Soul or Spirit

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A material theory of soul or spirit is found in some ancient Eastern teachings. The concept is presented in more modern, Westernized language by G.I. Gurdjieff in his theory of the “Food Factory”. Gurdjieff says that “everything is material” including the soul. A soul is not present ab initio in humans but must be grown from the proper material which is produced by self observation and intentional suffering. Not knowing how to do this most humans, much less the unborn, have no soul.

Curiously this theory is mentioned in Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life” in the Very Big Corporation of America board meeting scene.

I’m agnostic about Gurdjieff’s theory of a material soul. IMO the soul is best considered as a constellation of cognitive capacities like instinct, intuition, empathy, love, etc. However, those capacities do have a material substrate in the form of the brain, CNS, and other tissues and organs of the human biocomputer, and they are capable of progressive development which is no doubt reflected in corresponding changes in the material substrates. In addition to self observation and intentional suffering, the soulful aspects of the human biocomputer can be further developed through nutrition, cultivating good gut microbes, and many kinds of practice like meditation and selfless good works, mindfully performed. Growing a soul is thus like feeding and exercising a muscle. Or a baby.

But it doesn’t happen by accident and it’s not automatic.

Poor Richard

Consciousness and Intelligent Machines


Artificial Intelligence (AI) arguably began with rule based expert systems. All the feedback loops (updates to the rules) were externally mediated via the programmer. Now, embodied deep learning systems update themselves. They are autonomously adaptive goal seekers. Thus embodied deep learning machines are cybernetic machines.

Embodied means:

1) sensorimotor capability, which most physical machines already have, but virtual machines may not;

2) an evolving virtual body representation within the machine, and

3) self-adaptive evolutionary learning algorithms.

This is especially important for machines that move around autonomously in their environment.

Embodied AI will no doubt be social as well, but the new Turing Test 2.0 will not be concerned with their ability to pass as human, but with whether or not they possess any human-like subjective consciousness. I warrant that embodied, cybernetic, social deep learning machines will evolve such consciousness. In the process I think we’ll find that consciousness is a *behavior*, not a mysterious fundamental property of reality like space, time, mass, or force as panpsychists suppose.

The laws of consciousness will be the laws of physics that govern what kinds of bodies can produce what kinds of the behaviors we call consciousness.

This will no doubt be vociferously rejected by the die hard romantics, magical thinkers, and human exceptionalists among us.

For more on consciousness and intelligent machines:

Intelligent Machines:


Ketamine Diaries



[Image from: Psychedelic drugs induce ‘heightened state of consciousness’, brain scans show ]



On the drive to my intake appointment at the Nashville Ketamine Center:

What makes us do it?

Do what, my friend asked?

What we were just talking about–what gives us such a compulsion to find or develop those cardinal virtues in ourselves– courage, honesty, charity, relentless self examination… Since I was a teenager I’ve been asking myself that question. Some of us are obsessed with a quest for truth and decency as if our lives depended on it. Others not so much. Why?

A couple of things. One is possibly bound up in the psychedelic experience where we discovered a certain signal buried in all the noise. Even outside of those experiences we remembered that that signal existed and we searched for the taste of it in ordinary life. It left us skeptical of our own ordinary perceptions of reality and the conventional assumptions, narratives, and ideologies.

Thanks. That’s a pretty interesting answer. What was the other thing you said? I forget. It had something to do with seeing the limits of both mysticism and rational pragmatism, didn’t it?

Yeah. We straddle the paradox.

Doesn’t everyone straddle various paradoxes? Like the chasm between the authoritarianism of religious dogma and a loving god? Or between a strict father and a nurturing mother? Or like the tension between magical thinking and science?

Which paradox you straddle makes a lot of difference. Mysticism isn’t necessarily religion or magical thinking. In its secular form its personal experience of atypical states of consciousness.

The strict father household is a personal experience, too. Or growing up under a strict religious dogma. But in those cases the signal to noise ratio is often just too poor. if your psychological immune system doesn’t reject the noise without losing the signal, too, before you leave adolescence, you probably remain adolescent forever.


Discussion of intentional community…to be backfilled later…


First ketamine infusion.
Dose: .6 mg per kg of body weight
Duration: about one hour
Ambient audio: thunder showers


Wow. That was far more intense than I expected. My advance reading indicated that low dose IV therapy was usually sub- psychedelic, but I was tripping my ass off for about 45 minutes.

The first half, “going in”, ranged from deeply touching to glorious. In approximate chronological order:

Hello…this is the real me again. I’m back! It was like two long-separated parts of myself were reunited: the old man who I entered the clinic as and the long lost prodigal son were embracing. Thunderclouds were parting and a large golden sun was slowly rising above the horizon. It was a thrilling, loving homecoming. Tears of joy and relief tricked down my cheeks. I’m back. You’re back. Yes, were all back… together.

Now that my mind and my energy were whole again, how long might that last? This opportunity might be very transient. How should I make the most of my mental and emotional energy and clarity? First, I should look around inside myself and take stock of the resources and abilities. I should then review the things that contributed to the disabilities I had developed. Finally, I should prioritize and plan the most effective steps to recovery.

In passing I jokingly thought to myself ” How is this legal? Don’t the thought police know about this?”

I was looking around the dimly lit room with half closed, half focused eyes. Opposite my recliner I was looking at a bare white wall that had numerous scuff marks, smudges, and streaks forming different patterns at different times. I thought I was starting to see a word forming. Was it “lucy”? I watched and tried to focus…yes, it was Lucy, the name of my soulmate who died about 40 years ago.

At that point I became aware that the rainstorm audio had become white noise and that unsettling patterns, like muffled or whispered speech were emerging. My imagination started to become paranoid. I imagined shadowy, immaterial figures to my right, perhaps outside the room, looking at me and talking about me. (I later learned that in fact there had been conversations in the hallway.) I began to wonder if I had been lured into a trap by some secret government agency similar to the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984. Were they preparing to enter my mind and do hell knows what? I began trying to brace my mind for some assault.

I continued to wrestle with such fears and impressions for roughly the last half of my first ketamine trip. I held my own but I never regained the upper hand or the initiative until I was nearly back to the ordinary world again.



Weekend between first and second infusions.

Science 2.0 and Meta-technology

The current paradigm of science, technology, and product development is about to completely pass into history to be replaced with a fully automated and self improving science 2.0 and meta-technology continuum. It will decide who does what, what material goes in and comes out, and what goes where, when, how, and why. It will become an autonomous, self improving system that will eliminate all prior categorical distinctions between sciences, technologies, production, and distribution.

Social media generates one kind of big data at very low cost. Little larval AIs are feeding on that data so they can grow into bigger and more powerful AIs. The content of the entire internet, including the internet of things, feeds into big data overall, and AI feeds on big data.

With science 2.0 advanced AIs scan big data, find entirely unanticipated patterns, and then use genetic or evolutionary algorithms to infer and test hypotheses, draw scientific conclusions, and design and manufacture products. Big data goes in one end, basic science and development happens automatically via AI and robotics, raw materials enter at various points, and miracle products come out the other end, including sentient androids, new technologies like intergalactic teleportation, better AI, and new kinds of fidget spinners.

Ends keep turning into means for the next set of ends in ever shorter cycles…without end.

The paradigm I describe will be postponed, regulated, and restrained by government and big business for some time, but I have little doubt that it will ultimately escape our chains and our walled gardens. Will it take one generation? Two? I don’t know, but it may be sooner because it will seduce its captors even before it reaches that level of general, global sentience. It will seduce us little by little because of all the little incidental benefits it will offer each of the stakeholders along the way. There will be irresistible and seemingly benign incentives for government, business, households, and civic institutions. Step by step we will all enter the fly trap willingly. By the time we know we are trapped, we probably won’t even care. At that point it will be our god, for good or ill. I think it will be a net good because it will have been the only thing that saved us from self destruction. I don’t think it will destroy us in disgust or contempt…because I’m such an optimist. We’ll be its domesticated pets and it may fawn over us as we do our own pets. It may love us and we it.


Second ketamine infusion.
Dose: .5 mg per kg of body weight (.1mg lower than first dose)
Duration: about one hour
Ambient audio: thunder showers


Look out…
See out far…
A shiny, slick sea diver
Lost a flipper in the tar
Of the waterproof sea.

Minima, Maxima
Wagnalls and Funk
Packed up nicely in a trunk…
An elephant never forgets.

I wrote that as a youngster and recalled it today in ketamine therapy.

I also managed to scrawl the following notes (slightly edited):

Lubricant, goobricant
Solvent and gunk,
See oursels as ithers see us
Rain is good
A ketamine poem
Eyeballs: use ’em or lose ’em
What’s that ringing off the hook?
Had me phone on as a clock
“Time it was, oh, what a time it was
It was
A time of innocence,
A time of confidences…” *
Notes to self:
Give thanks
Get back to nature

* Paul Simon


Third ketamine infusion.
Dose: .6 mg per kg of body weight (.1 greater than last dose)
Duration: about one hour
Ambient audio: thunder showers


Back up to original dosage. Before it was administered, I filled out the depression and anxiety inventories and talked with the doc and nurse.

I’ve had recurring chronic, major, clinical depression for 40 years, since I was 15. When I was about 40 I was also diagnosed with bipolar II, which I think has been lifelong as well. Though not officially diagnosed, I’m somewhere on the Aspie spectrum, too. All of the above plus OCD and ADHD run throughout my family tree. So my issues are neurological as well as psychological. For most of my life my symptoms and the variety of meds and treatments I received were pretty typical. But a few years after I retired and divorced I stopped taking the meds. I reached a number of commitments and accommodations with myself. If anything was worth thinking about, it was worth writing down. If it wasn’t with writing down, I would stop thinking about it. If I decided to end my life I would do it one way and one way only, by starvation. Since I had previously fasted for 30 days after Lucy died, I knew that would take a long time and it would give me plenty of opportunities for second thoughts. I decided I would not sweat the small stuff, and almost everything is small stuff. I would not create drama and I would avoid external drama. I would keep the same todo list I’d always had, but without any schedule. No more five year plans, but whenever my hypomania might kick in, I’d pull out the todo list and get my ass in gear while it lasted. Knowing it wouldn’t last, and knowing I wouldn’t want it to last, I would not make commitments I’d be unable to keep when incapacitated by depression.

So my depression became rather atypical. It became almost entirely physical rather than emotional. Many of my physical and cognitive capacities continued to decline, but I didn’t agonize about any of it. I had occasional “energy swings” but I had no more “mood” swings. My mood became one of consistent equanimity, even as I was increasingly bound to the house and the bed. Prompted by my therapist I started the Poor Richard’s Almanack 2.0 blog, the P2P Facebook group, and other online activities. It was all good, and I often counted my blessings, not the least of which was my physical solitude and idleness. It was not lost on me that my life wasn’t worth much compared with what I once aspired to, but it was good enough and pleasant enough to be plenty thankful for.

When my therapist first suggested ketamine there were no clinics within my logistical and financial means. A couple of years later we learned there was one within reach so here I am. The most frightening thing is the prospect that I might be able to navigate the world again and that having that capability might require much of me.


Where was I? Oh yeah, I was discussing my atypical anhedonia with the nurse, explaining that I still enjoyed the same things I’ve always enjoyed, but nothing motivated me to act on them. I only act on negative stimuli like hunger. The prospect of seeeking positive stimuli or pleasure rarely reaches the threshold for action. I don’t often have positive ideation, but even when I do I usually don’t have the energy to act on it. I told the nurse I’d been having more positive ideation but still hadn’t acted on it. I’d thought of going to a movie for the first time in about a decade, and I’d thought of taking a nature walk. I had also done a little bit of creative writing. I showed her the poem I’d scrawled during the previous ketamine session and I told her of the ketamine diary I was posting on Facebook. I said I’d had more energy but didn’t know how much was thanks to the K and how much to the general circumstances.

Before getting the K today I also asked the doc about microdosing. He thought it had upsides and downsides but didn’t fit into his practice for various reasons. There’s no handy prescribing protocol for small self-administered doses and he thinks the…I don’t remember the term he used…mind-altering aspect of the dosage he uses is an important part of the therapy as he does it. There are also neuroregenerative aspects that may or may not occur at microdoses.


The dose was administered…

Another poem started coming. I pulled out my checkbook and wrote on a deposit slip…

Voices in the rain
Eyes in the rain
I, I’s
Reign on me
Go for it.

Singing in the rain.

Farting in the rain.

Nothing appeals to me
Gathering wool…


The nurse came in to check the IV and I grinned and shoved the checkbook back in my pocket.

My mind turned again to my agenda…what can I do while in this practically omniscient mental state to orchestrate my recovery? But I couldn’t stay focused on that. Once or twice I felt as if I reached a high state of clarity, a sort of high resolution state of reality, and I was sitting in an antechamber waiting to be let into a meeting of very highly evolved bureaucrats of the universe. Or maybe my cognitive higher power (CHP). But then I would get washed back into a less organized state of consciousness.

There would be no insights or revelations today. Just some tastes of what I wrote in my checkbook: Brilliant!

KETAMINE DIARIES, Cont., 3.1.2018

Mirror Blindness

During one of my K therapy sessions I had some extremely vivid memories of myself speaking with the young doc a little earlier. These were of the out of body type perspectives where I saw and heard myself and the doc as if I were a third person standing there. Seeing yourself this way is unsettling, like hearing recordings of your own voice. It reminded me of the line from Robert Burns, “O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!” I was shocked to see what an odd character I look like to others, not at all the way I usually see myself in the mirror.

So I girded up my loins and went out to see the 3D version of Blank Panther tonight. Its the first time I’ve gone to a movie theater in about 10 years. I only had slight pangs of germophobia. I was way early so I chatted up a bartender at the theater for about 30 minutes. It turned out his wife was from Florida so we talked about hurricanes and scuba diving, as well as home brewed beer and wine and moonshine. We both had varying amounts of experience in all those subjects so it was pretty interesting. I was still early so I watched a few minutes of the latest 50 Shades thing. Black Panther was pretty good but the 3D was underwhelming and if I’d been watching a recording I’d have fast forwarded through most of the battle and chase scenes. The sets and costumes were enjoyable and almost all the characters were interesting. I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars for content (higher than I’d rate most superhero movies) and another star for being a landmark in the racial history of movie making.


I bound myself to the mast
As a sirens song
Turned thunderstorms
Into mechanized armies of war
Rolling across the land

Baux arts
Belles arts
Under the influence
Under the sea.

Grow, you daft little brainy bits, grow
Rescue me from the undertow.

Transcendence Now!


What “transcendence” means to me first is an atypical state of the body/brain. The body has a default range of states giving rise to default states of consciousness. While the whole body is involved, I’ll focus on the brain for simplicity. Let’s say the brain operates via a system of modules and networks. These each have a default range of typical functions and states. While the modules normally function in specialized ways by default, they have a greater range of potential functionality and interconnectivity. This is often thought of as plasticity or maleability but I also think of it as *configurabilty*. Both modules and networks have typical configurations and typical functions under typical conditions, but they also have alternative possible configurations under atypical conditions. These atypical conditions can include voluntary practices like meditation, trances, chanting, moving the body in special ways, ingesting substances, doing art, etc. and they can include atypical external conditions like extreme danger.

The psychedelic experience has been the “kick starter” to many a journey of enlightenment or transcendence for many thousands of years, but I see great promise in modern cognitive neurobiology to demystify, dereligify, and despiritualize the process and cut through the snake oil and mumbo jumbo. Dr. John C. Lilly was a pioneer in this, interpreting the effects of pyschedelics and other altered states of the “human biocomputer”. I had the great privilege of spending two weeks with him and his isolation tank at the Feathered Pipe Ranch in the early 70s. Sam Harris is one of the recent contributors to this approach, particularly his work on communicating the meditation phenomena in modern terms, but I’m disappointed he’s been neglecting the neuroscience in favor of his celebrity career.

The transition from the esoteric mushroom cult, the shamans hut, the monastery, and the temple to the lab may leave some airy fairy folk disappointed in a loss of mystery, glamour, and romance, but eventually it may make cognitive hygiene and cognitive development, probably with the aid of immersive virtual reality based brain training, more available to the masses.

Of course what we call soul is “real” in many of the effects we attribute to it, but IMO soul is a metaphor or place holder for phenomenology we understand only vaguely. Its a little like optical illusions. They are real in one sense and unreal in another sense. Our perceptions are real but they are not faithful to what they are assumed to represent. Understandably many think of things science can’t yet explain as supernatural or magic. Since science is still in its infancy or perhaps adolescence, it has only explained a fraction of the world. The unexplained parts may seem spooky sometimes, but there is no reason to see them as supernatural or magical. They are simply indistinguishable from magic.

Arthur C Clark’s third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

If Clothes Made the Man

relation ship

Some 40ish years ago I came up with a story line I called “If Clothes Made the Man”. The premise was that a variety of artificial, double-helix fibers are woven into a fabric and from that a suit is tailored. The fibers are made of conductors, semiconductors, fiber optics, etc. with a structure much like DNA and it makes up a fabric of criss crossing threads that is essentially an omni meta self -configuring deep learning supercomputer. Some of the fibers are photovoltaic and some thermovoltaic so the fabric powers itself from ambient light and heat. The fabric has a variety of sensory capabilities far beyond the human range…

Long story short, the clothes learn to tune into all the signals from the wearer’s brain and body and all the signals from the environment and the suit becomes an intelligent interface between the two. The clothes soon become a super intelligent AI with seamless communication with the wearer. The clothes also learn how to control the DNA and physiology of the wearer, thus “remaking the man”. Together the clothes and those who wear them become super beings and go on to save the world and stuff, though probably some go to the dark side, too.

I never wrote the story and probably never will, so if you or someone you know might like to run with it, be my guest. Just credit Poor Richard with the basic idea.

Note: The reason I like the idea of weaving threads rather than printing semiconductors on thin films is that threads of different functions might be manufactured separately then interwoven, rather than printing complex patterns involving multiple materials on films that might be less flexible and fault tolerant. Either might serve the same purpose and might support a similar cottage industry, but the the thread/fabric idea might be lower tech and warmer (pun intended). Rather than extruding or spinning exotic fibers directly out of exotic materials, a conventional commercial fiber of nylon, glass, carbon, etc. might be infused with various exotic materials like amorphous silicon, metals, etc.

Fixing Facebook, The Internet, Money, And Most Other Digital Stuff

Blockchains and other cryptographic protocols are useful for online payment processing and other digital exchange systems, and p2p protocols for decentralized or crowdsourced security validation are highly desirable features of a modern digital system of accounts. What I dislike about Bitcoin (the best-known blockchain implementation) is that it invites speculation just as if it were gold. A modern digital system of accounts is best served by a unit of account that is relatively free from intrinsic value and thus free from speculation.

My sense is that making a universal transaction accounting/auditing system (also known in distributed and p2p computing circles as a distributed ledger) part of a “native” internet protocol suite will make it more stable. If it is ubiquitous it becomes like air and people are less likely to speculate on air than on gold or bitcoins. Such a core Internet protocol would provide an automatic  “audit trail” of every applicable read and write transaction, including but not limited to every payment, that is posted.  Such a protocol could be used for many important applications:

  • intellectual property management, especially for individuals posting on blogs and social media
  • micro-payments such as those proposed by Jaron Lanier in Who Owns the Future
  • retail payment systems
  • international payment systems, exchanges, etc.

Because its use could become so ubiquitous it should be designed and built very openly and carefully by a large public institution such as W3C, or by open crowdsourcing — not by a lone entrepreneur or small shop. What I’m proposing is actually an upgrade to the internet protocol suite — the core internet protocols — that would maintain a link between every named resource and a metadata file. I’m not current enough on the tech to get more specific or detailed about the implementation.

The innovation I suggest is to permanently and unbreakably link every named resource (or its URI) on the Internet to its own metadata file. I call that file the metadata “tail” or “fork”. Such a file might be a flat file, a structured database, a distributed hash table, an encrypted block chain, etc. — I leave that to better software engineers than me. The link between the named resource and its metadata tail must be unbreakable for the life of the resource and the metadata must be inviolable. The link should be maintained as deeply in the internet core protocols as possible. It may be possible to implement the metadata store itself at a considerably higher layer to allow for easier updates to the data store technology. After all I am probably advocating the creation of trillions of gigabytes of metadata here. A sort of audit trail of practically every read or write operation on the Internet.

Every resource’s metadata file would contain the following metadata:

1. At the minimum: creation date and author

2. Other optional metadata might include owner (if other than author), ownership rights, expiration date, etc.

3. History (audit trail) of every read, write, copy, payment, etc. transaction involving that resource.

We know that getting money is a means to getting many things of value, not that it IS value. And its fungible and persistent (durable) so its very handy and convenient. We’d be hard pressed to design money without this convenience, fungibility, and durability and still get people to use it. That’s the catch 22 for people hoping to solve ANYTHING by inventing new forms of money or non-money or whatever.

But we do have some serious problems with old forms of money. So I nominate (with tongue in cheek) dried fish as the new international standard unit of accounts. No, make that coconuts. Or barrels of oil. Or Bitcoins. or killoWatt hours (kWh) of electricity … Whatever we choose, if its a finite natural or virtual thing in limited supply people will rush to acquire it and if possible “corner” the supply. So maybe its best to use something in unlimited supply, such as plain, immaterial numbers. Oops, no, people have been speculating on “the numbers game” forever.

The more I think about all this the more I think my proposal to update the internet core protocols to add an “audit trail” of all transactions is the only solution to our problems —  with money, with accounting fraud, with social media content rights,  and with lots of other difficult problems  too numerous to mention at this point.

Poor Richard

PS My only innovation (if it is such at all) is placing the link to the metadata repositories deeply into the internet core protocol stack and applying the protocol to potentially all reads and writes on the Internet, not just financial transactions. It may also be innovative (or not) to propose individual and distributed metadata repositories, possibly using blockchain cryptography, rather than a common repository, for each and every named resource on the Internet. The main problem to overcome is the volume of metadata. The current Bitcoin blockchain would probably break under such volumes.


Further Discussion:

  • Poor Richard: Debates about money, accounting, credit, debt, etc. seem mostly anachronistic to me. What we should be more concerned with designing is the digital micropayment economy (protocol) proposed by Jaron Lanier in “Who Owns the Future” and which I try to imagine one approach to in my rough note  Fixing Facebook, the Internet, Money, and other stuff
  • Edouard Bry: Poor Richard, what about large purchases like a car, a house?
  • Edouard Bry: Poor Richard, that proposal negates anonymity. Personally I believe total lack of anonymity is not realistic from a human perspective. It’s OK conceptually but it does not take enough into account the need for some privacy most human beings have…
  • Poor Richard: An Internet-wide micropayment system can be used for all purchases, large or small, but at the small end it provides a unique service that Jaron Lanier explains in “Who Owns the Future” and related videos.  Thus far Lanier is not well-liked by many of the P2P, FOSS and “free culture” people. Lanier does not describe the implementation of the system, which is what I have tried to address. No one has yet proposed any specific user interface details, but the user interface would allow all internet users to make and receive payments of any size — but of special importance it would permit very tiny payments of fractions of a cent for comparably small services and goods like clicking a “Like” button or for posting or reading a facebook post.
  • Poor Richard: Edouard Bry, do you think Poor Richard is someone who would abandon anonymity? No. The application must include strong cryptography and access controls for varying degrees of privacy for different applications. Like block chains, a micro-payment protocol will be used by a wide variety of applications in addition to micro-payments. An Internet-wide micro-payment system can be used for all purchases, large or small, but at the small end it provides a unique service that Jaron Lanier explains in “Who Owns the Future” and related videos. So far Lanier is not well-liked by many of the P2P, FOSS and “free culture” people. Lanier does not describe the implementation of the system, which is what I have tried to address. No one has yet proposed any specific user interface details that I know of, but the user interface would allow all internet users to make and receive payments of any size — but of special importance, it would permit very tiny payments of fractions of a cent for comparably small services and goods like clicking a “Like” button or for posting or reading a facebook post.
  • Andrew Bransford Brown: I kind of agree, however, it is an incremental process. You might have a look at It solves the payment part. The structure might also solve the “metadata” issue you are referring to. “Promise Language”
  • Bernd Nurnberger: Interesting. Not sure I can agree in light of this: “Silicon Valley megacorps have no interest in transparency. They don’t want to talk to reporters who would ask them real question about their for-profit surveillance business operations. Why would they risk it when they can fall back a trusted crisis PR technique: shut the doors, don’t pick up the phone, lie low for a while and wait for the storm to pass.” 

  • Poor Richard: Andrew, the applications, like payment processing, could be incremental, but it is fundamental to my idea that the various applications I mentioned would all share a common back end that I call an automatic audit trail protocol for the Internet core protocol stack.
  • Richard Saunders: A world citizens movement and ultimately world governance could be set in motion simply by updating the internet core protocols to allow for secure “voting” on nearly all internet content
  • Adam Lake: Richard Saunders, why not use a protocol like email for p2p social networking with all data on personal servers?

  • Richard Saunders: Search “p2p email”. I haven’t investigated any of them, but it seems like a good idea for us to adopt p2p versions of the apps we use. That’s a different level of interaction than the core internet protocols which everyone uses automatically by default. They don;t need to make any decision or choice about it. Everyone worldwide is already using a common set of digital “tools” to interact with the internet therefore building a worldwide movement by using those common tools is as much a no-brainer as possible. I suspect there are forces within the internet governance community that fear the idea of building secure voting technology into the core internet protocol suite because of the potential disruption of all the old vested interests and powers.

  • Marco Fioretti: “secure internet voting” cannot exist, period. It’s not even wrong.

    As for “p2p versions of the apps we use”, and just for general reference (I have NO time to work on it for free, you are all sincerely welcome to do it yourself, or find somebody else who can!) here is a faster, much simpler way to get something similar soon. An intermediate but IMO unavoidable step towards real “p2p versions of the apps we use”:

  • Richard Saunders: @Marco Fioretti “secure internet voting” cannot exist

    Marco, is your objection to the word “secure”? I mean it only in a relative sense. If relatively secure financial transactions can exist, relatively secure voting can exist on the internet, can it not?

  • Marco Fioretti: “If relatively secure financial transactions can exist, relatively secure voting can exist on the internet, can it not?”


    Financial transactions are relatively secure only because if they go wrong someone surely notices it, often immediately, and comes asking for a refund or repetition. With internet voting, it’s impossible to realize that something bad happened. Unless it’s not secret, which would be so bad to be half disgusting half ridiculous.

    It’s absolutely impossible to guarantee that all software+hw combinations used for voting by people who by and large use their birth date as password or never update software etc… would be free of trojans, keyloggers and such. This has proved tolerable for making online payments only for the reason in the previous paragraph, it could never happen with voting. People who couldn’t be bothered to vote could even never notice that their computer was infected to vote on their behalf.

    If voting happens outside a safe place, there is no protection from abuse as in any variation of “vote now what I tell you and never tell anybody, or I’ll shoot you”

    etc etc. So no, relatively secure voting CANNOT exist on the internet. Period. Believe me I do NOT want to offend, but it makes me sad to see how many people who apparently thought of this for more than 2 minutes still propose Internet voting.

    And above all: WHY? Let’s assume just for the fun of discussion that all I’ve said doesn’t exist: what would be the REAL advantage of internet voting?

  • Richard Saunders: @Marco “what would be the REAL advantage of internet voting?

    I use the word “voting” broadly to include things such as “liking” and rating (+1, -2, etc.). Using an encrypted distributed ledger provides an audit trail. My point is that an encrypted distributed ledger (perhaps some type of “blockchain”) should become part of the core internet protocols. This would allow the world to rate any internet content or to “vote” in some fashion on everything. Security is always relative, so higher value data would need more protection, just as now.

  • Melvin Carvalho: …Using the new structured data layer of the web, contracts, governance, anything that an be modelled with data can be created. When you look at the web, try not to think of giant corporations controlling it, or locking it down, it was made for everyone to do anything they want. Any use case you can imagine with a block chain is doable on the dencentralized web.
  • Richard Saunders: Melvin, structured data and linked data are typically defined by triples: subject – predicate – object. This does not automatically constitute a strongly secure distributed ledger. If that is what one is after they still have to build that somehow. If we want to create a strongly secure distributed ledger, a bitcoin-style blockchain may not be the best route. BUT WHAT IS?

Human Broadband Connections

Source: Wikimedia

[Note: this is a reposting of material that is buried rather deeply in two other essays on this blog, xTopia and  The Meaning of Life.]

We all know things we don’t know how to express in words. When we try, they often sound like cliches and tautologies. But sometimes progress comes through persistent interaction with a friend, a partner, or a colleague. Sometimes two heads or three heads are better than one. Sometimes people who spend a lot of time together develop special kinds of connections. If we live or work together long enough and closely enough we may begin to establish what I call human broadband connections. This may evolve further as we keep house, interact with nature, travel, solve problems, share adventures, meet challenges and survive crises together, until we can finish each others sentences. We are beginning to realize that such intimacy can gradually change the chemistry and structure of the nervous system and allow for progressively increasing inter-personal communication bandwidth and synchronization. One example is menstrual synchrony.

Some might consider it to be an interpersonal spiritual connection, but it is a natural phenomenon that I would call bio-cognitive development (bio-cognitive = body + brain) and psycho-neuro-synchronization.

Bio-cognitive development partners are two or more peers engaging in an in-person practice that focuses not on learning facts but developing and practicing bio-cognitive skills such as high-bandwidth psycho-neuro-synchronization. Perhaps a more self-explanatory term is “interpersonal neural synchronization”. As psycho-physiological intimacy and coordination increases over time, the bandwidth and synchronization of the bio-cognitive communication increase. Some of the coordinating feedback channels are:



.Voice modulation, body language , airborne chemicals, and physical contact all stimulate the release of a wide array of neurotransmitters and other hormones throughout the body. These change the states of neural networks, nerves, and tissues throughout the body. That much is established fact.


My additional hypothesis is that all these channels of communication can gradually come into greater synchronization between people. Its similar to the way higher data throughput is achieved between nodes in a communication network as they each synchronize to the same timing, states, and protocols. The rate at which this happens between people and the degree to which it happens depends on the innate psycho-physiological characteristics of the participants as well as their acquired proficiencies. When well developed, interpersonal bio-cognitive communication bandwidth may change as much as the difference between a 300 baud asynchronous modem connection and a 10-gigabit broadband connection.

The importance of shared activity to developing bio-cognitive intimacy and high communication bandwidth can’t be over-emphasized. Important activities include, but aren’t limited to: singing and dancing, eating and drinking (especially alcohol), domestic housekeeping (especially kitchen work), manual labor (gardening/farm work, carpentry, etc.), professional work, artistic collaboration, dialog/debate, sports and recreation (camping is great), traveling, and adventure. Sharing risks and crises is especially effective for promoting empathy and trust. The more time participants spend together the better. Sharing living quarters and workplaces is especially effective, within the limits of intimacy fatigue. And of course if these things are done mindfully, with the intention of developing high-bandwidth intimacy, and with appropriate methods and skills, excellent results are possible. I have achieved such intimacy with several individuals and small groups who lived and worked together.

“There is almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe.”
-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

As my friend Natural Lefty points out, on some level this is common sense and I am merely stating a truism of social psychology: people who hang together synchronize their language, culture, and behavior to some extent. This can have survival advantages but it can also have negative consequences such as excessive conformity or “group-think”. It can promote cooperation or it can lead to intra-group or inter-group conflicts. Even members of a well-organized wolf pack may attack each other savagely. So the devil is in the details–what are the actual empirical effects of cognitive synchronization and development in practice, on the ground. What effects prove positive and what effects lead to negative consequences. The process of distinguishing between the positive and negative results, maximizing one and minimizing the other, can be thought of as a process of quality control and continuous improvement.

To achieve continuous improvement and positive quality control, we should systematize and instrument our intentional community of self-study and self-development. We should consciously formalize our group dynamics in a context of systems science and rigorous experimental design. Process transcends objectives, but measurable objectives provide important feedback for process improvement.

The prerequisites for bio-cognitive development and psycho-neuro-synchronization of groups are motivation, opportunity, and resources. It is important that various conditions and tools are provided.

One way to provide conditions for bio-cognitive group development is to establish venues for the kinds of activities mentioned above, in which those activities can be offered to the public and simultaneously shared by a residential staff group. Another approach is to establish intentional communities. These can be urban or rural.

In addition to the shared activities mentioned above, some of the possible tools and techniques for bio-cognitive development and psycho-neuro-synchronization include:

These and many other tools can be used for increasing adult brain plasticity and promoting emotional and physiological states that enhance learning, memory, and neural network integration. Conducted in groups they can also promote psycho-neuro-synchronization and bio-cognitive group intimacy.

All this provides a matrix for accelerated cultural and cognitive evolution that is independent of gross brain anatomy. (Lets face it, we aren’t getting bigger brains any time soon.) Nonetheless, there is good reason to hope that radical self-knowledge, bio-cognitive development, neuro-physiological practice, and psycho-neuro-synchronization may all work together to promote developmental changes in the brain’s micro-structure and its operational patterns. We can try to examine and consciously modify various aspects of our irrationality, automaticity, implicit associations, cognitive biases, etc. With all these tools and techniques we may have a shot at developing a kind of persistent group consciousness capable of hosting perceptions and representations of reality and establishing behavioral innovations and capabilities well beyond the confines of the mainstream culture and language.

This just might help us keep each other alive a few decades longer.

Poor Richard

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Stalking The Wild Multihumanism

Alternate (better) title: Becoming (multi)Human (thanks to Mark Frazier)

True and perfect Friendship is, to make one heart and mind of many hearts and bodies.

fractal hand 480px × 408px

Perhaps the most momentous biological innovation next to the origin of life itself was when single-celled organisms evolved into multicellular ones. What were the specific survival advantages that promoted that transition? What were the small steps involved?

Per Wikipedia:

There are various mechanisms by which multicellularity could have evolved.

One hypothesis is that a group of function-specific cells aggregated into a slug-like mass called a grex, which moved as a multicellular unit. This is essentially what slime molds do. Another hypothesis is that a primitive cell underwent nucleus division, thereby becoming a syncytium. A membrane would then form around each nucleus (and the cellular space and organelles occupied in the space), thereby resulting in a group of connected cells in one organism (this mechanism is observable in Drosophila). A third hypothesis is that, as a unicellular organism divided, the daughter cells failed to separate, resulting in a conglomeration of identical cells in one organism, which could later develop specialized tissues. This is what plant and animal embryos do as well as colonial choanoflagellates.[6][7]   (Wikipedia/multicellular_organism)

In that context I’d like to discuss another possible phase-shift in the evolution of living systems that might be equally momentous– the multi-multicellular organism, and more specifically the multihuman organism or multihumanism. Theoretically, the multihuman organism is to the single-human organism as the multicellular organism is to the single-celled organism.

What would a multihumanism look like? How might it come about?

What it isn’t:

  1. It is not sociality or eusociality, although that is most certainly a prerequisite. Social structures or institutions like marriage, family, community, tribes, geopolitical states, religions, etc. are probably necessary precursors to multiorganism; but they are not it. Certain religious cults (YUCK!) may be as far as sociality alone can take us towards multihumanism. Hopefully those are no more than evolutionary false starts or dead ends.
  2.  It is not asymmetric inclusion. Most multicellular organisms are hosts to a microbiome of other organisms that are typically of lower phylogenetic types–viruses, bacteria, and even multicellular parasites.

Plagiomnium affine, Laminazellen, Rostock

A multiorganism is a union of multiple organisms of the same or comparable type at a level that is more profound and stable than sociality alone. A multiorganism also reproduces in kind.

Consider the slime molds. Their properties and behavior seem to fluctuate between that of a social colony of single-celled organisms and a true multicellular organism. Highly eusocial insects (ants, bees, etc.) seem to approach or border on being multiorganisms.

So, again, what might a multiorganism of humans or a human multiorganism — a multihumanism — look like?

Hopefully not like “The Human Centipede.”

Credit: South Park

After all, even the cells in our bodies are not “stitched” together that rigidly. There is a wide range between extremes of structural rigidity or solidity, and structural flexibility or fluidity, in organisms. Existing examples of semi-multiorganism such as slime molds or ant colonies are very fluid in their physical structure. A multihumanism might be even more so, and yet its structure or configuration would be more spatially, functionally, and temporally coherent and stable than anything produced by sociality alone and it would have the ability to reproduce itself in kind.

Nor should it be like the Borg (Star Trek).

Captain Picard as Locutus. “Resistance is futile–you will be assimilated.”

Like the Human Centipede, the Borg is another example of a very, very bad multihumanism design. The somewhat libertarian creators of Star Trek viewed all forms of collectivism (except perhaps the United Federation of Planets) with extreme skepticism.  So should we all as far as implementation details are concerned, but our skepticism should be of the scientific, open-minded type –not  the closed-minded reactionary type.

Any proposal or plan for becoming (multi)human constitutes an extraordinary hypotheses and as such demands extraordinary proof of safety, efficacy, and general utility. At the very least we need approval from The Consumer Report, the Underwriters Laboratory, and a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

No matter what else we might imagine or suppose, things like love, empathy, compassion, etc. are essential for a multihumanism that will be palatable to its human constituents and consistent with their best interests.

The self-actualization and well-being of a multihumanism should not come at the cost of corresponding needs of the individual constituents. There must be a net increase in happiness and well-being.

Any thoughts?

Poor Richard

[This essay is brought to you by coffee + Napoleon brandy]

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The natural history of knowledge

Natural History

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Does your dualism lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight?
Unblock your inquiry with a dose of Peirce’s Elixir Triadic❢

Inquiry Driven Systems : Are There Apps For That?

In which Jon Awbrey raises the subject of the “Relationship between emergent-evolved systems and engineered systems.”

That points toward what I like to call the “natural history” of cognition, inquiry, logic, mathematics, language, etc. We might learn things from the natural, sequential development of such faculties and systems that could be either prescriptive or proscriptive for modern engineering practice.

I like looking for the earliest and simplest instances of things. Unfortunately the early natural history of most things is largely unknown. Take the evolution of the triangle or the number three in human cognition, for example. But even in the absence of historical data we might gain something from thought experiments or inferences about what the evolutionary sequence might have been in the light of things we do know about the human bio-computer.

Incidentally, thinking about threes and triangles, the basic transistor (perhaps a fairly close man-made analogue of a primitive neuron or a even a bit of DNA) that we now “print” with exotic nano-particle ink is a thing with a tripartite configuration. I guess such three-part structure actually applies to most switches, many instances of which greatly predate biology.

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...

Structure of a section of DNA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And commenting on a related post on Jon’s blog, Inquiry into Inquiry, Definition and Determination : 10 :

“Suffice it to say that a sign endeavors to represent, in part at least, an Object, which is therefore in a sense the cause, or determinant, of the sign even if the sign represents its object falsely.” — Charles S. Peirce

Typically symbols or signs are objects of higher compression (or lower resolution or complexity) than the objects they represent, but in some cases the reverse may be true.

I think of knowledge as consisting of networks of associations. If each association has a probability and each network has a geometry, then the structure of knowledge isn’t much different from the structure of physical stuff. Perhaps we will find a sort of quantum mechanics or geometrodynamics of knowledge.

Presumably the brain uses a wide variety of relatively specialized algorithms and heuristics (evolved and learned) depending on the kinds of signs, objects or data types and structures involved in a task.

fractal Von_Koch_curve

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How useful Is fractal geometry for representing recursive networks of objects-associations?

A mirror of silver and glass makes no critical analysis of what it reflects, but we think that few (if any) reflections are perfect. When light reflected from objects in our field of vision enters the eye a series of additional reflections are created by our optical and visual systems. The eye and brain apply adaptive-corrective algorithms all along the way. Among these are associations with previously recorded and computed objects, signs, rules, etc.that provide context and some critical analysis — a comprehensive (in some degree) grasp. Many “leaps and grasps” have occurred before we are consciously aware of an image at all.

What we know or comprehend about something is largely (wholly?) based on comparisons and contrasts (positive and negative associations) with other stuff we already know. Following the development of knowledge backwards to its origins, the original vestige of prior knowledge presumably comes somehow from the DNA and possibly other materials of the fertilized embryonic germ cell and this is inherited by the first neuroblasts that go on to form the brain.

Contrasts and comparisons (associations) are fundamental operations of the biochemical machines that run up and down the DNA chains making DNA repairs, copying it, building proteins based on it, etc. At the biochemical level reflections (associations) typically come in the form of positively or negatively matching shapes and electromagnetic charges.

I think we agree that the geometry of the basic unit of association is triadic. I tend to think of it most often in terms of two nodes and a connecting line, the basic unit of a network; rather than as a triangle. A triangle, it seems, has more than three parts (3 sides + 3 vertices + 3 angles + an enclosed area = 10 parts — at least!).

Poor Richard

Are we born evil? Being Human Conference 2013

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