Category Archives: Living

The Waterfall and The Rain

The waterfall is heard before you see it.  The thunderous torrent crashing on the rocks resounds about the valley.

niagra03As you approach, the mist becomes visible, as vapour bubbles up from the torrent.  The spray blows far and wide so that when you come close you are soon soaked.  From close up you can barely see the path of the waterfall as the clouds of mist and spray obscure its fall.  Yet you can feel the reverberation through the ground.

The waterfall is mighty! People come from far and wide to see the waterfall. It is celebrity.  People want to be like the waterfall, strong, impressive, powerful.

But strangely the waterfall does little more than make noise and spit before the water passes on calmly through the valley. Continue reading The Waterfall and The Rain

Snack Food Slavery: We’re all enjoying it.

What?  Not me.  No way!  Slavery is bad.

Yeah, but … you’re still part of the problem.  We all are.

Here’s a piece of the big picture puzzle:

Soda and chips … sugars and fats … vegetable oil … palm oil … slaves and rain forest exploitation.palmoilslave

That food chain is run by big companies, big banks and rich owners.  (You might be one without even realising it!)

It’s fuelled by people buying foods made with industrially grown vegetable oils.  That means most products on the supermarket shelves, including all the big brands owned by companies like Nestle, Unilever, Pepsico, Heinz, Cargill, CocaCola, Kraft, P&G, …  And the food chain is financed with money from big banks like Citi, HSBC, JP Morgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered, Mizuho, Rabobank, …

Continue reading Snack Food Slavery: We’re all enjoying it.

You can’t outrun a poor diet: Calories Matter

About 70% of calorie consumption is accounted for by metabolism though the absolute number varies little for people of different metabolic rates. So, if you’re an average male whose calorie burn is 2,000 a day (can be 1,500 – 2,500 depending on height), about 1,400 are consumed just being you (brain, breathing etc). For females whose calorie burn rate is 1,600, that would be 1,200 calories. Another 400 (320 for females) or so are consumed by digestion (can be 100-800). And then there’s movin’ and shakin’ aka exercise.

The shape of things to come (already here).Standing instead of sitting can burn an extra 50 calories an hour (10-80). So if you stand instead of sit at the desk you’ll burn maybe an extra 300 calories a day. Jogging for an hour can burn 700 calories. And running burns about twice te calories per minute of walking. Simply fidgeting will raise your metabolic rate and make a difference. If you have a physically demanding day, like cleaning, digging, building etc, you’ll be burning more calories than a desk-worker, but that doesn’t mean a bit of a workout isn’t going to help the parts of your body the daily routine doesn’t reach, like your tummy! And it’s good to breathe.

Continue reading You can’t outrun a poor diet: Calories Matter

Global perspectives: Technology, Growth, Money, Politics and what to invest in

The Long Termworld-300px

We’re talking 20 years or so here.

In 20  years we’ll be facing Big Stuff.  Climate change, weather volatility, species loss, clean air, clean water, … that whole environment thing will be getting much more serious and everyone will be dealing with it in some way or another.  I’m hoping it’ll make Ireland a bit more like the south of France, and it might, but whatever else, it’s going to make the simple things in life more difficult.  For most of humanity that will include feeding themselves and getting clean water.

So that will make food and land more important.

In 20 years we may well have passed “The Singularity“.  That’s a term coined by futurists, often with a trans-humanist bent, which denotes the inevitable point at which technology development starts happening “by itself”.  This occurs as humanity’s understanding of physics and biology enable the creation of thinking machines (computers) that emulate the brain, and then androids and cyborgs begin to be used in place of people.

Certainly in 20 years technology will have changed our world even more than in the past 20.   Do not imagine The Singularity to be fantasy.  We are close already.  The mobile phone/computer in your pocket is old technology compared with neuro-computers being tested in laboratories.  Robots are already becoming remarkably similar to C-3PO in looks and mobility at least.  Today the consequences are being felt in most professions as AI (artificial intelligence) takes jobs away from humans.  This is what we all wanted – automatic checkout, automatic cashier, automatic accountant, automatic lawyer, automatic vehicle … The challenge now being solved is automatic creativity.

Continue reading Global perspectives: Technology, Growth, Money, Politics and what to invest in

How to change the world: Change your mind, body and spirit.

Joe Dispenza has been elucidating the science of mind for decades.  In this talk (embedded below) he gives a clear, easy to follow description of how the mind works and how a person can change themselves by, literally, changing their mind.

To summarise: The brain is constantly changing – the growth, decay, connection and disconnection of neurons is the electro-chemical, physical manifestation of mind.  Recognising one’s own thoughts allows you to manage them in a positive way, rather than allowing them to propagate chaotically.  (This is why cognitive behavioural therapy works, even to the extent of being a go to treatment for clinical depression.) So, when faced with stress or challenge, you pause, take a breath, consider the situation and look for positive aspects, which includes taking a different approach.  Taking a positive approach lowers stress (good), and allows the mind to think more critically to find solutions (good) instead of resorting to primitive, knee-jerk responses.

People who are seeking change in the world or themselves will appreciate the scientific foundation of these ideas, which have been practices for centuries by yogis, monks and ascetics.  The technique is also used, whether consciously or not, by successful people who control their behaviour – this includes academics,  athletes and sportspeople, musicians, thespians, entrepreneurs and organisation leaders.

As well as using your mind as a simple tool for changing yourself, recognising your biological nature allows you to choose a path which yields happiness and health.  This happens when you manage stress to allow your physical body to move to equanimity.

These ideas are very relevant for those of us who are seeking  system change.  Often our efforts are blocked by intransigence in  incumbent institutions, systems and leaders – and that is frustrating and exhausting.  Getting stressed is not a solution.  Stepping back, letting go and moving forward in the right way is the only way to effect positive change.  We are changing the system by changing ourselves.  To change the world, we must change ourselves.  It is not easy because the system is designed for dysfunction, but changing for good works, gets easier as you do it more and yields a fulfilling life.  Think about it!  And be the change you want to see in the world.

Enjoy the show:

System change, social media and your choices.

drowningworldcarCOP21 comes to a close as the wind howls and Jaspar’s rugby game is cancelled because so much water fell on the pitch last night.  Climate change is great, but it’s not good.  I love the warmer weather so here in Ireland it’s almost as warm as Hong Kong in the winter; you can go jogging and enjoy the breeze.  But the volatility of weather is a symptom of broken systems.  Both civilisation and nature.

The consequences for the breakdown of nature and civilisation will be different.  Nature will change – once nature was a burning ball in space, now it’s a paradise become decadent and failing.  Civilisation will simply disappear – and might never come back.

For some the idea that the human systems are dysfunctional and the weight of humanity is crushing nature is familiar.  For many of them, it is a new realisation and the response reflects where they come from: community driven people tend to activism, strategic operators tend to business solutions, organisers tend to regulation, and so on. For a few the notion of integral solutions is a dawning awareness.

Hand holding a Social Media 3d Sphere sign on white background.All of these people are connected by social organisation and media.  We all communicate with each other and ideas circulate quickly as nuggets of information on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, websites, journals, TV shows,  … We tend to communicate with like minded people.  It is not easy to cross over.  But the filtering of from one group to another happens because in each of our circle of family and friends there are always a few “strange ones” who bring unfamiliar concepts to the conversation.  (I might fit that description for many of my family and peers!)

Social media allows this cross-fertilisation of ideas and it reveals the homogeneity of your group of friends.  Who shares ideas about politics, art, religion, business, .. and so on?

COP21marchWhile there has been a great deal of activity related to COP21, it has been predominantly among the same people:  People who want to see system change, or people who have a vested interest in things staying as they are.

The outcome of COP21 is not going to be remarkable.  Sadly, the depth and breadth of understanding among leaders, and followers, is shallow and narrow.  For example, even I was a little stunned, on the way back from picking Richard up from the airport, to calculate that we had released a quarter of  his body weight of 60 odd kilos in CO2.

gas_balloon_scaleA litre of fuel releases between 0.6 and 0.7 kg of carbon, which grabs another two molecules of oxygen to make carbon di-oxide, bringing the weight to around 1.8 kg.  So for a 150 km round trip at 45 mpg (15.8 km/litre) we needed 150/15.8 or 9.5 litres which create 17 kilos of CO2.  Just that one event produced nearly the same weight of CO2 as you find in a bag of cement.  It’s heavy!  And it’s just one event on one day.

So even people like me can be stunned by the challenges we face.

The problem nature faces has much to do with energy and our gratuitous use of fossil fuels.  The reality is that humanity must live within the laws of nature, including not consuming more energy in a year than that captured by photosynthesis in a year.

unethicalCivilisation is breaking down because the systems we have in place are unethical.  Every crisis comes about because of moral failure.  Corruption insinuates business, politics and religion.  There are cries for change and some who show the way, but the establishment finds it hard to give up power.  If evolution is not chosen, revolution erupts.

So while you are part of the establishment, spare a moment for the alternative view that is shared by the fringes of your social circle.  It’s not about equality it’s about equity.  Be open to finding a way for systems to evolve.  The system is a result of everybody’s choices.  We must all choose better.  We must aim to do the right thing the right way.

For some it’s not about people, nor ethics; just numbers.

moneyvspeoleA former hedge fund manager who bought a drug company has hiked the price of a generic drug 55x to  pay for the purchase.  The drug was $13.50 a dose but is now $750.00.   It costs $1 to produce.  The drug treats toxoplasmosis and is widely used by sufferers of AIDS.

So clearly Martin Shkreli, the capitalist in question, is all about the money.  No morals.  No philanthropy. In fact rather the opposite.  What does that say about our society?  When the winners take all?  It’s not that he should be punished.  It’s not that his wealth should be confiscated.  It’s that we should ask ourselves what kind of civilisation we are choosing when this kind of behaviour appears “justifiable”, because it doesn’t seem just to me.

If the highest achievers, the brightest stars, the richest, the winners are only interested in taking more, shouldn’t we all wonder what morals our civilisation promotes?  It’s not that people are bad – everyone’s “good”.  But the result of all our choices promotes a dynamic which appears quite feudal and therefore inflexible, often unfair and probably dysfunctional.  Certainly we are seeing the cracks in our civilisation – economic crisis, immigration crisis, food crisis, …

eatingmoneyThe solution?   Change our choices.  Each of us can make small changes which determine the shape of civilisation.  What we eat, what we wear, what we consume, what we waste.  Our individual behaviour results in the civilisation we have, including a hedge fund manager taking more stuff from people in already difficult circumstances.

BBC: US pharmaceutical company defends 5,000% price increase

Cyborgs are coming to take your job, especially if you’re young.

The prospect of your job being automated is increasing.  The convergence of neuroscience, computing, biology and engineering has already made robotic prosthetics a reality and everyone carries a small thinking machine so that they can remember phone numbers, birthdays etc (media device/phone).monkeytorobot

We are certainly choosing a future in which we don’t work.  We haven’t addressed the consequences in a thoughtful way evidenced by the unchanged platitudes by politicians, ongoing agglomeration of industry and commerce (get big to survive) with its attendant pyramid of wages (little at the bottom, inconceivable wealth at the top) and public education systems still modelled on the factory.

Continue reading Cyborgs are coming to take your job, especially if you’re young.

What happens when you destabilise a suboptimal system? It implodes.

The death of John and Alicia Nash on 23 May brought attention to game theory and the Nash Equilibrium, which offer insights into resolving the problems of today’s world.

As The Economist succinctly says: “In the real world of less-than-perfect competition, a “Nash equilibrium” may well be stable, but not optimal.”   Game theory shows that competition yields a sub-optimal stability, which can only be enhanced by cooperation.

Today we live in a world where resource constraints are not just widening the chasm between “haves” and “have-nots” but are destroying the fabric of nature upon which all life depends.  Human consumption is reducing access to clean water, land and air, is eliminating species and people increasingly rely upon junk (food, fashion and stuff) to prop up our confidence.

The way to reverse the destruction of the biosphere is to reduce consumption which can only be achieved with a cooperative approach to resource allocation.  At the root of this cooperation must be the sharing of technology which allows efficient production and allocation of food, clothing, housing, energy.

A cooperative approach is not a bureaucratic approach, it is not mechanical and it can not be maintained with laws.  Cooperation is founded on a culture of empathy which engenders trust which reduces enterprise overheads.  The root of a the solution to resource constraints is in cultural maturity.

John Nash showed this scientifically half a century ago.  Many others have shared the same wisdom over the centuries, but have been drowned out by the confidence of political and economic ego.

TOGITV: Stag hunting – thoughts on John Nash and social cooperation

The Mereon Legacy: A Mereonic perspective on John Nash: Cooperation vs. Competition

Wikipedia: Nash Equilibrium

 

Three things parents must teach children: money, food, autos

The following piece by Leah Holstein on Funderstanding is a simple, fun admonition with some helpful links.  Enjoy the read or just note the message:

Teach children about finances, cooking and cars because they are essential skills for life which are not taught at school

Continue reading Three things parents must teach children: money, food, autos