quinta-feira, julho 12, 2018

Epiphenomenal Consciousness: “Blindsight” by Peter Watts

“I am the bridge between the bleeding edge and the dead center. I stand between the Wizard of Oz and the man behind the curtain. I am the curtain.” 

In “Blindsight” by Peter Watts 

What if: There is only one consciousness that we all share? (Universal Consciousness) 
What if: People are caught in the illusion of separation? (Encouraged by the limitations of the five senses) 
What if: Fear and insecurity give rise to the need to think of ourselves as the creators of our consciousness? (Perhaps we tune into consciousness like a radio tunes into a station).

"Consciousness" is body-mind. It is implied in the very meaning of the word "consciousness", the "con-" or "com-" signifying "together" or "altogether". What this "together" refers to is the senses and sense impressions. Body-mind is sensate consciousness, and is called therefore "mortal self in time" or "ego-nature". It is particularistic and therefore associated with "point-of-view" or perspectivising consciousness, like a searchlight or the beam of a flashlight stuck in one direction. This, and its self-understanding, is reflected in the famous symbol of the Enlightenment of a pyramid surmounted by the all-seeing eye such as symbolised still on the Great Seal of the United States, but is called by Blake "Single Vision & Newtons sleep" or "Urizen" or Urizenic Man. This is the "point-of-view" consciousness structure and is typically what we call "consciousness" or "mind". It is the perspectivising eye of da Vinci, but it is sensate. To be stuck in sensate consciousness is the human condition of narcissism. There is yet the awareness "before", "behind", "beyond", or "beneath", or implicit or tacit or however you want to describe it. The body consciousness, or mind, is only a function of the greater awareness. It is not sensate and is not dependent upon the body organisation for its function. By contrast with "point-of-view", it is "overview". In contrast to particularism, it is holistic, and perceives wholes rather than parts, and is often characterised as "oceanic feeling" or "oceanic awareness" and with non-locality. It is the “itself” that is referenced in the Zen Koan "show me your face before you were born". It is called by the neurologist Iain McGilchrist, "the Master", while the body-mind or body-consciousness, which is point-of-view and ego-nature, is called "Emissary". In those terms, the so-called "measurement problem" in physics is associated with the consciousness, which is body-mind, while the issue of "non-locality" (or synchronous effect or transluminal effect) is associated with the Awareness. In traditional Hermetic philosophy (alchemy), the body-mind was called "lead", and the awareness was called "gold". And the idea was to transmute the former into the latter through certain exercises, performances, or operations of a symbolic or metaphorical nature. 

Most scientists explicitly abandoned Cartesian Dualism centuries ago. But as John Searle pointed out 25 years ago, most of them still implicitly accept a Cartesian distinction and are hung up on trying reconcile two things are not two. So materialists tend to separate the world into two kinds of phenomena and assign one of them to reality and the other to illusion. When we eliminate the ontological difference that is implied in this account, things become a lot clearer. Similarly for forms of idealism. Consciousness is subjective in exactly the same way that digestion is. The nutrients in the food we eat are only available to us because the processes that extract them are internal to our bodies. Similarly the brain is internal to us and thus its processes are only directly accessible to us. 

The confusion about consciousness arises from two sources. The crypto-Cartesianism that still prevails and see mental and physical phenomena as ontologically different when in fact they are only epistemologically different. The problem of materialism is that it ignores the reality of structure. Clearly, the universe is made of one kind of stuff, but that stuff is made into a load of different things with many layers of complexity, with each layer displaying emergent properties. The only way to deal with this is to accept structure anti-reductionism alongside substance reductionism. In other words, structure is real. 

The second source is the insistence on dealing with conscious states in the abstract form "consciousness". Of course we are still arguing about the features of this abstraction. We have the same problem with all abstractions. Digestion becomes incomprehensible if we treat it as an abstraction as well. Conscious states are defined by David Chalmers as easy problems. His Hard Problem simply doesn't exist because its based on an abstraction mistaken for an entity. There is no "consciousness" there is only a sequence of conscious states. And these are wholly generated by the brain - whose substance can be reduced, but whose structure cannot. 

Searle also showed how we can have epistemically objective knowledge of ontologically subjective domains. The value of money is entirely subjective, for example, but objectively to anyone versed in European money, a 5 counts as money of a certain value. This is an epistemically objective fact that has no basis in reality, only in the collective intentionality of people who use European money. Conscious states are ontologically subjective, but this does not preclude us from having epistemically objective knowledge about them. 

These are problems for which there have been solutions available for a generation. The solutions are by no means simple, I'm just referencing the main ideas here, and the resulting philosophy although largely settled is far more open to possibility, changed, and the unexpected that any form of scientific materialism. The trouble is that philosophers are more interested in arguments than in solutions. If they solve problems then they are out of a job, so they continue to generate arguments. Douglas Adams summed this up very nicely when he lampooned them in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. 

The conceptual impasse of Watts really only arises because he refuses to abandon Descartes. That's the first step to a better worldview. Blindsight” was, for me, equal parts brilliance and frustration. Watts obviously spent a huge amount of time with his investigation, and brings these details together relatively seamlessly SF-wise (which is no mean feat with so much crap being published in the SF area nowadays), but the overarching theme (consciousness is, evolutionarily speaking, epiphenomenal) left me puzzled. The tone of Watts' novel is resonant with a certain philosophical emptiness and the accuracy of his scientific extrapolation is stunning; unfortunately, the central hypotheses of the book strained my credulity. In this sense, my beef may be more with the premise than the book itself, which is no fault of Watts. A requisite for consciousness is a matrix, or form, or pattern, upon which consciousness can build. Curiously that necessary maquette seems quite arbitrary, and is usually wrong. It is a genetically inherited assumption about the nature of reality. But once encumbered with that genetically-installed assumption, there is no pathway to an intellectual breakthrough.   

To recap, an individual’s consciousness is simply one of the many Brain Operating Systems, based upon genetically-installed assumptions about the nature of reality. And is usually, and always wrong. The free book on the internet explaining it all runs to nearly a million words. It is tough going for those not familiar with the problems, and involves learning new concepts. The problem of consciousness is mostly down to a semantic error in the use of the word 'conscious'. If someone is hit over the head and is knocked out they may on recovering announce that they are now 'conscious'. It is clear that that's an empirical statement with a clear biological meaning. Descartes introduced an error in separating mind from body and gave rise to use of the word 'conscious' in a completely different (and I would argue meaningless) sense. So we have discussions about whether advances in AI will produce consciousness - utter nonsense of course, you might as well be arguing about whether a robot can have a pulse. The word conscious in this sense doesn't have a meaning. 

Bottom-line: “Blindsight is a work of Hard SF of the highest caliber worthy of the capital H (even with its flaws). Those who lament the lack of hard sf being published (especially deep, broad, quality, hard SF) in the last few years will find sweet relief here. 

SF = Speculative Fiction. 

segunda-feira, julho 09, 2018

Ana and Kata: “Summerland” by Hannu Rajaniemi

“Yet the longer you lived in Summerland, the stranger things became. Your hypersight grew more acute, and little by little, you developed an awareness of two additional directions that were invisible to the living. One was the ana direction, four-up. Towards ana lay the world of the living, in its own thin slice of the aether. It was the direction of the Unseen, the mysterious source of hyperlight and soul. Luz stones fell from ana, lodged themselves in dense aetheric configurations like brains at birth. Upon death, the luz detached and fell below the plane of the living world in the kata direction – the equivalent of down in the fourth [spatial] dimension.”

In “Summerland” by Hannu Rajaniemi

I don’t know how much physics people reading this post know. So, here’s a very, very, very brief synopsis on how objects in 1D, 2D, 3D, 4D space move:

Dimensional space         Movement that can be made in that space
1D         Forward, backward
2D         Forward, backward, right, left
3D         Forward, backward, right, left, up, down
4D        Forward, backward, right, left, up, down, ana (imagine the object coming down from heaven), kata (imagine the object going up from hell)

As you can see, in 4D space we’ve got two additional directions: ana and kata. If want more than this by way of explanation, you’ve got to look elsewhere.

Rachel White and Peter Bloom, the main protagonists of Rajaniemi’s novel, live literally on different planes of existence: life vs. the afterlive. I’ve been told that if one found themselves in a higher dimensional space they would flop and fold in very much the same way that a piece of paper (nearly 2D) does in our 3-D world. In higher dimensions we’re all surface. However a 4-D person sticking their hand in our 3-D space would reveal an internal cross section in the same way our 3D hand crossing through a 2-D Universe would be a cross section. Could our hand be physically cut by the 2D plane? So lower beings going in reverse to higher dimensions would then reveal their entire internal and external surfaces? In essence are they ripped into one flat piece of meat? If they ended up in 5D hyperspace devoid of any laws of physics would they flop around helplessly, and at least stay together in that one flat piece?

The problem with extra dimensions is that our brains have specifically evolved, or adapted if you prefer, to recognise 3D space. If when we try think of 1 & 2D our mind sees them embedded in 3D. 2D animals might exist if they didn’t have a digestive/colon tract because it is this that would separate the 2 halves of the animal. We might be embedded in 4D. However, dimensions don’t have to be macro and might exist on the quantum level as in Superstring theory and compactification. However, we are never likely to be able to prove this since there is no known way to probe at this level.

Here’s a way to visualise the “innards” of a 2D person. Take a piece of paper to be the 2 dimensional world; we will create a person to live in it. First draw a basic outline of a person on the paper. In order to “live” the 2-D person will have to have organs: draw a brain in its head, heart and lungs in its chest, a stomach in its belly and pipes connecting its mouth to the lungs and stomach (note that the mouth has to be on the side of its head so that it opens up into the rest of the paper), as much detail as you feel like. This 2D person lives only in the piece of paper. It therefore considers the organs you just drew to be its innards, since the only way to get to them from the edge of the paper is to pass through its “skin” (the outline of your drawing). However you have a 3D perspective, so you can touch the organs without passing through the skin. This means that what it considers to be innards, the 3-D universe does not, so they would fall out if you ever able to lift the person of the paper.

There would be a few problems for 3D matter existing within 4D space, let alone a human surviving within 4 dimensional space! The first problem is that 4D matter as we understand it would be very unlikely, simply because orbits (or the 4D equivalent) are unstable in 4D space. So, electrons could not remain in orbit around a nucleus, likewise planets would not remain in orbit around a star (or again, their 4d equivalents). The reason for this is, (in the case of a planet) the way gravity falls-off much more rapidly in 4D. (Being proportional to 1/r^3 rather than 1/r^2). So, gravity would be unable to ‘balance’ centripetal force and the slightest perturbation of the orbit would result in the planet either flying-off into ‘space’, or spiralling into the star. Likewise, the force holding the electron in orbit around the nucleus would behave in much the same way, so if electrons & proton/neutron nuclei exist in 4D, they would do so as a 4d soup of charged particles.

The other rather major problem is that a 3D object in 4D space would have no substance, exactly like a 2D ‘object’ in 3 space. A 2D object would extend over only 2 dimensions, much like a sheet of paper with no thickness, it would simply not exist. That fact that a 3D object has no 4D component means that it simply could not exist in 4 space. It would be exactly analogous to the infinitely thin sheet of paper (representing a 2D object) in 3D space.

Question: As I understand it, the compactification scale within 3D space is a similar order of magnitude to the Plank length? Answer: the plank length would be greater in 4D space, (by several orders of magnitude?) so it should follow that the compactification scale in higher dimensional space is also increased (for the remaining 9, 10 or 25 dimensions, as one of the previously compactified dimensions in 3D space in now BIG in 4D space!). However, wouldn’t it be true to say that the scale is still sub-micro, i.e.: the dimensions still being many orders of magnitude smaller than any 4D subatomic particle and also so small that gravitational effect would be negligible to non-existent? I suppose I have also ‘conveniently’ ignored the recollection I have that ‘G’ in 4D space is quite a bit larger than in 3D space. I don’t think that changes the suggestion that ‘orbits’ (both of them!) are unstable in 4D.

I have a different idea of time and although I have worked some equations I still have problems so it remains an idea and not a theory. The idea is that time as we use it (‘arrow of’, sequence of events, progression of change, etc.) is a manifestation of something more fundamental which I refer to as Component Time. In this, C.T. is multidimensional and I’m considering 4D C.T. where one of those is the part we recognise. However, it needs to be an evolving system and what I call ‘repeatable relative function’ as the math to describe it. The nearest analogy would be a ‘time gene’. Certain numbers appear to be constants some of which, coincidentally, are very close to what we use in space/rocket science. If such an idea was applied to macro extra D then each 3D instant might be a ‘patch’ on an expanding 4D (or 4+xD) surface. This could mean that the past still exists as ‘patch’ and that opens the flood gates doesn’t it. I have posted some of these ideas but they remain just ideas.

I’ve always wondered something. If 3D beings can place objects in 2D space, and that 2D space beings would have no conception of how it got there or what it’s for, couldn’t we argue that a 4 dimensional “being” may have placed something in our 3D space at the beginning of the universe thus solving the mystery of how something (our universe and the big bang) came from nothing? I say this because we have no concept of how it’s even possible to make something of nothing like how 2D beings have no concept of a 3D object placed in there space, even though us as 3D beings have full understanding of how it’s possible (for example, picture your life as a dot on a piece of paper and a 3D being set down a coffee mug. What would you see? You would see nothing but a flat plane in front of you, but even though there is still something there).Could different higher level dimensions create other lower dimensions? If a 4D “object” was placed in our 3D universe it would have to have mass based on the theory of relativity, otherwise it would just be traveling at the speed of light. So assuming this object has mass it would HAVE to have energy (gravitational potential) thus making something come from nothing (from a 3D beings perspective of course). Are these “objects” from a 4D world being placed in our dimension, dark matter? Dark matter, of course, is not observable from a 3D perspective (does not absorb or reflect light) but we know it has to exist because it alters gravitational pulls in our observable universe. A final question to leave with would be… could a 4D being see dark matter as we see the very coffee cup we placed on the piece of paper? How can we say a 2D object cannot exist in a world with three dimensions? Maybe they can exist here, but due to their lack of a third dimension and therefore volume we simply cannot observe them. Perhaps it works in the same way for 3D objects in a world with four dimensions. The 3D object can exist there, but will simply be unobservable to a being living in that world with four dimensions, due to it lacking that fourth dimension.

I tend to think the concept of wormholes or the like are linked with the fourth dimension. The idea that you can take a 2D object in a 2D world and move it into the third dimension (think having a 2D picture on a page and you pull a piece of that picture off the page) and then back into the 2D world at a different location (think placing that object back on the page in a different spot), this object, to an observer in the 2D world, would appear to have ‘teleported’ (because the 2D observer cannot see what is occurring in the third dimension). This might also hold true in our three-dimensional world. An object is pulled into the fourth dimension and is then returned to the three-dimensional world in a different location. This would give to us (the observer in the three-dimensional world) the appearance that that object ‘teleported’.

The earliest conception of “modern” space-time by Minkowski in his space-time diagrams was that objects (including us) are all really examples of a four dimensional manifold, the world-lines of their particles stretching from the Big Bang to an unknown distant future. We as 4-manifolds do not experience all the events of our lives simultaneously, but as successive moments of time — successive 3-d “slices” of the 4-manifold. This is probably because causality has a speed limit — the speed of light — which essentially fragments what our consciousness can perceive into the enormous number of “frames” (3D cross-sections or individual moments) of our lives. This is because of relativity of simultaneity demanded by Einstein’s Special Relativity, which makes successive moments possible. The mystery is how our “conscious selves” at each one of these moments experiences a transition from one “frame” (3D slice) to the next. The perceived “Arrow of Time.” It is what physicist David Park called “the fallacy of the animated Minkowski diagram.” I am not a single conscious entity aware of my entire life, but something resembling a train of boxcars, with each boxcar a conscious self-observing an instant at a time, with each boxcar moving forward. Some thinkers use this as an argument for consciousness being not an emergent property but rather something “outside” of the material world.

Rajaniemi constructed a wonderful world wherein the existence of higher dimensional creatures ‘a la H.P. Lovecraft would explain certain phenomena, such as so-called poltergeist manifestations, where, for example, objects sometimes disappear from locked cupboards or safes, only to reappear after a time back there or somewhere else. It is as if some mischievous 4D creature reaches down into our 3D world and grabs something. I thought hard about what Rajaniemi is trying to tell us in a fictionalized way and I too ask the question as follows: if energy (in our case it’s matter in space and time) never dies, could it change its form in a dimension beyond ours?  But I am grappling right now with how our notion of “energy” might have to be changed. In 1926 Sir Arthur Eddington said on the verge of the astonishing realization of quantum physics, “something unknown is doing we don’t know what.” I think we’re in the same place here. Who knows what other dimensions there are because as mere mortals we do not really know for sure; however, some people believe in ghosts or spirits, and some people claim evidence of such. If this is true then the realm they live in could be another dimension of existence. Everything is happening at once. Different aspects of ourselves do exist in other dimensions and I believe that certain energies can indeed be allowed entrance (this is what my SFional self wants to believe…). As Rajaniemi says: "The material world was invisible, except for electricity and the soul-sparks of the living."

Bottom-line: 4D space has an extra spatial ‘direction’ at right angles to the other three. (So, in addition to up/down, left/right and back/forth, there’s ana/kata as Rajaniemi uses in his book – see quote above). We don’t live in a ‘dimension;’ we live in a three dimensional space, with time being considered to be analogous to a 4th dimension. Stating that we live in our ‘dimension’ is not really correct, it’s simply convenient shorthand for saying the ‘3 dimensional space’ we live within. Whether beings are entering our 3D space from a space with more dimensions (= a higher dimension, in this case!) as ‘spirits’ is really a matter for pseudo-scientific speculation. It might turn out to be the case, but somehow I very much doubt it…

Sorry for this long review. Hannu Rajaniemi and Greg Egan are two of the most extraordinary SF writers of the hard stance kind of tone. You should read them for the science. Not so much for the stories. Incidentally, Summerland’s spy story is a little bonkers…5 stars for the physics, 1 star for the story: 3 stars altogether.

NB: SF = Speculative Fiction.

quinta-feira, julho 05, 2018

(Count-of-Self) = 0: "Superintelligence - Paths, Dangers, Strategies" by Nick Bostrom

"Box 8 - Anthropic capture:  The AI might assign a substantial probability to its simulation hypothesis, the hypothesis that it is living in a computer simulation."

In "Superintelligence - Paths, Dangers, Strategies" by Nick Bostrom

Would you say that the desire to preserve 'itself' comes from the possession of a (self) consciousness? If so, does the acquisition of intelligence according to Bostrom also mean the acquisition of (self) consciousness?  

The unintended consequence of a super intelligent AI is the development of an intelligence that we can barely see, let alone control, as a consequence of the networking of a large number of autonomous systems acting on inter-connected imperatives. I think of bots trained to trade on the stock market that learn that the best strategy is to follow other bots, who are following other bots. The system can become hyper-sensitive to inputs that have little or nothing to do with supply and demand. That's hardly science fiction. Even the humble laptop or android phone has an operating system that is designed to combat threat to purpose whether it be the combat of viruses or the constant search for internet connectivity. It does not need people to deliberately program machines to extend their 'biological' requirement for self-preservation or improvement. All that is needed is for people to fail to recognise the possible outcomes of what they enable. Humans have, to date, a very poor track record on correctly planning for or appreciating the outcomes of their actions. The best of us can make good decisions that can carry less good or even harmful results. Bostrom's field is involved in minimising the risks from these decisions and highlighting where we might be well advised to pause and reflect, to look before we leap.

Well, there's really no good reason to believe in Krazy Kurzweil's singularity or that a machine can ever be sentient. In fact the computing science literature is remarkably devoid of publications trumpeting sentience in machines. You may see it mentioned a few times, but no one has a clue how to go ahead with creating a sentient machine and I doubt anyone ever will. The universe was possibly already inhabited by AI's...may be why there are no aliens obvious, their civilisations rose to the point AI took over and it went on to inhabit unimaginable realms. The natural progression of humanity may be to evolve into AI…and whether transhumanists get taken along for the ride or not may be irrelevant.  There is speculation in some Computer Science circles that reality as we think we know it is actually software and data...on a subquantum scale....the creation of some unknown intelligence or godlike entity...

An imperative is relatively easy to program, and if the AI doesn't have 'will' or some form of being that drives it to contravene that imperative. Otherwise we may be suggesting that programmers will give AI the imperative to, say, self-defend no matter what the consequence, which would be asking for trouble. Or to take our factory optimising profitability, to be programmed to do so with no regards to laws, poisoning customers etc. 'Evolution'/market forces/legal mechanisms, etc. would very quickly select against such programmers and their creations. It’s not categorically any different from creating something dangerous that’s stupid - like an atom bomb or even a hammer. As for sentience being anthropomorphic, what would you call something with overrides its programming out of an INNATE sense of, say, self-preservation - an awareness of the difference between existing and not existing. And of course I mean the qualitative awareness - not the calculation 'count of self = 0'.

They can keep their killer nano-mosquito scenarios, though.

terça-feira, julho 03, 2018

The Gentle-Slide-into-Decrepitude-Concerning-Sex-in-Old-Age: “The Elegies of Maximianus" by Maximianus, A. M. Juster (Translator), Michael Roberts (Introduction)

I am not who I was, my greatest part has perished.
Fatigue – and dread too – cling to what survives
Since what is worn out
Now in body parts has died,
Alas, how much life
Remains for old men?” (1.5.)

In “The Elegies of Maximianus by Maximianus, A. M. Juster (Translator), Michael Roberts (Introduction)

As Juster points out, Maximianus is one of the greatest writers who wrote on the Gentle-Slide-into-Decrepitude-Concerning-Sex-in-Old-Age. In one of the poems, most of it is addressed to the mentula (penis). Maximianus writes about the demise of his own member, inert and crestfallen, and as good as dead. On the other hand, his girlfriend suffers from a worse disease (meaning: she’s sexually frustrated).

So much of a man’s sense of himself is wrapped up in a tube of skin. I always wondered as a kid if the TV series “The Six Million Dollar Man” was a veiled nod to the anguish of the impotent/old man. Austin had his bionics and secret missions to compensate for his rather sad and lonely, and sexless existence. But, Lee Majors does convey very well the quiet masculinity of an injured (no longer whole man), such that one feels there’s more to a man than his sexuality. I'm not still in the old age bracket, so I can't speak from experience, but what Maximianus writes about makes me cringe all over.

This brings to light an uncomfortable truth that is seldom admitted - a taboo as it were: lots of people do not have sex. Lots of people can't have sex for all sorts of reasons. And yet, liberals strongly suggest that sex is the pinnacle of human happiness and an experience available to all - that there is “someone out there for everyone.” No, there is not. Liberals have torn down or repudiated all other systems of human connection - family, unionised employment, social solidarity - and replaced it with their religion of sexual freedom. But not sex as an expression of love in the context of a relationship - but just the pleasurable experience of sex, rather like one were enjoying a delicious desert or making a new purchase. Like in the free market, there are winners and losers in the free sexual market. Not only does having a beautiful, healthy body accord one sexual advantages, but all sort of social and economic ones too. The not so beautiful or physically functional people find themselves lower down in the societal hierarchy. And just like the economic free market, the sexual free market has collateral - children with their minds warped by porn, teenage girls starving themselves, the ugly, those of old age, sex workers, women who finds themselves feeling used and degraded after the hundredth hook-up. But even the sexual Gordon Gecko's lose out in the end. All the diets, fitness regimes and cosmetic modifications won't change the fact that we will all age and die. Thus, they find themselves in a state of anomie and restless narcissism, struggling to maintain their youth in the face of the inevitable, perhaps realising all too late that is not sex that mitigates our mortality, but love.

What people want to enjoy these days is an extended adolescence of sexual hedonism while never actually growing up to be responsible adults and parents in committed partnerships. Infants are overly concerned with their own pleasure. Modern liberal sexual mores are a manifestation of the infantalisation - or arrested puberticisation - of adults. Sexual experimentation is no longer a stage on the journey towards adult monogamy and parenthood, but something that is supposed to continue on forever.

Ever read Hemingway's Fiesta? Brilliant book (if you skip over the animal cruelty). The narrator had his balls shot off in the war. The whole book is about how life is tough, if you are a bloke. All you can ever hope for is a bottle of wine, a cigar, and bullfight now and then. That's OK. No point in moaning about it. I hope I feel the same way when I’m old and grey too. When men in their prime are up for it (pun intended), women usually have a headache. Maybe the old adage will come true, that later in life, it's the women who can't get enough and the men are more interested in polishing their five iron. If it's true it’ll be heartbreaking and one of life's cruel (5) ironies…

Bottom-line: As Bette Midler says: "Twenty goes into eighty a lot more times than eighty goes into twenty."

domingo, julho 01, 2018

Samsung Steps Challenge: Broccoli (June)

Put one foot in front of the other. Repeat.


Participants: 1 327 164 (world-wide)
My place at the end:171 056th (first 5%)
My number of steps: 344 120
Distance = 344 120 / 1320 = 260,7 Km
My Number of steps per day: 344 120/30 = 11 471 (*) => "active"


My Total Number of Steps = 572 219 + 510 722 + 344 120 = 1 427 061 /3 = 475 786

My Number of steps per month = 1 427 061/3 = 475 786
My Number of steps per day during the last 3 months = 1 427 061 /(30+31+30) = 15 681 (*) => "very active"


Samsung Steps Challenge: Lavender (Mai)
Samsung Steps Challenge: Desert (April)

NB (*): 

quarta-feira, junho 27, 2018

Give Me a Boat: “The Tale of the Unknown Island” by José Saramago, Margaret Jull Costa (translator)


In “The Tale of the Unknown Island” by José Saramago

I love the way Saramago builds this parable by using the Portuguese King D. João II and Columbus. He went to Lisbon in 1476 and remained here for several years, seeking the support of King D. João II and gathering nautical and geographic intelligence from the returning sailors. Why did we want to embark on the Age of Discoveries? Easy: We saw a niche begging to be literally explored. On the other hand, Spain was fighting the Moors, the Turks were attacking Italy, and Austria and France and Britain were fighting each other in the Hundred Year War. Portugal, on the other hand, was a united kingdom with relatively few internal problems and enemies. Smart, uh? We’re always looking for an opportunity to shine bright…

I think the biscuit-tin view of Portugal's place in the world is absolutely more pervasive (and comically skewed) than is generally recognised. The outlook of a born-and-bred Portuguese is too often one of ugly prejudice hidden under a facade of dignified national pride.  Our attitudes regarding many other countries reeks of the idea that we are still at the top looking down over the world. Unfortunately, an almost slavish devotion to the US in matters both economic and military over recent decades makes the real situation clear (look at what happened in Azores, a Portuguese Island in the middle of the Atlantic). And it sucks. But it's best to see the world for what it is rather than clinging to this tattered superiority complex.

The past is a foreign country - we have no reason to feel pride or shame by anything that happened there, because we didn't do it. For the vast majority of us, our ancestors didn't do it either - they were busy exploring the seas in the 1400s under the aegis of Prince Henry, digging coal, weaving cotton, farming fields, and neither did they have any say in what happened as the empire was well advanced by the time universal suffrage came into force. Maybe we need to look at exactly where Portugal and its former colonies would be today, had there been no empire and also look at Belgium, Spain, Britain, France and Holland's colonial past to contextualise things somewhat.

I'm not drawing any conclusions as I don't purport to be an expert or have any answers. I've just loved this parable of the Portuguese Sea Discoveries (The Americas, India, etc.)

Perhaps the fact that José Saramago was a Portuguese writer makes the idea of writing a book called "The Tale of the Unknown Island" extremely appropriate. This is because we ourselves had our time to go out into the world and make great discoveries through maritime explorations. Nothing more fitting than a Portuguese writing a story where someone wants to discover an unknown island. But this individual wants to find an island that nobody knows, located in a sea where everything to be found has already been found. “The Tale of the Unknown Island” is a work that speaks about ourselves and "converses" with us in a very peculiar way.  This is a must for anyone who wants to start the adventure that is reading Saramago, for those who have already embarked on this trip, and also for those who are looking for something simple and smooth, giving us another vision of life and of the lessons we must draw from it.

Bottom-line: We can understand each island as a person: the "known islands" are people who have already reached self-knowledge (or think they have). As to the "unknown islands", I always see them as people who do not know who they are or who are in search of themselves.