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A Long Affair with Three Big Ideas about Collective Consciousness

In thinking recently about what I like to do and think and talk about – for example, using and creating tools that enhance collective intelligence – I realized that my main interests have been pretty much the same for most of my adult life (about forty-five years) – and most of them were originally inspired by three Big Ideas that I came upon almost immediately after graduating from high school.

Of course my very earliest influences, from floating in the womb to end of high school also immensely affected me.  And my wife, and closest friends and family, and innumerable conversations and journeys have shaped me hugely, as well.  But the three Big Ideas gripped me and still grip me in their own special way.

The three big ideas were inspired and conveyed to me by two people and one group.  One of the people, Teilhard de Chardin, died when I was 7 years old and before I ever heard of him; the other, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a living saint whom I read about and then studied under; and the group was the Ecumenical Institute (EI), and it’s secular arm, the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA).

Rob, my older brother and only sibling, introduced Teilhard to me in the summer of 1966 after I graduated from high school.  We had a summer job together in Winfield, Kansas shoveling grain during the wheat harvest.  When not working we would often go to the local library, where he showed me Teilhard’s book, The Phenonmenon of Man.  I have no idea how the little Winfield library happened to have that book (which was first published in English just a few years earlier).  But it did.   The book was densely written for paleontologists, biologists and other scientists, and was not easy to read.  But the ideas had a huge effect on me so I kept reading it here and there for quite a while.

Rob also introduced me to the EI / ICA a couple of years later, during my visits to see him in Chicago where he was interning with them.   And in 1970, after returning from six memorable months in Europe, my closest friends, John and Bev, introduced me to Transcendental Meditation and to Maharishi’s teaching.

So here is a summary of these three great and widely influential ideas that together combine in me to guide what I want most to do and be.  Continue reading ‘A Long Affair with Three Big Ideas about Collective Consciousness’

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Represent.Us and the American Anti-Corruption Act


Represent.Us
is a transpartisan non-profit organization working to pass the American Anti-Corruption Act. This Act – if backed by enough of us – has the ability to drastically reduce political corruption and restore fair elections by us, the People, and not the Money.

Represent.Us and the Act are supported by committed Progressives, Conservatives, Tea-Party founders, Occupy founders, etc.   See more about their board of advisers here.

Effects of Gerrymandering on 2012 North Carolina Elections

North Carolina has 13 U.S. House Districts.

In 2010 Republicans used millions of dollars in funding from wealthy individuals and corporations to take control of state legislatures.     Because this was a US Census year, this gave Republican legislators the power to redraw voter district boundaries to be heavily in their favor.  North Carolina was a major target for Republican RedMapping and their  strategy worked extremely well.   (See more info about RedMapping” here and here.)  This strategy explains why Republicans continue to control the U.S. House of Representatives whereas they could not win majorities in elections based on popular vote, such as elections for the President and Senate.

Here are the results of Republican gerrymandering on 2012 Elections for 13 U.S. House Seats in North Carolina:

Total votes for Democratic Candidates:  2,219,165
(50.6% of the popular vote)

Total votes for Republican Candidates:  2,143,118
(48.9% of the popular vote)

Total votes for Libertarian Candidates:         24,044
(0.5% of the popular vote)

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Total House Seats won by Democrats:   4 out of 13 (31% of House seats)

Total House Seats won by Republicans:  9 out of 13  (69% of House seats)

If district boundaries were anywhere near fair, Republicans and Democrats would have each won between 45% and 55% of the 13 House Seats.

Gerrymandering by either party is the 2nd worst type of political corruption – 2nd only to unlimited funding by corporations and mega-wealthy individuals.

We the People have the power to end gerrymandering and other types of political corruption.

One simple step is to emphatically and frequently go on record as strongly supporting an end to gerrymandering.

Here is a petition  by a North Carolina citizen that you can support.  Their goal is 5000 signatures.  That goal is way too low!   Please sign and pass on this petition – and consider what else we can do in states all over the U.S.

Petition to End Gerrymandering

Existence, the Self, and Immortality

I recently finished reading David Brin’s latest novel:  Existence.   It is brimming with ideas – overflowing, entertaining, thought-provoking, and imagined in hugely creative and insightful detail.   See http://bit.ly/PfuFFh

It  explores acres of fascinating questions and hypotheses, including the possibility that in the near future (next 30 to 100 years) humans will be able to make copies of themselves.

This raises a question that I’ve been thinking about for a while, and that can only be answered by a thought-experiment.

Question: 

If you make fully-working and conscious copies of yourself, does that mean that you will continue to live through those copies?  – That you won’t die?

Additional Context:

Ray Kurzweil, important prophet of the Singularity, has said very emphatically that he wants to live forever, and that everyone who says that they “accept” death is kidding themselves.

Thought-experiment:

Well, let’s say that before you die you can upload all your DNA and your entire neural connectome, and whatever else would make  the upload into a complete working copy of you.

So then when the organic body you’ve been hanging out in for all these years dies, will the existence of the version of you that is created from all your data mean that you will not have died?

That is, will it be any different from what we now know as dying?

Here are more ruminations that can shed some light:

Let’s say you create 2 copies, or heck, 2000 copies of yourself.

Immediately after these copies are “activated” they will be identical to you – at the time the copy was made.  They will each “wake up” and for them at that moment it will be like having been asleep during the time between making the copy and activating it (waking it up).

But now they will each also start having new experiences, which will be entirely different.  Some of them will get sick, some of them will die, some will have good luck, some will not.

(And don’t forget they’ll all have to share your single set of possessions, relatives and friends and bank accounts as they gradually start differentiating and ‘making their own way in the world.’)

So how is this kind of “waking up” in a new copy of your body any different than waking up each morning (after some time of unconscious sleep) in your current body?

I’m not sure it is any different.

So, what that tells me is that if you die in your sleep it makes no difference to the copy of you that died, because that copy is now dead.   Other copies may continue to live, but that doesn’t change the fact that another copy of you died.

In other words – you who are now living in your mother-born body will not continue to exist – you will die – even if copies of you continue to live.   That is, those copies won’t really be you.  They will each have their own you.

So the tragedy of death isn’t really such a great tragedy to those who have died (as we all have said many times) – it is only an event that affects those who know you and continue to live.  That is, the copies can be some comfort (or maybe continued torment) to those who loved (or feared or disliked) you.

So why is our own personal death such a big deal?   Again, I think this thought-experiment shows that it is not.

People accept death for a number of reasons – most of which have to do with the fact that they identify with something larger than their own ego, mind, body and set of memories.  For example:

  • They believe they will live in heaven with God after they die.
  • They are able to directly experience their own inner Self as pure Consciousness which they experience as unbounded, unchanging, and as the source of all creativity and intelligence.
  • They have had some other but related type of mystical experience.
  • They’re inspired by children and continual new life and they’re willing to let others take their turn.  (They aren’t greedy.)
  • They accept death along with birth, sex, and the pursuit of knowledge and happiness – all as important parts of Life on Earth – and throughout the Universe.
  • They feel their life has been fulfilling and they’re ready to move on to whatever mystery awaits.

(This thought experiment also raises another metaphysical question:  What if your body and living mind is actually — startlingly to some —  associated with a soul that lives after death and is repeatedly reincarnated – or that goes finally to its reward, or elsewhere.

So, given the existence of a soul of some kind, will all the copies of you have to share the same soul?  If so, will the soul get confused when one or multiple copies of you die – e.g., not know when to reincarnate, or cause some mental/psychical instability in all the different copies? 

Or instead, will each new copy of you somehow automatically generate a new soul?  This question is in parenthesis because I know it isn’t so important to people who don’t believe in souls or reincarnation or heaven or hell.  But no one of us can really be sure, until you die, or maybe have a near-death experience.   So it’s definitely an interesting question to pose.  And I definitely don’t have a final answer to it.)

To Increase Social Cooperation Speak to the Best Values of the 99%

I just read an interesting article regarding how to create an Empathic (i.e., Cooperative) Civilization.

How will the 99% Deal with the World’s 70 Million Psychopaths?

A lot of the world’s misery can be traced to people who lack the wiring for empathy. What can we do to contain the damage they cause?

July 26  Joe Brewer

This article suggests (not too surprisingly) that the 1% who control World power structures, mostly for their own benefit, are highly non-emphathic.   That is, the real 1% are not simply the richest 1%, but rather the most powerful non-empaths.  Not all wealthy people are non-empathic.  But our economic system is especially tuned to reward non-empaths in their struggle to the top.   In addition, our legal and regulatory structures favor the creation of extremely powerful corporations who by the predominant definition of “business” and “competition” are at the top of the heap of non-empathic “individuals.”  (Fortunately many corporations are socially responsible.  However, by their nature, corporations are expected to make a profit for shareholders and to obey the law, rather than to create the greatest good for all.)

We knew all of this of course, but the analysis in this article makes the situation clearer.    The author also makes good suggestions on what to do.  But all of his suggestions require the 99% who are empathic to take back control of society (that is, for the ‘meek’ to inherit the Earth).

For me a key question is – how do we break the unholy connection between the powerful non-empaths and the millions of ordinary ‘conservative voters’ who admire  powerful non-empaths and swallow their messages?   The non-empaths are able to put their messages into frames that conservative voters resonate with, even though most of those voters are actually empathic.

Some of best ideas that I’ve seen about how to counter this are in Lakoff’s new book:  The Little Blue Book:  The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic.  Lakoff’s premis is not that progressives must take over the “rulership” of the country from conservatives — who currently worship the private sector and denigrate the public sector.   But rather that progressives must stop using the frames developed by the 1% to gain the admiration and votes of conservative and independent voters.  Progressives must instead use frames that truly resonate with the empathic and democratic nature of all people among the 99%.   Our only way forward is to build true democratic partnership between progressives and conservatives to shape a better society that is good for all, rather than one that mainly benefits the 1%.

Are Genetically Modified Foods Safe?

Are genetically modified foods (GMOs) really safe?

One would hope so, given how prevalent they now are.  Unfortunately, the FDA does not require testing due to the intervention of Michael Taylor, an FDA executive who was previously a Monsanto attorney.   Taylor ignored FDA scientists’ warnings to push through the “no testing needed” policy.   Later he became Monsanto’s Vice President, and he is now back at FDA as the U.S. food safety czar.

These facts, plus many other hair-raising examples of corruption and bad policies are contained in a recent interview of Jeffrey Smith, author of Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods.

The full interview is here:

http://www.redwoodhealthspeak.com/2012/06/05/gambling-with-our-genetic-future-gmos-and-the-world-food-supply/

Two Remedies for Bad Thinking and other Bad Habits

Bad thinking is usually due to bad habits rather than to lack of ability.

This includes bad habits such as acting without thinking; accepting a “fact” or idea without independent verification; and taking in  news, ideas and interpretations only from sources with a  perspective that reinforces your own,  rather than differing from your perspectives or questioning them.

Such bad habits are correctable, and that’s encouraging.  However, if habits are deeply engrained they are hard to change.  Any habit can only weaken and leave if there is a will – motivated by an internal desire.

For deeply engrained habits, even a strong motivation isn’t enough for change.  A deeply engrained habit is no longer a habit, but an internal imperative which must be obeyed and can’t be ignored.  Such habits can become essential parts of individual and group identity.

There is hope, though, from at least two approaches.  Both of these approaches are methods to train the mind and produce clearer, broader thinking.

The first method is:  Regular exposure to other people one can respect, who have different ideas and behaviors, which they express and model well.  Having a motivation and an opportunity for exposure to new and different ideas and behaviors can begin to change even long-held habits of thinking.

The second method is less familiar to most people:  If people take up the regular habit of transcending – experiencing the silent, unbounded source of their own mind and being, then  life-restricting habits can begin to weaken.   There is plenty of evidence over the last several thousand years that this can actually work.  More recently, neurological, physiological, and other sociological evidence supports this approach.

Combine these two remedies – regular transcending and regular exposure to honest people with different perspectives – and even the most intractable bad habits will begin to loosen.


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