So, the follow up atheism post will have to wait for now. In the meantime there’s this…
A user on io9 posted a link to something called Lifenaut, which plays with the transhumanist notion of an uploaded or copied consciousness. The idea is that you store a genetic sample in their cryo facility, and program your virtual avatar with your personality and experiences, and as the technology develops, they’ll be able to make a copy of you long after you die. They say it’s like immortality—although I think that’s pretty silly, because a copy of a person is not the original person. Still, the idea of near-perfect simulations of people is intriguing, if somewhat unsettling.
They have created a few historical figures that you can chat with; like primitive AI “constructs” straight out of William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy. They’re far from perfect: Lifenaut’s Abraham Lincoln just talks like an encyclopedia; replying to anything you say to it/him by reciting irrelevant facts about himself. But Gandhi is a lot more interesting:
The conversation I just had with him is really quite hilarious; and even a little spooky. Spooky, because I recently watched the first episode of “Through the Wormhole,” with Morgan Freeman, in which they talk about cosmology, including the theory that the universe we know is really a clever digital simulation—a matrix of sorts. So, imagine the gymnastics my mind did when AI Gandhi insisted he was the real human, and I was the program… and that’s only the beginning of the weirdness.
Here’s the transcript: (continue reading…)
A couple of days ago I got my weekly YouTube update, which included a ForaTV link to “Dawkins: Did Religion Have an Evolutionary Value?”
You’ll note here that the use of the past-tense strongly implies that religion no longer has any value in evolutionary and social terms, and if you watch the talk you’ll see Dawkins imply that religion itself never actually did—that religion is just an unhealthy byproduct of healthy evolutionary imperatives. All of which is pure assumption / opinion on Dawkins’ part and nothing more.
But it got me to thinking I should write some more measured pieces about Atheism, considering my last one (the first post on metapunk written in anger, probably not the last, but hopefully one of only a few).
At the same time, Dawkins’ video led me to two far more intelligent discussions on the place of religion in the modern world. (continue reading…)
Just saw Iron Man 2. It was everything I expected it to be. Which is to say, merely entertaining. The acting is okay, it’s funny and action-packed, but… You know that smoking hot person you dated for a like a week back in college? They were charming, and bubbly, and the sex was unbelievable… but soon enough you realized you just couldn’t have a meaningful conversation with them, so it was all about the booty until you got so bored and sick of feeling like you were using them that you couldn’t bring yourself to look them in the eye anymore? Yeah, Iron Man 2 is like that. (continue reading…)
…Frakking fundamentalists, too!
Okay, so I know, I know. Arguing on the Internet is pretty much always a waste of time. Every time I do it, I feel like I just crawled through a sewer pipe, looking for the elusive source of the world’s bullshit. But sometimes you just sorta get sucked in, y’know?
Before I go on, I should point out that atheists are not the problem. If someone chooses to believe in God, Gods, the flying spaghetti monster, the bloody timecube, or nothing at all… well, hey, that’s cool. I respect that decision—follow your experience where it takes you, I say. Be empirical. But those Richard Dawkins wannabe, down-with-spirituality-in-every-form, capital “A,” Atheists—well, I’ve got no time for them, because every one I’ve met is an arrogant asshole.
Lately I’ve been spending some time over at Only a Game, a blog by video game designer Chris Bateman. Chris and I seem to have very similar interests: namely games, religion, and philosophy, and the intersection of all of the above. The main difference between us is that Chris really does his homework: he’s very well versed in the topics he discusses there, while I’m always winging it (Remember Mad Max 3?: “Plan? There ain’t no plan!”).
Well, it’s that time of year again, folks! Halloween is my favourite holiday, for so many reasons. You’ve got the candy, the costumes, pumpkin carving, the wild parties, and the wandering the streets until all hours of the morning, and all that jazz… plus you can just feel something in the air.
Maybe it’s the chill of autumn, or the harvest moons, I don’t know, but the energy of this time is unmistakable.
The Celts called it Samhaine (roughly pronounced “sawhaena”), and made it their harvest festival and new year’s celebration. It is when the last gasps of summer give way to the coming winter, and when the veil between this world and the other world is at it’s thinnest. It is a time when spirits walk, visiting friends and loved ones, begging for offerings to tide them over the long cold months ahead.
It is a holiday steeped in mysteries, from the tricks the spirits play on those who refuse to honour them, to the costumes people wear to frighten each other, and perhaps ward off unkindly spirits.
All I really know is that it’s time when my mind conjures images of my ancestors dancing and singing around bonfires, having fun, and paying respect to their own ancestors, to the Earth, to the Gods, and to the universe.
It is a primal and liminal time, a connected and sacred time.
If you’re into the whole Halloween celebration thing, please just remember, somewhere in the back of your mind, to honour your ancestors wherever they came from, and to thank the universe that gives you so much. You may not think any of it is real, but the act of caring, even for the long dead and the imaginary order of it all, may bring you some peace in an otherwise rocky world.
Think about it, and have a safe and happy Halloween!
A friend of mine recently told me about the People of Walmart website, featuring pictures of Walmart shoppers in various states of dress as they go about their business, and occasionally, their vehicles. Some of them are silly, some are disturbing, but most of them are simply a slice of someone’s life, replete with all the assumptions you can make about that life based on a photograph.
But there’s something terribly, tragically human about these photos, and it occurs to me that Dukkha is never more apparent than in a Walmart. Dukkha is a Buddhist word from the Pali language that usually translates to “suffering” or “unsatisfactoriness.” It refers to the desperation of the human condition as we pass from life to life through the cycle of Samsara. (continue reading…)