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Dr. Kirsten Johnson, M.D., MPH: Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, McGill University; Director, Humanitarian Studies Initiative, McGill University; President, Humanitarian U (Part One)

Dr. Kirsten Johnson

ABSTRACT

Part one of two, interview with Dr. Kirsten Johnson, M.D., MPH.  In it, she discusses: current positions at McGill University, McGill Affiliated University Hospital (MUHC), Humanitarian Studies Initiative, and President of Humanitarian U; growing up in Alberta and British Columbia in addition to Victoria; original dream of being Indiana Jones; major areas of research, Harvard University, Darfur, Chad, and gender-based violence; most recent quantitative research and $27 million dollar Congo research; money to bolster research, descriptive research, admirable trait in practical and applied research, and research project for unlimited funding and unrestricted freedom; the overarching phrase of “Empowerment of Women”; organizing principle for desire to do good in the world; controversial topics and examination of the controversial topics in areas of expertise; the argument against some humanitarian initiatives in opposition to her; and prior interview with Dr. Hawa Abdi.

Keywords: Dr. Kirsten Johnson, Humanitarian Studies Initiative, Humanitarian U, McGill University, United Nations.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Johnson, K. & Jacobsen, S.D. (January 22). Dr. Kirsten Johnson, M.D., MPH (Part One): Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, McGill University; Director, Humanitarian Studies Initiative, McGill University; President, Humanitarian U. In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, 7.ARetrieved from http://in-sightjournal.com/2015/01/22/dr-kirsten-johnson-m-d-mph-part-one/.

Chicago/Turabian (16th Edition): Johnson, Kirsten & Jacobsen, Scott D. “Dr. Kirsten Johnson, M.D., MPH (Part One): Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, McGill University; Director, Humanitarian Studies Initiative, McGill University; Affiliated Faculty, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Harvard University; President, Humanitarian U.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 7.A (2015). http://in-sightjournal.com/2015/01/22/dr-kirsten-johnson-m-d-mph-part-one/.

Harvard: Johnson, K. & Jacobsen, S 2015, ‘Dr. Kirsten Johnson, M.D., MPH (Part One): Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, McGill University; Director, Humanitarian Studies Initiative, McGill University; Affiliated Faculty, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Harvard University; President, Humanitarian U’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 7.A. Available from: <http://in-sightjournal.com/2015/01/22/dr-kirsten-johnson-m-d-mph-part-one/>.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Johnson, Kirsten, and Scott D. Jacobsen. “Dr. Kirsten Johnson, M.D., MPH (Part One): Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, McGill University; Director, Humanitarian Studies Initiative, McGill University; Affiliated Faculty, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Harvard University; President, Humanitarian U.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 7.A (2015): Jan. 2015. Web. <http://in-sightjournal.com/2015/01/22/dr-kirsten-johnson-m-d-mph-part-one/>.

1. What positions do you hold at present?

I am an assistant professor in the faculty of medicine at McGill University.  Also, I am an attending staff in the emergency department in the McGill Affiliated University Hospital (MUHC), a teaching hospital.

I am program director at McGill University called the Humanitarian Studies Initiative (HSI).  Last, I have a company that does a lot of the same kind of things.  It is called the Humanitarian U.  I am President of that company.

2. Where did you grow up? How did you find this influencing your career direction?

I grew up half in Alberta and half in British Columbia (BC), in Victoria, and I do not think growing up in BC necessarily influenced my career, but the travel I did at a young age more than anything, especially at such a young age.  I left high school early and travelled for about 3 years.

To me, the most influential decision was working with a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) called Helping Hands based out of Colorado (at the time) and Kathmandu, Nepal.  I was working to bring medical teams in from North America to set up mobile clinics throughout the country of Nepal that we would staff on a regular basis.  As a combination of giving back and having the skill that became portable, which allowed me to do international work, I would say that gave me the desire to go into medicine.

3. What was your original dream?

My original dream? (Laughs) Truly, it was to be Indiana Jones.

4. What have been your major areas of research?

I fell into research.  I did not see myself doing it.  My research has a lot of applied and practical applications.  I like field work. Since I am not in a position – I have a son – to do long missions in this field, I needed to find a way to do field work to make a difference in another capacity.

My research focused on human rights issues around violations happening in the genocides of Darfur. I worked for positions in a human rights group.  In fact, one of the first groups to do an investigation along the border of Chad.  They found 30,000 people starving in the desert.  That was just the very beginning of the genocide, when they were forced out of their villages.

It was the consequence of a ‘scorch-and-burn’ policy of the government, which it was implementing.  The study was done in three parts, but I ended up presenting the data at the International Criminal Court.  I spoke at various organizations and the UN, which had a great impact on me.

My research came from a human rights angle.  For instance, looking at the populations effected by war, and then it took a slant to child soldiers.  Now, most of my research, my area, goes into gender-based violence.  Gender-based violence can be changed to conflict and emergencies.  My newest research study is based in the far north in Canada.

5. What is your most recent research?

It is interesting because I did a lot of quantitative research based on populations – population-based studies.  I used a lot of methods, which were quite unique to sampling population where you have a lot of demographic or population data.

It is a kind of unique way to look at the population as a whole and acquire data that is representative of the population as a whole.  However, the problem with quantitative research like that is the way it describes the population, it does nothing for the affected people.

In other words, it takes information from people, but does not do anything in practical terms for them.  You can help inform or direct policy, for sure.  My study in the Congo acquired $27 million dollars in funding through International Medical Corps, who was the partner for the study.

My new study is qualitative, not quantitative, which is new for me, but I feel this is the way it has to go – especially when talking about violence, sexual violence, against women.  People who are victimized.  It is difficult for them.  It is difficult in terms of perpetrators too.

I know many studies where the rates of sexual GBV in Canada’s North are as high as 80%.

We have a great team.  We have a guy from Johns Hopkins, who is really well-known, for his work in Africa – Paul Bolton.  He published in the New England Journal of Medicine on a randomized controlled trial in Uganda using this same method, which we will propose to use in the North too.

It involves a counselling method, a peer-counselling method, but we do it in remote locations.

6. When someone does have a lot of money to bolster their work, it can go into the research project, which – as you said – it can present the data and describe the situation, but it cannot necessarily implement solutions based on the information. It is admirable for you to conduct and head this practical and applied work.  Also, if you had unlimited funding and unrestricted freedom, what research would you conduct?

There is a lot of work needing doing, especially in terms of gender-based violence and violence in general.

7. Even looking at the health of nations through the standards set by United Nations organs to do with literacy, infant mortality rates, maternal mortality rates, access to education, quality of education, and so on, they present the item of most importance under our noses the whole time, namely: Empowerment of Women. If individuals, groups, and most of societies saw this information, had good intentions and wanted to improve their lot, they could do that following the models of various nations throughout the world. 

Exactly.

8. What is your organizing principle for doing good work in the world?

I am really organizing around this idea of professionalism in the humanitarian sector, and a standard of excellence.  I guess it is equality and humanism.

Everybody deserves the right to a good standard of care, service delivery, and health.  I am talking about humanitarian response.  We should all be striving to provide no less.

What I am doing as well is launching the first global humanitarian health association so that any practitioner in the world that’s involved in humanitarian response specific to health will have to have a certification from an accredited provider, and this association will be that body that credits and regulates practice – globally.

We should not be seeing what we have been seeing in Haiti, Rwanda, and Congo, and some of these other disasters that had significant humanitarian problems in terms of response and service delivery, which were people doing ethically and morally challenging practices..

I do not know about an organizing principle.  I think part of what I hope to leave as a legacy is this professionalism and a standard and excellence, and real community.

We also need to recognize that we need to be collaborative and work together and that this is much bigger than one person.

I know many things drive me.  It is excitement, commitment, and the love of working with other people.  It’s not just one principle.

All of these things I do speak for themselves.  I never thought of allying myself to a certain principle.  I think it is inspiring for a person like me living with people and seeing the luck in being born in North America, especially with all of the travel throughout the world.

I bought a motorcycle at 19 in New Delhi.  Living with these people, seeing their lives, and realizing they cry and laugh like us, and that there is a basic humanity and dignity that we all share.

However, not all people have access to that realization through circumstance.  I think what motivated me to get into medicine was the desire to give back.  You cannot enjoy the benefits of travelling and exploring the world without sharing and being a part of things, helping people and so on.

It is funny.  You work in medicine, but I never imagined how much work becoming a doctor could be.  After 14 years of post-secondary education, it can be difficult to not become a cynic sometimes and to lose it.  You can become sidetracked in academia and everyone arguing over authorship on a paper.  When, why are we doing this?  What matters here?  Is it humanitarianism or being first author?  It is important to go out in the field and get that feeling of humanity back, and to check in with the reasons for doing your work.

It is the reason for me doing this study up north, one of the reasons.  I consider it more important than quantitative research.

9. What do you consider the controversial topics in your field? How do you examine the controversial topics?

In the humanitarian field, the controversial topics are around professionalization, certainly, because people find that it’ll restrict making their practice.  And what constitutes a professional in a humanitarian context?  How do you measure that?  Who provides what certification?  I mean the whole discourse around certification and professionalization in humanitarian aid.  The way that we have to address that is consensus building.  You cannot push that across to people.  There has to be a lot of discussion and debate, continuing collaboration, and work in this way.

The controversial topics in my field of humanitarian action, which I am kind of at the lead of, is the push to professionalize and standardize the work because there has been so much bad humanitarianism as of recent.  I mean, Haiti was a disaster of epic proportions in terms of humanitarian support.

We saw the case happen in Goma after the Rwanda genocide, and so on.  Humanitarianism, the field is growing – about 250,000 people calling themselves humanitarians – many calling themselves professionals, but, what does that mean?  The training going into it, do we have the same attitudes and competency?

It is almost becoming a sexy, trendy thing.  When the earthquake in Haiti happened, you have nearly every faculty of medicine in North America sending planeloads of doctors, like resident doctors who were not trained, now all of a sudden they are doing field amputations – which they were not trained for – in environments that are not safe for the patient using no morphine or sedatives.

No coordination of the ground, people blocking the runway, and so on.  For example, the Canadian Government’s DART team could not land to get the supplies, and they needed to get in to provide the supplies for the hospital! And I think there is a push now for people in the humanitarian community is looking for a cut off.

People need to be licensed, credentialed, and certified.  The culture of humanitarianism and humanitarian work is about neutrality and ‘cowboy’, “We want to do what we want to do.”  That there is nothing we have to agree to within their organizational culture.  They strive along the culture of independence.  They do not want to be like another organization that would have them not adhere to other rules.  My partner in the military might be belligerent, for instance.

So the question becomes, “How do we do this?  How do we elevate the standard of care for these people?”  Of course, it is all well-meaning.  I do not mean to say that people going into this field mean to cause harm.  However, a lot of things that were no thought of happen, and they do not need to happen because we have a lot of evidenced-based research in all of this.  We have a special set of competencies before people are allowed to work in this area.  In this, it is a kind of humanitarian reform, which is the main area they are talking about here that will go forward in the next 5-10 years.

10. What do some in opposition to you argue? Although, from my angle, I consider the strong possibility of only a minority in opposition to humanitarian policies and practices. 

I argue for a professionalization, and this is coming from an academic background and a profession.  So I am coming from something that is properly defined, and I understand that construct, and I think that needs to be implemented in the humanitarian world.  Someone arguing against me might be a manager or country representative of Medicin Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).  And even though there are, and those examples are, medical organizations, they may not necessarily want to be held to our given structure.

They may not want to conform to the rigid structure.  They may ask, “Who will oversee it?  Who will work for it?”  In other words, they may not agree with the people organizing and running the program.  Therefore, there are two ways of looking at it.  And I am definitely on one side of it.  There are many debates in my community of humanitarian action because it is so multi-disciplinary.

Now, this is very research focused.  We do interviews and scoping reports, and that kind of thing.  And I think acquire funding from Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for funding based on this work and to conduct more of this work.  However, I do not know if this sits in your paradigm.

11. It does, especially in terms of the framework here. For instance, some of the interviews conducted. I conduct an interview with Dr. Hawa Abdi, MD.

Yes, I know her.  She runs a medical clinic out of Somalia.

****************Footnotes and bibliography in Archives “7.A” PDF*****************

License

In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Cristina Atance: Associate Professor, Psychology; Director, Graduate Training in Experimental Psychology, University of Ottawa (Part Two)

Dr. Christina Atance

ABSTRACT

Part two of two, interview with Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa and director of graduate training in experimental psychology, Dr. Cristina Atance.  In it, she discusses: Episodic Future Thinking (2001), ‘semantic memory’ and ‘episodic memory’, Tulving (2001), and five subsidisciplines; The emergence of episodic future thinking in humans (2005), future episodic thinking, and emergence of episodic future thinking in children between the ages of 3 to 4; numerous five-figure grants since 2011 provided under the titles of Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Early Career Research Award, and responsibilities; three issues – Women in Academia and thoughts on being a female academic; emotional struggles and advice for young female academics; and take-home message of the research.

Keywords: Dr. Cristina Atance, episodic future thinking, psychology, semantic memory, University of Ottawa.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Atance, C. & Jacobsen, S.D. (2015, January 15). Dr. Christina Atance: Associate Professor, Psychology; Director, Graduate Training in Experimental Psychology, University of Ottawa (Part Two). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, 7.ARetrieved from http://in-sightjournal.com/2015/01/15/dr-cristina-atance-associate-professor-psychology-director-graduate-training-in-experimental-psychology-university-of-ottawa-part-two/.

Chicago/Turabian (16th Edition): Atance, Christina & Jacobsen, Scott “Dr. Christina Atance: Associate Professor, Psychology; Director, Graduate Training in Experimental Psychology, University of Ottawa (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 7.A (2015). http://in-sightjournal.com/2015/01/15/dr-cristina-atance-associate-professor-psychology-director-graduate-training-in-experimental-psychology-university-of-ottawa-part-two/.

Harvard: Atance, C. & Jacobsen, S 2015, ‘Dr. Christina Atance: Associate Professor, Psychology; Director, Graduate Training in Experimental Psychology, University of Ottawa (Part Two)’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 7.A. Available from: <http://in-sightjournal.com/2015/01/15/dr-cristina-atance-associate-professor-psychology-director-graduate-training-in-experimental-psychology-university-of-ottawa-part-two/>.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Atance, Christina, and Scott D. Jacobsen. “Dr. Christina Atance: Associate Professor, Psychology; Director, Graduate Training in Experimental Psychology, University of Ottawa (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 7.A (2015): Jan. 2015. Web. <http://in-sightjournal.com/2015/01/15/dr-cristina-atance-associate-professor-psychology-director-graduate-training-in-experimental-psychology-university-of-ottawa-part-two/>.

10. In Episodic Future Thinking (2001), you build on the idea of episodic memory with the introduction of a new construct called “episodic future thinking.” The paper distinguishes between ‘semantic memory’ and ‘episodic memory’.  As you examine in further depth than here, Tulving (2001) described episodic memory as the ability to “travel backwards in time” to experience one or a set of memories once more; he described semantic memory as the “knowledge of the world.” Of note for the operational definition of episodic future thinking, imagination and projection into the future do have constraints.  In the paper, you outline five subdisciplines of psychology of import for the construct in addition to the emergence of this capability in children.  What five subdisciplines?  How does the construct connect to each?  What developments have been made in the last 13+ years?

The 5 sub-disciplines we covered (though very cursorily) were “cognition,” “social and personality psychology,” “clinical psychology,” “neuropsychology,” and “development.” Our aim was mostly to point out how the ability to mentally pre-experience our own personal futures might have implications for such abilities as prospective memory (e.g., remembering to mail a letter), for example. We also highlighted some research in neuropsychology that we found quite intriguing – namely, people who, due to brain injury, seemed to lose the ability to think about their own personal futures (i.e., episodic future thinking), while retaining fairly intact semantic future thinking – so thinking about the future in a more knowledge-based and non self-related way (e.g., predicting what medical breakthroughs might happen in the next 10 years). There have been quite a few new developments in the area of episodic future thinking in the past decade – one of the most significant being that – perhaps not surprisingly – the capacity to think about our future relies on  many of the same neural and cognitive processes as remembering our past/memory. Most notably, people have argued that our memories provide us with a database from which we draw to construct our futures. What needs to be worked out is the extent to which different forms of memory (e.g., episodic, semantic, etc.) play a role in this process.

11. In The emergence of episodic future thinking in humans (2005), four years after Episodic Future Thinking, your paper coauthored with Professor Daniela O’Neill providing additions to the research on future episodic thinking. At the time, most research for the construct at the time dealt within the context of memory; not much to do with future thinking.  You broke ground there.  Discussion in the article states the fact of children at two years old will talk of past events. You provide estimations for the emergence of episodic future thinking in children between the ages of 3 to 4.  Some argued up to the time of publication about the high end of the estimated range of 4 years for the eventual emergence. How did you test for incorporation of notions regarding self and future in children?  What did you find in the research?

In this article, we really focused more on this capacity from a developmental perspective and tried to highlight that episodic future thinking can be thought of as different than related concepts such as “planning” or “imagination.” For example, we often just envision ourselves in the future (e.g., thinking about lying on the beach during our next vacation) without necessarily planning for that event/scenario that we’re envisioning. Though, of course, fundamental to most of the planning that we do is the ability to actually envision ourselves in the future or, episodic future thinking. As for imagination, it seems quite intuitive that we need some imaginative capacity to mentally project into the future but the concept of “imagination” itself is a much broader one that episodic future thinking. That is, we can imagine just about anything (e.g., traveling to the moon) but this is different from episodic future thinking which O’Neill and I argued is “constrained” by our current self/situation (in my case, I will likely never make it to the moon but I can certainly imagine it!). We tried to incorporate “self” and “future” by asking children to think about going on a trip and choosing items to bring with them. We purposely gave them items (like Band-Aids) that would be useful if they got hurt, say. Even the 3-year-olds in our study were starting to explain their choices my making reference to the future, and this ability continues to improve during the preschool years.

12. In My future self: Young children’s ability to anticipate and explain future states (2005), you coauthored with Professor Andrew Meltzoff. In two experiments with 108 three, four, and five years olds, for the first experiment, you attempted to have these children think about the future through stories and pictorial scenes.  Asking the children to think of themselves in these scenarios, you observed developmental differences for correct item choices and spoken explanations.  For the second experiment, 3 and 4 year old children had worse performance based on the introduction of items with semantic association to the scenarios without addressing the future state – not so for the 5 year olds.  How does this relate to the current research of future thinking in children?  What about the other areas of research for you, namely: cognitive development and theory of mind?

What we tried to argue in this paper – that also reflects some of my current thinking – is that even 3-year-olds were pretty good at selecting an item that they may need in the future (e.g., sunglasses if they’re walking on a sandy beach). However, when one of the options we presented alongside the correct item was “semantically” or “thematically” related to the future scenario – so a seashell presented alongside the sunglasses – younger children (but not 5-year-olds) were prone to select this item even if wouldn’t really be useful in the future. This may be because young children’s primary tendency is to select “what goes with what” rather than think ahead about what might actually be needed in the future.

13. You have earned numerous five-figure grants since 2011 provided under the titles of Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Early Career Research Award. If any, what responsibilities do academics have towards society?  In light of the grant, award, and other funding, what further responsibilities and duties weigh into your conscience?

I, for one, would like to do a better job disseminating my findings to the segments of society who can most make use of them – in my case, parents and early childhood educators. Yet, this is challenging because I think most academics are pretty strapped for time due to the many demands of our jobs (i.e., teaching, research, administration, etc.). Nonetheless, one of my main goals for the next little while is to try and put in place some kind of knowledge translation/dissemination plan. I recently found out that a colleague of mine requires that, for each article from her lab that is published in an academic journal, an effort needs to be made to disseminate its findings to a local media source (e.g., parenting magazine, local organization, etc.).

14. I had the privilege to conduct for one year – in three issues – Women in Academia. One series based on female academics, their research and philosophies, and experiences. In a later retrospective conversation with one of the interviewees last summer, she would have liked to expound through one or two questions on the perspective of a female academic from the side of emotional struggles.  This seems relevant to me.  If I may ask, and if within your recollection of academic experience in both training and work, did you feel a different progression and experience compared to men in your cohort training in psychology from undergraduate through post-doctoral work?  Do you notice any differences in fresh generations of female academics-in-training?

I think about these kinds of issues a lot and yet I don’t think that my progression or experience has been greatly affected by being a woman. This may be partly because I went to graduate school, did my post-doc, secured a tenure-track position, and was awarded tenure before having my two children. In my case, at least – because I don’t want to over-generalize or mis-represent others’ experiences – I gained a lot of momentum during my post-doc and first 5 years of my professorship. I was able to put in time at night and on the weekends that I cannot do as much anymore because I have two young children at home and I will not trade my time with them for work time. Yet, I’m probably more productive now than I was 5 years ago because I’ve laid down the necessary foundation to allow the research to get done (e.g., my lab is functional and efficient, I have a good team of undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students, etc.). I have also learned to delegate more and to only embark on projects that I’m really passionate about. As for whether I notice any difference in female-academics in training, this is a difficult question…I certainly think that some of the female graduate students with whom I interact are concerned about whether they can be academics and still have families and lives outside of work. But, to be honest, I think this is something that male academics and those in training are also thinking seriously about because many of them do want to be involved, hands-on fathers. Both within and outside of academia, I think many of us are really struggling with figuring out how to fit everything in and how to achieve some sort of “balance” (if this even exists!). And, to complicate matters, there are so many mixed messages that I think females, especially, are receiving. You’ve got Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO) who’s telling women to “lean in” and then others who are telling women to “recline”! Both points of view have merit in my opinion and it’s up to any one individual to figure out for herself or himself when it’s time to lean in and when it’s time to recline. There’s no right or wrong answer, yet getting to a point where you feel satisfied with your approach is difficult and in constant need of evaluation.

15. If so, how did you manage the emotional struggles? Any advice for younger female academics from fresh generations – taking into account differences of general trends in culture and generational traits?

I would say that if you love being a graduate student and you’re passionate and interested in your research and can see yourself heading up a lab/research group, teaching, doing administrative work, etc. then don’t shy away from this career. I won’t lie and say it’s easy but I think most of us love our jobs and are energized by what we do. I certainly don’t want to say (like others have in the past) that “you can have it all!” (i.e., work, family, etc.) because, in my view, yes, you can have it all, but having it all is pretty darn exhausting at times! To the extent that it’s possible, I would really advise thinking long and hard about what you want from life and then try to tailor your academic position accordingly.

16. What do you consider the ‘take-home’ message of your complete research program to date? Where do you intend to take this into the future?

Wow, tough to be brief here! At this point, I think the biggest take-home message is simply that our capacity to think about our personal futures (i.e., episodic future thinking) figures into many domains of our lives and may, ultimately, either be connected to, or lie at the root of, numerous adaptive behaviours such as those involving saving, pro-sociality, morality, etc. Because of this, developing means to measure future thinking in development and beyond is a worthy venture, as is eventually determining whether/how future thinking is connected to many of the behaviours (some that I have listed) that epitomize what it means to be human. As such, one of my next steps is to try to look more closely at some of these potential links. In addition, most of the work on future thinking has really involved children’s/adult’s ability to contemplate their own personal futures. However, we also think about other people’s futures (especially those individuals with whom we are close) and I’m curious about how the processes involved in doing so are similar/different from thinking about our own futures, and how these develop in young children.

****************Footnotes and bibliography in Archives “7.A” PDF*****************

License

In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Cristina Atance: Associate Professor, Psychology; Director, Graduate Training in Experimental Psychology, University of Ottawa (Part One)

Dr. Christina Atance

ABSTRACT

Part one of two, interview with Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa and director of graduate training in experimental psychology, Dr. Cristina Atance.  In it, she discusses: positions, Psynapse, and the lunch-time seminar series; increasing collaborating among universities through overcoming some barriers in competitiveness; management of the Childhood Cognition and Learning Laboratory; duties and responsibilities implicated with funding, mentor, influence on personal mentoring, and insights into and styles of research based on mentoring; core research interests of 1) “cognitive development,” 2) “theory of mind,” and 3) ‘”future thinking and planning in children”; definition of “theory of mind”; definition of “future thinking and planning in children”; Maybe my Daddy give me a big piano:” The development of children’s use of modals to express uncertainty; and three most cited papers since 2,000: 1) Episodic future thinking, 2) The emergence of episodic future thinking in humans, and 3) My future self: Young children’s ability to anticipate and explain future states.

Keywords: cognitive development, Dr. Cristina Atance, episodic future thinking, episodic memory, experimental psychology, factive, mentor, modal, nonfactive, psychology, semantic memory, theory of mind, University of Ottawa.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Atance, C. & Jacobsen, S.D. (2015, January 8). Dr. Cristina Atance: Associate Professor, Psychology; Director, Graduate Training in Experimental Psychology, University of Ottawa (Part One). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, 7.ARetrieved from http://in-sightjournal.com/2015/01/08/dr-christina-atance-associate-professor-psychology-director-graduate-training-in-experimental-psychology-university-of-ottawa-part-one/.

Chicago/Turabian (16th Edition): Atance, Cristina & Jacobsen, Scott “Dr. Cristina Atance: Associate Professor, Psychology; Director, Graduate Training in Experimental Psychology, University of Ottawa (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 7.A (2015). http://in-sightjournal.com/2015/01/08/dr-christina-atance-associate-professor-psychology-director-graduate-training-in-experimental-psychology-university-of-ottawa-part-one/.

Harvard: Atance, C. & Jacobsen, S 2015, ‘Dr. Cristina Atance: Associate Professor, Psychology; Director, Graduate Training in Experimental Psychology, University of Ottawa (Part One)’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 7.A. Available from: <http://in-sightjournal.com/2015/01/08/dr-christina-atance-associate-professor-psychology-director-graduate-training-in-experimental-psychology-university-of-ottawa-part-one/>.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Atance, Cristina, and Scott D. Jacobsen. “Dr. Cristina Atance: Associate Professor, Psychology; Director, Graduate Training in Experimental Psychology, University of Ottawa (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 7.A (2015): Jan. 2015. Web. <http://in-sightjournal.com/2015/01/08/dr-christina-atance-associate-professor-psychology-director-graduate-training-in-experimental-psychology-university-of-ottawa-part-one/>.

1. You hold a number of positions. These include Associate Professor of psychology and director of graduate training in experimental psychology at the University of Ottawa. Within the graduate program of experimental psychology, you have two novel items of interest under your auspices, especially for building an intellectual community within an academic setting: 1) the newsletter Psynapse and 2) the lunch-time seminar series.  (Although, the online listing of presenters ended in 2011 for the lunch-time seminars.)  What does/did each cover?  How have you developed these separate items for the benefit of the graduate students?  What comes across as the majority feedback from graduate students?

Although the newsletter is no longer in circulation (it was an initiative undertaken by our former director, Dr. Cate Bielajew), the lunchtime seminar series is going strong! This, too, was an initiative taken by Dr. Bielajew that I have decided to continue because the student feedback has been so positive. Essentially, we provide students with the opportunity to listen to Experimental psychology PhDs (as opposed to Clinical PhDs) who have decided to work outside of academia. I think that this is really important given that, more and more, our graduates will need to/want to use their research skills and expertise in a variety of settings. Although these include academia, we have had speakers who work for the government, the RCMP, federal funding agencies (e.g., NSERC), private companies, hospitals, and school boards. They all have unique and inspiring stories about how they have used their PhDs in Experimental psychology in these various settings. Our current graduate students find their stories very helpful and come away with concrete ideas/tips about how to tailor their graduate training as a function of where they’d like to end up in their careers.

2. How might other psychology programs incorporate and improve upon these ideas to build such an intellectual community? From a provincial and national initiative perspective, rather than from within one university, how might multiple intra-/inter-provincial institutions partially dissolve barriers of competition – over quality students and funding, understandably – and facilitate more collaboration for the beneficial experience of graduate (and undergraduate) students across universities within Canada?

This may not directly answer your question but I think that many Universities both within and outside of Canada are “re-thinking” the PhD, so to speak. That is, we know that many of our students will not end up in strictly academic positions and, as such, I think that part of our job is to at least make them aware of their other options and, to the extent that we can (because we, ourselves, were trained as academics), provide them with some of the skills that will help them do so.

3. With Principal Investigator (PI) status of the Childhood Cognition and Learning Laboratory, you have time to manage overarching goals and research of the experimental psychology laboratory. How do you find the time spent in managing an experimental psychology laboratory?

By this, I’m assuming you mean how do I allot time to directing my research lab? It’s definitely a challenge to manage the various aspects of my academic position which include teaching, research, and administration. I love my research and the time that I get to spend with post-doctoral, doctoral, and undergraduate students. At present, I have a wonderful lab that I’m quite connected to (it’s down the hall from my office) and so I’m around it (and more importantly the students!) quite a bit. It’s however essential that I have a good team of people (including a part-time lab co-ordinator) with whom I can share the workload. Recruiting participants (in my case young children and their parents) is an especially challenging and time-consuming aspect of the job and this is something I need help with, along with the testing of participants, so that I can free up most of my time to think about new research directions, experimental designs, and writing grants, articles, and chapters.

4. In addition to this, and with an intimate linkage to duties and responsibilities implied by the laboratory and research grants, you mentor young researchers into the discipline of experimental psychology. First, who most mentored you?  Second, how did this influence your own mentoring?  Third, what insights into and styles of research does the task of mentoring provide for you?

I would consider both my PhD and post-doctoral advisors as my most significant mentors. These were Dr. Daniela O’Neill (PhD Advisor) at the University of Waterloo, and Dr. Andy Meltzoff (post-doc Advisor) at the University of Washington. Both were very meticulous and careful researchers who encouraged me to think about a lot of different angles of my research and experimental design. They are both also incredibly original and creative thinkers which I’m hoping has rubbed off on me! Because I was Dr. O’Neill’s first PhD student we spent a lot of time bouncing ideas off each other and deeply discussing the research (then, as now, it was focused on the development of future thinking ability in young children). I was fortunate to have this much time with her because in bigger labs one doesn’t always get the chance to have a lot of one-on-one time with their supervisor. Yet, I think this is critical. I don’t think I’d ever want a lab with so many students that I rarely get one-on-one time with each of them. In terms of my style of mentoring, I would say that in addition to trying to work quite closely with students, I also try (though probably need to improve in this respect!) to allow them to really develop their own ideas without interfering – at least initially – too much. Obviously, once it’s time to discuss these ideas and think critically about whether they can form the basis of sound experimental designs, then certain issues will need to be considered. At the same time, I think it’s also important for advisors/mentors to help our students understand that we don’t always have all the answers. That is, sometimes I get the impression that students think that we do and that we’re somehow holding out on them! But, science doesn’t work like that – that is, I don’t always know whether a design is going to work or what exactly we’re going to find but this keeps the process interesting! Sometimes the unexpected findings are the most interesting ones.

5. Moving into the area of core research interests, you have three: 1) “cognitive development,” 2) “theory of mind,” and 3) ‘”future thinking and planning in children.” For those without the background of graduate level research in experimental psychology, how would you define “cognitive development”?

When asked by acquaintances/friends what I study, I often say “children’s thinking and reasoning” (i.e., their cognitive development) and how it changes and develops during the preschool years.

6. With present research, how would you define “theory of mind”?

It really depends on how precise you want to be but, again, I sometimes define it as “perspective-taking.” That is, how we (and, in my area of study, children) think about/understand other people’s perspectives, as well as understand that their own past and future perspectives can differ from their current ones. I use the term “perspective” quite broadly to encompass physiological, emotional, and mental states. For example, when/how do children come to understand that although they may love a certain toy, another child may not; or, that they may know something (e.g., where a toy is hidden) that someone else does not. Appreciating these differences in perspectives is critical for interpreting and making sense of other people’s behaviour. In many cases, this will also help us to act empathically (e.g., if we know that our friend is afraid of dogs – even though we are not – we wouldn’t invite her to go to the dog park with us).

7. How would you define “future thinking and planning in children”?

By “future thinking,” I mean children’s capacity to think about future events – for example, if I ask you what you’re going to do tomorrow, next week, or even next year, you can respond to these questions by “mentally projecting” yourself, so to speak, into these scenarios (e.g., tomorrow I’m going to go to work and maybe stop by the coffee shop on my way in, etc.) and providing fairly detailed accounts of what you imagine you may be doing at these various time points. This process itself need not rely on planning but likely lies at the basis of people’s ability to plan. One of the fundamental questions I study is whether, like adults, children have this same capacity for “mental time travel.”

8. Your first publication in 2000 entitled Maybe my Daddy give me a big piano:” The development of children’s use of modals to express uncertainty studied “modal adjuncts to mark uncertainty.”  Modal terms consisting of “maybe, possibly, probably and might.” Other indications are factive contrasted with nonfactive words such as ‘understand’ (factive) contrasted with ‘consider’ (nonfactive).  You use the examples of “think” (factive) contrasted with “know” (nonfactive). You note adjuncts as among the earliest emergent properties from children’s language.  More to the point, you describe the lack of knowledge about modal use in children related to expressions of uncertainty.  Since the research almost a decade and half ago, what other things have research into children’s modal language development discovered about them?

This is actually not an area that I’ve followed or continued to do research in. Although the paper was framed in terms of children’s understanding of modals, I was particularly interested in whether they used these terms of uncertainty when talking about the future. My/our logic at the time is that if children were saying such things as I might get hungry or probably it’s going to rain then ,arguably, their thinking about the future must entail more than simply recounting routine past events. Otherwise, why would these future events be prefaced by markers of uncertainty or modals?

9. With regards to the three most cited pieces of your research program since 2000, Google Scholar rank orders from most cited to least cited for the top three: 1) Episodic future thinking, 2) The emergence of episodic future thinking in humans, and 3) My future self: Young children’s ability to anticipate and explain future states. Obviously, one common conceptualization of episodic future thinking. Your major contribution to the field of psychology.  You gave the generalized definition earlier in question ‘6.’.  I would like to cover each of these articles together and then alone.  What theme of evidence and theory best characterizes this particular strain of your own research?

One of the most important themes of these 3 articles is the focus on the specific ability to imagine/envision ourselves in the future (as opposed to thinking about the future more broadly), and its development in young children. This type of thought is such a fundamental and pervasive mental activity for humans. That is, we’re constantly thinking about the future – what we’ll have for dinner, where we’ll go on vacation, what we’ll do on the weekend, etc. – yet until recently we knew very little about this capacity both in adults and in children.

****************Footnotes and bibliography in Archives “7.A” PDF*****************

License

In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Evangelos Katsioulis, MD, MA, MSc, PhD: Giga Society, Member; Consultant Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist, and CEO & Founder, Psycall.com; World Intelligence Network, Founder & CEO; QIQ, GRIQ, CIVIQ, HELLIQ, OLYMPIQ, IQID, GREEK IQ Societies, and Anadeixi, Founder; Scientific Associate, School of Medicine, Medical Biology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Dr. Evangelos Katsioulis

ABSTRACT

Interview with Dr. Evangelos Katsioulis, MD, MA, MSc, PhD.  In the following, he discusses: childhood through adolescence into young adulthood with extraordinary giftedness, some activities and memories from youth, and some distinctions in physics and medicine; highest national and international intelligence scores, first place in the Physics National Final Exams (Greece, 1993), Cerebrals NVCP-R International Contest (2003), and the Cerebrals international contest (2009), and examples of philanthropy through creation of high-IQ societies of varied rarity for entrance (first through fifth standard deviations); proposal for alteration to the educational system; identity crisis as the main global problem with discussion; building and running a society in the design of Plato; moral, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual development; the merger of machines and biology; the ultimate relationship between mind and reality; Genius of the Year Award – Europe in 2013 with reflection on desire for improving the life quality of others; and clarification on the term “miracle” and thoughts about the maximization of every moment in life.

Keywords: biology, Dr. Evangelos Katsioulis, Europe, giftedness, high IQ, genius, machines, medicine, national, philanthropy, Physics, Plato, standard deviation.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Katsioulis, E. & Jacobsen, S.D. (2015, January 1). Dr. Evangelos Katsioulis, MD, MA, MSc, PhD: Giga Society, Member; Consultant Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist, and CEO &amp; Founder, Psycall.com; World Intelligence Network, Founder &amp; CEO; QIQ, GRIQ, CIVIQ, HELLIQ, OLYMPIQ, IQID, GREEK IQ Societies, and Anadeixi, Founder; Scientific Associate, School of Medicine, Medical Biology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, 7.ARetrieved from http://in-sightjournal.com/2015/01/01/dr-evangelos-katsioulis-md-ma-msc-phd-giga-society-member-consultant-psychiatrist-psychotherapist-and-ceo-founder-psycall-com-world-intelligence-network-founder-ceo-qiq-griq/?preview=true&preview_id=1506&preview_nonce=44b983b6f4.

Chicago/Turabian (16th Edition): Katsioulis, Evangelos & Jacobsen, Scott D. “Dr. Evangelos Katsioulis, MD, MA, MSc, PhD: Giga Society, Member; Consultant Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist, and CEO &amp; Founder, Psycall.com; World Intelligence Network, Founder &amp; CEO; QIQ, GRIQ, CIVIQ, HELLIQ, OLYMPIQ, IQID, GREEK IQ Societies, and Anadeixi, Founder; Scientific Associate, School of Medicine, Medical Biology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 7.A (2015). http://in-sightjournal.com/2015/01/01/dr-evangelos-katsioulis-md-ma-msc-phd-giga-society-member-consultant-psychiatrist-psychotherapist-and-ceo-founder-psycall-com-world-intelligence-network-founder-ceo-qiq-griq/?preview=true&preview_id=1506&preview_nonce=44b983b6f4.

Harvard: Katsioulis, E. & Jacobsen, S 2015, ‘Dr. Evangelos Katsioulis, MD, MA, MSc, PhD: Giga Society, Member; Consultant Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist, and CEO &amp; Founder, Psycall.com; World Intelligence Network, Founder &amp; CEO; QIQ, GRIQ, CIVIQ, HELLIQ, OLYMPIQ, IQID, GREEK IQ Societies, and Anadeixi, Founder; Scientific Associate, School of Medicine, Medical Biology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 7.A. Available from: <http://in-sightjournal.com/2015/01/01/dr-evangelos-katsioulis-md-ma-msc-phd-giga-society-member-consultant-psychiatrist-psychotherapist-and-ceo-founder-psycall-com-world-intelligence-network-founder-ceo-qiq-griq/?preview=true&preview_id=1506&preview_nonce=44b983b6f4>.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Katsioulis, Evangelos, and Scott D. Jacobsen. “Dr. Evangelos Katsioulis, MD, MA, MSc, PhD: Giga Society, Member; Consultant Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist, and CEO & Founder, Psycall.com; World Intelligence Network, Founder & CEO; QIQ, GRIQ, CIVIQ, HELLIQ, OLYMPIQ, IQID, GREEK IQ Societies, and Anadeixi, Founder; Scientific Associate, School of Medicine, Medical Biology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 7.A (2015): Jan. 2015. Web. <http://in-sightjournal.com/2015/01/01/dr-evangelos-katsioulis-md-ma-msc-phd-giga-society-member-consultant-psychiatrist-psychotherapist-and-ceo-founder-psycall-com-world-intelligence-network-founder-ceo-qiq-griq/?preview=true&preview_id=1506&preview_nonce=44b983b6f4>.

1. How did you find developing from childhood through adolescence into young adulthood with extraordinary giftedness?  Did you know from an early age? What events provided others, and you, awareness of your high-level of ability?

Thank you for your question. Well, I didn’t have any forehead mark indicating that I have any special abilities, so my childhood was mainly full of activities that I enjoyed, such as reading literature, solving math, logical problems and puzzles, getting involved in discussions with adults and having rather many questions. I can recall an instance that I was a little boy and I made a reasonable for me at that point assumption that given that the white sheep produce white milk, the black ones should produce cocoa milk. I should emphasize that I enjoyed more spending my time on my own instead of socializing, which lasted till my adolescence. Teachers’ feedback was positive and promising at all stages of my education. At this point, I should mention that I am very grateful to my parents, both teachers of the Greek language, who provided me a variety of mental stimuli and a proper hosting setting for my interests. During my adolescence, I had a distinction in the national Math exams in 1990 and in the national Physics Final exams in 1993 among some thousands of participants. I was successful to enter the School of Medicine on my first participation in the entrance exams in 1993 and I was one of only six successful candidates who sat for the exams for the first time.

2. You scored some of the highest intelligence test scores on record, nationally and internationally.  In many cases, you scored the highest.  For some of your scores on these tests, I recommend readers to your website: katsioulis.com.

You competed in the Physics National Final Exams(Greece, 1993), Cerebrals NVCP-R international contest (2003), and the Cerebrals international contest (2009).  You earned the best performance in all three. In light of this, when did you find your first sense of community among fellow ultra-high ability individuals?

Thank you for the impressive introduction to your readers. My ranking on the Physics National Final Exams is mainly the result of hard work and personal interest in Physics. Having scored quite well in some IQ tests and contests, I joined many High IQ Societies since 2001. I noticed that there were some difficulties in their proper functioning minimizing interactivity and subsidizing creativity. Therefore, I took the initiative in 2001 to form a pioneer organization focused on promoting communication and enhancing productivity for the individuals with high cognitive abilities. This organization is the World Intelligence Network, (http://IQsociety.org), standing as an international collective entity dedicated to foster and support High IQ Societies. Currently, 48 High IQ Societies are affiliated with WIN. Furthermore, I formed 5 core High IQ Societies covering cognitive performances from the 1st to the 5th standard deviations above the mean (IQ 115 to IQ 175, sd 15), (QIQ, http://Q.IQsociety.org), (GRIQ, http://GR.IQsociety.org), (CIVIQ, http://CIV.IQsociety.org), (HELLIQ, http://HELL.IQsociety.org), (OLYMPIQ, http://OLYMP.IQsociety.org), one High IQ Society only for children and adolescents (IQID, http://Child.IQsociety.org) and one only for the Greek people (http://IQsociety.gr). Last but not least, I started a Greek NGO about abilities, giftedness and high intelligence named Anadeixi (http://aaaa.gr).

3. If you could, how would you change the educational systems of the world? In particular, how would you develop an educational system to provide for the needs of the gifted population?

The development of a more personal, more accurate and proper educational system is one of the target goals of Anadeixi. I strongly believe that not even 2 different persons can have the exact same profiles, characteristics, needs, personalities, interests, abilities, backgrounds and goals. Imagine the diversity and variety of the students’ profiles if you expand this hypothesis including all the students of any educational system. Any person is different from any other and should be treated as such. It is rather an unfair, conforming generalization all of the students to participate in the exact same educational program. There should be an introductory level of the basic sciences offered to anyone and on top of this an additional specialized education program based on the personal needs and potencies of any of the participants. Anyone should know how to read and write, to make simple math calculations and to have some basic awareness of history, geography and the rest main fields of knowledge. However, some of the students have specific preferences and interests and the educational system should take these into consideration and respond accordingly. Regarding the structure of such an educational system, there could be a 2-dimensional. The horizontal axis may include all the special fields of science, knowledge and interests and the vertical axis may demonstrate the various levels of performance and awareness. Thus, any participant can be allocated to the proper horizontal and vertical places based only on his interests, preferences, goals and current expertise and awareness. In such an educational system structure, there is no place for any age or other restrictions or limitations.

4. What global problems do you consider most important at the moment? How would you solve them?

Identity crisis is the main global problem. People lost their identity, their orientation, their life quality standards. They don’t care about who they are, they develop personalities based on the mainstream trends, they play roles and they waste their lives in their attempts to adjust to what some few others expect from them and their lives. People have neither time nor any intention to realize what life is about. They are born and live to become consistent and excellent workers, minor pieces of a giant puzzle for some few strong people’s entertainment purposes and benefits. Therefore, they don’t care about the quality of their lives, about other lives, about relationships and the society in general, about our children’s future. It is indeed a pity, however it is a fact. Education could be helpful towards self-realization, awareness, knowledge, mental maturity, overcoming any external restrictions and limitations. As I usually say to my psychotherapy clients, the solution to any problem is to make a stop and one step back.

5. Generally, many interacting systems operate in societies: political, economic, religious, corporate, educational, and so on. If you could build and run a society, how would you do it?

I would say no more than what a great ancestor said 25 centuries ago. Plato suggested an ideal society based on the special abilities of the citizens. The most capable ones should be leading the society functions, the strongest ones should help with their physical powers, a meritocracy should be in place. We should all contribute to the society well-functioning, if we intend to live in the society and benefit out of it. The definition of one’s prosperity should be defined only in the context of the society prosperity. If we act against our nest, how should this nest be beneficial, protective and supportive for us. We often see people who have no other than marketing skills or powerful backgrounds to guide societies, decide about millions of people, control people’s future, when many capable and talented others live in the shadow. The most important element in any society is the citizen and people should realize their power. There is no society without citizens, there are no rules without people to follow them. People can claim their right to live their ideal society.

6. If you do consider a general moral, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional progression or development, how do you view development from the basic to most advanced levels at the individual and collective level?

[This is covered above]

7. Do you think biology and machines will merge? If so, how might this happen?  Furthermore, how far would integration occur?

We do control machines (for now), however we cannot control or overcome biological rules. Machines could substitute some missing, mistaken or dysfunctional biological structures, however we are in no position to support artificial life at least for now. Having in mind the science progress and knowledge advancement within the last century, we may soon manage to understand much more about life and even copy biology principles creating a kind of life. There are no limits in this integration. From your question, I could assume that we both like science fiction movies.

8. What is the ultimate relationship between mind and reality?

Mind is an advanced personal processor, responsible for the perception, reaction and adjustment in reality. We need mind to live our reality. I suppose we all know what is the condition of a body with a non-functioning mind. Reality is an objective and independent set of conditions, events, happenings, incidents, people, principles, facts. Our mind personalizes this objective information to a subjective representation in us. Mind function is influenced by factors, such as perceptual ability, reasoning, previous knowledge and experiences, psychological status and mental state. For instance, we have all been present in an event and our understanding of what happened may significantly defer from what anyone else present states. So, we need mind to live our reality and we need reality to use our mind.

9. You earned the Genius of the Year Award – Europe in 2013 from PSIQ.  In your one-page statement on winning the award, you say, “I believe in the power of human mind and my works contribute to the facilitation of mind expressions, promotion of creativity and enhancement of productivity for a better life quality for everyone. Maximizing outcomes based on the appreciation and utilization of people’s potentials for the benefits of any individual and humanity in general.” What motivates this passion for improving the lot of others? 

Life is a continuous claim of happiness and satisfaction. There are plenty of distractions and attractions in life which can mislead and redirect people causing disorientation, targeting fake goals and resulting to low life quality. I am passionate with people and communication and that is the main reason I chose to be a Psychotherapist, Psychiatrist and a Founder of some communities and networks. I believe in self-awareness, self-appreciation, self-confidence and self-determination. Offering people an opportunity to look into themselves and grab the chance to evaluate their lives, attitudes and interests, is a challenge for me. I have undertaken this procedure myself and I offer the exact same to anyone interested. I support people and I believe in their abilities, talents and specialties. Psychologically speaking, I may provide what I would appreciate to have been provided.

10. As a final note to your award statement, you state, “Humans are biological beings, life is a mystery, creation is still unknown. We live a miracle and we can only maximize this miracle’s impact in every single moment of our existence.” What do you mean by “miracle”?  Can you elaborate on the maximization of every moment of our existence?

Allow me to clearly mention that I do not wish to support any specific religion with my statement. I have the feeling that the advanced and complicated structure and function of life, considering even only a single cell, is itself a miracle. I am using the word ‘miracle’ since mathematicians have proved that it is rather impossible all cell components to accidentally find themselves in the proper position and start functioning as a cell within the total duration of universe existence. So the time elapsed since the creation of universe supports the non-accidental, thus miraculous nature of life. The specific rational for this miracle, a specific power, God, destiny, even the nature itself, has been a fascinating topic for many other specialists throughout all human history.

The maximization of our life moments is a quality term, used to define appreciation of our time, life satisfaction and happiness. Since we know nothing about the reasons of our existence, we may solely take advantage of the fact that we are alive and experience the most out of it. In this context, we need to define what makes us excited and content and we should target and claim satisfaction and happiness.

****************Footnotes and bibliography in Archives “7.A” PDF*****************

License

In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

7.A, Idea: Outliers and Outsiders (Part Three)

Dear Reader,

You can find issue 6.A, Idea: Outliers and Outsiders (Part Two) in the archives.  In addition to this, you can find The Rick G. Rosner Interview and The Dr. Jonathan Wai Interview in the same portion of the website in a separate PDF for more ease of access.  7.A, Idea: Outliers and Outsiders (Part Three) begins January 1, 2015 – today.

Yours,

Scott D. Jacobsen

Rick G. Rosner: Giga Society, Member; Mega Society, Member & ex-Editor (1991-97); and Writer (Part Eleven)

Mr. Rick G. Rosner

ABSTRACT

Part eleven of eleven comprehensive interview with Rick G. Rosner.  Giga Society member, ex-editor for Mega Society (1991-97), and writer.  He discusses the following subject-matter: Genius of the Year Award – North America in 2013 from PSIQ and clarification of statements; definition of the term “gods” in operational terms from the award statement; discussion on our future rather than gods; thoughts on aesthetics within an informational cosmology lens; some brief discussion on informational eschatology; human history’s numerous examples of individuals and schools of thought aimed at absolute definitions of consciousness, universe, and their mutual union; thoughts on Big Bang Cosmology and the possibility of its replacement; three greatest mathematicians/physicists/cosmologists; three greatest mathematics/physics/cosmology concepts; The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and Wave-Particle Duality; Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) Nonlocality; possibility of universe operating in something more essential than information; everything in essence equate to a Turing Machine in informational cosmology; operation of different time depending on armature/universe in reference; mysteries; ex nihilo cosmogony; theology becoming informational cosmology and vice versa; informational ethics in relation to numerous ethics; The Problem of Evil; souls; Fr. Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (1955), Omega Point, and The Future of Man (1964); work needing doing for Informational Cosmology; reflection on theorizing and outlier background; common sense and intelligence; regrets; ethics of forming, joining, and sustaining elite groups based on high and ultra-high IQs; harsh internet crowd, frequent comments, and responses; principles of existence as the language of existence with explicit listing of some of them; and thoughts on prevention of intellectual theft.

Keywords: aesthetics, armature, armature/universe, Big Bang Cosmology, common sense, consciousness, Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) Nonlocality, ex nihilo cosmogony, Fr. Teilhard de Chardin, Giga Society, gods, history, informational cosmogony, informational cosmology, informational eschatology, IQ, isomorphism, Mega Society, Omega Point, principles of existence, Rick G. Rosner, The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, The Problem of Evil, theology, Turing Machine, universe, Wave-Particle Duality, writer.

99. You earned the Genius of the Year Award – North America in 2013 from PSIQ. In your one-page statement on winning the award, you say, “My one wish is that trying to extend human understanding is doing God’s work.” In some sense, there seems no higher calling than something akin to an internal – to the cosmos – teleological duty to assist the self-actualization of the universe as sub-systems, various individual POVs, within the universe in service of God. Does this fairly characterize the statement? If not, what did you attempt to address with such a statement?

I was addressing a strain of religiosity which is hostile to science (or which misrepresents science to advance an agenda). I would like fewer people to be anti-science and would like people to be less subject to anti-scientific manipulation on religious grounds.

Isaac Newton thought that by making mathematical and scientific discoveries, he was doing God’s work. I like the idea that figuring out how the world works and how to make it better is helping God, not defying God.

Humans are part of a world we can choose to believe was created by God. Doing science isn’t alien to the world or opposed to God.

Teleology isn’t a word that I embrace, because it can be used to sneak creationism into evolution. Evolution, of course, isn’t a purposeful progression towards complexity. Rather, it’s the proliferation of varied organisms via the occupation of exploitable niches, some of which are occupied by organisms having complex abilities. (But simple organisms continue to occupy their niches. And new, simple organisms continue to arise.)

The universe is a very complicated entity, and as such, demonstrates that highly complex entities are permitted by the principles of existence (whatever those turn out to be). Can we help our species, our planet, or even the universe itself self-actualize, and if so, is this some kind of built-in bias towards complexity? Maybe, but I don’t see it as the hand of the Creator nudging us towards glory. Rather, I see it as the possibility of mathematical teleology, with complex entities perhaps statistically tending to have histories of increasing complexity. There is room for God or gods in this, but gods who are subject to the same principles of existence that we are. Which isn’t the worst thing – we are all striving, humans and gods alike.

100. You stated “gods.”  How do you operationally define the attributes, in concrete terms, of these proposed gods? Moreover, how might we rank these civilizations in terms of advancement some relative scale of civilization development?

Start with the Arthur C. Clarke quote that’s now so overused it’s a cliché – “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” There are around a quarter or a third of a trillion stars in the galaxy. A bunch of them have planets – there are tens of billions of planets in the Milky Way – maybe 100 billion, maybe 200 billion or more. Even if only one in 10,000 contains life, that’s still 10 million planets with life. (And there are a hundred billion galaxies in the universe.) Some must have intelligent life, and on some of these planets, tech-wielding life most likely has a huge head start on us (because the odds of us being the first to tech in the galaxy are one in however many tech civilizations there will eventually be). Even if it’s only a thousand-year head start, that’s huge with regard to tech. And it’s possible that tech-wielding life on some planets might have a billion-year head start. So it’s reasonable to assume that there are some civilizations which are so advanced, their powers are almost magical in comparison to ours. But to call them gods is something of a cheat – super-advanced civilizations that have arisen in the past 14 billion years might best be called godlike.

Super-advanced civilizations would be able to do awesome stuff – for instance, possibly defy time to some extent by simulating a plethora of possible futures (on a rolling basis) and choosing the best future from among them. At the very least, advanced civilizations will have vast computational capacities. And the business of the universe is computation.

Next step in the hierarchy of godlike beings – let’s say I’m correct that the universe is vastly older than 14 billion years. It’s not unreasonable to think that some civilizations have learned how to survive galactic cycles, perhaps by hiding out in the enormous black hole-like objects at the centers of galaxies or by hopping from exhausted galaxies to newer galaxies (if it’s even possible to travel fast enough to escape a collapsing, exhausted region of the universe – hey, maybe they could beam themselves via neutrinos). Civilizations (or entities) which can survive for many multiples of 14 billion years would have fantastic capabilities – they might actively participate in the running of the universe – beaming neutrinos at the burned-out galaxies they want to reactivate, for example. Is it so unreasonable to think that something as large and old and intricate as the universe might have intelligent entities helping to manage it? Such entities might almost deserve the title of gods.

And the next step in the hierarchy – what if the universe itself is an entity, with perceptions, thoughts, and objectives, playing out across octillions or decillions of years? That is –

What if a sufficiently complicated self-contained and self-consistent system of information such as the universe itself can’t not be conscious?

That entity deserves to be called a god, but a god that did not make us, that may not know we exist, and that doesn’t intercede in our affairs. We are made of its information – its thought-stuff – but it didn’t intentionally create us. Its information space provides the arena in which we came into existence through natural processes.

And beyond the universe we live in is the universe in which the entity whose information space we live in itself lives. Maybe it’s not turtles all the way down; maybe it is information spaces all the way up.

These different levels of goddish beings share with us the basic constraints of existence. They’ve almost certainly developed work-arounds for many of these limitations, but they share the same general characteristics, even if such characteristics have been obscured and weirdified by their godlike mastery of physical processes. It’s kind of nice that in wrestling with existence, we and these gods are all in it together.

The various gods certainly have consciousnesses which are more powerful, more detailed, and encompassing more senses and types of analysis than ours. But who knows if the differences in consciousness are more than differences in magnitude, perceiving space and time in ways that are fundamentally different?

101. What about our future rather than these “gods”?

People aren’t freaked out enough about the future. Have I already said that? Humanity will be forced to change – to embrace new, weird forms of thought. Here’s why – advanced artificial intelligence is coming. It will be hard and perhaps impossible to design AI so that it doesn’t want stuff for itself. It won’t just be our faithful servant. So we’re gonna have to keep up with it – we’ll need to be joined to AI, so that we remain, for as long as possible, among the smartest beings on the planet. When occupying niches, species tend not to limit themselves. External factors limit how far species expand. Similarly, if it’s us versus AI in a struggle to occupy the same niches, the smarter entities will overpower the weaker ones. We can’t program AI to limit itself – it’s too likely that any barriers will spring leaks.

We’ll need to develop and evolve a worldwide (and eventually a solar system-wide) ecosystem which incorporates AI. That is, we’ll need to develop durable forms of advanced intelligence which don’t just ravage all available matter for computing purposes. It doesn’t seem unreasonable that AI and humans-plus-AI will eventually find niches that don’t threaten the existence of all other life on earth. But that probably won’t happen unless we keep up with AI by augmenting ourselves with it.

The world will be flooded with AI cops – software, hardware, etc. that will spy on everything to make sure that hyper-destructive AI and nanotech don’t get loose and destroy everything. There will have to be cyber cops on top of cyber cops – like an immune system – trying to keep outbreaks of bad AI local. Privacy will be left in tatters. (This could be an unrealistic science fiction TV show set 20 years in the future. A squad of sexy cops fight bad AI and nanotech. Perhaps make it a comedy, so the glaring errors can be seen as funny instead of stupid.)

AI will get smarter and smarter, faster and faster. Won’t it smart itself right out of the universe and into some other plane of existence? Nah. I think it runs into some hard limits – the speed of light, the computational limits of matter, the decreasing marginal utility of additional knowledge. There might be work-arounds for some hard limits – cramming enough matter into a small enough space should create more space, for instance – but such limits should put a damper on the double-exponential growth predicted by some Singularitarians.

We’ve been talking about ethics. Throughout history, humanity has had generally agreed-upon ethics for the protection of life and property and sometimes freedom, based on what humans want – comfort and safety. Such protections don’t extend far beyond humans, and we’ve found little evidence of the world itself having any ethical expectations. Our ethical framework is about to be completely revamped. Consciousness will be quantified. Consciousness will be created in non-living beings. Unaugmented human intelligence will no longer dominate the planet. Ethical arguments will have to be more powerful, to persuade our far brighter descendants.

Ethical protections have extended from the self-appointed most special beings on earth, humans, to, often grudgingly, other humans and sometimes to animals, the environment, and objects of historic value. Within 40 years and probably much sooner than that, unaugmented humans won’t be the smartest, most talented known beings. Unaugmented consciousness will be shown to be unimpressive in many ways. Winds of change will buffet the ethical umbrella, and we don’t know who or what will be under it in 2060.

Narrative is important. We like stories. And stories are an essential part of the structure of history. Just about every development in evolution and history involves someone or something embracing change – often being the first to make a change. We offer people, animals, and things ethical protection when we recognize and understand their stories. We have to sell the future on the importance of unaugmented humans’ stories, even when the augmented are in charge.

102. What would a timeline of the future look like?

There are already some good timelines of the future. Ray Kurzweil’s timelines might be the most well-known. He’s been making them since 1990, so you can judge how he’s done in his first 25 years of predicting. And this is a through, non-lunatic timeline –

http://www.futuretimeline.net/index.htm. (You have to watch out for timelines with crazy agendas.)

Let me try to do one –

2070: World’s annual birthrate drops under 1%.

Don’t know if I can do this. What I know is a bunch of stuff is gonna get weird and perhaps go away. Pro and Olympic sports will get weird in the next century as human bodies become increasingly augmented. There might be augmented and unaugmented leagues. Current pro sports may come to seem too arbitrary or antiquated for popular attention.

2080: People commonly have relationships with artificial people, who by the early 22nd century, have acquired limited rights.

Money is gonna get weird. Some human necessities will continue to get cheaper. Employment will decrease. The life cycle of commercial enterprises will accelerate, making investment weird.

By the mid-22nd century, everything associated with human life as we’ve known it for thousands of years gets weird as we have increasing choice of what should contain our minds and of the form of consciousness itself. You could call the 2100s the Century of Choice. Dibs on that.

It’s also the century of fragmentation, as new choices of how to live lead to different societies and sects and enclaves. After this, it’s hard to say what happens, because you can’t predict what the prevalent forms of consciousness will be.

The mental isolation that humans have always felt – that we are separate, autonomous individuals – will be eroded. We already have close working relationships with our devices, and we’ll increasingly be nodes in a network of streaming information as everything in our world gets packed with computing (and eventually thinking) circuitry.

Just remembered – made this list in 2013 as part of a pitch to Grantland – it’s everything I thought would be going away.

Children (Currently, about 85% of humans have children. By 2090, less than 30% of humans will have reproduced traditionally by the age of 60.)
Risk and wrecks (People who might live for many centuries won’t tolerate current levels of risk.)
Meat from animals with brains
Humans’ exalted view of ourselves (We’re gonna learn exactly how we work, and we’ll find it not so awesome.)
The soul (We’ll have a mathematical model of how we feel that we have feelings. This will be a good thing, but it won’t feel so good. Understanding consciousness could add an underlying sadness to the world until people get used to it.)
Basic human concerns and drives (We’re gonna be able to rejigger the agenda that evolution has wired into our heads.)
TV and movie storylines as we know them (All our entertainment is built around basic human drives. Once we start messing with these drives, we have to mess w/ our stories. Romance, action, comedy, drama, etc. all get reworked.)
Natural-born bodies
Sex as the greatest thing
Not knowing how our brains work
Not knowing why the universe is
Thinking we know what’s going on a moment-to-moment basis (Our awareness is really patchy and cobbled together, but evolution doesn’t give a crap. Evolution wants us to have enough awareness to survive and reproduce. Anything beyond that is a bonus.)
Thinking our brains are perfect and fantastic
Privacy
Marriage ’til death do us part
Disease
Island consciousness (that is, not being able to link your brain to someone else’s)
Abject poverty and ignorance (except among angry, fucked-up, repressed populations)
Unhealthy food (Food that tastes great won’t actually be bad for you.)

And a few things that won’t happen:

No time travel, except through simulation (which will grow more and more powerful, but still won’t let you change the past).

Probably no warp drive.

Probably no war between galactic empires. Empires don’t get you much – there’s no rare stuff that can only be had on a certain planet. I guess civilizations might fight for control of large bodies such as a neutron star that has neutrino jets or a black hole at a galactic center (which might be good for vast amounts of computing). They won’t be fighting over worm poop that helps you steer spaceships. According to many futurists, advanced civilizations just want to stay home and compute – kinda like us with our smart phones.

We’ll eventually encounter other civilizations. I’m guessing finding alien life will be like dating and marriage – initial excitement followed by vaguely interested familiarity.

And finally, a rule of thumb. In the 21st century, the percent weirdness of daily life roughly equals the last two digits of the year. The year 2015 is 15% weird. (We spend all day staring at screens. We have access to all information, and we constantly share information via social media. We can watch anything we want at any time. We’re in a constant state of war against nebulous enemies. Cameras and surveillance are everywhere. All this adds up to at least 15% weirdness.) The year 2030 will be roughly 30% weird. 2050, 50% weird. (The rule, following a straight line instead of an exponential curve, probably underestimates weirdness for the last part of the century.) Dibs on the rule – call it the Rosner Rule.

103. Any thoughts on aesthetics within your framework for understanding the world?

Conscious beings are driven by pleasure (and pain). Pleasure is associated with things that are important to survival and reproduction. Perhaps more than any other species, humans get pleasure from learning, because our niche is discovering exploitable regularities in the world. We get aesthetic pleasure from representations of things associated with pleasure, especially when those representations offer a satisfying hint of discovery or problem-solving.

Kitsch and porn pander to pure pleasure without the learning, while art offers at least the suggestion of learning how to decode the world. At its best, the beautiful also offers insight.

Endorphins shape learning. Jokes are funny because they simulate an abridged learning process. We enjoy music because it sets up expectations of patterns and then fulfills those patterns. (And the rhythm sets up a framework that can keep us in the moment.) Familiarity in our surroundings and predictability in our sensory input helps structure our awareness – we’re all a little like the guy in Memento.

104. Any comments on informational eschatology?

The universe will likely largely stay the way it is for trillions upon quadrillions upon quintillions of years. However, our galaxy will burn out and fall away from the active center after I dunno, another ten billion years or so. (Astronomers say the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy will collide and merge in another five or so billion years, but that’s not the issue. It’s when the merged galaxy’s stars burn out that it falls out of the active center.) Perhaps advanced civilizations have ways of surviving the burning-out of a galaxy to persist for more than just tens of billions of years. For us, with our puny conception of things, tens or hundreds of billions of years might as well be forever. When and if the universe does end, probably does so through heat. Heat is noise and loss of information. The temperature of the cosmic background radiation increases and sizzles everything away. The currently active center runs out of juice and falls back into the hot background like Schwarzenegger being lowered into the molten steel in Terminator 2.

Of course, for us, the idea of a civilization or entity lasting for billions of years is inconceivable. How could an entity develop and accumulate knowledge for the equivalent of a million lifespans of our current civilization? Well, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it hits a ceiling of knowledge. Maybe it’s like a security cam setup that keeps only a rolling record of the past 24 hours. At this point, with knowledge of only one civilization that’s only 10,000 years old, we have no way of knowing.

105. Deep and shallow recorded human history present numerous examples of prior attempts at absolute definitions of consciousness, universe, and their mutual union. Of course, dust needed brushing along with spooling of the cobwebs, and at least one coat of varnish, of ideas, evidence, and argument to a sufficient level for clarity on these issues. 

Rather than pontificate on broad historical patterns, for brief and mundane historical examples, earliest known individuals with works focused on the gods such as Hesiod with Theogony, which went through the traditional Greek mythological timeline including the triumphs of Cronos over Ouranos and Zeus over Cronos.

Other sets of individuals comprising schools focused on the schools of philosophy with less focus on gods and more focus on forces of nature.  The Milesians took different fundamental compositions of the world while removing the place of the gods with Thales (Water), Anaximander (Apeiron or the indefinite, infinite, unlimited), and Anaximenes (Mist, air, or vapour).  Each with views different from before, but monistic (non-plural) and material as opposed to plurality of gods and their caprices.  In particular, the worldview of Thales because of the transition between the world of the mythological, allegorical, and metaphorical of Hesiod into the world of reason. 

Some of these cosmological speculative philosophies gave rise to political and moral philosophy.  These speculations continued to lack comprehensive integration, even with the question-based philosophies of Socrates and the Sophists. Plato and Aristotle provided the most thorough accounts of a comprehensive philosophy covering numerous subjects over many, many writings.  This continued onward to the present day with individuals attempting unification such as David Deutsch, David Chalmers, Edward Witten, Stephen Hawking, and so on.  Many bright lights in history.  How do you assess or grade the attempts at absolute definitions of phenomena such as consciousness?

For most of human history, people made all sorts of wrong guesses about the nature of consciousness. It feels so ineffable and deeply, transcendently real – it has to be a bridge to some kind of ethereal beyondness, right? After millennia of this, consciousness has a bad reputation for being associated with la-de-dah mysticism. Mention consciousness, and people get nervous that you’re gonna argue that rocks and trees and entire planetary surfaces are conscious.

But, as I’ve said, consciousness is a technical, not a mystical phenomenon. Human consciousness is all jazzed up – made super-exciting to keep us interested in ourselves – but at base, it’s about shared information forming a mind – a mental arena – because we have a better chance of accurately modeling reality when all our specialized subsystems have a global understanding.

Today, people have a better intuitive understanding of consciousness than ever before. We’re used to working with our devices, which are near-extensions of consciousness – feeding us information at our bidding. We’re fluid in juggling apps – right now, I have 25 windows open on my computer – and can see not a stream of consciousness, but pop-up consciousness – information and specialist systems popping into awareness as needed. We can see that our devices, while not conscious, could become more integrated into our consciousness – heads-up displays as in Terminator or fighter jets, for instance – and that smart devices will become increasingly emulative of our thinking. Regardless of whether our devices will eventually become conscious in the manner of hundreds of mostly bad science fiction movies, we see that our devices are capable of complex information processing, which takes away some of the exaltedness of the information processing going on in our heads.

106. What makes the Big Bang so convincing? Is it at risk of being replaced?

The Big Bang is convincing for lots of reasons. It’s by far the most widely accepted theory of cosmogony among scientists. However, it’s only held this position for the past 50 years. Before the discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation in 1964-65, it was neck-and-neck between Big Bang and Steady State Theory, which postulated that matter popped into existence in empty space. And before Big Bang and Steady State Theory originated as a consequence of general relativity and Hubble’s Law in the 1920s, we didn’t know enough about the large-scale dynamics of the universe for any effective theorizing that I’m aware of.

The discovery of Cosmic Microwave Background radiation was dramatically convincing. In 1964, some guys at Bell Labs built a radio telescope which picked up low-temperature noise they couldn’t explain. They thought it might be bird poop on the antenna. Turned out to be light from the early universe as predicted by the Big Bang. Game, set, match for Big Bang Theory.

The Big Bang explains a lot – the apparent velocities of billions of galaxies, the formation of heavy elements, the size and apparent age of the universe, the proportions of elements found in the universe, the relative youthfulness of more distant galaxies.

It’s conceptually easy – one big explosion, everything flies apart. Has a catchy name. Is the title of the biggest sitcom on TV.

But it doesn’t explain enough. It minimizes cosmic questions, with the main question being, why is nothingness so volatile that it explodes into an entire enormous universe? With enough tweaks, Big Bang theory can explain the mechanics of how the universe exploded out of nothingness, which is kind of satisfying from the point of view of physics, but not of philosophy.

Some problems of Big Bang theory include:

It leaves too many physical constants unexplained – the proton-electron mass ratio and dozens more. The Big Bang in general is not overly explanatory – it only tells you why some stuff is the way it is – how elements form in stars, for instance. (But you can have element formation in stars without the Big Bang.)

Big Bang Theory incorporates assumptions of uniform conditions and constants across the entire universe. This is usually seen as a theoretical strength, but, like the unexplained physical constants, Big Bang theory doesn’t completely justify why the universe should be uniform. The philosophical reason, called the cosmological principle, is that we on earth are located nowhere special in the universe, and furthermore, the entire universe is nowhere special. This is a dangerous assumption. You can’t just demand that the universe be roughly the same everywhere. What if that’s not how the universe works? The Big Bang has that assumption built in. And while the Big Bang assumes uniformity in space, it does no such thing in time. There is no uniformity across time in Big Bang theory – every observer is located at a unique moment in the universe’s unfolding.

Some of universe’s spatial uniformity is explained by cosmic inflation in the very early universe. According to cosmic inflation, the universe expanded so fast (blowing up by a factor of at least 10^26 in less than 1/10^32nd of a second – that is, doubling in size every 1/10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000th of a second or so) that a tiny volume without much room for variation became the entire visible universe, and the rapid expansion also spread out any irregularities. The reason for such rapid inflation isn’t known, so cosmic inflation is a little ad hoc.

Beyond cosmic inflation, the Big Bang requires more and more precise, fussy tweaks to agree with increasing amounts of observational data. One would hope that there would be a theory, either an add-on to Big Bang theory or an alternative, which would explain more of the conditions of the universe without having to be tweaked to fit the conditions of the universe.

Our galaxy contains globular clusters – tight groups of a million or so stars – which may be older than the Big Bang. Calculations are pretty equivocal on this – the clusters might not be that old. Meh to the clusters.

Yeah, the Big Bang is in danger of being supplanted. It’s pretty much our first try at a theory of the universe based on not hopelessly incomplete observational evidence. Even though the Big Bang is young, it’s already accumulated a bunch of patches.

A digression –

Was up late last night, thinking about how active galaxies get to the active center. They can’t just light up and slide into the center – what would cause the slide? And they can’t just slide out of the center when burned out. I’m thinking maybe it looks like soap bubbles – lit-up galaxies expand enough of the surrounding space that bubbles would be too big not to merge. There wouldn’t be walls between bubbles – that’s incorrectly extending the analogy – but there would be dark galaxies along the saddles between bubbles. Without being able to contribute to the photon flux that keeps the active center inflated, maybe dark galaxies would slide along the saddle between lit-up regions, back down to the dark outskirts. Could be messy enough to work. Over billions of years, there would be an ordering of regions by brightness – the greatest producers of photon flux would float to the top of the lumpy bubble, and less-bright regions would be pulled down to the outskirts by gravity.

I suppose this would mean you could temporarily be of two minds – thinking of two things somewhat independently – having a pair of incompletely merged active centers in your mind-space – until your thoughts merge. While driving, you’re trying to remember your second-grade teacher when another driver forces you slightly out of your lane. Your thoughts about your split-second evasive driving maneuver don’t necessarily disrupt your thoughts about second grade. Each pattern of thought informs itself more than it informs the other, unless you then ponder your bifurcated thinking during the incident.

107. Who do you consider the three greatest mathematicians/physicists/cosmologists? 

Darwin is one of my favorite cosmologists, even though he’s not a cosmologist. He took the idea of deep time, which was being debated by geologists of his era, and applied it to biology, which indirectly set the stage for the discovery, 60 years later, that we live in a universe that’s many billions of years old. Some physicists of Darwin’s time argued against deep time, saying stars couldn’t last that long. The longevity of stars wasn’t explained until the discovery of nuclear fusion.

Newton was the first to describe gravity as the force holding all large objects together, which is a necessary first step in a conceptual framework that encompasses the entire universe. And Einstein made that framework much more explicit.

Also important are the developers of theories of information, including Alan Turning and Claude Shannon.

108. What do you consider the three greatest mathematics/physics/cosmology concepts?

I like Mach’s Principle, which states that inertia arises from an object’s interaction with the stellar I like Mach’s Principle, which states that inertia arises from an object’s interaction with the stellar background (all the matter in the universe). Mach’s Principle has never been turned into a precise mathematical theory, but it’s still compelling. If true, Mach’s Principle can’t mean that an object is directly interacting with all matter as that matter is now, because of the speed of light. The object has to be interacting with its local inertial field which is created by all matter, but with matter’s contribution to the field delayed by distance, the same way we can see all the visible stars in the universe but only as they were in the past.

Quantum mechanics is powerful, especially when viewed as the universe observing and defining itself.

And relativity, both special and general and including Big Bang cosmology, is essential, particularly when considered as aspects of how information is structured and how it behaves.

109. How does informational cosmology incorporate high level concepts like The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle? How about Wave-Particle Duality?

Uncertainty and wave-particle duality are aspects of a finite universe having a finite capacity to define itself. Particles will be fuzzy. Say you’re playing roulette, one chip at a time. The best you can do, on average, based on whether your chip pays off (and nothing else), is pin down the number that came up to somewhere among half the numbers on the wheel. The universe is like that – it doesn’t have an infinite number of chips to lay down to see exactly what comes up. Or have an infinity of photons for particles to exchange with each other. (Though one difference between the universe and blind betting and roulette is that an incompletely observed quantum roulette ball lands in all possible slots. The information isn’t there-but-hidden – it’s just not there. Black pays off – well, the ball’s probability wave occupies all the black slots (unless observed to occupy a specific slot). The universe moves on.)

The universe writes its own history moment by moment. But history is always incomplete. Under the uncertainty principle, you can pin down some aspects of things with as much precision as you want, but this will always be at the expense of other aspects. We’re used to feeling that the universe has great solidity and precision because at our macroscopic scales, it does. Our bodies contain nearly 10^28 atoms. We’re big, compared to atoms. We don’t generally perceive atomic-scale lack of precision. We’re the beneficiaries of living in a universe with something like 10^80 particles, which define each other pretty precisely but not infinitely so through their interactions.

Inexactly defined particles behave with a certain degree of mystery – of unknown information. This unknownness takes definite forms – probability waves, etc. Defining how unknownness and imprecision manifest themselves is the job of quantum mechanics. Patrick Coles, Jedrzej Kaniewski, and Stephanie Wehner at the National University of Singapore just proved that wave-particle duality is a manifestation of the uncertainty principle. Dr. Wehner said, “The connection between uncertainty and wave-particle duality comes out very naturally when you consider them as questions about what information you can gain about a system. Our result highlights the power of thinking about physics from the perspective of information.” (Once co-wrote an adult movie about time travel which included a scientist named Dr. Wiener. This is not the same Dr. Wiener.)

110. How about Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) Nonlocality?

Existence depends on self-consistency. You can set up situations in the universe in which the discovery of the value of a variable at Point A implies the value of a linked variable at an arbitrarily distant Point B. Every particle interaction is a handshake between two points in time (as seen from points of view that aren’t moving at the speed of light – from the photon’s POV, no time passes). These handshakes are part of how the universe defines itself and maintains its self-consistency. The EPR setup links two such handshakes. The unfolding of time is the setting up and completing of vast numbers of these handshakes.

111. How about the possibility of universe operating in something more essential than information?

I don’t know what would be more essential (in a practical sense) than information. Information is the pure essence of choice with everything extraneous stripped away. In a binary system of information, it’s just 0s and 1s or whatever you want to call it – apples and oranges, Bens and Jerrys – but it’s all just the choice between two values – what you call these two values isn’t included. It’s no-frills.

However, this doesn’t get at the essence of distinct choices, why something can only be true or not true (Gödel aside), how non-contradiction arises and why it’s the key to existence. We have to work on the logical foundation of existence, including the existence of information, but in terms of how the universe does moment-to-moment business, information is a highly efficient framing device.

While we’re at it, we have to get at the foundation of numbers – how they exist (in an abstract sense that’s reflected by numbers in the material world) without contradiction and with infinite precision. The same logical structures of non-contradiction – the infinite choices of and handshakes between values that allow numbers to work – also allow material existence. (My article about meta-primes in Noesis begins to discuss the infinite series of choices among numerical values that make numbers work.

112. How does everything in essence equate to aTuring Machinein informational cosmology?

A Turing machine constructs a picture of reality one finite step at a time. Any finite process or system can be mathematically translated into a series of bit-wise steps – a series of 0s and 1s. Multiple Turing machines can be married into a single machine – the Church-Turing thesis states that any computable function on the natural numbers is computable on a Turing machine. I’m assuming that the universe (or any information-space) is finite and that possible transitions between states of the universe are computable (given the input of new information to reflect the outcome of events that had yet to be resolved). With these assumptions, subsequent events can be computed by a Turing machine.

113. Where one contained armature/universe equals Aand another container armature/universe equals A3, does Aoperate on a different kind of time than A3?

The armature world and the mind-space world are temporally linked – the mind-space is reacting in real time, but there’s no coordination of physical processes – between the speed of light in the armature world and in the mind-space, for instance.

114. What can we never know?  In other words, what count as, by their nature, mysteries?

The universe observes and defines itself. It takes information to get information. There’s not an infinite amount of specification to be spread around. There will always be gaps in knowing. Even in a deterministic universe, which ours isn’t, you’d need something vastly hugely huge to model the universe.

So our knowledge of specifics will always be at risk of being threadbare. But we can hope to learn more about the general principles of existence. Richard Feynman laid out the possible paths of future scientific knowledge, something like – we figure out the universe, learning just about everything there is to know. Or we fail to figure out the universe – it’s just too tough. Or we keep learning more and more but never learn just about everything because what there is to know just keeps going and going.

I think we’ll mostly figure out the universe – we’ll develop a pretty good picture of the Whys. Our knowledge, however, will always be surrounded by a deep metaphysical chasm of not yet understanding the Whys behind the Whys. There’s no absolute knowledge – there’s just hope.

It’s not an unreasonable assumption that there’s an unlimited amount of stuff to know. There are reasons behind reasons behind reasons, and we may never get to the rock-bottom essential nature of things, because there may not be a rock-bottom essential nature. Everything might be bootstrapped and self-referential and the way it is because it can’t not be the way it is without being contradictory. You can never precisely draw a fractal or a Mandelbrot set – there’s always an infinity of little curlicues you’re leaving out. And as you go bigger and bigger and more complex, there are emergent properties and essential stories too big to be contained in smaller information sets.

Having a beginner’s understanding of the Whys of the universe is just a first step to learning how to operate within the universe. There will always be infinitely far to go to figuring everything out.

115. How does informational cosmology explain ex nihilo cosmogony for the modern form of nothing defined by science and the modern philosophical/theological kind of “nonbeing” nothing?

In informational cosmology, there’s a reason in the armature world for a mind-space to come into existence. Reasons can be anything that creates a wide-angle information processing system – can be natural, as when our brains form as a fetus grows, could be semi-mechanical, as with us building future sophisticated robots, could be a spontaneous negentropic process (which the billion-year evolution of life on earth can be seen as).

Also, the principles of self-defined information-spaces should generate a roughly defined set of all possible such spaces. If these principles more-or-less completely specify what can exist, consistent with non-contradiction, then anything that can exist, can’t not exist – that is, must exist (though we can only experience one moment at a time, and each moment has to be consistent with its history – we can’t jump world-lines).

So, between every information-space having a reason to exist in an armature world that’s created it and the principles of existence pretty much mandating that information-spaces exist, you have pretty solid justifications for there not being just nothingness.

116. With universe as mind and theology as study of the nature of God – in large part, theology becomes informational cosmology, and vice versa.  How does this reframe the enormous discipline of theology?

If widely embraced, informational cosmology would eventually prompt a whole new mess of unfounded and semi-unfounded belief and misunderstanding. It has a whole set of new and semi-new hooks on which to hang irrational beliefs.

Even if it becomes an accepted theory, not everyone’s going to believe it. I assume our semi-artificial selves of a century hence will be pretty scientific in their beliefs, but there will be many groups that continue to hold traditional beliefs. Figure 14 to 25 billion entities with at least human-level cognition 100 years from now (could be many, many more if independent, individual AIs are all over the place). The majority will hold scientific worldviews, but billions of others will be various degrees of Christian or Muslim or Buddhist.

Informational cosmology contains more Whys than Big Bang theory. Big Bang theory asks you to believe that nothingness is unstable and wants to explode without much philosophical justification. I’d think that people would embrace a theory that, if largely verified, offers more Whys within a scientific framework.

Informational cosmology also offers huge questions to try to answer – is the universe truly conscious? If so, what’s it up to, and what world contains it? How old is the universe? Can civilizations survive the recycling of galaxies? Is there a ladder of worlds? What are some of the other conscious beings scattered throughout the universe up to? Do they participate in the mechanics of the universe? Are three-dimensional space and one-dimensional time structures that all civilizations are stuck with? And a zillion more questions. Some people will try to answer them theologically.

117. If you had the opportunity to look at deep human time in an instant, you would see antiquity’s graveyard with a small section, where we can find remnants of the great theologians, and these grand figures of theology lie in the grave with some onlookers – no doubt to join – around the graveyard; look close, some found in this grave, some at the eulogies, and others to partake of this cemetery: Abraham Joshua Heschel, Albert Schweizer, Baháu’lláh, Charles Wesley, Clement of Alexandria, Clive Staples Lewis, Eliabeth Stuart, Gordon Clark, John Calvin, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, Joseph Smith, Jr., Karl Barth, Ketut Wiana, Leila Ahmed, Marilyn McCord Adams, Martin Luther, Pelagius, Polycarp, Prophet Muhammad, Saint Anselm, Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Saint Irenaeus, Saint Jerome, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Soren Kirkegaard, Teilhard de Chardin, and so on.

With such a deep background into the realm of ethics in the world of theology, informational ethics provides the basis for theoretical analysis of issues in ethics such as asserted proclamations on ethics in prior times.  Application of Cto each set or subset of proposed ethics; Cprovides the basis for logical analysis of ethics.

How might other pervasive ethics have rational calculation in such a moral calculus from informational cosmology?  How might the longstanding tradition of theology work in such a framework?  How do some vogue – within the timeline of recorded human civilization’s history – assertions of ethics operate in informational ethics such as Christianity, Confucianism, humanism, Islam, Judaism, secularism, and so on?

Most ethical implications of informational cosmology probably come from the idea that everything exists within a framework of (technical-not-mystical) consciousness. Consciousness is a big deal – it’s the context for everything. At the same time, it is weak – it’s technical, not transcendent, and it doesn’t transcend death unless abetted by technology. Consciousness is threadbare, it lies to us, and it’s not everlasting. At the same time, it’s all we have.

We have to assume that respect for conscious beings is important. At the same time, we have evidence that it’s not. We know pigs are fairly intelligent and have feelings. At this point, only schmucks would argue that pigs aren’t conscious. (Unless they’re arguing that no living beings are truly conscious, in which case they’re using a completely different (and schmucky) definition of consciousness.) We slaughter pigs by the billions, but there’s no proof that this mass killing of conscious beings leaves a metaphysical stain on the universe.

We can go back to existentialism, that the world is meaningless, so we have to build our own moral systems. But we’re potentially in a better position than the existentialists confronting a random, spontaneously arising Creator-less universe that contains no inherent moral values. If informational cosmology is correct about conscious information-spaces being the framework for existence that, at least, is a unifying theme for existence. We still have to build our own moral systems, but there’s a little more to grab onto than the completely random, coldly purposeless, Big Bang universe.

Consciousness is a mathematically describable, verifiable thing, not just a suspicion of or an ineffable feeling that there might be a thing. And consciousness might be a thing on all scales, up to the most humongous. We don’t know much yet, but there’s a chance that our self-built moral systems might eventually get some support, not from some Creator handing down pronouncements, but from the structure of things. If consciousness is embedded in existence, and existence is the default state of things, then there might be reasonable ways to philosophize the problem of how to exist, without just blindly, bravely doing it for the sake of keeping on.

We still have to face that existence is governed by the math-like principles of non-contradiction, rather than being granted by a deity. We may always face the problem that there’s not some Ultimate Mover who wants us to exist, but rather that it’s up to us to design ourselves to want to exist (after having inherited the drive to exist from purposeless evolutionary processes). But we can be hopeful about consciousness being inherent to existence. The principles of existence won’t be able to squeeze the ghosts out of the machine.

118. How might this calculate the most difficult issue in the history of theology,The Problem of Evil?

The deal is, the processes that created us don’t have purpose, and they don’t judge. We’ve been created by a history of things happening via natural processes. I think we arose instead of being created by a purposeful being with plans for us. And since there’s no planner to keep things in line, to make things nice, lots of things can happen, and some of the things that can happen are horrible. It’s up to us to create moral systems which help us decide good and bad and up to us to do what we can to minimize the bad. There’s no One in charge; we have to be in charge of ourselves. But we get some help, in that existence seems to be unpreventable. We’re in a fight against personal and civilizational and even universal oblivion (our universe, not all possible universes), but existence itself is undodgeable. Existence isn’t a fluke, and nothingness is not the default state. There is a fabric of existence (well, not exactly, because where would it exist? It exists the way numbers exist.), a set (a quite likely messy, not-well-defined set) of possible moments of existence, because there can’t not be.

Evil, as opposed to bad things happening by accident, involves choice. Something capable of choice chooses to do something bad or to allow something bad to happen. There’s no deity in charge who’s allowing bad things to happen. But what about the conscious entities who are so much bigger than us that they might as well be gods? In the case of the universe itself, it probably has an idea that the information which comprises its information-space can take forms which are so complicated that they can include worlds with conscious beings and civilizations. However, it’s unlikely that the universe would care about beings which are low-level relative to itself and which do not exist in a form of which it is explicitly conscious, unless such forms threaten to impede the universe’s information-processing. As for advanced civilizations within the universe, they seem unlikely to go out of their way to prevent bad things from happening on our planet.

So, to boil everything down –

No one is in charge, neither a Creator nor an agent or ethical system put in place by a Creator.

The universe isn’t concerned about relatively low-level worlds which form in its information-space. The universe wants its information-space to process information. It’s okay with, and is largely unaware of, whatever happens to specific negentropic forms taken by the information in its information-space – that is, us.

Other civilizations in the universe haven’t invited us to join some galactic empire of goodness in which we get help in not having bad things happen.

For the time being, we’re on our own in building ethical systems and in trying to minimize evil.

119. Do souls exists? How do you define them?

Souls exist if you call our conscious selves our souls. If by “soul” you mean a magic ingredient, not information-based, that transforms an unconscious automaton into a feeling, experiencing being, then no, I don’t think souls exist. Our consciousness, our feeling that we exist in the world, is a property of how we process information. It’s not the result of a transcendent soul that rides unfeeling matter like a little sparkly cowboy or a golden thinking cap on a flesh-and-bone Roomba.

Our soul is what we’re feeling and experiencing and the incompletely expressed background to what we’re thinking at any given moment. At any given moment, there’s a lot we don’t consciously know but are comfortable that we could know if we needed to. Our moment-to-moment awareness is somewhat rooted in all our stored knowledge (including feelings associated with that knowledge) that’s only unpacked a little at a time. Our being accustomed to knowledge-in-waiting, our at-homeness in the world, our not freaking out that we don’t know everything at every moment, is part of what feels like a soul – a generalized feeling of self.

We don’t see a painting all at once – we fill it in mentally as our eyes wander over the painting. Similarly, we don’t know ourselves all at once. We constantly fill in ourselves about ourselves as our awareness wanders through our stored knowledge. Being comfortable with our normal brain function is part of feeling we have a soul.

We could even speculate that a feeling of comfort with and complacency about our brain function – this feeling of self and soul – might be encouraged by evolution, because it wouldn’t do for every organism to be freaking out over every mental glitch. Consciousness is glitchy, and we might have a certain optimum level of glitch-blindness that’s consistent with calm, normal functioning. In people suffering from Alzheimer’s, failure to recognize mental deficits seems to be fairly common. This could be a manifestation of a normally helpful defense mechanism (or it could be another symptom – a failure in self-perception caused by the Alzheimer’s itself).

The speed and precision of perception and thought are also a big part of feeling as if we have a soul. There’s a not-uncommon feeling among people who’ve been on heart-lung machines for many hours during an operation, called “pumphead” or post-perfusion syndrome. Apparently, while you’re on the machine, your circulatory system can get gunked-up, and during the month or so after the operation, your brain becomes clogged and strokey. It becomes harder to think and concentrate and control your mood. Some people with pumphead describe it as losing their soul.

And most of us have had the “wrapped in cotton” feeling of reduced reality when exhausted or a little bit buzzed. It’s apparent that degrading brain function reduces the feeling of the authenticity of reality and of self.

120. Father Teilhard de Chardin remains a controversial figure to some.  In particular, his ideas in The Phenomenon of Man(1955) evoked praise, infamy, and even calumny.  He had some ideas of note.  Ideas in relation to theology and the world.  With rich theological undertones, he spoke of an Omega Point in the book The Future of Man(1964).  Does this idea hold merit in informational cosmology?

I believe that, as in Omega Point theory, the universe evolves more complicated and effective ways to process and store information, which can include biological and technical evolution. However, I don’t believe in the Omega Point’s teleology, that some god-like entity is the engine of progress, drawing us towards its enlightenment. And evolution doesn’t just progress towards increased complexity; evolution spreads out across all levels of complexity. Bacteria didn’t disappear when humans emerged.

Also, if the universe recycles itself across octillions of years, then life within it emerges zillions of times as a natural consequence of negentropy. (Every solar system is an open, negentropic system, though life won’t evolve in every such system.) So you don’t have a universe relentlessly climbing towards higher levels of complexity; you have a universe in which complexity arises over and over, trillions and quintillions of times. Even if intelligent life arises only once per galaxy, that’s still 10^11 instances of intelligent life, not even considering the recycling of galaxies. The universe should gradually grow more complex as it accumulates more information, but it could operate just fine with an unchanging amount of information, just as we could.

121. What do you see as still needing to be done with Informational Cosmology?

Informational Cosmology:

Needs mathematical structure – words translated into equations.

Needs testable aspects and testing – it’s not a theory unless it can be tested. Many of its elements are hard to test observationally – dark matter being collapsed normal matter, there being a bunch of burned-out galaxies in the neighborhood of T = 0, the universe being many, many times older than 14 billion years. But these same difficulties pertain to other theories of dark matter and the large-scale structure of the universe. These theories are often tested via mathematical modeling, which could be applied to Informational Cosmology. Fortunately (perhaps), Informational Cosmology is also a model of our minds, which, while not sharing our physical space, aren’t 14 billion light years away and are amenable to observation.

Needs attention. I’m trying to sell a memoir, Dumbass Genius, about the dumb things I’ve done, with some of the dumb things being done in pursuit of a theory of the universe. The proposal for Dumbass Genius is currently being looked at by publishers. The memoir will be 95% narrative and 5% physics. The narrative is a Trojan horse to get the physics in front of people. I’ve hired some PR people, and I’m trying to expand my social media presence, and I will continue to do and say semi-stupid stuff with the hope that this might cause people to accidentally pay attention to my non-stupid stuff.

Needs professionals to look at it. Professional scientists hate this kind of stuff. I’m working on an article titled “On Being a Crackpot.” I can tell you that professors don’t greet wild, all-encompassing amateur theories with unbridled joy. The standard reaction is, “I’m not even gonna look at your theory. I’ve dealt with lunatics like you before. Your theory is almost certainly crap, and reading the theory and explaining why it’s wrong would be a waste of time because nothing I could say would change your crazed mind. Why did the receptionist even let you into my office?” My best bet is to have my brain transplanted into the body of an attractive young woman and marry Brian Green or Neil deGrasse Tyson or Michio Kaku. We’ll get married and have lots of sex and then he’ll have to at least pretend to pay attention to my theory. Anyone know an attractive young woman who wants to swap bodies with a 54-year-old man with hair plugs?

Needs further integration – to have its elements combined into a smoothly functioning model of the life cycles of thoughts, galaxies, and the entire mind and universe (preferably with cool diagrams).

Needs to be shown to address shortcomings of currently accepted theories and explain things currently accepted theories don’t. A theory which explains why the universe does what it does is preferable to a theory which says, “There was a big explosion, then some cosmic inflation, and now there’s some accelerated expansion.” Current thinking tends in the direction of, “Asking ‘Why?’ is naïve – a pinpoint that explodes with vast broken-symmetry energy just is,” but a nice metaphysical/mathematical explanation that might also explain why some physical constants are what they are could eventually be well-received.

Needs time and for Big Bang theory to continue to accumulate contravening evidence. Thomas Kuhn, in his classic book about how science works, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, explains that science progresses through a kind of punctuated equilibrium – theories prevail until they accumulate a bunch of anomalies, and then there’s a scientific revolution. Big Bang theory has been the boss-man theory of the universe for only 50 years. And before that, we didn’t really have a widely accepted theory of universal structure, because all the pieces weren’t in place. The Hubble redshift and expanding universe equations of general relativity weren’t discovered until the 1920s. We didn’t even know that the universe extended beyond the Milky Way until Hubble provided incontrovertible evidence in the 20s. So we’ve had this one theory for not too long – basically our first and only theory based on decent information about the universe. (There was Steady State theory, but it was never boss before getting swatted down by observational evidence.) Big Bang’s getting a little creaky – needs a lot of add-ons and geegaws to account for the results of observation.

The Big Bang will eventually be replaced, but it won’t go away, the same way Newton’s gravitation didn’t go away – it became part of the larger conceptual framework of general relativity. The universe will always appear to be Big Bangy due to the nature of information. Informational cosmology still has the universe blowing up, but just a little at a time. (And by little, I mean maybe at an average rate of around ten galaxies a year.)

122. Would you ever have theorized without your outlier background?

The background definitely helps. Can imagine many different destinies – resentful math teacher, divorced unsuccessful novelist…. But think those versions would do some theorizing, too. Maybe not as much as this version. And they certainly wouldn’t have had this forum.

123. Do you see a difference between common sense and intelligence?

It’s an old question which has an element of what might now be called nerd-shaming. It implies that regular people with common sense can get along in the world, while you, Nerd, with your so-called intelligence, have a hard time with things such as sports or getting a girlfriend or not dressing weird.

As a nerdy kid, I ran into this attitude fairly often, with people saying, “Well, you may be a brainiac, but I’ve got common sense.” This reflects a lost world of nerds being somewhat isolated from regular people. Today, tech forces us all to be nerds to some extent, all searching for the new best practices for living.

124. What do you most regret?

I regret squandering time on some stupid stuff – all the Gilligan’s Island and I Love Lucy reruns I watched as a kid, the crazy amount of time spent suing a quiz show. (My lawsuit was justified, but it ate up a lot of time.) I regret not being more skeptical of medical procedures which turned out to be unhelpful at best – varicose vein stripping, CT scan…. I regret not being born a couple decades further into the future. I regret not becoming wildly handsome in my 20s.

125. You live among an interesting cohort, no doubt.  A group of individuals among the elite of intellectual abilities.  What of the ethics of forming elite organizations – “elite” by admission standards?  What about joining them?  What about the possibility of some exploiting concomitant assumed authority of an individual or group?  Perhaps some of those in the ultra-high IQ community make a conscientious choice – moral choice even – to not join such societies. Insofar as the ethics of forming, joining, and sustaining elite groups, what of the possibility of ultra-high general ability individuals choosing to not enter? 

There are probably more hyper-intelligent people not in high-IQ societies than in them. Smart, highly successful people tend to be more involved with the things that made them successful than in exploring their mental skills.

But there’s not a super-high correlation between intelligence and success, especially at the highest levels. Many high-IQ people have pretty normal lives and jobs. Some of them find high-IQ societies, where they can get a little recognition and interact with people who have meshing interests. People turn to high-IQ societies on social media for the same reasons people do anything on social media – recognition and sharing. Social media makes it easier to join high-IQ societies – every two or three months, I’ll be emailed that I’ve been added to some high-IQ group. Because they’re easy to join, quite a few people belong to high-IQ groups on social media, which means that such groups consist largely of nice people who are delighted to have online friends.

126. You suffer from the attention and invective of internet trolls. Trolls come in many variety within the flora and fauna of internet life.  I hear they feed on a combination of foaming at the mouth and others’ time – at least in their natural habitat.  Unfortunately, they’re like starfish.  If one chops the poor little echinoderm to pieces – or like the story of the wizard from Fantasia with the shredded broom, they have a “population explosion” and emerge with greater force and invective than ever before. Do you have any responses for the harsh internet crowd? In other words, what comes across with the highest frequency?  How do you respond to them?

Arrogant – Well, I’m really good at IQ tests. Does that make me a snotty jerk? I hope not. Do I know what’s best for people or have a plan for remaking society? No. Do I want to be the boss of everybody? No. Do I think I’m really smart? Kinda, but my Twitter handle is @DumbassGenius, not @geniusgenius, which shows at least a little modesty.

Weirdo – Yes, I’m kind of weird – not weird just to be weird, but weird because I’m used to figuring out on my own how to do stuff, and often this figuring works out oddly. And even though I do weird things like go to the gym five times a day, I also do normal, responsible things like stay married for 23 years and be a dad and hold down jobs more successfully than most people in my profession.

Loser – If you’ve read that I’m a high-IQ bouncer and stripper and nude model, that’s kind of loserish. Very loserish. But I’ve also been a TV writer and sometimes-producer since the late 80s. I’ve written for more than 2,500 hours of broadcast television, including the Emmys, ESPYs, American Music Awards, Grammys, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, earning seven Writers Guild Award nominations (one win) and an Emmy nomination. I’ve gotten a lot of material on TV. As I’ve said before, I’m married and a dad, which is important. I’ve got a memoir that’s being shopped around, and I have a theory of the universe. So, not entirely a loser.

Obvious hair plugs – Yes, you can tell that I have hair plugs. They’re not the worst plugs in the world, but they could be better. I started getting them in 1989, before the technique had been refined, so they’re a little clumpy. But they’re better than no hair, and if you didn’t know what you were looking for, you might not notice them.

Why should you listen to me? – I’ve been trying to figure out how the universe works since I was ten, and I’ve had a decent foundation for a theory for more than 30 years. I might be onto something. Current big bang cosmology is getting a little threadbare. A very, very, very old universe explains a lot of stuff.

You were very concerned about losing your virginity - Sex is kind of a given. Unmarried couples live together without social censure, everyone’s saturated in porn and sexualized images, everyone suspects the worst about everyone else in terms of sexual behavior. But as a population, we’re just about fatter than ever, there are a zillion other things to besides sex, and people in general don’t seem overly concerned with having sex, at least not as much as in the 70s.

127. Provisions for principles of existence would equate to the language of existence, and therefore one can derive the more appropriate, direct, and proper phrase “principles of existence” rather than “laws.” We have more derivations from defined principles of existence:

Principle One: universe operates within limits of complexity.  Any further complexity will likely deteriorate into optimal simplicity.  Universe among logical possibilities of the set of universes bound by optimal simplicity. 

Principle Two: relevance/irrelevance, information of relevance will occupy or begin to occupy the active center; conversely, information of irrelevance will not occupy or begin to not occupy the active center.

Principle Three: The Persistence Project divides into The Statistical Argument for Universe and The Statistical Argument for Consciousness.   Universe cannot not exist; consciousness cannot not exist.  Therefore, the non-absolute high probability for existence, and persistence, of universe and consciousness.

Principle Four: informational cosmology implies informational ethics in a progressive argument.  Where Ic equals informational cosmology, Su equals Statistical Argument for Universe, Sc equals Statistical Argument for Consciousness, P equals The Persistence Project,  CE equals “existence-valuing principles,” and Ie equals informational ethics, we can construct one conditional argument to derive informational ethics from informational cosmology: 1) I (Su  Sc), 2) (Su  Sc P, 3) P  CE, 4) CE  Ie, 5) Ic, 6) , Ie.  Therefore, one acquires values consistent with the facts of existence: “existence-valuing principles” or CE.  David Hume’s is/ought fails.  A distinction exists between them, but facts imply values.

Principle Five: universe/mind symmetry, universe as mind based on net self-consistency and information processing.   Units of sufficient individuation in universe with self-consistency and information processing as minds too. 

Principle Six: universe (Mn) implies armature (An); if armature, universe.  Universe equates to information processing; armature equates to material framework/processor: (A⇒ Mn).

Principle Seven: armature and universe construct mind-space: (A+ Mn = Sn).

Principle Eight: net self-consistency and information processing equates to consciousness. This reflects Principle Five. Sigma, ∑, self-consistency, S, times, *, sigma information processing, ∑Ip, would equal mind-space, Sn, where mind-space equals information-space, Is:  (∑S * ∑Ip = S= Is).

Principle Nine: universe as conscious: (A⇒ Mn); , (A+ Mn); (A+ Mn⇒ Sn, (A+ Mn = Sn).  In addition to this, we have the inclusion of Principle Eight to derive the same conclusion about mind-spaces, Sn: (∑S * ∑Ip = Sn).  Armature implies universe; therefore, armature and universe; armature and universe imply mind-space; therefore, mind-space; armature and universe construct mind-space, and net self-consistency and information processing equate to mind-space.  Consciousness equates to net self-consistency and information processing; universe equates to these too.  Therefore, universe equates to consciousness endowed system. 

Principle Ten: consciousness at every magnitude exists in finitude and with non-mystical/technical construction.  Informational cosmology lacks infinities and describes finites.  Information constructs consciousness based on information processor and net self-consistency with finite capabilities. Subsystems internal to universe partake of this consciousness too, but not to the same degree.  Units of sufficient individuation in universe with net self-consistency and information processing have consciousness proportional to sum of self-consistency times sum of information processing.  Therefore, universe and multiple subsystems in universe have consciousness or equate to minds.

Beyond the foundational elements of informational cosmology laid out in this interview, and the first- and second-order derivations with informational ethics and other areas of discourse, what further realms of investigation have a possible future of analysis within an informational cosmological and informational ethical perspective?

One big field that will open up in during the rest of the century is what our drives should be, as we develop the ability to modify our drives and desires.

By the end of the century, there will be much inquiry about how to merge minds and how connected minds should be. There will be a whole new field addressing issues of mental connectivity. In some communities, people will want to stay completely unmerged. In others, people will try to achieve complete merging.

A critical field will be modeling AI and predicting its behavior. You need a mathematics of consciousness to understand AI. Out-of-control AI could be the greatest threat in history. A related field will be the design of artificial awareness.

There will be the field of informational structure – trying to figure out what the universe and other such systems are doing with information by looking at the distribution and behavior of matter. Can we get any idea of what’s in the mind of the universe?

Technical resurrection will be an area of inquiry and development – preserving consciousness after the body is gone, attempting to reconstruct and simulate the minds of people from history. We’ll have better and better iterations of Austen, Lincoln, and Shakespeare – all the usual holodeck suspects.

Beyond the physics of information-spaces, there will be the mathematics of information-spaces, which will go farther into the abstract and general properties of self-defined spaces, along with set theory as it applies to the set of all such possible spaces, the connections and transformations among members of the set, the level of infinity that describes the set, whether it’s a well-defined set, and so on.

Then there’s the cultural analysis of how we’ll be affected by thoroughly understanding consciousness. Most people probably believe that consciousness is produced by the brain, but the culture shock may not fully set in until consciousness is fully dismantled and replicated. How people feel and behave when they’re no longer more divine than their devices will have to be studied.

128. In the current climate of excess sensitivity tied to a reactionary institutional culture and subsequent radical conformity – in irony, I do not wish to offend anyone; however, institutional analysis does have value for us: internally, to Academia, various filters through achievement measurements (BA/BAA/BBA/BSc, MA/MBA/MPA/MSc, JD, MD, PhD, Post-Doctorate, and so on) and organizational-structural apparatuses operate for academic peers to consider standards high and one another proficient in relevant material under research; externally, to independent researchers and scholars, these can prevent innovation, hinder creativity, foster intellectual docility and acquiescence, and exclude bright and qualified outsiders (even geniuses) – to claim otherwise would consider academics of an angelic form. Both perspectives valid and compatible.  It sounds good in an introductory course for particular ideals to have statement; however, we must face facts in the following reflection.  We must speak without prevarication.  You do not have academic awards, grants, honors, titles, or persuasive associations such as authoritative academics/institutional connections. If correct, and if someone in mainstream Academia stole these ideas, arguments, calculations, and original conceptualizations, you have little recourse for intellectual copyright and plagiarism. 

Your defence would hold little weight, especially with the possibility of defamation, character assassination, and other tenth-rate tricks to discredit an individual rather than consider the claim of plagiarism on truth or falsity of the claim.  No internal colleague, principal investigator status (or laboratory), faculty, external department, research institute, ethics board, administrative authority, or university at large to likely remedy such a possibility.  The Academy tends to work in a closed way for accreditation and peer recommendations.  You live and work outside the university system.  Any thoughts on such an outcome?  You developed this theory for over three decades.  Any words for someone with intention of surreptitious pilfering of even your crumbs?  Those with a wolf heart, modicum of talent, but starved for anything with a resemblance to this conceptual bread of life based on avarice and a gnawing hunger for academic, and eventual popular, glory.

I have one good defence – some of this stuff turning out to be true. If it’s true in a big way – if it’s picked up and verified by the world, someone will put me in the story.

My wife and I go to couples counselling every three or four weeks, and we discussed this in our last session – what happens if my book doesn’t get published, if I don’t get recognition, if 30 years from now I’m a frustrated old man whose ideas have become accepted but whose authorship isn’t generally recognized. My wife and our therapist and I agreed that would suck.

And yeah, my credentials are: not-great stripper, epic catcher of fake IDs, legendary goer-back to high school, nude art model, compulsive overachiever on IQ tests, and writer of jokes for late-night TV. But there’s a story there. William Blake said, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” My excess hasn’t been that excessive, but it hasn’t been what everyone else has done. Charles Darwin took a five-year trip on the Beagle. He saw eroded landscapes and thousands of species. He thought about it for 20, 30 years. His exceptional life experience plus extended thought lead to the greatest unifying theory in history – the earth’s geology plus the vastness of organic variety equals deep time. I like to think that exceptional personal experience plus extended thought can, even in the era of Big Science, lead to a great unifying theory.

I currently have sort of a PR person and next month will hire another PR person. My story will get out there. Eventually, established scientists will consider it. Will someone be able to steal it? At this point, my best chance for this not to happen if for me to keep talking and writing about it in my goofy way.

****************Footnotes and bibliography in Archives “6.A” PDF*****************

License

In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Rick G. Rosner: Giga Society, Member; Mega Society, Member & ex-Editor (1991-97); and Writer (Part Ten)

Mr. Rick G. Rosner

ABSTRACT

Part ten of eleven, comprehensive interview with Rick G. Rosner.  Giga Society member, ex-editor for Mega Society (1990-96), and writer.  He discusses the following subject-matter: difficult circumstances for women, international obligations to women based on Millennium Development Goals (MDG) with a focus on MDG 3, 4, and 5, thoughts of focus on the transhumanist future, recommended reading of Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, David Marusek, or Neal Stephenson; Dr. Rosalyn Yow quote, some observations about conditions for women; the history of men with two examples of Plato and John Stuart Mill, and reflection on history not treating most people well; female exemplars in history with multiple examples, daughter’s study of history, and personal Women’s Studies history; ethics in the global scale with multiple UN examples, collating them into a single question of How best to solve problems in civil society?”, and thinking about the future with becoming more informed as the remedy.

Keywords: Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, David Marusek, Dr. Rosalyn Yow, ethics, Giga Society, informational ethics, John Stuart Mill, Mega Society, Millennium Development Goals, Neal Stephenson, Plato, Rick G. Rosner, UN, writer.

94. Many, arguably most, women have greater difficulties than their male counterparts in equivalent circumstances.  Their welfare means our welfare – men and women (no need to enter the thorny, confused wasteland of arguments for social construction of gender rather than sex; one need not make a discipline out of truisms.). 

Net global wellbeing for women improves slowly, but appears to increase in pace over the years – millennia, centuries, and decades.  Far better in some countries; decent in some countries; and far worse, even regressing, in others.  Subjugation with denial of voting, driving, choice in marriage, choice in children, honour killings, and severe practices of infibulation, clitoridectomy, or excision among the varied, creative means of female genital mutilation based in socio-cultural or religious practices; objectification with popular media violence and sexuality, internet memes and content, fashion culture to some extent, even matters of personal preference such as forced dress or coerced attire, or stereotyping of attitudinal and behavioral stances. “All I ask of our brethren is that they will take their feet from off our necks and permit us to stand upright on the ground which God intended us to occupy.” Sarah Moore Grimke said.

Everyone owes women.  International obligations and goals dictate straightforward statements such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations (UN) in addition to simple provision of first life.  MDG 3, 4, and 5 relate in direct accordance with this proclamation – in an international context mind you.  MDG 3 states everyone’s obligations, based on agreed upon goals, for promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. MDG 4 states everyone’s obligations for reduction of infant mortality rate. MDG 5 states everyone’s obligations towards improvement of maternal health.  All MDGs proclaim completion by 2015.  We do not appear to have sufficed in obligations up to the projected deadline of 2015 with respect to all of the MDGs in sum.

In addition to these provisions, we have the conditions set forth in the The International Bill of Rights for Women by The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) of the United Nations Development Fund’s (UNDF) consideration and mandate of the “right of women to be free from discrimination and sets the core principles to protect this right.”  Where do you project the future of women in the next 5, 10, 25, 100 years, and further?  In general and particular terms such as the trends and the concomitant subtrends, what about the MDGs and numerous other proclaimed goals to assist women – especially in developing areas of the world?

Predicting gender relations beyond a century from now is somewhat easier than predicting the short-term. In the transhuman future, bodily form, including sex, will be changeable. People will take different forms. And when anyone can change sexes with relative ease, there will be less gender bias.

Let’s talk about the transhuman future (100 to 300 years from now) in general, at least as it’s presented in science fiction that doesn’t suck. Three main things are going on:

There’s pervasive networked computing. Everything has a computer in it, the computers all talk to each other, computing costs nothing, data flying everywhere. Structures are constantly being modified by swarms of AI builders. A lot of stuff happens very fast.

Your mind-space isn’t permanently anchored to your body. Consciousness will be mathematically characterized, so it’ll be transferrable, mergeable, generally mess-withable.

People choose their level of involvement in this swirling AI chaos. Most people won’t live at the frenzied pinnacle of tech – it’s too much. There are communities at all different levels of tech.

Also, horrible stuff old and new happens from time to time – bio-terror, nanotech trouble, economic imperialism, religious strife, etc.

For more about this kind of thing, read Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, David Marusek, or Neal Stephenson.

So, two hundred years from now, gender won’t be much of a limiting factor, except in weird throwback communities. In the meantime, idiots will continue to be idiots, but to a lesser extent the further we go into the future. No one who’s not a retard is standing up for the idea of men being the natural dominators of everything. If it seems like we’re not making progress towards gender equality, it may be because there’s a huge political/economic/media faction that draws money and power from the more unsavoury old-fashioned values, with its stance that anyone who’s concerned about racism or sexism is naïve and pursuing a hidden agenda to undermine American greatness.

Dumb beliefs that aren’t propped up by doctrine eventually fade away, and believing that men or any elite group is inherently superior is dumb, particularly now and into the future as any purportedly superior inherent abilities become less significant in relation to our augmented selves. Across the world, the best lazy, non-specifically targeted way to reduce gender bias is to open up the flow of information, serious and trivial (however you do that).

In the very short run, maybe the U.S. elects a female President. Doubt this will do that much to advance the cause of women, because Hillary Clinton has already been in the public eye for so long – she’s more a specific person than a representative of an entire gender. Is thinking that dumb? I dunno. I do know that her gender and who she is specifically will be cynically used against her. I hope that if elected, she’s less conciliatory and more willing to call out BS than our current President.

In the U.S., there’s currently some attention being paid to rape. Will the media attention to rape make rapey guys less rapey? I dunno. Will increased attention to rape in India reduce instances there? I dunno. A couple general trends may slowly reduce the overall occurrence of sexual coercion and violence. One trend is the increased flow of information and the reduction of privacy – cameras everywhere, everybody willing to talk about everything on social media, victims being more willing to report incidents, better understanding of what does and does not constitute consent. The other trend is the decreasing importance of sex. My baseline is the 70s, when I was hoping to lose my virginity. Sex was a huge deal because everything else sucked – food, TV, no video games, no internet – and people looked good – skinny from jogging and cocaine and food not yet being engineered to be super-irresistible. Today, everybody’s fat, and there’s a lot of other fun stuff to do besides sex.

I think that some forms of sexual misbehaviour – serial adultery, some workplace harassment – will be seen as increasingly old-school as more and more people will take care of their desire for sexual variety via the vast ocean of internet porn. Of course, sexual misbehaviour isn’t only about sex – it’s also about exercising creepy power or a perverse need to be caught and punished – so, unfortunately, that won’t entirely go away. During the past century, sexual behaviour has changed drastically – the types of sex that people regularly engage in, sex outside of marriage, tolerance for different sexual orientations, freely available pornography and sexual information, the decline in prostitution – you could say, cheesily, that sex is out of the closet. And sex that’s not secretive or taboo loses some of its power.

But I could be wrong. According to a 2007 study conducted at two U.S. public universities, one fifth of female college students studied suffered some degree of sexual assault.

95. Many, not all, women tend to have a hard time in science too. Improvements in welfare, access, and attainment continue. Rosalyn Yalow, Nobel Prize in Medicine for 1977, stated:

“We bequeath to you, the next generation, our knowledge but also our problems. While we still live, let us join hands, hearts and minds to work together for their solution so that your world will be better than ours and the world of your children even better.

We cannot expect in the immediate future that all women who seek it will achieve full equality of opportunity. But if women are to start moving towards that goal, we must believe in ourselves or no one else will believe in us; we must match our aspirations with the competence, courage and determination to succeed; and we must feel a personal responsibility to ease the path for those who come afterwards. The world cannot afford the loss of the talents of half its people if we are to solve the many problems which beset us.

If we are to have faith that mankind will survive and thrive on the face of the earth, we must believe that each succeeding generation will be wiser than its progenitors. We transmit to you, the next generation, the total sum of our knowledge. Yours is the responsibility to use it, add to it, and transmit it to your children.

The failure of women to have reached positions of leadership has been due in large part to social and professional discrimination.

The excitement of learning separates youth from old age. As long as you’re learning you’re not old.”

Yalow’s “immediate future” exists here and now.

I observe some tendencies of form: some truth in women choosing non-STEM fields often to explain some of the number differential; decent truth in institutional barriers; a good deal to do with ineffectual programs of action; a great deal to do with lack of female mentors – male mentors appear less effective than women; a catch-22 of desire for more women at the top, need of more female mentors from the top for women at the bottom, but lack of female mentors at the top in proportion to the women at the bottom; some more to do with inflexible tenure-track, differential pay, no childcare on-site, tacit bias for men; and, something never said – too taboo, some small minority of men not liking women; or a variable by implication of the former or on its own, working with them. 

Narrowed from the prior question about the situation for women, with some of this in mind, what about the need for opening the arena for women in science more with continued technological and scientific comprehension in the 21st century to succeed in keeping apace with the rapidity of technological change, and scientific discovery and innovation? 

I don’t know what will draw more women into STEM fields. However, I think that more needs to be done to draw people of both genders into STEM. (A good step might be calling it “math-science” instead of STEM.) I grew up during the post-Sputnik push to educate Americans in science, followed by the laissez-faire 70s. Now we’re in the era of dumb politics, with large factions backing away from and urging skepticism about science. It shouldn’t take a cold war or a big regular war for the U.S. to be pro-science. If current trends persist, the US will be overtaken by China in terms of percentage of GDP spent on R&D within a decade. Does it matter to the future whether the United States becomes a backwater country? I think so. American politics is having a bad 21st century so far, but the best values America stands for will be important in tempering the more ominous aspects of the tech wave.

96. In the history of men, we have some exemplars, Plato’s philosophy culminated in the considerations of an ideal society appropriately given the appellation “Kallipolis,” or “Beautiful City.” Few did as much theorization for female opportunity and equality, likely hypothesizing only in light of limitations of power and influence, in the ancient world apart from Plato including the incorporation of equality for women in the philosophical foundations, theoretical institutional operations, and consideration of aptitude and character found in The Republic, there likely exists few, or none, other in ancient times paralleling such depth of female inclusion in society and procurement of education.  Bear in mind, he did not intend the discourse of work related to Kallipolis for the purpose of equality for women, but for creation of an ideal society and people with spores devoted to women in the society.  Just society equated to just individual; ideal society equated to ideal individual; society – in conceptual equivalence to Platonic Form or Idea of “ideal society” – paralleled the individual. Well-ordered society reflected well-ordered individual – man or woman.  Germinations from the dialogue on an ideal society in the seminal work The Republic became the seeds for partial, by the accepted canon of ethics today, female equality, most saliently found in the work The Republic.

We find little in the totality of literature contained within the canon of Western, and Eastern, traditions beyond Plato and the ancient Greeks until the explicit work by the bright light John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) – a utilitarian philosopher rooted in the ideas and work of Berkeley, Hume, and Locke – in the hefty essay On The Subjection of Women  (1869) – a probable fresh stirp outcropping from the writing of his wife Harriet Taylor Mill’s essay, The Enfranchisement of Women (1851), because the Mills – including some by their daughter Helen – co-authored On the Subjection of Women, where the opening paragraph considers the issue of male & female relations and social institutions from the discerning, acute, and perceptive gaze of the Mills in preparation of probably one of the most complete disquisitions on women and their status in society in their day – one can find these throughout the prolonged essay:

“The object of this Essay is to explain as clearly as I am able, the grounds of an opinion which I have held from the very earliest period when I had formed any opinions at all on social or political matters, and which, instead of being weakened or modified, has been constantly growing stronger by the progress of reflection and the experience of life: That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes—the legal subordination of one sex to the other—is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.” [Mill, J.M. 1869]

Why little in the way of acknowledgement in history for women other than in some great few jewels?  How can men best assist women – and by implication everyone in sum – flourish?

History hasn’t been very nice to anybody. About 107 billion humans have ever lived, and the vast majority of these had miserable lives, regardless of sex. Global life expectancy didn’t reach 50 until the 1960s and didn’t reach 60 until about 1980. We live like kings and queens compared to people of a century ago, and we live wretched lives compared to people a century from now. Standards of liberty go roughly hand-in-hand with standards of living. As humanity has gained control over the world, larger segments of the population have gained some relief from misery. I expect the future to be richer, to have more life-improving tech, and to be more inclusive.

Regressive forces in politics want to maintain gender and racial hierarchies to some extent. These efforts often masquerade as equal treatment for all, when in fact, treatment isn’t equal. So people get pissed, and they protest, and they point out inequalities and hypocrisy. Bringing unfairness to the public’s attention seems to be the way to get things done. One sign of progress is that arguments for inherent inequality between genders or among races are increasingly unacceptable. And such arguments should be. I have a saying (which has failed to impress anyone) that the world’s smartest rabbit is still a rabbit. By figuring out how to overcome human limitations, we can figure out how to overcome individual limitations.

97. In the timeline of women, on setting examples, instances arise of historical female virtuosity in spite of different circumstances for women en masse, in the commemorated annals of geniuses such as Hypatia of Alexandria, Elizabeth Anscombe, Hannah Arendt, Margaret Atwood, Simone de Beauvoir, Hildegard von Bingen, Marie Curie, Lady Anne Conway, Sarah Margaret Fuller, Susan Haack, Ayn Rand, Dame Mary Warnock, Mary Wollstonecraft, Betty Friedan, Marilyn vos Savant (greatest living philosopher of the everyday – opining), Joanne Rowling (“J.K. Rowling”/”Robert Galbraith”), and innumerable others, one need not agree with their multitudinous productions, but ought to welcome the attainments as genuine supplements to the cerebral arsenal of the erudite world.

Most of these relate in the academic, philosophical, intellectual partition of discourse on the sexes, more exist in relation to the many types of sheer brave accomplishments and firsts for women: Élisabeth Thible (First woman to ride in hot air balloon), Sophie Blanchard (First woman to pilot hot air balloon), Raymonde de Laroche (First woman to receive pilot’s license), Lilian Bland (First woman to design, build, and fly an aircraft), Amelia Earhart (Not long after Charles Lindbergh – one could state Albert Read before either Lindbergh or Earhart, first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean), Sabiha Gökçen (First woman to fly fighter plane into combat), Jacqueline Cochran (First woman to break sound barrier), Jerrie Mock (First woman to fly solo around the world), Svetlana Savitskaya (First woman to walk in space), Eileen Collins (First female space shuttle pilot), and so on. Not enough time to enter into full listing and description – a compendium must suffice for now.

Even a single example, in depth, from this list of female bright lights in the human narrative, Marie Curie discoverer of the 88th element known as Radium, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics (1903) and Chemistry (1911), having an element named after her: curium, and someone of potential for higher emotional impact based on the recent nature – relative to the timeline from Hypatia to the present – of the achievements by Curie.  Indeed, she lived concurrent with the most often quoted, and misquoted, of geniuses, Albert Einstein.  No introduction or explanation needed for his accomplishments of unification and foundational contributions to physics, cosmology, and insights into reality in general.  However, we do not hear much of Marie Curie off the top of our minds; even so, she may arise after some time to wonder and ponder on the cases of female genius.

When examining with thorough care the deep historical roots of the situation for women up to the modern era in the world of pedagogy, or even with a mild skim through a history text, within arguably the most important societal and cultural institution, outside of raw technological change, for the influence of individuals and collectives in society, Academia holds the most sway in refurbishing the old housing of society with new frameworks for understanding the world and the relation of human beings within, and to, that new apprehension of the world.  

Some modern days of recognition such as International Women’s Day, Women’s Equality Day, and Women’s History Month do some good in continual recognition from positive reflection on them.  As per the previous question, most history education tends to teach male exemplars in each field while lacking the representation of women in such fields of endeavour.  History would appear to work on the shoulders of men, European men.  No exemplars in proportion to men can set tacit tones through education for the youth and in turn the upcoming generation.  What could shift the focus, perspective, and conversation related to female exemplars in history? 

Compared to men, a much smaller fraction of women have been highly visible to history. Of course, the fraction of men who are visible to history is already tiny. The vast majority of the more than 100 billion humans who have ever lived have disappeared without a trace of individual presence and are remembered only as tiny constituents of plagues or wars or statistical trends. Now, of course, everyone produces an extensive individual digital record, and the recording of our lives will only grow more thorough. (But individuals may become invisible within a deluge of information rather than a trickle.)

History is usually learned from an event- and trend-based perspective – battles, leaders, dates, economic and demographic forces. But there’s another way – the slice-of-life approach – trying to reconstruct how people lived their daily lives and thought their daily thoughts. This puts the women back into history and provides a counter-narrative to the big events POV. Most of our lives are conducted around daily tasks, not historic events. When we see history on TV or in a movie, it’s usually people’s stories, not dry recitations of facts.

In Women’s Studies classes and by watching my daughter study history, I’ve learned that traditionally womanly arts are often assumed to be second-tier – mundane, decorative, part of the background – what Betty Draper does, to her frustration, as compared to what Don Draper does. And even as Mad Men points out this dynamic, it still screws over Betty, making her seem unpleasant compared to Don, whom we root for even as he wrecks his life.

We’re lucky to live in an era of increasingly immersive media that offers more opportunity to build complete worlds, including the worlds of the past. But even with this ability, virtual worlds can be shitty for women – for example, the Grand Theft Auto series is brutal to women. The video game industry remains biased towards traditionally male action stories because they’re fun, they sell, and they’re easier to make compelling. Eventually, video games and immersive entertainment will learn how to embrace more of human experience. The subtlety’s not there yet.

(My thinking about women’s issues isn’t ultra-sophisticated. But I took women’s studies in college and belonged to a pro-feminist group called 100 Men Against Violence Against Women. On the other hand, I wrote for The Man Show. (It wasn’t anti-women – it made fun of men’s attitudes about women – but was widely misunderstood because it tried to have it both ways – making fun of men and celebrating what men like. And the fifth season, after Adam and Jimmy and the other writers and I left, was pretty mean and misogynist.))

98. Ethics exists beyond issues of the sexes.  Issues of global concern.  Ongoing problems needing comprehensive solutions such as differing ethnic, ideological, linguistic, national, and religious groups converging on common goals for viable and long-term human relations in a globalized world scarce in resources without any land-based frontiers for further expansion and exploitation, UN international diplomatic resolutions for common initiatives such as humanitarian initiatives through General Assembly Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), United Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Develop Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme (WFP), Food And Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Human Populations Settlement Programme (UN-HABITAT), Interagency Standing Committee (IASC), and issues of UN humanitarian thematic import such as demining, early warning and disaster detection, the merger of theories of the grandest magnitude (e.g., general and special relativity) and the most minute (e.g., quantum mechanics), medical issues such as Malaria, Cancer, and new outbreaks of Ebola, nuclear waste and fossil fuel emissions, severe practices of infibulation, clitoridectomy, or excision among the varied, creative means of female – and male – genital mutilation based in socio-cultural and religious practices, stabilization of human population growth prior to exceeding the planet’s present and future supportive capacity for humans, reduction of religious and national extremism, continuous efforts of conservation of cultural and biological diversity, energy production, distribution, and sustainability, economic sustainability, provision of basic necessities of clean water, food, and shelter, IAEA and other organizations’ work for reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear armaments, culture wars over certainty in ethics on no evidence (faith-based ethics) and lack of certainty in morality because of too much data while lacking a coherent framework for action (aforementioned bland multiculturalism transformed into prescription of cultural/ethical relativism), acidification of the oceans, problems of corruption, continued annexation of land, issues of international justice handled by such organs as the International Court of Justice, introduction of rapid acceleration of technological capabilities while adapting to the upheavals following in its wake, issues of drug and human trafficking, other serious problems of children and armed conflict including child soldiers, terrorist activity, education of new generations linked to new technological and informational access, smooth integration of national economies into a global economy for increased trade and prosperity, and the list appears endless – and growing.

If collated, they form one question: “How best to solve problems in civil society?

Main issue, all subordinate queries and comprehensive, coherent solutions require sacrifice.  You might ask, “Cui bono?”  (“Who benefits?”) Answer: all in sum.  Problem: few feel the need to sacrifice past the superficial.  Some Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram protestations to represent themselves as just people while not behaving in the real world as just people.  Hashtags and celebrity speeches help in outreach and advertisement, but we need long-term, pragmatic solutions to coincide with them more.  Nothing hyperbolic to disturb healthy human societies, but reasonable and relatively rapid transitions into sustainable solutions. You have stated positive trajectories by thinking about the future.  You talked of some, but not all. What about these collection of problems and the growing list?

I believe the best instrument of change is information. Informed people more readily disbelieve stupid shit. Widespread ignorance and distrust of well-substantiated facts are usually signs of somebody getting away with something.

We know society is trending in an egalitarian direction. Trends towards equality are in a race with technology remaking society. For me, the question becomes, “How many lives and generations will be spent in misery before social and tech trends make things better and/or weird?”

The happy possible eventual situation is that tech creates a utopia in which all people get what they want. The unhappy possible eventuality is that tech debunks the importance or centrality of humanity, and humans are afterthoughts – the stepchildren of the future – being taken care of but not really having their concerns addressed because their level of existence isn’t taken seriously by posthumans. (And of course there’s the possibility that AI gets out of hand, eats everything and craps out robots. Let’s try to avoid that.)

Tech will solve some huge problems. One of the biggest is the steadily growing population. People who have a shot at technical, earthly immortality (50 to 80 years from now) will reproduce less. When transferrable consciousness becomes commonplace (120 to 150 years from now), posthuman people may not reproduce at all (though traditional human enclaves will still spit out a steady stream of kids). The uncoupling of individual consciousness from the body it was born into solves a bunch of, perhaps most, current problems and anticipated problems – crowding, food, pollution, global warming – by allowing people to live in ways that leave less of a footprint. (Not that their choices will be made for purely ecological concerns. People will always follow their own interests, and posthuman people will choose a variety of non-fleshy containers (200 years from now) because virtual or semi-robotic containers will be cheaper, more convenient, more versatile and exciting.)

But our current problems will be largely replaced by fantastically weird problems. Virtual people will be subject to virtual attacks and virtual disease. Agglomerations of consciousness may become bad actors. People may sic nanotech swarms on each other. You can find all this stuff in good near-future science fiction. William Gibson’s new novel, The Peripheral, which takes place about 20 years and 90 years from now, can serve as a good, fun intro to the future. In it, some impossible stuff happens, but it’s the possible stuff that’s interesting and scary. There are websites devoted to the future in a very non-la-de-dah way. Look at http://io9.com/ and http://boingboing.net/ – they’re entertaining and informative.

****************Footnotes and bibliography in Archives “6.A” PDF*****************

License

In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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