyone
knows of at least one such example. Every community institution is aware of
several or many. We pile up the papers, overwork and underpay our health
delivery workers and ignore the problems until the spike on the desk is
Since the downturn, there has been an up-tick, a
compulsive thumb cocking the hammer and releasing the safety; taking aim at the
mirror or through the window. Desperate times trigger desperate acts and the
times are becoming increasingly desperate.
The feeling of helplessness, or real hopelessness and helplessness
for that matter, is at least in part a mental and emotional trap, a closed dark
room. For some this room has only rage and a gun as an exit.
Will we change our attitudes about emotional stress,
depression, and the potential for destructive acts like murder and suicide, or
quite often murder/suicide and rid ourselves of the stigma of being human and
Probably we will not be effective in large-scale public
education and healthcare delivery for some time to come, as financial resources
for preventative care are being cut from budgets. Can you see the downward
We may complain and grow fearful for our lives and for our
children’s safety, but it is our collective responsibility, not our guilt, that
needs to be recognized. In these desperate times, we desperately need
legislation to assist in the early identification of children and adults who
are at high risk of committing mayhem, and get some kind of help delivered to
their doors, whatever the cost.
There are far too many privately owned guns in the nation
to effectively reduce their use in psychotic attacks. There are, as most of us
have been figuring out, far more crazy people, seriously crazy people, in every
group than we used to believe. Believe it now.
As a nation, we have jealously guarded both our first amendment
right to peaceably assemble, and our second amendment right to keep and bear
arms. These two positive aspects of our national heritage are coming into
increasing conflict. How long will you or anyone feel safe in a crowd that
(statistically) must contain a few depressed people with fear, helplessness, self-hate,
rage, and homicide blocking their minds?
Gun control, or perhaps more realistically an acceptably
intelligent negotiated legislative effort leading to ‘gun management’ will be
of some limited help.
We must focus our attention on matters of mental health,
childhood education and safety from abuse, and job creation.
When you work with other people’s money you may be tempted
to play with money. Some bankers now seem to fear that no one will trust them
or pay them again—ever, so they are trying to quickly grab asmuch cash as they can on the way out of
the tower, a case of institutional ‘take the money and run’.
In a few months time, everything they value or measure value
by, has been devalued by their own hand. They have undone themselves and us. As their stash of value diminishes (as does our own), by
reflection, their self-worth along with their net worth—disintegrates. Their
established social and professional connections fracture. They are in pain. In a
moneyslide, many now tumble like mud down an over-logged hillside in a downpour,
pouring down from the top and wildly grabbing at our wallets to stop their
fall. They appear ready to take anything from anyone because they believe that
their own lives or their way-of-life is out of control and the whole hill is washing
down the sewers. The out-of-control aspect of their fall is crucial to their
mental health. These folks were quite control centered orderly people when
things are going their way. That is why we trusted them. As the chaos they created
explodes around them, they have become disoriented and helpless. They have no
control of anything. They are at a Wall Street intersection, with their pants
down. It is no dream, and their panic is beyond their (or our own) control.
Something happens in the conscience (wherever that may be
in the brain) when a marginally illegal, destructive, or self-destructive
impulse goes badly wrong. When bankers and investment councilors lie and run
off with lots of our money they also lose everything that they are or have been.
They lose their sense of who they are and eventually lose their money. Once
heroes of the reserved tables and the country club, they fear that they will be
Just as the depressed enraged husband who mangles and
shoots his wife and children must then tip into
the part of his mind from which there is no returning, and must shoot himself
to stop his crazy rage, these moneymadmen tip
and morph into self-destructive cash filled piñatas that will be batted about by
their victims until they are entirely emptied of their hoard of sweets and
People seem to have a tipping-point
for fear. When unconscious fear and guilt dominates the mind; when a sneak
becomes a thief, that thief may become a bank-robber. This is whybankers rob banks (After all, who else has the
insider information to be able to rob a bank?). As we know there have been many ‘professional’
who famously robbed banks in the kind of robberies that require a misspelled note
handed to the teller, a mysterious paper bag, and maybe a gun. (Incidentally
this classic kind of penny-anti bank robbery is on the increase now that the
magic carpet has flown off without us, pilot-less.) Bonnie and Clyde are the
archetypal characters in that dramatic tradition. But these kinds of crooks are
amateurs despite the infrequent dramatic heist in which they haul off thousands
of dollars in nickel and dime money-bags. They rarely vanish with billions. The
pros are showing the way and providing their biographies for the next decade’s
We are gullible. In lies we trust. Our trusting mind-sets and
belief systems having learned unshakable categories for social and professional
roles and behavior, and codes of conduct and ethics, we do not anticipate that the
trusted experts upon whom we depend are playing with our money in an expensive
version of three-card-Monte or a shell-game with our minds and our money. Gullibility,
our own greed, and our ignorance allow us no hint that bankers might ever become
There is a wailing multi-million-voiced high wind on Wall
Street. The card game is been busted, and the cards are scattering with the operator,
the shills, and the marks money.
We have seen the cardboard box fold-up and blow away, and the confident
ingratiating smile twist into a smirk.
Trust not only has to be earned, it has to be
demonstrated, and we must do our own and our national due-diligence by asking the
kind of simple, probing, questions that must untangle and ultimately result in
laws that edit out misleading language and the tiny print on the other side of
our contracts. So far we have been reluctant to reveal the extent of our
ignorance to our hired-in experts. But this is not ignorance. it is honest confusion
in a long prevailing culture of financial obfuscation and fraud.
Once we were e a nation of people who made things. We
worked with our hands, our minds, and our whole bodies to produce goods of
value to ourselves and to others. That kind of effort was a full time job (and
where has that gone?) that left little time or energy for a farmer or machinist
to become an amateur banker or investment broker. This information-gap provided
the niche for the con men. That gap and the niche will never go away. Someone
will always try to exploit it. But we need to get back to the business of
making stuff of real utility and tangible goods of value. We can now take off
our dunce-caps. We can stop pushing paper around from pile to pile until
someone looses track of it. April fools used to last only one day. Let’s keep
it that way.
Everyone who loves music should follow this link to a performance from Venezuela during the recent TED conference.
I think that this is an unbreathable performance. Now that I have inhaled, I cannot remember such energy in a conductor or orchestra integrated so well since Sergei Koussevitzky conducted The Boston Symphony Orchestra, way back. That is the highest praise, well deserved. Hope, alive in the world!
The Singularity—The Siren.
If any definition of ‘The Singularity’ is: That future moment when artificial intelligence function levels in machines are equal to or greater than human intelligence, then how do we get there from here? By the wayside, how intelligent are we? What do we include and exclude from our definitions of intelligence, including our own?
The Railroad Track Illusion.
Consider a walk alongside a railway line where one rail represents human intelligence and the other represents AI. The tracks will always remain parallel because the two kinds of intelligence are likely to remain dissimilar. From where and when we stand here and now, standing on one rail, they do appear to join at the horizon— at ‘The Singularity’. However, no matter how far we walk, these rails will remain parallel and never join.
Yet, something is shifting in the ground below the tracks. Humans are becoming cleverer, (but not necessarily smarter), and computer driven AI is getting more complex. We wonder, are these rails beginning to bend toward a convergence? Is their angle changing as their intelligences grow? Is this path converging, or is it only asymptotically, ever so tauntingly, closing the impossible gap? Perhaps despite increases in computation power and richness, and greater human ingenuity, the tracks can only become narrower gauge, to remain forever parallel however nearly touching.
I am starting to post in Twine.com. Twine is a new service for sharing and discussing information around mutual interests. It's like blogging but more interactive, and there is more community. Also, Twine uses the Semantic Web to automatically organize information and help you discover content around your interests. Twine is the product of my son's company, but that's not why I'm using it -- it's actually really useful.
Note: Twine is still in invite-beta, which means you have to register and then get invited in, but it's free and they will be opening it up soon -- so join and then once you get in join my twine and let's connect. I'm looking forward to getting to know my readers.
The NYT has proven itself again and again during this Democratic race to be as conservative as anyone in the industry. The media ’s “molly coddling” of Senator Obama has been as rampant as the sexism towards Senator Clinton. To imply that Senator Obama is somehow a weak and helpless victim of a strong woman candidate, is ridiculous and astounding in this century. It is interesting that the fact that he was raised by a white mother and grandparent, while being abandoned by his African father has been played down in the media. Multicultural would be a more accurate description of Obama's background, not simply focusing on the ethnicity of his father. Isn’t that a rascist, as well as sexist position for the media to take about Senator Obama’s personal history? “Lack of luck and skill” is not the issue for Senator Clinton… The media has set the stage for this, and I am sad to say that the NYT has played a major role in perpetuating the sexism and 1950’s mentality towards a strong and extremely competent candidate for President of the United States.
This was first posted by L.H. Freedman on May 19th, 2008 @1:31 PM in the New York Times.
Many Americans, and especially the press and media, fear, talk about, and impugn strong confident women who enter the generally hardball realm (or kick-boxing ring) of political power. While we are all free to talk in any way we wish to, expressing ourselves in either healthy or unhealthy ways, the media and the press have a greater impact on government then the rest of us when they pronounce or broadcast prejudicial speech, sly winking innuendo and personal neurosis in place of balanced measured opinion and factual journalism.
The media therefore have an obligation to us all to hold their opinion and journalism to the highest possible standards. They cannot behave like a snickering high-school locker-room gang if they are to maintain credibility as the Fourth Estate. Some members of the press and media (and ourselves) would benefit us all if they had their heads examined.
I am not attempting to present a psychobiography of either Democratic candidate but instead to inspire all of us, especially individuals in the media, to examine and outgrow a few of our attitudes, fears and prejudices. Each of us manifests our own personal psychodynamics, and those effect how we might correctly judge or misjudge the characters of the candidates. In the interests of writing accurate reportage or making sound decisions each person in the media and press should strive to identify and separate our neurotic reactions, resentments and old childhood fears, particularly regarding powerful women, from the real issues of candidacy and presidential office.
As a lifelong Democrat and a retired psychotherapist I watch and listen to the debates between two fine Democratic candidates for nomination to the presidency with the fabled psychotherapist’s ‘third ear’.
My ‘third’ ear hears a great deal of intolerable, underhanded anti-female rhetoric, particularly from within the media. I also hear that both candidates are locked into a sorry three-way zero-sum battle with the press and with each other while the rest of us watch or cheer the fight. I hope that we can learn what our unconscious positions are, become more aware of them, question them, and that all might benefit from some self-searching for the benefit of the democratic and Democratic Party process.
My son Nova Spivack ( http://novaspivack.typepad.com/nova_spivacks_weblog/2008/02/a-classificatio.html?cid=103805366#comments ) has brought up the subject of developing a universal classification of intelligence. It is a worthwhile effort, and one that may require a century of reflection and research. It is worth more and serious work. Others have and will attempt it as well, and agreement will be slow and hard to achieve.
One problem is that we do not yet have a workable non-universal (species- our own) description of intelligence. My own questions are — What do we mean by intelligence? What are we getting at when we measure it or write about it? Much of the literature seems to confuse intelligence with 'smarts' (see my own previous posting on this blog — Is Intelligence A Property of All Life?)
I wonder if a useful way of discussing intelligence might be to consider it as an aspect of adaptability and a part of all biological process, and extend that into inorganic systems as well.
This dumps us into the possibility that intelligence evolved out of simple primal and basic properties of inorganic and organic systems in the early universe (at least on our planet, and in it’s high form (homo-sapiens) it is merely an extension of those simpler capacities for adaptability and change.
In this context intelligence is a scale of what can change or adapt in any examined system, ecosystem or species and how rapidly (in a comparative sense) this takes place. For instance, what is the scope and depth of possible change and adaptability in a molecule or virus and how does this scale up as systems become more complex? What terminology might we use to consider all this in a fresh perspective and to avoid the language and conceptual pitfalls hidden within our classical and current definitions and research?
National Public Radio, that great national radio university, announced that voters in some states were unable to vote because some polling places ran short of ballots and envelopes. Voters waited outside polling places in freezing weather for their moment in the voting booth. Many waited patently while many were too cold and could wait no more. But worse still, many were stopped at the door after waiting for hours because ballots and ballot envelopes had run out. Why do we allow this?
Every mailbox in this nation is stuffed with junk mail every day. Nearly all of that goes directly into the trash. We accept or tolerate that situation.
We also tolerate denying voting rights to eager voters because we are afraid to waste a little more paper. We have to expect the waste of some paper ballots in order to preserve our votes. The assurance that every voter can vote is worth the cost of additional trash, and is a worthwhile and manageable risk. Our failure to print one ballot and provide one envelope for every registered voter in the nation is a silly false economy.
We should require federal law to mandate every state, district and county to protect the right of every voter by providing enough voting ‘stationary’ for everyone. We should assume and expect that some ballots and envelopes will remain to be recycled. No person or agency should be permitted to estimate or guess future voter turn-out based upon previous election figures.
Compared to the annual gross national paper junk-mail waste-stream, two additional sheets of paper per possible voter per election-year (recycled at that) is more than a fair trade and expense for the guarantee of our individual voting rights. This change would also put an end to one form of voter manipulation that is no less than a sub-rosa form of gerrymandering. This should become our next, or first, electoral reform. If this voter fairness requires government subsidy, so be it, no matter how poor, we all can afford to add it to our income tax. A penny for your thoughts.
This posting is another in what I now realize will be a longer series on the life-cycle and utility of communication channels. The first, posted on December 14, 2003 is entitled: Six Stages In The Life Cycle Of Communication Channels.Six Stages In The Life Cycle Of Communcation Channels Now in this current paper I will consider the special case of information propagation and dissemination for original, disruptive, or counterintuitive intellectual content.
The peer-review process filters undesirable qualities from publications within scientific and academic communities. It is generally intolerant of innovations, disruptive observations, and contributors whose work is nearly entirely original (with the exception of mathematics), yet these qualities are essential to a healthy intellectual environment.
Original workers take great risks, often remain isolated from their peers, and are typically shunned and disrespected by potential employers. They are lonely thinkers that crave colleagues and dialogue.
The web-log, or blog, is now the most accessible as well as the most rapid route to publication for these original minds, and it does offer some dialogue. But the blogosphere is a generally a chaotic and unreliable marketplace for information. It is more often used for agglomerating news, publishing news and commentary or accessing news, either personal or news of interest to the greater community, than as a portal for serious intellectual publication.
Publishing original material on a blog is risky because the contribution is automatically branded unreliable because the writers become known by the company that they keep, and that company is far too often intellectually messy and unreliable.
Is intelligence is a basic feature of life? What do we mean when we speak or write about intelligence? There are at least a few working definitions, one is humans know it when they encounter it, as in the Turing test. Another is that human intelligence marks the top of a scale of animal intelligence. Casual language about intelligence usually confuses it with smartness, and is a competitive notion.
I wonder if intelligence is not a more profound aspect of all life, present in every living organism and at every scale. We may find a more useful idea of intelligence if we give intelligence some wiggle-room. I also wonder if intelligence is a fundamental property of life. Could any organism function without some level of intelligent or orderly information transfer and exchange within it's boundaries? Isn't information transfer and exchange a basic operation within intelligence? Perhaps an organelle or a virus does not aspire to the label highly intelligent, but it gets it's own job done.
The Alex Foundation- Home page Irene Pepperberg studies cognitive process, teaching and learning in birds. She is problably the most recognized researcher on avian cognition in the world. Alex, her now famous long-time research subject and 'collaborator' recently died at half his life expectancy. Now Wart and Griffin are her collaborators. They are saying and doing things we used to believe that only small children, great apes, and dolphins could do. Her brilliant work deserves better funding.
Tai Chi Chen style Taiji quan- Instruction Marin Spivack is a masterful Teacher of Tai Chi in Salem, Massachusetts; Chen style Instruction in authentic Taiji martial arts, Qi cultivation, Tai Chi DVD videos. Chen Zhaokui Martial Arts Research Association, North America. He is also a composer, a saxophonist, and he is my son.
Minding the Planet Nova is a cognitive scientist and high-tech entrepreneur working on technologies that overcome our information overload. He has founded companies and is now developing interactive internet software, TWINE, that we all need. His thinking covers a great range. He is my Son.
Marin Spivack & Milo Francis | Amie Street Marin Spivack is a Composer, virtuoso saxophonist, Teacher of Tai Chi in Salem, Massachusetts; Chen style Instruction in authentic Taiji martial arts, Qi cultivation, Tai Chi DVD videos. Chen Zhaokui Martial Arts Research Association, North America. He is my son.