— No Mind

life |līf|
noun ( pl. lives |līvz|)
1 the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death

What constitutes as life?, has been a question that remains nebulous, even with the sophistication of modern day science. Some narrow life down to humans, animals and insects, while others include plants in their repertoire. Some say that life is anything animated, but it’s argued that even the most inanimate objects contain more bacteria than the substance that makes it what it is. Another notion is that life is less material and more of an experience. If it interacts with something else then it can be considered life, and since everything interacts with everything, then ‘everything’ is life. Very Interesting. By no means am I going to try to define life in this article, but I would like to share a curious perspective that I’ve stumbled upon.

The other day, I was doing a little light reading while riding the Metra to work, when I came across a striking statement made by the American biologist Ursula Goodenough (interesting last name) in regards evolution and the Darwinian notion of natural selection.

“Mutation is utterly random, but selection is extremely choosy!”

She was referring the process of the genome when a species evolves. Though the selection of the gene is carefully chosen, the mutations that occur in the genes that offer new selections are completely random. This fact sent my mind into a whirl wind. I must have zoned out for at least twenty minutes. I imagined I looked quite foolish to the other passengers, cross eyed and drooling.

It seems as though the universe has been beating me over head with examples of how balanced it is, or at least how much it tries to be (I’ll explain that later). The most fundamental of these balances, in my opinion, is the second law of thermodynamics which explains how energy moves from low to high entropy.

Quick Lesson:
Entropy isn’t a word normal people use everyday. I though I should define it. It’s an esoteric notion but simply put entropy is a level of disorder or randomness. Example: Let’s say you have a drop of ink in a syringe and a bath tub full of water. While the ink is still in the syringe the entropy is at it’s lowest because we know where all of it is. There is no disorder. When we drop the ink in the water, the droplet of ink changes shape as it spreads in the water. The entropy or disorder is getting higher. If we let it sit long enough the ink will completely spread through out the water until all that is left is dingy water. At this point the entropy of the drop of is at it’s highest.

Out of chaos comes order. That is a statement that has been repeated by many throughout history. But in the face of the thermodynamics of entropy, that message seems to be contradictory. If all matter is made of energy, and energy flows from low to high entropy, how is it that any thing exists at all? If we refer to the Big Bang Theory, the entropy of all energy was at it’s lowest in the singularity. Then it explodes and the entropy gets greater and grearter. Yet some how in the process of energy spreading, particles formed into molecules. Molecules form into matter, matter formed into stars and planets and life etc. And it makes me wonder. What is it that brings energy together to form the elements that evolve into what we call life?

Yes, I considered this too, but gravity is a weak force and is an effect of large masses that have already been brought together. So what brings those pieces together that form a massive enough object to generate gravity?

If we look back at the example of the ink experiment, the facts of entropy hold true. We don’t notice the molecules of ink reforming in certain areas of the water. Yet this is something energy does everyday. Granted the tub of water isn’t exactly the vacuum of space—which is another thing I have many questions about. Order is constantly being made from the chaos of highly entropic energy. There is a mystery here and I’m willing to propose that perhaps life is the force that defies the natural flow of the thermodynamics of entropy.

Now, I want to be clear that even though I’m saying that life is defying the flow of entropy, it cannot deny it. Entropy is constantly reclaiming the coming together of energy. The first law of thermodynamics states that, “Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. It can only change forms.” All energy that aggregates will eventually return to a state of equilibrium. From chaos to order to chaos. A force constantly enforcing and a force constantly defying. Like cops and crack heads. Sorry, bad joke.

For those who follow the notion that life is the experience of matter interacting with other matter, then I think that idea can draw it’s roots from the originator that interplay, which is the omnipresent interaction of chaos and the force that mysteriously defies it. Perhaps this isn’t a definition of life per-say, but it infers from the force that makes it possible. However, since they are so inseparable, perhaps that can mean they are one in the same.

Just a thought.

Follow Up
It has taken me a while to actually post this article, and I’m glad because I recently came across an interesting bit of information that, coincidentally, supports my own thoughts, and might make an curious conclusion. The Dalai Lama stated this in his book, “The Univers in a Single Atom”:

“…at the most fundamental level, no absolute division can be made between mind and matter. Matter in it’s subtlest form is ‘prana’, a vital energy which in inseparable from consciousness. These two are different aspects of an indivisible reality… when a world system comes into being, we are witnessing the play of this energy and consciousness reality.”

Perhaps it’s consciousness that brings everything together. Almost as if to say, the desire for sentient beings to exist is so strong at the consciousness makes it so. Maybe it sounds crazy, maybe it sound like a stepping stone to clarity. But at the very least, it’s interesting to think about.

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Scepticism is the beginning of Faith.
~Oscar Wilde

This post is going to be short and sweet. I’ve mulled over the question of faith for too long in my past and have yet to find a viable and sensible reason for having it. This time around I’m just looking for opinions. If you have faith in… whatever, share it here. Likewise, if you don’t have faith, share that too. Don’t worry, I’m not looking to debate. I’m just curious. Feel free to be as open and honest as you’d like.

What is faith? Why have it? What reasonably sensible purpose does it serve in your life?
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Technology is anything that was invented after you were born
~Alan Kay

The quote is more funny than serious, but at least it’s a start. Yesterday I posted a status updated on Facebook that inspired me to write this article.

“I just realized that the color of my skin (brown) is left over technology that has evolved to keep all of you alive today… You’re welcome.”

I know, I’m hilarious (sarcasm), but what struck me as interesting were a few of the responses I received that made me inquire what technology actually is, because we clearly had different opinions or little understanding at all.

Commenter 1: “Please explain!!!!”

Commenter 2: “and where did you find this technology??”

Commenter 3: “I wouldn’t mind for this technology to be passed down to me I promise that I will fight that good fight with it. So this way we can say your double welcome.”

I know for certain the last commenter was misunderstood because that comment came from my brother and he is just as dark as I am. Sorry for calling out man, but it’s for the sake of thorough understanding.

First let me explain what my status update meant. The genomic make-up in my skin was pass down from our earliest ancestors who evolved such characteristics to endure the damaging effects of sun exposure near the equator. Dark skin pigmentation carries natural sun blocking properties. As humans spread out across the globe and away from the equator their skin color became lighter and lighter, but they still retained traces of those protective attributes, though not as potent, hence sun burn. I think I understand where the confusion is coming from. It’s not that any of them didn’t understand the evolutionary process, but it’s the fact that I called it a technology. And that’s not how most of us are wired to think about technology.

We live in a world of motherboards, lasers, nuclear power, and space crafts. And in this day and age the word technology has become synonymous with the objects we invent. Mainly electronics an machinery. I’m not say that this view is wrong, but it’s not complete. It’s not surprise that we’ve become so misinformed. Even the dictionary has defined technology in this way.

technology |tekˈnäləjē|
noun ( pl. -gies)
the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, esp. in industry : advances in computer technology | recycling technologies.

• machinery and equipment developed from such scientific knowledge.

• the branch of knowledge dealing with engineering or applied sciences.

And if it’s in the dictionary then it must be right…right? I’m not so sure. Actually, I’m willing to propose that technology goes much further back than modern invention; further than pulleys and levers, and even further back than primitive stone tools. In fact, lets take the invention of stone tools as an example for understanding this new view of technology.

One day a long time ago in a much earlier version of earth, there lived a humanoid creature who found itself on the verge of starvation after a recent drought. After days of searching it finally managed to find some food. The piece of food, however, was not something it normally ate. It was covered in a hard shell but it knew there was something tasty inside because it could smell the sweetness. The creature pulled, scratched and bit at the food but the shell would not open. Then suddenly, in a eureka moment, it picks up a stone, and seeing it for more than just a hunk of earth uses the stone’s heft and hardness to solve its problem.

In a sense we can say that technology is the hacking of life, by which I mean to use something for other than it’s intended purpose in order to benefit a situation. But I think we need to ask, where is the technology in the case of the stone tool? It can’t be the stone. The creature didn’t manipulate it to fashion something new. The stone remains a stone. In this case, the technology is not the object, but the application of an idea. We are so used to thinking that technology is something that we invent; something tangible that can be shared. But that’s not the case. Especially for earlier forms of technology when we didn’t have the understanding to manipulate wood and stone. But this still isn’t quite right because this hypothesis implies that technology can only be created via consciousness, and that’s not true either because technology actually predates the complex brain.

To help us wrap our minds around this further, we have to define what it is that technology actually does. In it’s most rudimentary form technology is something that assists an environmental adaptation. What can you think of that has continually developed ways to better adapt? I’ll give you a hint: It’s as plain as the nose on your face. Drum roll—wait for it… EVOLUTION! From bacterial pond scum all the way to the complex human brain, evolution has been creating ways to better adapt: opposable thumbs, sensory organs, vertebrates, scales, skin, fur, teeth, prehensile tales, etc. The list goes on and on and on. In a world where technology is an industry, evolution is the number one manufacturer. When we view evolution as the originator of technology, it’s not a far leap to say that technology and life are interdependent. For what is life but the accumulation of billions of years worth of technologies.

But wait there’s more. If we say that life is the composition of many technologies, and technology is the product of evolution, then we also have to admit that technology predates life as well. It’s foolish to say that evolution began the moment the first bacteria came into being. Evolution begat life, not the other way around. So if life and technology are interdependent, and evolution is the originator of it, then we have to take it even further back—way back—all the way back… to the big bang. At the moment in time all of the energy and mass of the universe was compressed into a single quantum dot. A dimensionless point in space, and there was no room for difference. But it didn’t stay that way. Why? Because of technology. In order for anything to exist there has to be diversity. What creates diversity? Change. What is change? Evolution. What is evolution? Then potential for difference, which is exactly what we needed to free ourselves from that dimensionless quantum dot.

So what is technology? It’s the product of change. It’s you and me. It’s the environment around us and everything in it. But most fascinatingly, is that technology is the application of our ideas. For billions upon billions of ears, evolution was in control of all change, but then one day it produced a technology that was capable of manufacturing technology for itself. And for the first time the roll of power shifts and the student becomes the master. The human race is only earthly species who possess technology so spectacular that it has the power to control it’s own evolution.

“Technology, like evolution, is an infinite game, where the purpose of the game is to play to keep playing.
~Kevin Kelly”

Kevin Kelly
Kelly is the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, and a former editor/publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog. If you have 20 minutes to kill I implore you to check out this video. Fascinating insight on technology and evolution. I’ve become enthralled with him after finding his ideas we so close to my own.

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Don’t worry. I’m not asking you to do anything dirty.

The idea that everything is connected seems to be spreading like wild fire. Even science is showing us that, on an unseen level, there is no space between objects and what we perceive is actually a multi-dimensional mesh of quantum particles. Religion, in fact has been saying it for thousands of years. The Dalai Lama speaks of much in his book “The Universe in a Single Atom”.

“…without parts there can be no whole, without a whole it makes no sense to speak of parts… There is no chair without a seat, a back, wood, nails, the floor on which it rest, the walls that define the room it’s in, the people who construct it, and the individuals who agree to call it a chair and recognize it as something to sit on.” (page 64)

It’s obvious that this idea is taking over. The whole ‘go green’ movement has gone global, and it seems like everyone is embracing their inner hippie.

Personally I think it’s great. We could all use more compassion. I know we all have our own insight on the ubiquitous ‘oneness’ and I think we try to contribute in our own little way, but I also know that it’s easy to get caught up in everyday life and forget that we are all part of a whole. So here is my question for you.

What tricks or reminders do you have that keep you grounded, and bring you back to the notion that life is one big organism and we are all in this together? And if you think is all bullshit, share that too.

My Trick-#1
I’m a man of logic and things are much more profound when I’m able to witness something with my senses. One of the things that keeps me grounded is the understanding of my relationship with a tree. Weird, I know, but hear me out. I learned at a young age (like many of us) that trees clean the air that we breath. They absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen. In a way I’ve always considered trees to be the lungs of the earth, which was a fascinating concept for me. But what was even more fascinating was that it just so happend that I preformed the exact opposite task of the trees. I absorb oxygen and turn it into carbon dioxide. When I first took this idea to heart, I felt in awe of our coexistence. And to this day I’m taken away every time I think about it. I have yet to be moved by a more symbiotic relationship. This is what keeps me grounded. And since I’m always breathing and trees are everywhere, it’s hard not to be reminded.

My Trick-#2
Bacteria! It has always been obvious to me that life is everywhere, but it wasn’t until I saw this TED video that I it really hit me. By the way if you’ve never heard of TED.com I highly recommend checking it out if you enjoy having your mind blown. It’s basically thousands of video presentations given brillian by people from around the world sharing their brilliance with public. Bacteria are the oldest and most simple form of living organisms on earth. They are single celled life forms with one piece of DNA and their rudimentary function is to consume nutrients from their environment till they reach twice their original size. Then they divide themselves in two and repeat the process. Bacteria have been performing this task for billions of years, thus also making them the most abundant organism on the planet. There is no place that we do not find this form of life; from the outer most reaches of our atmosphere all the way down to the maximum depths that we’ve been able to drill into the earth. Bacteria thrives. What was even more fascinating to me though is just how much bacteria is a part of our everyday lives. We like to think of ourselves has human, composed mainly by carbon based tissue and blood cells. The human body on average has roughly 1 trillion cells that make you ‘you’. However, we have 10 trillion bacteria in us or on us at any given moment in our lives. That’s 10x the amount of material that makes you ‘you’. Furthermore, alone we only have 30,000 genes, but when when we take into account the bacteria we have over 100,000. These things are not just klingons cling-ons, they keep us alive—keeping environmental insults out, digesting our food, making our vitamins, even educating our immune system to fight off destructive microbes. At the very best we are 10% human. Which means that 90% of what makes us ‘us’ also penetrates every aspect of our earthly world. If that doesn’t profoundly express our unity then I don’t know what does.

So, what’s your trick?
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I sense your brow furrowing inquisitively. I assure you that it will be more confusing make sense soon, and I will prove that I’m not crazy.

I’ve been talking to myself a lot lately. I suppose that doesn’t really strengthen my case for sanity, but I’m not doing it because I’ve lost my marbles. I’m actually doing it for research. I won’t go into detail since it’s a topic planed for another post, but I must say that I’m learning a lot about myself, how I think, and the depth at which I’ve been able to articulate the abstract concepts that form in my head. My most recent thread started at identifying the difference between talent and skill. It took a hard turn at making an attempt to redefine the concept of God and ended in the backyard of quantum mechanics, where by an analogous comparison to the JumboTron I found a deep understanding of reality. It’s better not to try to understand how I got from point A to point B, just know that I got there. I guess that’s what talking to yourself, out loud, for over an hour will do to you. I Highly recommend it. It’s very therapeutic.

The Science
I suppose I should start by breaking down—as layman as possible—my understanding of a few quantum mechanical concepts. Note: I’m not a physicist, but I really enjoy the subject. I do my best to research my information before I share it, but I’m not perfect and neither is the information. If you feel I’m misquoting or have the wrong idea please speak up. I don’t want to look like an idiot and the community shouldn’t be misinformed. But don’t be surprised if I challenge you objection. That’s why we are here after all.

The first concept is the theory of entanglement. If you want a fun way to learn this I recommend watching this short video, but I will do my best to summarize. Two electrons created together are entangled. Even if we separate the them by distances spanning the entire universe, if you do something to one, the other responds instantly—INSTANTLY! Either information is traveling infinitely fast or in reality they are still connected. In a way it’s the most advanced social network on the planet.

The second concept is the phenomenal notion that the electrons (the bits of energy whizzing around the nucleus of an atom) are constantly popping in and out of existence. No one knows where they go but it’s happening, and it’s thought that it might have something to do with entanglement.

So far this says a lot about reality. Specifically about our interconnectivity or our “oneness” that buddhist philosophers always talk about. Not only is it very likely that I’m sharing electrons with the very keyboard that I’m typing on, but when we couple these concepts together it’s also very likely that I’m sharing electrons with you, regardless of the distance between us.

The last concept identifies what a quantum particle is, and that is to say that it is potential. It’s potential energy that is ready to become anything at anytime. What does this mean? It means that an object moving through space is actually quantum particles become ‘it’ creating an illusion of a solid mass moving though a open space. Unlike the fixed biological cells in our body, we do not contain fixed quantum particles. The particles do not move with us, but instead, new quantum particles become us as we move.

The JumboTron Analogy
If it’s not already clear how reality relates to the JumboTron then allow me to make that clear now. The JumboTron is a giant video screen composed of thousands of tiny LEDs (Light Emitting Diods) that create images like a digital Monet. Actually you could any pixel based screen for this analogy but I thought the JumbTron sounded more epic. Now let’s say a red ball appears on the screen and begins to bounce. The LED’s are not moving, but rather they are lighting up synchronically to give the illusion of a bouncing ball. According to quantum theories this is how all objects exist. Our reality is the result of the synchronized firing of quantum particles.

And God?
What does this have to do with God? NOTHING EVERYTHING. Remember, the path to this revelation came from my attempt to redefine the concept of God. In my opinion the traditional constructs of God are old and unhealthy. Even in a Newtonian Universe there are several layers of hierarchy and at the outer most regions is the creator. But in our new paradigm of relativity and quantum mechanics I don’t see where a Sole creator finds room to exists. Personally I’m not fond of the term, but If you are looking for something to call God, something omnipotent and omnipresent—why not look to the quantum particles that have the ability to be anything at any time, or the ubiquitous entangled electrons experiencing everything simultaneously. That seems more amazing to me than any dogmatic interpretation of God.

The Ghost
But the rabbit hole goes deeper still. We are not ‘just’ the synchronic illusion of firing quantum particles. The illusion doesn’t create it self. The particles don’t ‘decide’ to move you from point A to point B—you do. You are the master of the illusion. And in this way we create our own reality. For thousands of years we’ve been looking to the heavens for an all powerful creator, but now we just might find the it’s been us all along. If we are all a little God, imagine what we could achieve if we work together. Six billion little Gods synchronically creating a sustainable picture of reality, not unlike the JumbTron.

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Welcome to No Mind—A thinkers blog for everything paradoxical.
My name is Christian Jackson, and my life seems to be largely consumed by three things: design, family, and a copious amount of deep thought. I’ve devoted a website to the first two, but it only recently occurred to me that I could fulfill the trifecta and display my love for contemplation in the same manner. No Mind is my final outlet.

My Intentions
It’s simple. Think out loud! I’ve found a wonderful bliss in the transformation of thoughts when they manifest into physical words, whether spoken or written down. What was once nebulous in the mind becomes solidified in the real world. I also find that in this process I learn about myself. It’s an opportunity to really define what it is that I’m thinking and in a self-debate to best articulate, my thoughts evolve and become more understandable and more real. So that’s what I’m doing here. I post what I think in hopes to better understand myself and the world around me. And if along the way I attract a humble flock of like minded others it will be my greatest pleasure to chat in friendly company, like birds on a wire.

Open A Discussion
If you have a hankering to talk about something specific, I encourage you submit a discussion request. Accepted requests will be posted on the front page where it will be accessible for all to take part in. In the event that your request does get posted, I suggest to share it with your friends. Let them know there is a great conversation to be had. The more thinkers we have the better we will grow, individually and as a community.

Get to Know Me
If you’d like to more learn who I am, how I think, and my personal biases, I encourage you to take a look at my About section. It may help to understand the origins of my posts and what you might expect from this blog. I really hope this takes off, but even if it doesn’t I will be just as happy to use this space on the web as my contemplative journal.

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A friend of mine recently posted an article on his blog about about New Year’s resolutions and a particular phenomenon concerning human will. In the article he posed this question,

…why can we drive ourselves to accomplish something that we see as having a potentially positive affect on our life while simultaneously being unable to stop ourselves from being brought down by the negative things that we are already doing (or not doing)?

To clarify, he referenced a secondary article about a man who found the ambition to become an incredibly successful designer and photographer, but to this day cannot find the will to quit smoking or lose 30 lbs. It’s a legitimate inquiry and I feel it deserves a thorough analysis. I commented on my friends post, which you can read below. But I would like pose the question again—perhaps in a different way.

Why is it that we are capable of pushing ourselves to achieve incredibly tall feats like, climbing mountains, or giving birth, yet find it aggravatingly difficult to quit bad habits or start making good ones—even when it concerns our happiness or health and well being?

If you want the full picture I encourage you to read both the article from my friend @Filetstofishsticks.com as well as the secondary article @http://pacingthepanicroom.blogspot.com/

I think there is a trick to attaining goals, and I think a lot of it has to do with accountability. Most people tell themselves, “this is what I’m going to do…”, and it may work for while but then it dwindles away. The problem is that it’s just ‘you’ and ‘your goal’, and unless the “force is strong with you”, 80% of us will more than likely fail. Why? Because there is no accountability. For some reason, our own health, well being, and overall happiness isn’t enough to motivate us to live better. It’s a paradox, but oddly true.

You said at this point public humiliation may be your best motivation. And I agree that it would most undoubtably work. Do you know why? Because there is an oppressive amount of accountability in that humiliation. In this case, everyone knows that you are a piece of shit, and so you are motivated to attain a more likable image. This is a very unhealthy accountability, but effective none the less.

One solution. Find a positive accountability. Someone you trust, look up to, and respect. Essentially, someone you would be ashamed to let down. Confide in them your resolution, and check in with them on a regular basis, and more importantly have them check in on you. We are interdependent creatures and we rarely succeed at doing things solely on our own. Attaining personal goals are no different.

Another solution—and perhaps a more difficult concept to grasp—is the reevaluation of our concept of ‘self’.

Since birth we have been cultivating an image of who we are. I call it the ‘I’. In reality the ‘I’ is only a mental construct, and we project it physically for others to see. We do this in the way we act, how we talk, what we wear, who we socialize with, our political and religious affiliations, our sexual orientations, even the ideas that we choose to share. We believe in the ‘I’ so much that we demand it’s approval by others. And depending on whether or not we get that approval determines how we will form our relationships.

With this in mind it is no wonder why we need the accountability of others to attain personal goals. The ‘I’ demands approval, and when there isn’t anyone around to approve of the ‘I’—the ‘I’ becomes overpowered by the ‘Me’—and the ‘Me’ is who you are when no one else is looking. You can evade it if you want to, but we all know that we become completely different people when no one else is around. The ‘Me’ is more primal than the ‘I’ and holds accountability to no one. It’s a private and secret creature that makes it’s own rules. It’s primitive and lusts through our physical senses. When you set a goal and keep it to yourself the ‘I’ will be in constant struggle with the ‘Me’. The ‘I’ sets the goal to attain a better state of approval, but when it has no accountability, the ‘Me’ will tear the goal down. The reason why you feel disappointed is because you know that the ‘I’ just lost another battle to the ‘Me’. This is why setting a ‘Me’ goal, like eating one Big Mac a day, seems so easily attainable. When the ‘I’ has the accountability of another ‘I’ it becomes motivated. Since the ‘I’ is dependent upon others, the more accountability you have, the stronger the ‘I’ and the weaker the ‘Me’. Since the ‘Me’ is a private creature it will quite literally retreat in the light of abundant accountability. Problem solved, resolution resolved!

In my opinion our true selves are not the ‘I’ or the ‘Me’ since they are both mental constructs. We created them. Think about it. On the day you were born you where ‘you’. Before you had the ability to mold your own identity. If we can somehow tap back into the nature of that, we could probably solve the issue of goal resolution, in fact, perhaps abolish all human conflict in general.

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