It is late. There are a bunch of tasks I need to complete, before I can head off to bed, and the computer is running very slowly. In the news are more reports of schools being closed, but it doesn’t appear as if the weather has gotten bad here yet.
I walked a bit this weekend. It was good to get out and get some exercise. Yet I did not sleep well. My sleep patterns are out of whack. There was the annual meeting at church today which also pushed my schedule out of whack. There was a funeral today that I couldn’t attend, so I acknowledge the passing silently, alone.
I glance again at the progress bar on my computer. 42%. The animals are sleeping at various places around the living room. I glance back at the progress bar, knowing that a watch pot never boils.
The words of Virginia Woolf, in To The Lighthouse come to me.
“Leaving on a Jet Plane” performed by Peter, Paul and Mary is playing on Pandora. It is their selection for what I might like. Bruce Jenner, Brian Williams and a 50 foot sculpture of Darth Vader at the Sapporo Snow Festival are trending on Facebook. Jenner and Williams are also trending on Twitter, along with a bunch of things I’m not following. Also trending on Twitter is #msc2015, the Munich Security Conference.
The technological singularity is the hypothesis that accelerating progress in technologies will cause a runaway effect wherein artificial intelligence will exceed human intellectual capacity and control, thus radically changing civilization in an event called the singularity. Because the capabilities of such an intelligence may be impossible for a human to comprehend, the technological singularity is an occurrence beyond which events may become unpredictable, unfavorable, or even unfathomable.
Have we reached the technological singularity? Are these snapshots of what is now trending in social media glimpses into some artificial intelligence? After all, besides all those algorithms looking for what is trending or of interest to us, Watson is reading what we write online.
Yes, perhaps as Wikipedia says in its definition of the technological singularity, “unfathomable”.
So, let me present a way to think about the technological singularity. It grew out of my interest in the work of Wilfred Bion and Group Relations combined with some work with artificial neural networks back in the nineties.
The internet is a network of networks. If we accept the idea that each one of us is a neural network, then our social networks are networks of neural networks. What keeps this inter-neural-network from having some sort of intelligence?
One of the key things in artificial neural networks is the ability to learn from a process called back propagation. If the predicted results differ from the actual results, the strength of connections between nodes are altered to bring the results closer inline.
Long before the days of Twitter and Facebook, I pondered such a system. How could you get individuals, nodes in this inter-neural-network, to modify the strength of their links? Now, Facebook has addressed this. You can like, comment on, or share posts, strengthening the links. Or, you can unfriend someone. The network is evolving.
How is this inter-neural-network shaping us, changing us? How can we understand it? To what extent can we understand it?
It is evolving. So are my thoughts. More later…
This evening, the Walt Whitman class I have been taking online comes to an end. As a final exercise, we were encouraged to write a poem in the style of Whitman.
Last night, I went to the opening of "A Body in Fukushima" at Wesleyan. It is a powerful show, that I highly recommend. As I thought about the show, and thought about my assignment for the Whitman class, I thought it would be good to writemy thoughts about the show, al a Whitman.
A Body in Fukushima
Who were you that rode your bike to the train station, now abandoned to the radiation?
Who were you that steamed your rice, in a cooker now too hot with a different type of heat?
Who were you that mended the boats, the boats damaged by the tsunami, the boats that can no longer be repaired?
Who were you that danced by the one ton bags of radioactive dirt or photographed the dancer?
And those of you in years past who helped build the nuclear power plants. You saw Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Did you not worry that those promises of prosperity to your impoverish properties would be empty?
It is all part of a giant dance of survival, the deals we make to escape mind numbing subsistence work. But sometimes, the deals go bad.
Now, the cherry trees, that your ancestors nurtured so lovingly, bloom each spring, but the radiation keeps away the visitors, keeps away the former inhabitants. Their flowers, their smells, their beauty hidden behind the warning signs.
And what can we learn from the photographs? And what will those who come many years hence, after the radiation has decayed, what will they learn?
Tomorrow is the last day of the online class on Walt Whitman I have been participating in. We’ve read sections of his poems and been given things to think about
think about how hearing Whitman in song affects your understanding and interpretation of Whitman's words as they appear on the page.
It sounds like a homework assignment and doesn’t set my mind wandering.
On Sunday, the church I attend will have its annual meeting. Prior to the meeting, we’ve been invited to think about two questions.
1) We are now at five years with a new Rector. There have been many transitions in those five years, many new things. What new, different, exciting enhanced ministries do you see coming out of this parish over the NEXT five years?
2) In our fallen, rapidly-changing world, what do we believe God is calling us to be/do as a Christian community of faith, as p part of the Body of Christ, in this time and place?
These are important questions as we think about how we will spend our time and money. They are questions I’ve been tempted to write a long response to.
These are the things I’m thinking about as I stop at “A Body in Fukushima”, an exhibit at Wesleyan. This is another experience deserving much more though, and a well written response. There are issues of art and politics, things that I find echoed in discussions on social media.
Perhaps, all of this is woven together into some larger construct.
I’ll spend some time thinking about all of this, hoping that I’ll get a glimpse of the larger construct, but now, it is time to sit quietly pondering.
I got home late, after stopping for a parent teacher conference at my daughter’s school. I have a few days left of the online classes I’m doing and am behind. Perhaps, I thought, I can catch up a little.
But first, I checked email to see if there was anything that needed a response. Nope. Next, on to social media and I see the word, “unexpectedly”. A friend wrote, “Early this morning, my father died very unexpectedly”.
I listen to Sting, How Fragile We are. I cue up Box of Rain by the Grateful Dead. No. I won’t get much studying done this evening. I won’t write a complicated blog post. Instead, I will think of the saying, “May his memories be a blessing to all of us.”
In a Facebook group I’m part of friends are pasting pictures of the town I grew up in. I look at pictures of Montgomery’s General Merchandise store that was across the street from the elementary school I went to. I look at pictures of Spring Street, where I hung out when I was in high school. Many great memories, all of which are blessings.
I have a list of songs on Spotify that I play when someone I know dies. I pause my writing to interact with folks a little on social media and Sarah McLachlen’s “I will remember you” comes on.
“Don’t let your life pass you by, weep not for the memories”