Abstract Philosophical Musings

Notes from the Transformative Technology Conference and an Epiphany

by on Oct.04, 2015, under - Show All Posts, Abstract Philosophical Musings

The Silicon Valley Intelligentsia were here in force (at least the meditation-oriented subset).

Notes: Scratch Notes from Transformative Technology Conference (Google doc)

I learned about the difference between satori and samadhi today, the peak states in Zen and yoga meditation respectively (Dr James Hardt’s talk). Both are characterized by maxed alpha waves across the brain, but there is a key difference:

Satori – The peak state in Zen. One can ring a bell next to a Zen master in satori a thousand times and elicit the same level of surprise, i.e. alpha wave block then return to maxed alpha waves shortly after. <> William Blake #quote: “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern. ~William Blake, The Doors of Perception 

Samadhi – the peak state in yoga. Yogi can put hand in ice bucket and have no alpha wave block. It’s like the yogi’s consciousness is somewhere besides the body.

Later, I had an epiphany which was really a recollection, in which I realized that I have found something that feels as robustly blissful and inspiring as samadhi. I remembered why IdeaFlow is different from all other projects in the world — the thoughts that consoled and inspired me through the toughest times of my past — and why I am working on it: the full project is not done until literally everyone in the world is happy, including me. This means I don’t have to “fear” competitors because there are only two possibilities:  I have a project to complete that nobody has done and it is great service and a great startup, or someone else has already made everyone in the world happy, including me. So either way I don’t have to worry. Completion of The Project equates to turning the world into a true utopia. So until this has happened, I have nothing to worry about competitor-wise. And at that point I really have nothing to worry about!

This suddenly re-enchanted the world for me and gave me access once again to a profound perspective from which to interpret reality. For instance, I realized why it bothers me so viscerally and persistently whenever I don’t get along with someone I meet. Coming into harmony with everybody in the world is my ideal, if I’m not in harmony with a person, that’s an open gestalt for me. And creating new open gestalts bothers me so deeply because completion of The Project equates to closing all the world’s open gestalts. So when I create new ones, it’s like I’m creating more work for myself and moving the project which I care about most about in the world backwards! So, to everyone I haven’t gotten along with ever, hang tight, I’m coming to make things better before all is done.

Even thinking about working on The Project of making literally everybody in the world happy instantly jumps me to this completely blissful and inspired state and gives me incredible purpose. And the fact that my own happiness is guaranteed either way, whether I’m working on It or someone else beats me to it, makes this peace imperturbable, like samadhi — even if The Project occasionally requires me to do the mental equivalent of shoving my hand in an ice bucket. 

Bonus: (continue reading…)

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Understanding the The God Paradigm

by on May.08, 2015, under - Show All Posts, Abstract Philosophical Musings

From A Buddhist/Vedantic Reading of the Brothers Karamazov, an essay I wrote on The Brothers Karamazov for Harvard’s Slavic 155. The cited book Religiousness in Yoga by Desikachar is especially worth reading.

Goal:  Explain my understanding of how all computers and thinking/living things are channeling the vast computational power of the universe, how intention and motivation arise from this sunlike source of energy, and how finding a way of existence that flows with this source of energy is what is meant by being inspired by “the holy spirit.”          

The God Paradigm

How do we come to personally understand what is meant by the idea of Christian God short of having transcendent experiences? Below I propose a model of doing so that is fundamentally Buddhist or Vedic, though it was derived from modern scientific thinking (which is, in a way, Buddhist). To explain, I will trace you along the steps of my own realization.

This journey began when I was in high school, hiking during a thunderstorm. I was pondering, with some trepidation, how the path of lightning bolts are determined. Suddenly I was struck (by an idea) – if the lightning bolts somehow took some sort of shortest path, could you use them – a natural phenomenon — to solve the computational shortest path problem? As it turns out, this insight didn’t pan out, but the idea stuck with me: to what extent can nature itself actually solve computational problems? It turned out, this was the entrance this was the beginning of a complete revolution in thought for me. Soon, I came to realize that all computers do is follow the laws of physics, and that, as it seems, the universe itself — nature — is what is performing the “computing” that they do. Each instant of time, the universe computes its next state from the previous, in the process moving the processing elements of computers to their next states. All our computers do is channel a small portion of the greater universal computational capacity and use it to process some information we can perceive! This was profound.

But the profounder connection still came when I realized that brains themselves, which do things as fantastic as produce our personal feelings and motivations — our consciousness — if they follow the laws of physics too (as we believe they do), aren’t actually producing our motivations “themselves,” but instead, each tick of time are just having their the next state computed from their previous state by the physics engine of the universe. We, and computers, and all objects moving in the physical world, are animated by this incredible causal “force” that causes time to move forward. So that made me ask: what is this great computational force that gives rise to the movement of all things moment by moment — to inanimate objects, to computers, to brains? What is this great computational capacity that my mind, and your mind, and my computer, are merely channeling? And why does it compute anyway?

This suddenly gave me a glimmer of understanding of what God was for the first time, and I suddenly glimpsed what the religious mean when they say that we are figments in the imagination of the “mind of God.” In my model, I could construe the “mind of God” to mean the whole universe — all things, including us personally, even our minds and our bodies — are but small processing elements being shuttled around by the animus of physics in a much larger system. The notion that God transcends and includes me enabled me to see how even a deist (noninterventionist) God would be a truly conscious entity — in the same way you or I are, because it is the very thing from which our consciousness flows! We are just a piece of its consciousness. Suddenly I understood the God paradigm, its elegance, and its explanatory usefulness. (continue reading…)

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Why I record words and thoughts

by on Oct.27, 2012, under - Show All Posts, Abstract Philosophical Musings

“what are you into?”

Only when your words go away do you realize how precious they are, how even dumb and wrong words are precious because the miracle is that we have any words at all. That’s why I record them now, because I think I know what it’s like for them to go away, and I’m astounded that they exist at all. Patterns that never needed recording before because they were obvious truth, are magical and powerful.

Everything I do tells you something about me, even the dumbest assertion, the least relevant quote, and when you look back at your past self with the wondering eye of a historian, whatever it was becomes precious.

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Being Present

by on Aug.09, 2012, under - Show All Posts, Abstract Philosophical Musings

When the mind is not thinking about something else, but here. This is among the biggest of big ideas, and perhaps the root of happiness itself.

“We become conditioned. We appear to be acting with attention but there is no attention but there is no attention. We are functioning but we are not present. Yoga tries to create a condition in which we are always present in every action, at every moment.” ~Desikachar, Religiousness in Yoga

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Does brain structure hint at nature of problem solving?

by on Aug.04, 2012, under - Show All Posts, Abstract Philosophical Musings

I notice that at any point in my life I am capable on reentering the behavior patterns of any previous point in my life if I focus and relax, and that I use this same process of recollecting previous patterns of my life to subsume new patterns empathetically from other people.  While this isn’t news at all, it’s awesome because it means that (at least per my subjective perception) my brain’s functional architecture reflects the fact that spatial and temporal distance are fundamentally analogous concepts. The brain exploits the symmetry for ease of processing! Good class structure -> better and more extendable app/framework! It’s as if it models those fundamental relationships into its application-specific architecture!
I wonder what other hints to the structure of the universe you can figure out from the way the brain’s problem-solving structures are organized? (In general, I’m boggled by the idea that all computers/minds are actually just channeling the computing power of the larger quantum computer of the universe that animates their processing elements)
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Parallel Existence

by on Oct.19, 2011, under - Show All Posts, Abstract Philosophical Musings

To the cat, which sleeps 22 out of 24 hours a day which is more real?  The dreams, the parallel, imagined lives that occupy more than 90% of its awareness, or the physical world and physical body that seed and maintain those dreams?  The fact that that a computer program is dependent on the physical hardware of the machine for existence (it is the computer’s “dream”) makes it no less valuable or real. just the same, the power of words is undeniable despite the fact that they only influence the physical world through the actions we take as a result of them.

The only reason, I think, we put so much stock in the physical world is because it demands so much of our conscious intentions to survive.

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by on Feb.09, 2011, under - Show All Posts, Abstract Philosophical Musings

What happens to the characters in all of the great stories after the tale is over and they’ve gone on to live an idyllic future for eternity? What happens to Vincent in the movie Gattaca after he’s made it onto the spaceship, and flies off into the stars to return to a truer home than he ever knew on earth? While the story ends, his life does not, and what I would like to know is how life feels now that he has achieved his greatest dream. What did it feel like to achieve that dream, and what is his life when he gets back home to Earth? Is everything changed irrevocably? Has he crossed some sort of Rubicon?   One imagines that by fulfilling such as deep-seated desire he would have attained a certain nirvana and see the world through a permanent lens of peace. Maybe we should ask real world people who have achieved something of similar magnitude. What was life like for Andrew Wiles after he proved Fermat’s last theorem and achieved the single greatest great dream of his life? Does everything change? We always postulate in some vague way that these people must find some sort of great enlightenment, find a great peace from which it is impossible to ever return. But these people are still living their lives, and they’re still humans, and nothing fundamentally has changed but a few bits of information in their minds. Having lived a proximate version of such a story, I ask this question because I want to find a character like this I can relate to whose life is written by a more brilliant author than myself, whose beautiful stories can provide a model for my own actions and help me substantiate this vague but brilliant beauty I always imagined lay in my future, that I always could see in the distance, but never looked into or past. The unknown can be the source of our greatest fears, but it is also true that in its raw amorphous shape we can see every brilliant future we can imagine is possible to sculpt. To the sculptor, which is more beautiful, an actual sculpture of David or a perfect block of stone that can be David, Saint Teresa in ecstasy, the gates of hell, laocoon and sons, discobolos at once? I suppose that this only depends on the vividness of the artist’s imagination (Note: from a neuroscience perspective, while our memories can prime our visual centers to see something more readily, in normal people it’s not sufficient to generate phenomenal perception of the thing during waking hours. But in our dreams? That is another question.)

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