Sunday, November 12, 2017

More On The Mass Murders That Are Happening

            I’ve decided to delve a little further into the nature of the causes of the massacres that are all too common in today’s world. We now have the truck mass murder that just occurred in New York to add to the list.  And the church mass murder in Sutherland Springs, Texas.  Different kinds of causes have been discussed for these massacres.  In the terms of my model, there has been discussion of defined discrete focused specific causes which have been called figure causes, and the more nebulous causes that come from different configurations of stimuli in one’s living environment and which have been called here environment causes.  And environment causes can be broken down into causes coming from environments dominated by flowing blendable continual stimuli – which are more organic ground causes – and causes coming from environments filled with bundles of defined discrete stimuli, bundles of abrasive friction, which are tension-pocket causes and, finally, causes from environments filled with infinite continuous stimuli, filled with nothingness, which are vacuum causes.

            People today are living in environments dominated by configurations of vacuum and tension-pocket stimuli, pockets of overstimulation surrounded by understimulation.  But underneath everything today is the foundation of an experiential vacuum which we are pushing into deeper and deeper in order to create lives that are more frictionless and mediated.  This, in turn, pushes us into greater and greater numbness and into experiencing more and more the feeling of a living death.  To fight this sensory distortion, more and more of us find ourselves modeling ourselves after complex machines, computers, robots, and avatars.  But many of us are unable to do this effectively, and many of us don’t want to do it effectively.  So to pull out of this living situation, many of us use chance encounters with other people as springboards for getting angry and then feeling alive.  Real angry, so that we practically feel like exploding.  And then we release this built-up anger by going out and killing other people.  It doesn’t have to be impulsive.  The built-up anger can lead to creating a plan ahead of time that will allow the perpetrator to kill as many people as possible.

            In a physical vacuum, collisions are magnified.  Something knocks against something else and is sent flying a much greater distance than would occur in an environment where gravitational forces prevail.  In the same way, numb people can overreact to chance slights and feel a need to maybe attack the cause of the slight, a particular person, but also to attack lots of innocent people.  Sometimes the particular person who generated the slight can be overlooked and only innocent people are attacked.  The response to the slight is an explosive event that temporarily pulls a person out of his numbness.

            But because we are dealing with chance slights here, there is practically no way that society can control what is a trigger or a tripwire for this horrific behavior.  These are random events, just like the kinds of events that occur often among any floating figures in a vacuum.  A vacuum environment is going to produce random explosive events among the figures floating within it.  There is no way of effectively anticipating and controlling all these explosive events in a vacuum environment.

            Perhaps an appropriate analogy is that of some other random events that have been recently happening.  I’m talking about the terrible wildfires that have been occurring in the Western United States and particularly in Northern California.  These fires occur there, because the climate is so dry and, in particular, the vegetation can become so dry.  There is so little rain.  And lightning or the slightest little spark from a campfire can set off an enormous reaction of a raging fire.  There is no way of preventing all the random events that start fires in these very dry areas.  One can tell campers to be careful, but the dry environment still creates a situation that predisposes the transformations of trivial carelessness into relatively serious conflagrations.  And a person who wants to start a fire has an easy time in this environment.  Which is why such a person would be drawn to such an environment.  Finally, no one can control for lightning. So, in short, a random event can definitely trigger a fire, but perhaps the deeper more persistent cause of the fires that occur in the Western part of the United States is the dry climate and dry vegetation.

            By the same token, more murderers like Stephen Paddock wouldn’t be predisposed to commit their despicable actions, if they hadn’t been made so numb by the experiential vacuum that surrounds them in their modern technological environment and by all the consumer technology in which they immerse themselves.  This consumer technology – movies, television, video games computers, smartphones, tablets, and, increasingly, virtual reality technology – puts them in worlds where their daily life experience tends to be very frictionless and very mediated.  This frictionless, mediated experience is considered something that is very desirable, because it seems very comfortable and very safe.  It prevents people from having to confront directly the dangers and risks of life in external world reality.  But the consequence of this immersion in all of this ongoing frictionless, mediated experience is that people start feeling more and more numbness, and they sink more and more into a living death.  Many people in this situation resort to some kind of overstimulating kicks to temporarily pull themselves out of their numbness.  Dance clubs with loud music and strobe lights, motorcycles, and drugs.  But some people, who are profoundly numb, feel a need to recur to very explosive, destructive experiences in order to pull themselves out of this experiential situation.  It is experience that can temporarily put them solidly in the substantive external world.

            All of us who immerse ourselves in consumer technology are ultimately immersing ourselves in an experiential vacuum that is making us numb.  So many of us become so profoundly numb, that we become like the dried-out lifeless vegetation out West that threatens to catch fire as a result of the slightest little spark from lightning or a camp fire or a pyromaniac.  Just like the fire brings the dried-out vegetation into a brief very intense kind of life, so the smallest irritation, slight, or conflict can bring a profoundly numb person into a brief very intense feeling of life by turning him into a mass murderer.

            We can’t prevent all the irritations, slights, or conflicts that a profoundly numb person could possibly experience.  But what we can do is try to minimize the time that people spend in the screen reality (and increasingly virtual reality) created by consumer technology.  We can limit the total amount of time that young people spend in front of a screen or in a virtual world.  We can encourage them to engage the real external world as much as possible and to participate in primary experiences – arts, sports, community and social groups and, of course, reading hard copy books – as much as possible.  This will help to prevent them from sinking into a dangerous profound numbness in the first place, and help them to develop a more organic coherent sense of self that is capable of carrying on a meaningful life narrative, making, receiving and preserving organic imprints, having rich vibrant life experiences, and preparing for death with a surrogate immortality.

            Consumer technology is so much a part of modern life that it would be hard to totally eliminate it.  But by significantly limiting its use, we may be able to eliminate the zombie effect that comes from becoming more and more like the machines we use.  It is certainly worth trying this idea.  We have got to stop making life, particularly for young people, so frictionless and mediated.  Otherwise the mass murders will never stop. 

(c) 2017 Laurence Mesirow 

What Really Caused The Las Vegas Massacre

            The massacre that occurred a short time ago in Las Vegas has everyone there as well as in the rest of the United States scared and bewildered.  Scared, because now that such an unusually enormous rampaging act has been carried out successfully, Americans are worried that it could happen again.  Bewildered, because there seems to be no obvious motive for the gunman Stephen Paddock to have perpetrated such an act.  He was not a member of a right-wing extremist group or an Islamic terrorist group.  For the most part, he had an ordinary kind of life.  He had held several jobs with government agencies and had become a successful investor with real estate.  He had been married and divorced twice and had no known children.  One unusual thing in his life history is that his father had been a bank robber.  But many people have criminals in their families and don’t commit mass murders.  When you’re a bank robber, you’re trying to get a lot of money to enrich yourself.  What is the rational reason for trying to kill a lot of people with whom you have no connection?

            The purpose of this article is not to find the one cause that explains everything around the massacre event.  But it will attempt to give a very important cause that is normally not focused on in situations of this nature.  It is the same cause that has been suggested in this column as the foundation for the heroin epidemic.  It is also the same cause that has been given for the popularity of Donald Trump among such a large group of the American people.  I am talking about the sensory distortion found in today’s vacuum and tension-pocket living environments.  As has been discussed, people get burnt out and jaded from the tension-pocket patches of the environment, which are filled with overstimulation.  But it’s the experiential vacuum, the large swath of the environment that is understimulating - all the frictionless experiences, all the mediated experiences - that particularly is going to concern us here.  It is all this frictionless and mediated experience that prevents people from getting the traction they need to live meaningful life narratives: from being able to have rich vibrant life experiences, from being able to make, receive and preserve organic imprints, and from being able to properly prepare for death by creating a surrogate immortality.

            So how does one deal with this sensory distortion?  There are several ways.  One way is to try and fight the numbness through the abrasive friction, the kicks, that can be found in a drug like heroin.  Which is why there is such an epidemic of heroin use among ordinary people today.  Another way is to immerse oneself in the abrasive kicks generated by Trump’s aggressive attacks on others and by his unpredictable changes of policy.  What to a more liberal rational person would seem to be totally inappropriate behavior on the part of a president is something loved and encouraged by a large group of very numb Americans.  Trump provides these people with a vicarious abrasive life narrative.  They elected Trump to shake things up in Washington, to explode Washington apart.  And we are all transfixed by his controversial tweets and unpredictable actions that, whether we like it or not, shake us all up on a daily basis.  But it’s his supporters who vicariously participate in the imprints created by his actions, and who, in so doing, are able to intermittently pull themselves out of the numbness they experience from their own private experiential vacuums.

            And yet there are people who don’t use drugs or Donald Trump to get the abrasive friction they need to pull themselves out of their numbness.  They don’t fight off numbness through internal experiences like drugs.  They don’t do it through vicarious experiences like identifying with Donald Trump.  Instead, they do it with their own directed active experiences in the external world. More precisely, they leave abrasive big bang imprints in the external world through actions that will be remembered by people for a long time.  These are people who upon examination seem to be living very ordinary unexceptional lives.  And, of course, this may be exactly where the problem lies.

            Now there is one pattern of behavior in Stephen Paddock that, independent of the massacre, does demonstrate a desire to have a direct explosive impact on his external environment.  I am talking about his predilection to gamble with large sums of money.  In the period before the mass murder,  Paddock was betting up to $10,000 a day.  This represents not only a desire to make money in unconventional ways, but a desire to beat the odds of the casinos.  To leave a big memorable imprint by taking big risks, but reaping big rewards at the expense of the casinos.  Okay, perhaps there is a connection between the father’s desire to “beat the system” by robbing banks and Stephen Paddock’s desire to “beat the system” by winning big at the casinos.

            But this still does not explain the massacre of innocent people.  Robbing banks is what could be called a more conventional illegal action, while gambling large sums of money on a regular basis can be called a conventional legal addiction.  And yet from a certain perspective, perhaps there is a connection between these more conventional activities and the massacre.  A massacre can be thought of as simply an exponentially greater action to leave big imprints on the experiential surface of society.  Rather than breaking the bank by winning large sums, it’s tearing the fabric of society apart through mass murder.  And it is perhaps here that the deeper motivation lies in many of Stephen Paddock’s actions.  He experienced an unusually deep numbness from the experiential vacuum that surrounded him.  The only way that he could pull himself out of this numbness, which was like a living death for him, was to generate intense abrasive disruptive actions which could blow society apart.  The numbness led to a profound sense of impotence.  He couldn’t get traction in the frictionlessness, the excessive mediation that he experienced in daily life.  And unlike most of us who live in modern technological society and experience some of this numbness, he was particularly sensitive to it.  He needed the tension pocket kicks of big explosive actions in order to feel alive.  Really big explosive actions.

            Some criticisms of this theory could be that it is too speculative and that it doesn’t deal with specific clues that may be present, clues that can lead to the specific thoughts that he was thinking that, in turn, can lead us to his specific motives.   The lack of specific motives present is  driving law enforcement and the news media crazy.  They want to find specific motives, so that they can magically get some kind of control over the situation.  If they understood the specific motives, perhaps it will be able to lead society to be able to prevent such horrific massacres in the future.

            But what if specific motives can never be discovered.  Like all social philosophy, there is a speculative component to the ideas presented here.  And the cause herein presented will appear too nebulous and inchoate to some.  Furthermore, there aren’t any immediate solutions offered.  Certainly, we need to find ways to have people engage in primary experience as much as possible on a daily basis.  Direct engagement with the world.  And to have them try and avoid the sensory distortion, as much as possible, created by modern consumer technology.  We as a society need to start encouraging forms of experience that don’t understimulate and, in contrast, that don’t overstimulate through abrasive kicks.

            The believers in Donald Trump are also people suffering from profound numbness and impotence and people who like the abrasive friction he provides through his aggressive tweets and his flip-flops in policy in order that they can feel alive.  The same numbness and impotence can be found among today’s heroin addicts.  If we can start seeing the connection between all these different pathological behavioral expressions in modern technological society, perhaps it will lead us to develop some long-term systems changes such that these expressions considered here as well as others are diminished in the frequency of their manifestation.

            As for Stephen Paddock, I don’t have a clue as to the specific cause, what in this case Aristotle would have called the efficient cause,  that provoked him to massacre the people at the music festival.  The point made here is that Paddock’s profound numbness, as manifested in his gambling addiction, was like a tripwire, something that predisposed him to exaggerated reactions when something impacted his mind.  He could use the irritation as a challenge not only to get rid of the irritation, but also to temporarily pull out of his numbness.  A little irritation can be a springboard to an explosive reaction in people with his mental state.  If we want to diminish this kind of mass murder, we have to find a way to lead people in modern technological society out of this profound numbness.  Which means creating living environments that are more filled with organic fields of stimulation where people can have rich vibrant experiences, can make, receive, and preserve meaningful organic imprints, can live meaningful life narratives and prepare for death with meaningful surrogate immortalities.  Then there would be fewer zombie-like people, such as Stephen Paddock.

            Sensory distortion, and in particular the experiential vacuum, is the ground cause, what Aristotle in this case would have called the material cause, that is predisposing a lot of people to overreact in a lot of different destructive ways.  The focused figure cause, the efficient cause, can be something relatively insignificant in proportion to the destructiveness of the response.  This is why it is very likely we will never discover what specifically caused Stephen Paddock to plan his horrific mass murder.  But it doesn’t matter.  What we have to focus on is those aspects of our living environment over which we have some control.  The frictionless mediated screen realities that we all increasingly live in are creating a lot of people who become predisposed to explosive reactions to temporarily pull themselves out of their numbness.  People who are more numb than most and therefore more desperate to find their own big bangs to lift themselves out of their living deaths.  It is hard to identify these people in advance.  So for all of us, we have to find ways to bring people away from screen reality (and increasingly virtual reality) and bring them back into a life that is lived more in external world reality.  Both in the short run and in the long run, we are all really a part of the solution.

(c) 2017 Laurence Mesirow

An Epidemic That Is Sweeping Up Our Young People

            There is a lot of coverage in the news lately of an epidemic that is sweeping the world, although its worst outbreak seems to be in the United States.  It’s not an epidemic with a microorganism that spreads with contagion from person to person.  Rather, people spread the illness directly to one another.  And we are talking about a very dangerous illness here.

            What is this illness that is being discussed so much on television and radio, and in newspapers and magazines?  Heroin addiction.  Upper middle class fifteen year old teenagers are shooting up heroin.  In the U.S., government officials are declaring heroin addiction a national emergency and are pushing to set up enough treatment centers to adequately confront the problem.  Certainly, treatment centers are an important part of dealing with heroin addiction.  But another part that is just as important, maybe more important, is trying to determine what is causing this epidemic, and why is it occurring at this time in history.

            Those of you who have been steady readers of this column know that the problem of drug use has appeared here several times.  So now may be a good time to review some of what has appeared before.  First of all, before we go into what causes heroin addiction, I’d like to discuss different kinds of causality.  Most of us in the Western world have been brought up to think that causality occurs when one kind of defined discrete entity or phenomenon has an impact on another kind of defined discrete entity or phenomenon.  This is what has been called figure causality in this column.  It is a more measurable causality, because both the causal agent and the consequences of the cause have defined discrete boundaries.  It is a causality that lends itself to understanding through scientific experiments and scientific observation.  It is a causality, the understanding of which gives humans a sense of control and dominion over entities and phenomena in such a way that they are susceptible to scientific understanding.  This is why modern technological humans like to believe that most processes in the universe can be understood in terms of figure causality.  Figure causality allows people to believe that they can ultimately be masters of almost everything they encounter.

            The problem is that there are many life situations that keep appearing where models of understanding based on figure causality have not led to effective solutions of problems.  Certainly the epidemics of drug use that have ravaged modern society have not been susceptible to resolution by specific focused solutions up until now.   Since when I was growing up in the 1960’s, there have been waves of popularity of different drugs.  But no matter what we have tried to implement to combat drug use, nothing has really worked.  Now that heroin is becoming a drug of choice among all sectors of society, it becomes important that we start to shift our thinking to consider not only new previously unconsidered causes, but also new kinds of causes entirely.  Only when we can properly identify a cause can we properly come up with a way of dealing with the problem.

            So perhaps we have been focusing on the wrong kind of cause in assessing not only the heroin epidemic, but also other kinds of drug epidemics that we have experienced in modern society.  Perhaps the cause is not one particular focused entity or phenomenon, but rather a whole living environment.  A living environment that has a configuration of stimuli that subtly impels people to take a drug like heroin.  Those of you who have read this column for a while will be familiar with my discussions about how modern technology has succeeded in creating living environments that are overly frictionless, excessively understimulating in order to protect people from the organic perishability found in more natural living environments.  We have believed that making the world more and more frictionless is what people need, is what people really want.  But sustained frictionlessness, sustained understimulation, makes people feel numb, not fully alive.  Too numb to have rich vibrant lives, too numb to make, receive and preserve organic imprints, too numb to properly prepare for death with a surrogate immortality.

            In addition, making a living environment frictionless means creating a lot of waste products as the friction-filled aspects of a living environment are compressed and pushed aside.  These friction-filled phenomena can never be totally eliminated from a field of experience and end up being experienced by humans as overstimulating stimuli, abrasive friction that can’t be properly absorbed.  Things like overcrowding, noise pollution, air pollution, speeding vehicles, and stress from the accelerated rhythms of modern work, where we have to act like machines.

            In my recent articles there has been a focus on the understimulating stimuli, or frictionlessness, as a causal factor, because people have been concerned about the negative effects of overstimulation for a long time, and understimulation has always seemed like such a desirable experiential state.  Nevertheless, one of the things that has been pointed out in this column is that overstimulation and understimulation can form a system and people can bounce back and forth between the two extreme states to try to obtain the balance of stimuli that they would be more likely to have if they still lived in a more natural living environment filled with organic stimuli.  Also, sometimes people may try to drown out an understimulation that overwhelms them with an understimulation they can control.  So yoga, meditation and calming drugs can be used to drown out numbness and boredom from a vacuum external living environment filled with minimalist modern architecture, pavement and asphalt covering over the ground and frictionless machines and computers that create frictionless mini living environments in the forms of screen reality and virtual reality.  In addition, such controlled vacuum living environments also can help people to withdraw from the stress and tension created by an overstimulating patch of living environment, a tension pocket, filled with abrasive friction.  Finally, selected controlled overstimulation such as dance clubs with loud electronic music and strobe lights as well as loud motorcycles can also help people to overcome undesired abrasive stress as well as numbness and boredom. 

            So the sensory distortion created by modern technology results in complex configurations of understimulation and overstimulation which, in turn, results in vacuum and tension pocket living environments.  And people confront these living environments with their own particular defensive patterns of responses in order to survive.  Ultimately the most stable mindset to adopt is that of becoming like a robot or an avatar in order to become as impervious as possible to the sensory extremes with which one is presented.  But the problem is that there are many people who are not successful in adopting this mindset.  They are incapable of toughing it out that much.

            Many of the people who are trying to deal with the sensory distortion that surrounds them, resort to drugs.  Heroin seems to be a drug of choice today among suburbanites and residents of small towns in rural areas.  Affluent suburban youth use heroin, because their lives have become so frictionless, so effortlessly comfortable, that they can’t get any traction to go on living day to day.  They are bored and they are numb, and they need some explosive kicks to feel alive.  One would think that people in small towns who live close to nature would feel some benefits from the resulting organic stimulation in their surroundings.  But even in rural areas, the excessive involvement with modern machines and with screen reality – movies, television, video games, computers, smartphones, and tablets – has reconfigured people’s capacities to not only connect but also interact with nature.  The technology has supplanted the natural surroundings as the actual living environment among which many rural people live.  Technology has also made life frictionless for rural people, such that they no longer experience the rich organic friction that comes from primary experience interaction with natural surroundings.

            This sensory distortion from the vacuum and tension pocket living environments in which people dwell today represents the nebulous inchoate grounding cause that is creating the surge in heroin use.  When I was growing up, jazz musicians were considered decadent for using this drug.  But now upper-middle class teenagers are also using it.  We have to find a way to introduce organic friction, to introduce traction from organic surfaces in people’s fields of experiences.  Among other things, people have to be gradually weaned away from such an excessive reliance on screen reality, which has become a very imperfect substitute for a life narrative in the external world.  The solution to the heroin epidemic is long-term and complex and involves moving in a direction of awareness about what we have become as human beings that most people today will find a great deal of resistance in doing.

© 2017 Laurence Mesirow

Paradise For A Couch Potato

            At a trade show in Berlin, Panasonic was showing a bit of gadgetry based on smart technology that is going to knock the socks off of inveterate couch potatoes.  We’re talking about a Movable Fridge, a refrigerator that moves from voice commands.  Now Panasonic tries to point out how this contraption could serve the needs of the elderly, and people who can’t move around a lot.  But you and I know that this is also going to fit the needs of all the people who are hooked on screens.  Not only television, but video games and computers.  After all, why should a person break off his ongoing gaze on a screen in order to fill his stomach with some snack?

            I know I am being sarcastic here, but it is sarcasm I am using in order to make a point.  The Movable Fridge is an enabler for keeping a person hooked on screen reality.  Up until now, a person had to break his connection with a screen if he wanted to get some edibles and drinkables.  He had to get up from his place in front of a screen, off his ass, and walk into the kitchen.  If what he wanted was something that was meant to be served cold or, at least, had to be preserved in a cold space, he had to get it out of the refrigerator.  Then he had to walk it back to the screen.  In the process, not only did he briefly get some physical exercise, but he also briefly reconnected to the external world, to primary experience reality, where phenomena had matter, mass, and substance.  In the process, the phenomena that he encountered on the way to the kitchen and in the kitchen were able to mirror the matter, mass, and substance that he experienced in himself as a flesh-and-blood living entity in the external world.  He was able to temporarily undo the vacuumizing effects that came from sitting in front of all the vacuumized phenomena that were to be found on a screen.

            It was not only the end goal of getting cold edibles and drinkable that was important in satisfying needs of the screen viewer.  It was also the unintended effects of going back briefly to external world reality that was important in satisfying the unconscious need to be a substantive flesh-and-blood human being.  Those brief journeys to the refrigerator helped to periodically devacuumize a person and restore his humanity, so that he didn’t simply turn into an avatar of himself.

            In other words, those trips to the fridge were for many people the only meaningful life narrative that they had for large chunks of their waking life.  Not so meaningful perhaps in terms of making and preserving organic imprints, but at least meaningful in terms of receiving some organic imprints and experiencing some flow of life in a non-vacuumized living environment.  People need breaks from screens if they want to remain organic human beings.  They need some sensory friction in the external world, even if it is just the walking over the floor, and the opening and closing of the refrigerator door, taking the food and/or drink out of the refrigerator, putting what they are going to consume on a plate, in a bowl or in a glass, putting what they don’t want back in the refrigerator, and carrying what they are consuming back into the screen room.  All these activities allow for the creation of sensory connections to the external world.

            If the Movable Fridge becomes popular, it means that the only interruption to the trance that screen viewers are in with regard to their fixed gaze on a screen will be some brief commands to the Fridge to come to them.  When it arrives, of course there will be a partial break in the intensity of the focus, as the screen viewers will have to reach out a hand to open the Fridge door and take out what they want.  It’s a partial distraction, but a brief one.  Certainly not as intense or long as a viewer getting up from his chair and breaking his connection entirely with a screen.

            The longer a person remains with a fixed stare on the vaccumized phenomenon of a television, video game, or computer screen, the more vacuumized he becomes psychologically and the more he becomes like his own avatar.  Going to the refrigerator at least is a partial corrective.  What will happen with the Movable Fridge reminds me of the adolescent boys who use diapers so they don’t have to break off their connection to video games that they are playing.

            Ah yes!  For people who are addicted to screens and who don’t use diapers, there is still the matter of bathroom breaks.  Don’t they provide a break in the connection with a screen?  Yes they do, but I have no doubt that with all the developments in today’s technology that a smart toilet cannot be far behind a smart refrigerator.  All one will need is a few commands and a smart portable potty will be able to come to the couch potato, so that the latter can relieve himself and still stay connected to the screen that he is watching.  Granted that if people are sitting together, modesty might become a concern.  But for a true couch potato – or desk chair potato if a person is with a computer in his home office or bedroom – if he is sitting by himself, why not let him feel free to express himself and satisfy his bathroom needs without worrying about social custom?  Let us make as many people as possible severely addicted to the screen.  Let us turn as many people as we possibly can into their own avatars.  This is what smart technology is capable of doing.  If we only let it.

(c) 2017 Laurence Mesirow

Taking The Sporting Life Out of Sports

            It seems that no area of modern life can escape being technologized.  Take sports, for example.  A company called DribbleUp has already invented and marketed a smart basketball, and is in the process of marketing a smart soccer ball.  The basketball is tracked by an app on a smartphone that uses the smartphone’s camera and pulls together thousands of data points to analyze a player’s techniques and guide him to improve his dribbling technique.  The player learns from watching a virtual trainer on his phone go through drills and then imitating him.  The ball is tracked by algorithms that lock onto the ball and follow it.  There evidently are other balls manufactured by other companies that actually have sensors inside of the balls.  It would seem that such sensors as well as batteries add unnecessary weight to the ball.  DribbleUp is the only company that has created a system for tracking a ball that doesn’t have internal sensors or batteries.

            So you too can become a master dribbler in basketball or a master kicker in soccer by taking the DribbleUp path.  But there is a price that is going to be paid for the acquisition of these skills using all this smart technology.  Sports, in a certain way, traditionally have had elements of an art in them.  Technique was a matter of developing certain flowing blendable continual movements that were appropriate for achieving the ends of a particular sport.  This was true both for sports that had a projectile in them as well as racing sports and sports that involved martial arts.  Developing technique in a sport involved modifying the way an athlete experienced himself.  It involved briefly lifting himself out of the flow of his life through guidance and practice drills in order to then reinsert himself as a practicing athlete with reconfigured methods in the flow of his athletic play.  But the corrections were never meant to be of such a nature as to potentially disturb the coherence of his sense of self, the coherence of his flow of movement.  And this is because each sport was an art, and a good player had to remain coherent in order to maximize the quantity and quality of the organic imprints that he made in playing his game.  To be a good player requires not only that he be able to make the right moves but that he has the coherence of self to be able to make the judgements as to which right move to apply in which situation, and also that he be able to blend these moves or string them together in order to be able to make effective complete plays.

            In DribbleUp, a player learns an aspect of a sport not so much through a flowing blendable continual experience of movement, but on the basis of thousands of data points, thousands of micro-events that not only pixilate his movements, fragment his movements, in order to put them back together in a perfect expression, but also pixilate or fragment his sense of self.  An advanced complex behavioral entity that lacks coherence has lost one of the essential components that could be used to define him as a human being.  Such a person is sliding into behaving like and becoming a robot.

            The app on the phone models for a player a particular kind of athletic movement with a robotic precision.  And yet without sound judgement, without the contribution of a coherent sense of self, how does a player experience that he is making and preserving meaningful organic imprints?  To just be trained to make good mechanical responses, how does a person’s play contribute to him experiencing it as part of a rich vibrant life?  How does the flow of his play, a flow that has been broken down into small parts and pixilated, contribute to his interacting organically with his teammates and bonding with them?

            And then the larger question is whether or not we are moving to a time when our whole life narrative will be broken down into pixilated microevents so we can learn to perform our life processes just right.  All of our life processes, both mental and physical, will be taught to us as if they could be thought of as being subject to the rules of mechanical engineering and computer programming.  Perfecting “our right actions” as if there were seldom or even never creative alternatives.

            The two brothers who have created the DribbleUp apps thought they were doing something truly noble, helping young players who can’t afford a personal trainer to perfect their technique on their own.  But the best way to learn how to improve in a sport is by modeling oneself after a living flesh-and-blood human being in external world reality.  That is the way a person improves his play and stays whole and coherent at the same time.  Is it worth improving one’s play at the price of unconsciously becoming a pixilated avatar or a mechanized robot?  That is the real question.  Perhaps it is similar to the question of whether it is worth ruining one’s health by taking steroids in order to become a super athlete.  In all sports, there have been many stars who started their lives in poverty and somehow found a way to rise above it and excel in their respective sports without using DribbleUp or anything analogous to it in order to develop their technique

            And returning to the discussion of applying DribbleUp techniques to our whole life narratives, it would be like putting our whole coherent lives on steroids, so we can become super livers of life, people who perform mainstream life processes in a new and different and superior way.

            So here’s another pathway to follow in order to lose one’s human side. With enough pixilating technique developers in different areas of our lives, we can become our own avatar as well as a super cyborg that performs perfectly in all circumstances.  Of course, life would become flavorless, boring and meaningless.  But that would be a small price to pay in order to have a perfect seamless existence.

(c) 2017 Laurence Mesirow

Becoming A King Or Queen Of The Virtual Reality World

            Imagine being able to play a game in virtual reality.   Only instead of making one’s movements in this alternate world with a controller in the external world of primary experience, one does it simply with one’s thoughts.  One puts on the virtual reality headset and one is ready to navigate the virtual reality world with the same apparent immediacy of experience that one has in the external world.   One manipulates the software involved in the game with one’s brain.  Neurable, the company that is involved in this game project sees it as simply the first step toward total control of one’s digital living environment by one’s thoughts.  These thought control connections that are being created here are called brain-computer interfaces or BCI’s.  It is a little like telekinesis: the use of thought to bend or move things in the external world, except that it occurs only in the virtual world. For instance, one can pick up virtual objects and throw them using one’s brain.

            Supposedly, these BCI’s are going to open up a whole new world of possibilities of human interaction with the computer. Supposedly, these BCI’s are ultimately going to allow for an increase in work productivity, because one won’t have to waste time, energy or state of mind in actual physical movements with one’s hands in computer operations in the external world of primary experience.  In other words, transforming work activity in the primary experience world, to BCI work activity in virtual reality (and augmented reality) allows it to be much more frictionless and therefore speeds up work activity.  It is as if life had not already become frictionless enough just with computers alone, using vacuumized spaces on the screen where one has to perform various computer operations with external world computer keys.  How incredibly cumbersome and laborious using real computer keys will soon seem.

            So what are the implications of Neurable’s new game and new technological research?  First of all, it means adding another layer of mediation to a person’s experiencing of the world with modern technology.  No longer will the brain be telling the hand or the foot what to do in a world of virtual reality.  Instead, the brain will be maneuvering the objects in its environment with telekinesis, mind over matter, or more precisely, in this case, mind over vacuumized versions of material entities.  Extremities are unnecessary in Neurable’s world.  But having access to the mind over vacuumized matter in a virtual world will certainly give the user a tremendous sense of power.  And, of course, much of the vacuumized matter will relate to the stuff that is seen on a computer screen.  So one will have a wonderful sense of power while manipulating the world with a virtual keyboard through the phenomena on the computer screen.  If a person could experience ongoing telekinesis in virtual reality and on a computer screen, wouldn’t he feel a strong motivation to spend more and more time in such an environment and less and less time in the real world of primary experience?

            But how does one truly bond with other people and leave organic imprints without spending time living in the external world of primary experience.  A vacuumized imprint is evanescent.  It is fleeting.  Particularly because there is practically no friction involved.  Without organic friction, there are no meaningful imprints.  Without meaningful organic imprints, a person can’t live a rich vibrant life or prepare for death with a surrogate immortality based on preserved imprints.

            And the more one finds that he can’t make and preserve meaningful organic imprints with BCI’s, the harder he is going to try to feel authentically alive, and the harder he is going to try and exert his virtual power in his virtual world.  And the more solipsistic and megalomaniacal he will become, as he desperately tries to engage with and bond with the virtual surfaces of his newfound field of experience.

            The sense of a primary experience world that involves the ongoing use of touching seems to be totally missing in a world based on BCI’s.  And yet a person will experience an enormous sense of power from the apparent telekinetic skills he evinces in his virtual living environment.  But, on one level, it is a false sense of power, a bogus sense of power, because the person is not making any bonded organic imprints, not preserving any lasting imprints.  The combination of the ease of the telekinetic process in the person’s virtual world and the lack of capacity to leave any bonded or lasting imprints within it creates all the perfect conditions for a person to have a strong addictive attachment to his BCI’s.  Stronger than a young person’s attachment today to video games.  The attachment will result in a person’s increasing involvement in virtual reality and a tendency to push away external world primary experience reality, where the person in no way is able to evince such seemingly strong powerful defined discrete skills.  The increasing lack of use of the sense of touch will result in increasing numbness.  As processes increasingly get transformed into brain thoughts leading quickly to computer operations and results, the whole notion of human narrative, where processes and activities are carried out in the external world in intersubjective real time, will gradually disappear.  Everything that is significant to the flow of human life will happen in the alternate field of experience that is virtual reality.  But because the BCI’s lead to vacuumized compressed processes and activities, the whole notion of meaningful human narrative will shrivel away.   The telekinetic life created by BCI’s will consist of going from brain point A to virtual reality point B with no flowing blendable continual journey in between.  Any meaningful history in a person’s new BCI’s life will cease to exist.  And yet the illusion of a strong feeling of power will keep a person hooked on his virtual reality world.

            This explains the danger in Neurable’s invention.  People will be sucked into the illusion of immense power and, in the process, will lose the opportunity to have a rich vibrant life, to deep bond with other people, to make and preserve organic imprints and to prepare for death with a surrogate immortality.  People have to understand that, in the end, this illusion of immense power will cheat a person out of living a life that will allow him to feel that he has had a life that is truly worth living.

(c) 2017 Laurence Mesirow

Living With A Virtual Ghost

Recently, on an interview for National Public Radio in the United States, a man was explaining how he had done his own extensive interviews with his father, before the latter passed away.  He then used these interviews as the foundation for recreating the mental presence of his father through artificial intelligence after his father died.  In other words, it is as if he can talk with his father again, even though his father is deceased.  So now, whenever he feels lonely for his deceased father, he can use the artificial technology that he has developed to bring his father at least mentally to life.  The man can have connections with this facsimile of his father and feel assuaged in his persistent sense of loss. The man has found a way to keep the presence of his father’s mind around seemingly forever.

One might say that this perpetual maintenance of a facsimile of the father’s mind is the ultimate surrogate immortality for the father.  If the father can’t stay alive forever, at least the apparent presence of his mental activity and his voice can.  But the truth is that when the artificial intelligence technology is being activated, it is conversing like the father might have conversed, but it is not repeating conversations that the father has actually participated in within a particular present social situation.  Furthermore, the artificial intelligence presence of the father was created mostly by the son and not by the father.  In some ways, it is more the preserved imprint of the son rather than the father.

            There is another angle to look at with regard to this situation of the artificial intelligence father, and that is what does the experience of this facsimile father do the son?  Does it have any spillover effects into his actual memories of his father or into his relationship with other living people.   I have talked about a certain phenomenon before in connection with the influence of the experiencing of complex machines and robots by humans.  A person tends to blur together in his mind all the complex behavioral entities in his daily life.  In modern life, this means humans, on the one hand, and complex machines and robots on the other.

            At one time in history, people were surrounded by animals and these were the complex behavioral entities that were blurred with humans in the human mind then. The most obvious manifestation of this blurring has been the totem animals with whom clans within tribes have identified.  The essence of the totem animal, its traits, permeated into the human who identified with it.  Then there are the mythologies in the world where humans and animals combined to form new creatures.  Perhaps the most well-known of these is the centaur, the half-human half-horse that was a part of Greek mythology.

But nowadays the most common complex behavioral entities surrounding people, at least in modern technological societies, are complex machines and robots.  In particular, most people have smartphones and many have laptop computers.  They live with these complex behavioral entities the way people used to live surrounded by wild animals, farm animals and animals for transport.  And formal blurring of people with complex machines and robots has occurred in the form of androids and cyborgs.  And unconscious blurring in which people experience other people as depersonalized mechanical entities is definitely present.

The foundation for this blurring occurs first in the mirroring and modeling that babies and children partake of when they relate to their mother.  Now the mother may be the main source for initial mirroring and modeling, but, even at an early age, the father and other family members and other complex behavioral entities become sources for mirroring and modeling as well.  In today’s world, children are introduced to television, computers. smartphones, even robots, at a very young age. And the point is that it is not only that these complex machines are endowed with human properties as they are blurred together with humans through mirroring and modeling, but humans start to be endowed with machine properties.

In so many ways, we see this today.  There is more and more a tendency to use people only for what they can offer.  Employers are increasingly trying to get workers as part-time employees so that pensions and other benefits can be eliminated.  People like texting rather than talking on the phone so that they can dispense with the formalities and courtesies involved with  normal human conversation.  People increasingly become involved with sexual activity, free from the bonding involved in strong relationships and commitments.  In other words, sex has been reduced for many to a utilitarian process that satisfies basic needs.  A person has friends with benefits.

There is a planned obsolescence built into more human connections today in our modern technological world.  And less and less real human bonding.  People are disposable figures floating in a vacuum.  They tend to not have strong bonding with each other through organic grounding.

So how does all this connect to the artificial intelligence facsimile father.  After all, the purpose in creating this is not planned obsolescence but rather a kind of planned immortality.  Keeping the father alive using modern technology.  The artificial intelligence father is a different kind of complex behavioral entity than most modern machines.  The artificial intelligence father is a vacuumized figure that lacks mass, matter and substance.  It is created by the defined discrete digital processes that are part of a certain kind of digital software.  So it is not a machine itself, but it is dependent upon a machine to survive.  A machine that has the possibility of so many minute processes, that it can give the impression of creating or rather recreating a human consciousness.  And then when we see the impressive conversational skills of an entity like this artificial intelligence father, we begin to believe that we have in our presence a recreation of human consciousness.  But no matter how many minute processes are involved in order to recreate this human consciousness, they are still only defined discrete processes incapable of the organic bonding of a real human being that has real human consciousness.  This artificial intelligence consciousness has no core sense of self.  All it has are interacting defined discrete digital processes.  The processes don’t organically bond to form a coherent sense of self.  And because the processes don’t organically bond with each other – through flowing blendable continual stimuli – they can’t, as a bundle of processes, a bundle of stimuli, really bond with a person.  The man who created the dad bot, on some level, has to know that when it comes to the real presence of his dad in the dad bot, there is no there there.

And to the extent that there is no real presence of a coherent organic sense of self in an artificial intelligence presentation of a person, any illusion of bonding is going to vanish.  Spending as much time pretending to bond with a non-organic entity is time spent where a person doesn’t receive the organic stimulation that he can use to bond with himself.  So it can contribute to the person crumbling apart from spending so much time in a relationship that doesn’t really have organic bonding.  The person’s unplanned obsolescence as a person with a strongly digitally influenced consciousness parallels the planned obsolescence of a machine and modern human workers.

It has been discussed in different articles in this column that there are several different kinds of infinity, not only mathematically but experientially as well.  It has been pointed out that there is a greater infinity of points on a line going from 0 to 1 than the infinity of all the delimited discrete rational numbers.  As a parallel to this comparison between a nondelimited infinity and a delimited infinity, it can be said that there is a greater infinity of organic flowing blendable continual responses of a human than the more defined discrete digital responses of artificial intelligence.  Which means that an artificial intelligence based facsimile of a father, for all of its seeming conversational versatility, is not going to have the same conversational versatility as the deceased father had.  Certainly emotional inflection is going to be missing, because an artificial intelligence entity has no core sense of self.  The responses it has are going to be instrumental rather than stemming from some core essence.

At any rate, the ongoing interaction with the deceased father facsimile will have its effect.  The memory of the organic father is going to start blurring with the apparent mental activity of the artificial intelligence based facsimile of the father.  So the memory of the father is going to become gradually robotized.  And so the vibrant memories of the father are going to become trivialized and diminished.  Perhaps it is just best to leave the vibrant organic coherent memory of the father alone in a more pristine condition.  For all that is apparently gained by keeping a facsimile of the father’s consciousness around, the true essence of the father is clouded over and lost.

© 2017 Laurence Mesirow