The Inevitable

inevitable“Thousands of years from now, when historians review the past, our ancient time here at the beginning of the third millennium will be seen as an amazing moment. This is the time when inhabitants of this planet first linked themselves together into one very large thing. Later the very large thing would become even larger, but you and I are alive at the moment when it first awoke. Future people will envy us, wishing they could have witnessed the birth we saw.”

“This very large thing (the net) provides a new way of thinking (perfect search, total recall, planetary scope) and a new mind for an old species. It is the Beginning. […] At its core 7 billion humans, soon to be 9 billion, are quickly cloaking themselves with an always-on layer of connectivity that comes close to directly linking their brains to each other. […] By the year 2025 every person alive — that is, 100 percent of the planet’s inhabitants — will have access to this platform via some almost-free device. Everyone will be on it. Or in it. Or, simply, everyone will be it.”

While reading Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable, I underlined passages so I could post them here for future reference. I do this with each book I read. I’m not going to do that for this book because my highlights filled 11 pages but you can find them here.

Reading becomes social

I’m burning through highlighter and Post-It flags as I read Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable. In the chapter titled Screening, he writes about what books have been and what they are becoming and it is good stuff.

With screens we can share not just the titles of books we are reading, but our reactions and notes as we read them. Today, we can highlight a passage. Tomorrow, we will be able to link passages. We can add a link from a phrase in the book we are reading to a contrasting phrase in another book we we read, from a word in a passage to an obscure dictionary, from a scene in a book to a similar scene in a movie. (All these tricks will require tools for finding relevant passages.) We might subscribe to the marginalia feed from someone we respect, so we get not only their reading list but their marginalia-highlights, notes, questions, musings.

For years I’ve been transcribing underlined passages from books and posting them to my blog. When Google Drive came along I started posting them there as well. This task got easier when I put TextGrabber on my phone. Now I snap a photo and the app converts to text.

500 Days (minus 1)

I try to avoid talking about meditation. (Those who know don’t talk. Those who talk don’t know.) I’ve been meditating for years. I started listening to guided meditations but for several years now simply sit (30-45 minutes) each day, “following the breath.”

A simple app (Equanimity) helps put me on the cushion every day. Had something of a streak (371 days) going last year when a bout with pneumonia caused me to miss a day. But that’s okay, the only day that counts is today. Today is 500 consecutive (almost) days on the cushion.

I bring this up for those who might have thought about this practice. It’s the best half hour of my day. Here are a few books (and some quotes) I’ve found helpful.

Books on Meditation

  • Living As a River: Finding Fearlessness in the Face of Change – Bodhipaksa
  • Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind – Shunryu Suzuki
  • Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice – Kosho Uchiyama Roshi
  • Meditation Now or Never – Steve Hagen
  • Still the Mind: An Introduction to Meditation – Alan Watts

Quotes

  • Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at the bottom is about _not_ trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are.
  • (We meditate to realize) “…that things are already perfect.”
  • Meditation is about deeply seeing what’s going on within your own mind.
  • At the heart of meditation is the intention to be awake. (To experience) Reality as it is,before goals, ideas, or desires sprout. … Meditation is never a means to an end.
  • Meditation is a matter of zero or 100 percent. Either you’re present or you’re not. There are no in-betweens.
  • Meditation is awareness.
  • The desire of one who is awake is simply to be awake.
  • Meditate just to meditate.
  • Most people who believe they are meditating are merely thinking with their eyes closed. Meditation is a technique for waking up.

Apocalypse (Twenty Thirty)

I confess to a love-hate relationship with stories about the apocalypse. Cringe-watching through my fingers, if you will. Thought it might be fun to collect a few of my favorites here. We’ll start with a couple of excerpts from Albert Brooks’ Twenty Thirty.

In the summer of 2018 two things happened. A heat wave swept over the East Coast, unprecedented in the United States, and caused temperatures to remain close to 105 during the day for almost six weeks. Global warming was not challenged anymore, not after the Lambert Glacier in Antarctica melted three hundred years before anyone thought it would. Sure, there were a few scientists who would say man had nothing to do with it, but it didn’t matter anymore, it was happening. Sometimes during very cold winters, there were still people who pooh-poohed global warming altogether. “Look outside, it’s a blizzard,” they would say. But of course the terrible winters were a sign of even further erosion. And when the eastern seaboard had forty-five consecutive days above one hundred degrees, skeptics melted away, along with everything else.

And something else happened late that summer. The United States had always said that the likelihood of a nuclear or biological attack was greater than fifty percent. And people always thought about it the same way they thought about earthquakes: They knew something was coming, but what could they do? Well, it wasn’t a nuclear attack, but on August 15, 2018, people started getting sick with flulike symptoms in San Francisco. Before anyone realized it, a smallpox virus had contaminated the city. The government’s best guess was that five or six terrorists had come into the country already infected with the disease and worked their was crowded streets, department stores, schools, supermarkets — everywhere it could be spread. Before it was over, twenty thousand people were the city came to a halt, the stock market fell fifty percent, and the fear level increased tenfold.

And as though things were bad enough, Mr. Brooks tosses in an earthquake.

So this was “the big one.” This was the one scientists said in 2010 had a fifty percent chance of happening in the next thirty years. Fifty-fifty. Red or black. The San Andreas Fault had not moved substantially in over three hundred years. “Overdue” was an understatement.

The initial shake was a 9.1. The first aftershock was an 8.7. The second was an 8.2. The third, an 8.0, was bigger than anything that had ever been predicted.

Los Angeles was not prepared for this. No city could be. No freeway was drivable, no buildings were okay, and many came down completely. Ninety-eight percent of the property in Los Angeles County was severely damaged.

The death toll was close to fifty thousand and the number of injured was incalculable. First reports said up to half a million people were seriously hurt. Hospitals could do nothing. They were damaged beyond repair; all they tried to do was keep the patients who were already there alive.

And then, after all was said and done, after all of the damage and death and destruction, there was one looming issue. Where in God’s name would the money come from to fix America’s largest city? For a country so deeply in debt, this seemed like an impossible task.

Distributed: A New OS for the Digital Economy

“The increased surface area for corporate capitalism is human attention. So we spend more and more of our time feeding the market place. Central currency and chartered monopoly — corporate capitalism — is not a condition of nature. It is an operating system that was invented by certain people at a certain moment in history and they’ve long since left the building.”

“It was such a good little thing”

“How much is our data worth if we don’t have any money?”

“If we’re all doing everything for advertising, what’s left to advertise?”

Douglas Rushkoff is the author of Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity

68 and counting


In truth, I’ve pretty much stopped counting. Celebrating that date of one’s birth seems… arbitrary. If one had a big party on August 10th for fifty years and then discovered there had been a mix-up on the birth certificate and you were born on August 11th… what? See? Arbitrary. But a party is a party, if that’s your thing. I really don’t need much of an excuse to drink too many beers. But, like January 1, it’s a good benchmark. For some, a day to look back. Or ahead. But I’m doing less of that these days, so… let’s just say I’m happy to be here.

“Individual humans are merely temporary forms taken by the single, shifting web of life on earth. If humans are not really separate things, then their births and deaths are also not real, but simply one way of seeing the rhythms of life.” (Immortality by Stephen Cave) More excerpts »

And you can put those blunt-nosed scissors, the construction paper and that little jar of paste back in your desk. I took the liberty of making my own birthday card.

Eternal Now

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“The days and nights of Brahman are spread out in time in rather the same way as a ball of thread an inch in diameter is unrolled to the length of a hundred yards. Its real state resembles the ball but to be presented to the human mind it has to be unrolled. For our idea of time is spatial; it has length, which is a spatial dimension. But eternity has no length, and the nearest thing to it in our experience is what we call the present moment. It cannot be measured, but it is always here.” [More excerpts]

— Become What You Are (Alan Watts)