September 13, 2010
Originally written for mathematics students, this list of useful habits of mind is applicable to nearly anyone doing anything.
September 11, 2010
The art and tech of information dissemination, while developing exponentially, is also reorganizing at ever higher levels. Collaboration takes on new meaning as millions of us, in the blink of an eye, are able to bring our collective consciousness — and resulting influence — to bear on a given topic or event.
Back in the 1980s a group of folks attending the professional seminar at The Monroe Institute established a "group mind." The group mind members were an international bunch skilled in maneuvering and directing consciousness. They successfully cultivated a connection, then sustained it remotely long after the seminar. It's odd to think and odd to say, but that methodology seems a bit horse and buggy in light of the communication revolution we are experiencing today.
Check out this interview with engineer Albert Yu-Min Lin, who sees How the network of human minds can save Earth.
We got the public to look at millions of bits of high-resolution satellite images online and try to tell us what they saw that was weird or different in the landscape. People would look at satellite images and tell us where to go, and in Mongolia we would physically jump on a horse and go check it out.
National Geographic Emerging Explorer Albert Yu-Min Lin uses a suite of non-invasive technologies, like satellite imagery, remote sensors, and ground-penetrating radar, to explore the world's wild places without disturbing them and set the stage for their future conservation. Nat Geo News Watch contributor Brian Handwerk interviewed Lin about the opportunities presented by innovation and technology to help us be better stewards of our planet.
A universe has been created out of our minds and you've got entire societies being built that supersede societies that exist in reality.
September 10, 2010
"... through history, the engine of human progress and prosperity has been, and is, 'ideas having sex with each other.'"
At TEDGlobal 2010, author Matt Ridley shows how, throughout history, the engine of human progress has been the meeting and mating of ideas to make new ideas. It's not important how clever individuals are, he says; what really matters is how smart the collective brain is.
September 09, 2010
When a colleague sent this around the other day it reminded me how much I enjoy the genius and humor of Douglas Adams.
As a kid I was a flyer. I flew in my dreams, I flew in my imagination, I tried to fly off of the furniture but that didn't work out so well. One dream, still crystal clear in my memory, was flying lessons. My dream teacher stressed that flying isn't about overcoming gravity, it's about stepping outside of it. In the waking world that didn't make much sense at the time, but in dreamland I totally got it.
Somehow, Adams's brilliant balance of the sublime and the ridiculous manages to hit the flying nail on the head.
How To Fly© by Douglas Adams
There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Pick a nice day, [The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy] suggests, and try it.
The first part is easy. All it requires is simply the ability to throw yourself forward with all your weight, and the willingness not to mind that it's going to hurt.
That is, it's going to hurt if you fail to miss the ground. Most people fail to miss the ground, and if they are really trying properly, the likelihood is that they will fail to miss it fairly hard.
Clearly, it is the second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties.
One problem is that you have to miss the ground accidentally. It's no good deliberately intending to miss the ground because you won't. You have to have your attention suddenly distracted by something else when you're halfway there, so that you are no longer thinking about falling, or about the ground, or about how much it's going to hurt if you fail to miss it.
It is notoriously difficult to prize your attention away from these three things during the split second you have at your disposal. Hence most people's failure, and their eventual disillusionment with this exhilarating and spectacular sport.
If, however, you are lucky enough to have your attention momentarily distracted at the crucial moment by, say, a gorgeous pair of legs (tentacles, pseudopodia, according to phyllum and/or personal inclination) or a bomb going off in your vicinty, or by suddenly spotting an extremely rare species of beetle crawling along a nearby twig, then in your astonishment you will miss the ground completely and remain bobbing just a few inches above it in what might seem to be a slightly foolish manner.
This is a moment for superb and delicate concentration. Bob and float, float and bob. Ignore all consideration of your own weight simply let yourself waft higher. Do not listen to what anybody says to you at this point because they are unlikely to say anything helpful. They are most likely to say something along the lines of "Good God, you can't possibly be flying!" It is vitally important not to believe them or they will suddenly be right.
Waft higher and higher. Try a few swoops, gentle ones at first, then drift above the treetops breathing regularly.
DO NOT WAVE AT ANYBODY.
When you have done this a few times you will find the moment of distraction rapidly easier and easier to achieve.
You will then learn all sorts of things about how to control your flight, your speed, your maneuverability, and the trick usually lies in not thinking too hard about whatever you want to do, but just allowing it to happen as if it were going to anyway.
You will also learn about how to land properly, which is something you will almost certainly screw up, and screw up badly, on your first attempt.
There are private clubs you can join which help you achieve the all-important moment of distraction. They hire people with surprising bodies or opinions to leap out from behind bushes and exhibit and/or explain them at the critical moments. Few genuine hitchhikers will be able to afford to join these clubs, but some may be able to get temporary employment at them.
September 08, 2010
This article popped up in the Wall Street Journal about Vijay Iyer, an incredible jazz pianist and physicist. This passage in particular called to me:
"I used a paradigm of embodied cognition—seeing the mind as not just an abstract machine but as something physical, grounded in bodily processes and experiences. Rhythmic activity is based on those processes—breathing is connected to phrase; the heartbeat and walking are connected to pulse; speech is connected to ornament and melodic detail. The body is in the musical space, interacting with the instrument."
Now of course we talk a lot about the mind being "apart" from the physical body, and Iyer is suggesting just the opposite, but something else that we talk about around here are the very real "In Body Experiences" that people have. The conclusions that Iyer is drawing about playing music is very much like a profound In Body Experience. In all areas, we see that things tend to be strengthened by the presence of their opposite, and so I propose that we must be able to experience life in body before we can fully express life out of body...what do you think?
September 07, 2010
What is it about seasons changing that makes us want to do a little changing ourselves? I hear about this urge from people around the country that really only have 1 or 2 seasons, and still they say that it's like a little internal timer dings and lets them know that even though the temperatures are the same, there's a change a coming. Here in Virginia, we're welcoming cooler temperatures, watching pumpkins pop up in front of stores and at farm stands, and beginning to think about what this new season will mean. One thing that has been on my mind heavily lately, is a strong desire to purge the excess. To be able to easily take stock of what's in my life (mentally, emotionally, physically) and let some of the excess fall to the wayside. This has left me with little piles beginning to form around my house for Goodwill, but I think I'm feeling the same thing happen in my mind. I am mentally tossing some old rhetoric onto the "giveaway" pile so that I can welcome this new season with a de-cluttered mind. I know that in this Oprah-centric age, the idea of doing some mental house cleaning is hardly a new one, but this year in particular, I am feeling so pulled to an empty room with a good view. What about you? What does this changing season bring about for you? How are you combating excess in your life?
If you're interested in reading an article about combating excess for our children, check this out.
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