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Friday, 21 July 2017

Focus vs Distraction

I'm easily distracted, either by external curiosity (eg, sensory input from eyes, ears or other) or internal curiosity (eg, questions arising in my mind). Yet, I am always able to regain my focus. In yesterday's blog, I mentioned that our era of information overload causes many distractions. How will Humanoid sapiens handle limitless Knowledge / Information?

In 2011, 2002 Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman wrote the book "Thinking, Fast and Slow". This book claims that focus and distraction are two separate brain systems. Wiki: "The central thesis is a dichotomy between two modes of thought: "System 1" is fast, instinctive and emotional; "System 2" is slower, more deliberative, and more logical." (2011 NYT book review).

The above results in an amendment of my 2016 classification of the 4 areas of human intelligence, being Knowledge, Beliefs, Instinct & Intuition, and Imagination.

The current challenges of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are in the field of external curiosity (intuition / instinct) (eg, Futurism, MITScience)

Artificial beliefs, rooted in internal curiosity, should follow the Three Laws of Robotics by Isaac Asimov else AI might become dangerous to humans (my 2016 blog).

Imagination, also rooted in internal curiosity, is the only area of human intelligence that AI may never reach. Hence, the category "unknown unknowns". This is also the main reason why Humanoid sapiens needs human intelligence. Artificial intelligence may never be enough. Humanoid sapiens will thus become a part of Evolution, enhanced by Technology. 

At a first glance, distractions may seem irrelevant and superfluous. As from childhood, distractions are however an integral part of learning (eg, discovering, playing). It's sheer impossible to retain a 100% focus at all times. Our mind needs relaxation and stress relief. To some extent, fast and slow thinking are like front-end and back-end computing

The limitless amount of Knowledge available to Humanoid sapiens probably requires a horizontal split between slow thinking and fast thinking - or front-end and back-end computing. This is in line with my earlier suggestion about distributed computing in part 4 of Humanoid sapiens.

Considering the above and with the knowledge of hindsight, the word "versus" in the title of this blog is probably misleading. Without distractions, we would probably also lose focus (eg, burnout, fatigue). Distractions (eg, hocus pocus) are necessary to keep focus. Finding a balance between both is the real challenge for all of us.

Hocus Pocus (1971) by Focus - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

PS: hat tip to this blog

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Humanoid sapiens (5)

Part 4 of this blog series concluded that Humanoid sapiens is part of Evolution which created Life. All species started from 1 cell (eg, Nat Geo, Wired). Multi-cell organisms are much more complex and required building techniques like compartmentalization, redundancy and specialisation. Also see my 4 May 2017 blog Why is Life digital?

Some 40-50 thousand years ago, the human brain got a major overhaul for reasons still unknown. The resulting behavioral modern homo sapiens was very different from the anatomically modern humans which species had existed for 2-3 million years. The future Humanoid sapiens may take any shape or form but will retain the human mind although enhanced by technology.

Human intelligence developed as follows (also see my blogs of 2015 and 2016):
1. Knowledge or Information - category: known knowns - all life forms - stage: Needs
2. Intuition or Instinct - category: unknown knowns - animals and humans - stage: Wants
3. Beliefs - category: known unknowns - only humans - stage: Beliefs
4. Imagination - category: unknown unknowns - humans/humanoids - new stage: Limitless.

Humanoid sapiens, the descendant of Homo sapiens, will be the first species to enter the new and 4th Limitless or Unlimited stage. It will be the first species that can deal with unlimited volumes of Information. All previous life forms and species, including Homo sapiens, were limited in processing and storage of Information or Knowledge.

The past few days, I have been wondering if - and how - Faith and Religion would affect Humanoid sapiens. A 2017 scientific study concludes that religion is an evolved instinct. Also see my 23 May 2017 blog: Religion and human instinct. This conclusion is consistent with the observation that certain animals do perform rituals that suggest proto-religious beliefs (eg, chimps, dolphins, elephants).

Homo sapiens created religious beliefs based on these evolved animal and human instincts. This development matches my ranking above. Our beliefs often limit us from understanding other people. Imagination will however "free your mind, and the rest will follow" (lyrics, video, Wiki).

Hence, I expect that Faith will finally take over from Religion. This is in line with Mahatma Gandhi's conclusion that "God has no religion". Essentially, Amos 5:21 (see Book of Amos from the Old Testament and Hebrew Bible) claims the same. Similar quotes are in the Quran (eg, 22:36–76:136). Religions are already anticipating on this development: see 2017 video.

The Limitless stage does pose some interesting questions: how do you keep focus with unlimited information? How do you prevent information from becoming an existential distraction? To a large extent, we have already approached an era of information overload. How will Humanoid sapiens survive in the new and 4th Limitless stage? To be continued.

No Limit (1993) by 2 Unlimited - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

No no limits, we'll reach for the sky!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Humanoid sapiens (4)

The 10th and last episode of The Mind of the Universe was about the connection between Nature and Technology and its impact on humans. This connection may bring Humanoid sapiens, the future descendant of Homo sapiens. Their only resemblance might be our human mind.

The human timeline is not very impressive given the age of the Universe (13.8 billion years ago), Milky Way (13.2 bya), Earth (4.5 bya), earliest life forms (3.8 bya), earliest of humans (2-3 million years ago), and now the behaviourally modern humans (40-50 thousand years ago). Behavioral modernity is about the behavioral and cognitive development of the human mind.

The next likely development of the human mind is a combination of Nature and Technology. Compared to computers, our human mind is (i) quite slow in processing information, and (ii) lacks information storage capacity. Our human mind is, however, unique in creativity - or imagination. Technology could enhance the human mind (e.g., augmented reality in Google Glass).

The main challenge for Humanoid sapiens is however not in information (known knowns) but in the 3 other elements of human intelligence: beliefs (known unknowns), intuition (unknown knowns), and imagination (unknown unknowns). Humanoid sapiens can probably not survive without beliefs, intuition and - especially - imagination.

The 2015 Sci-Fi movie CHAPPiE (IMDb) offers a view on how Humanoid sapiens could emerge. One of the scientists is working a program for downloading the human brain onto a computer. One of the key technology obstacles is the immense volume of the human mind and the speed of the download. The upload to a non-organic network takes however little time.

The movie shows that a Humanoid sapiens may assume any “exterior” or form. Hence, our future descendants may not resemble us at all. Humanoid sapiens may use distributed computing in a vast network of intelligence. Knowledge would not get lost unlike the impact of organic death in human beings, which wipes out all existing knowledge.

Humanoid sapiens might be considered immortal from a current Homo sapiens perspective. Its human legacy belief systems would probably make it conquer and rule the Universe. Humanoid sapiens will become the grasshopper of the Universe until it will be stopped by a more advanced species. Given the 10 billion year age difference, other species might be far ahead.

In my view, the above developments are unavoidable and unintentional and are part of Evolution. Evolution, as we now know it, seems to end with the development of Humanoid sapiens. Afterwards, it’s about technological improvements and no longer about genetic mutations to create new and improved species. Evolution and Technology merge into Creation.

Something is still bugging me. Mass extinctions and natural disasters (e.g., Great Flood) thus far prevented the development of a supreme species on Earth. Humanoid sapiens leaving Earth to conquer the Universe would be a major exception. What's the purpose of Humanoid sapiens??

Across the Universe (2002) by Rufus Wainwright - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

That special UK-US relationship

The Special Relationship is a term introduced by Winston Churchill in a 1946 speech for describing “the political, diplomatic, cultural, economic, military and historical relations" between the UK and the US. It’s remarkable that this special relationship works both up and down. Both countries are in political chaos and losing Power in the international community. Why?

Their 2-party political system worked well for many decades. The chaos that we now see is the result of a decline that started in the 1980s. Those years are characterized by the 1987 movie Wall Street (IMDb) and Gordon Gekko's phrase: "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good." Those years also created 2 classes of citizens in a 2-party system: winners and losers.

Since the early 1980's, the Anglo-American model of winners & losers has drifted away from the continental European Rhineland model, based on consensus decision-making. A growing divergence in economic growth was its result. However, a “winner takes all” model only favours one of its 2 classes of citizens after each election (e.g., tax breaks vs healthcare). Hence, the UK and US societies become increasingly divided following perceived nepotism.

The laws of Nature dictate that pressure will equalize: Avogadro, Boyle, Dalton, Pascal, Raoult. In this context, the political deadlock in UK and USA is an equalization of Power - or pressure. Any force has a unique mix of durability (Time) and intensity (Space) as total Energy is limited. In this view, the Anglo-American model focused on intensity and Rhineland on durability.

The current chaos in UK & US politics could imply that its model has run out of Energy. Only change would end its chaos. Such change includes (i) a 1-party system, or (ii) a multi-party system after a split from 2 in 4. Trump’s USA seems eager to explore a 1-party system. Its alternative might realign the Anglo-American and Rhineland model.

The equalization of pressure - and Power - is likely to affect its underlying elements. This thought would explain the mediocrity of political candidates. Only outsiders stand a chance of creating Change – or Chaos (e.g., Obama, Trump).

Having 1 opponent in life simplifies one's (outward) view on (complex) reality. It creates an inward "selfish" focus and difficulty coping with change. Having multiple opponents, requires an outward focus and a willingness to accept change in order to survive.

Hence, it’s too easy blaming Russia for the chaos in the UK and USA despite its meddling in Brexit and the 2016 US presidential election. The inherent weaknesses of a 2-party political system allow for such external vulnerabilities. Russia "successfully" exploited them.

The current chaos in the UK-US might also relate to today's political challenges, which require a view on durability rather than intensity: climate change, economic (mass) migration, global ageing demographics, global population growth, Technological Revolution 1800-2100, urbanization.

You’re a Special Part of Me (1973) by Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye - lyricsvideo, Wiki

Monday, 17 July 2017

Mrs May's Machiavellian Moves (6) - the Brexit oxymoron

The outcome of the UK's snap election has created a unique situation. Nobody will challenge Mrs May's role as UK PM for the next 2 years. Brexit has become a radioactive toxic file with severe contamination risk. Brexit can only ruin one's political career until April 2019.

The UK PM is actually quite lucky as both main parties do not know what they want. The only thing that UK Labour wants, is to succeed the Conservatives. Afterwards the same chaos will re-emerge as Labour is also deeply divided over Brexit. Hence, no one will dare to backstab Mrs May during the 2017-2019 Brexit negotiations. Mrs May has bought herself 2 more years.

It's quite possible that Mrs May will become the proverbial Phoenix from her own political ashes. Initially, I was quite convinced that Mrs May has a stroke of Machiavellian genius. Her subsequent actions made me doubt my assessment. However, even her apparent clumsiness might be part of her Machiavellian moves. It's often better when people underestimate you.

It's hard to conceive in Continental Europe that hardly any Brit has an idea what Brexit means, apart from Mrs May's rather useless 2016 slogan "Brexit means Brexit". If you don't know where you are going to, then chaos is the likely end result.

The key oxymoron of Brexit is whether the British exit from the European Union is a choice for Nationalism or Internationalism (a.k.a. globalization). Considering pre-Brexit slogans, it was about Nationalism and taking back control from the EU. Theresa May however claims that post Brexit "Britain will lead a new era of free trade" and that Britain is committed to free trade and globalization (eg, NYT). Brexit cannot be both. Hence, the oxymoron.

This key oxymoron explains the British negotiation stance towards the EU: they want a divorce but do not want to leave the house or pay for the joint bills. This 2nd oxymoron explains the often used British proverb that "you can't have your cake and eat it".

Despite an initial and repeated refusal to pay a divorce settlement bill to the EU, "the UK quietly recognised financial obligations to the EU in a written statement to parliament on Thursday" (Guardian): "The Government recognises that the UK has obligations to the EU, and the EU obligations to the UK, that will survive the UK’s withdrawal—and that these need to be resolved."

The current UK acknowledgements on (i) EU citizens living in the UK and (ii) the EU divorce settlement bill are necessary to secure the 3rd agenda item: a future trade agreement between the EU and the UK. In true Machiavellian spirit, the end will justify the means.

The end result may become a major case of window-dressing: the UK will pay (much) more money to the EU (eg, losing UK rebate), and similarly claim independence to its citizens and voters. Everybody happy, at least for now. 

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (1991) from Monty Python's Life of Brian

Always look on the bright side of life
If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten!
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Time to think

Since 8 July, I've had some time to think because my back pains returned following several weeks of stress. Sitting in a chair and getting up both equalled torture. The prospect of pain took away my pleasure in writing. Actually, I lost my inspiration too. Nothing really mattered anymore (lyrics, video). When you have plenty of time, there is no escape from thinking.

Time to think is not something which most of us look forward to. While thinking comes naturally to me, it’s still pretty threatening when there’s nothing else to do. In my mind I’ve been revisiting my past, present and future. It didn’t cheer me up. Time to think never really does. It reminds us of doubtful decisions, missed opportunities, and lots of uncertainties going forward.

I suppose the above is the reason why we avoid taking time to think. Our busy lives – mine not included - allow for little time to think. Our mindset is often on the following day(s) and perhaps next week. Anything beyond seems irrelevant “today”. Being in control requires having certainties. A short-term outlook enables that sense of control.

Until a week ago, I was just living in the Now. Once you let someone enter into your life, there’s also the prospect of a joint Future. My mind may have been belittling that Future but my body certainly did not. The recent events of 8 and 12 June and its uncanny parallel with 8 June 2016 hurt my confidence, hope and trust. My body saw its usual way out in stressful times.

My girlfriend’s imminent medical examination will probably reveal nothing as we know almost nothing about that part of the human body. I’m not looking forward to her new examination and neither is she. I’ll support her decision anyway as it will be the right one - whatever she decides. She has been living on borrowed time for decades. I’m confident there’s a good reason for that.

Obviously, I was and still am afraid of losing her, and I’m not the only one. It explains my current stress levels to a large extent. Things in life are, however, often more complicated than one single event explaining all. My life’s plate of spaghetti still has several threads left to sort out and digest. Rushing decisions is not part of my approach.

I wasn’t the only one who had ample time to think. That mutual thinking brought us closer together. We are discussing future plans and that has lifted my moods – and hers. These discussions are conditional, hypothetical and even premature but nevertheless they still feel good.

Time to think is more dangerous when you’re thinking alone. It’s easy to amplify future risks and uncertainties. It’s tempting to minimise opportunities and appreciate what you have now. When there’s time to think together than creativity and enthusiasm bring out a more balanced line of thought. In business, this process would be called “brainstorming”.

Time to think together requires certain characteristics: communication, respect, togetherness, trust, vulnerability. These 5 belong to the 7 elements of a unique relationship (see my 2016 blog). I must admit that it feels so good!

Feels So Good (1977) by Chuck Mangione - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Monday, 10 July 2017

The human Truman Show

You may remember the 1998 movie The Truman Show (IMDb), in which Jim Carrey lives in a village observed by cameras and unknowingly features in a reality TV show. Some scientists argue that humans may also live in a virtual reality, like The Matrix (IMDb).

Perhaps, you may already have wondered whether you are just a pawn in a game by the Gods. I must admit that this thought has indeed crossed my mind once in a while. Sometimes events occur in our life that are just too difficult to grasp. Such events might be similar to humans playing (evil) games with ants (eg, New ScientistNPRVolkskrant).

A human body consists of some 37.2 trillion individual cells (link). Nevertheless, it feels as if we are one. Every 7-10 years, the cells in our body are replaced by new cells. Yet, we never feel a different person. Perhaps our most remarkable body part is our brain. René Descartes once stated: “I think, therefore I am”. Explaining this concept of “thinking” is however far from easy.

I have argued before that our human mind (brain) doesn't feel the limitations of our human body. The human mind might even be trapped in our ageing body. Our solution is creating humanoid sapiens, our future descendant (see my blogs). This might qualify as an escape attempt, similar to Neo’s escape attempts from The Matrix.

Another way of looking at the above is that our human body is a mere "vessel" for our mind. This thought occurred to me after reading the movie plot of Meet Dave (IMDb).

My most provoking thought is that our mind is a mere “cell” in the Mind of the Universe. Concepts like consciousness, (self-) awareness, and thinking would suddenly require new definitions. A human body would enable that "cell" in the Mind of the Universe to perform “machine" learning. Human intelligence might then be a derivative of "artificial" intelligence rather than vice versa.

The above is in line with a concept called panpsychism. Wiki: “In philosophy, panpsychism is the view that consciousness, mind or soul (psyche) is a universal and primordial feature of all things. Panpsychists see themselves as minds in a world of mind. [] The recent interest in the hard problem of consciousness has revived interest in panpsychism.”

Wiki: “The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining how and why we have [] phenomenal experiences—how sensations acquire characteristics, such as colors and tastes.”

In my view, the answer is about (machine) learning. Our mind has received a sublime "vessel" for picking up information and digesting it. Without that vessel, no new information could be processed. An expanding Universe might equal expanding information - or learning.

The only thing that separates humans from being learning machines is our Soul (zaqiqu in Sumerian). According to ancient Sumerian beliefs, humans "woke up" following a divine "breath of life" - or breeze. This concept still applies in subsequent religious beliefs like Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Soul is the divine gift that makes humans unique.

Summer (Sumer) breeze (1972) by Seals & Crofts - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Are you the one I've been waiting for?

Are You The One I've Been Waiting For? (1997) by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

I've felt you coming girl, as you drew near
I knew you'd find me, cause I longed you here
Are you my destiny? Is this how you'll appear?
Wrapped in a coat with tears in your eyes?
Well take that coat babe, and throw it on the floor
Are you the one that I've been waiting for?

As you've been moving surely toward me
My soul has comforted and assured me
That in time my heart it will reward me
And that all will be revealed
So I've sat and I've watched an ice-age thaw
Are you the one that I've been waiting for?

Out of sorrow entire worlds have been built
Out of longing great wonders have been willed
They're only little tears, darling, let them spill
And lay your head upon my shoulder
Outside my window the world has gone to war
Are you the one that I've been waiting for?

O we will know, won't we?
The stars will explode in the sky
O but they don't, do they?
Stars have their moment and then they die

There's a man who spoke wonders though I've never met him
He said, "He who seeks finds and who knocks will be let in"
I think of you in motion and just how close you are getting
And how every little thing anticipates you
All down my veins my heart-strings call
Are you the one that I've been waiting for?

Saturday, 8 July 2017

When will a cyber war become an act of war?

On 6 July 2017, Bloomberg and the NY Times report that "Since May [2017], hackers have been penetrating the computer networks of companies that operate nuclear power stations and other energy facilities, as well as manufacturing plants in the United States and other countries."

NYT: "[The] urgent joint report issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation [] did not indicate whether the cyberattacks were an attempt at espionage — such as stealing industrial secrets — or part of a plan to cause destruction. There is no indication that hackers were able to jump from their victims’ computers into the control systems of the facilities, nor is it clear how many facilities were breached."

Actually, I am glad that the Dutch Interior Ministry cancelled its project to build an online database carrying all information about all Dutchmen. On 5 July 2017, the responsible Minister claimed the project was "not feasible" (VK). A remarkable conclusion after 15 years. I suspect however that the current sophisticated level of cyber attacks made this project too vulnerable. 

History should have taught us by now that the combination of viruses and interconnectedness is a lethal one. One of the most devastating pandemics was the Black Death, killing over 75 to 200 million people in Asia and Europe from 1346-1353, possibly 25% of the world population. Computer systems and computer viruses mirror human population and infectious viruses.

Interconnectedness is a natural concept (eg, ecosystem). The Technological Revolution of 1800-2100 enabled humans to mirror interconnectedness into human systems. These systems are primarily rooted in efficiency and effectiveness to boost overall system performance. Removing internal safety and security measures, should however be compensated by external ones (eg, access control, (dual) authentication, user profiles, front and back end computing). 

Unfortunately, safety and security often conflict with efficiency and effectiveness. Severe accidents must happen before Enterprise Risk Management is fully understood throughout an organisation. Since several years, biometrics authentication (eg, finger, iris) is being used to combine all 4 aspects. Also see my 2015 blog on cloud computing and hacking.

The current response to cyber attacks is countering the attack and repairing the damage. Given the ageing of computer legacy systems, prevention is not always a feasible option. The increase in cyber attacks (eg, damage, disruption, targets, volume), raises the question when a cyber attack will constitute the world's first casus belli - or act of war.

In a recent GeoPolitical Futures' article, George Friedman separates (few) systemic from (many) political wars. The 21st century has brought a 3rd type of war: cyber wars. Its actors may come from anywhere, its mastermind may only be suspected and never be legally proven.

Allegedly, the USA has developed "implants" or "digital bombs" that can destroy parts of an entire economy (eg, my 2015 blogRob de Wijk in Trouw, USA Today, WP). Using these "implants" or "digital bombs" would certainly constitute an act of war.

Two Tribes (1984) - 2014 Video Destructo Mix - by Frankie Goes to Hollywood 

Friday, 7 July 2017

Global Debt Monitor

On 27 June 2017, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) published its Global Debt Monitor. IIF: “Growth in global debt has slowed over the past several years, particularly in mature economies. However, with EM economies borrowing more heavily, global debt has set a new record high of USD217 trillion (over 327% of GDP) in early 2017.”

These numbers are so huge that they become meaningless to most people. I'm not sure if they are alarming in and of itself. It takes slightly more than 3 years to “repay” this debt through Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Three years is not a lot if such debt is collateralized (e.g., mortgages). Without collateral, 3 years is huge.

Due to Quantitative Easing (QE) programs in Europe and USA, interest levels – and thus borrowing costs – are artificially low. QE programs work like this: Central Banks buy financial assets (e.g., bonds) with new money. This causes asset price inflation. If asset prices go up than market interest goes down as the nominal interest remains the same. See my 2016 blog.

When QE programs stop then market interest rates are no longer forced to go down. A reverse trend will start: financial asset prices will go down (lack of demand) and market interest rates will go up (because nominal interest remains the same). Upward market interest rates will ultimately hurt everyone who borrows money.

QE programs were introduced to “speed up” the economy. The idea was/is that low interest levels - or “cheap money” - will boost capital expenditure and investments. I doubt that as interest rates are a minor concern in any commercial business case. The financial services industry may have profited most which may also explain sluggish economic growth.

The real danger of “cheap money” is in a national debt crisis. Cheap money is like a drug addiction to governments. Future repayment is the responsibility of future politicians. Unlike consumers and (non state) corporations, governments usually expect to be bailed out, like Greece (EU) and Puerto Rico (USA). Also see my 2015 blog.

Higher borrowing costs would test highly indebted countries, like China and USA. This also explains recent warnings on an imminent Chinese - and global - recession. The USA has the luxury that the USD is still a global reserve currency. Balancing budgets, debt ceilings, and protecting capital outflows are less important to them. Rating agencies are worried about China and downgraded China's credit rating last May 2017 (eg, Moody's).

The Netherlands faces an ECB TRIM investigation due to its immense level of consumer mortgage debt. The Netherlands is a small country with many people, low supply of new houses, a huge demand in certain areas, and very low interest levels due to ECB's QE. Hence, house prices are sky high again but Dutch consumer mortgage defaults have always been very low.

I'm more worried about consumer, corporate, and government debt in countries without an independent banking system that is also at arm’s length from its government. The real debt risks are in countries where banking and politics are intertwined.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Conceptual Framework (3) - update

Today, I present an update of my Conceptual Framework. It integrates my various concepts: (1) the 7 Belief systems, (2) Needs, Wants & Beliefs, and (3) Faith, Beliefs & Willpower. I am still not yet sure if Awakening is a separate concept.

My diagram separates the earthly from the divine. This separation also clarifies the difference between Faith, rooted in Love, and Religion, rooted in Power (my 2016 blog). It integrates the ancient Sumerian religious beliefs and Zoroastrianism which both underpin the current Abrahamic or Semitic religions, being modern Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

My Needs, Wants & Beliefs concept argues that all life forms are conscious and in the Needs stage (eg, food, sex, water). Only life forms using tools are self-aware with external curiosity and migrated to the Wants stage. Humans are the only thinking life form with internal curiosity and migrated to the Beliefs stage (my 2017 blog). Humans follow these 7 Belief systems: Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science and the Truth.

The most intriguing additions are at the right side of my diagram. Scientists are warming up to a conscious universe, a self-aware universe, and a (thinking) mind of the universe. This ancient philosophic and current scientific view is called panpsychism: "the view that consciousness, mind or soul (psyche) is a universal and primordial feature of all things." The resemblances between a human brain and the Universe are also fascinating (eg, LiveScience, Quora).

The above would have far reaching consequences. 

The scientific "winning lottery ticket" theory, for Earth's creation of Life, would no longer apply because Earth and the Universe would mirror each other. 

Extraterrestrial life would become a near-certainty but perhaps in a Multiverse or parallel universes.

Panpsychism may - reluctantly - "merge" Religion and Science.

This diagram shows the best that I've currently got. It's part of my Awakening.

I am happy sharing it with you.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Advantage vs Empathy

Scientists claim that the Theory of Mind separates humans from animals. The Theory of Mind is the ability to understand the feelings and thoughts of others. Recent research by Michael Tomasello showed that 3 different species of apes understand false beliefs and thus come quite close to humans (eg, Science). Apart from primates, birds and dogs also show some ToM.

My Needs, Wants & Beliefs concept argues that all life forms are in the Needs stage (eg, food, sex, water). Life forms using tools are in the Wants stage (eg, apes, birds). Only humans are in the Beliefs stage and follow the 7 Belief systemsLove, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science and the Truth. Humans need these Belief systems to simplify the complexity of reality that threatens to overload our human thinking.

The word "humans" is sometimes misleading. There are at least 4 types of humans: homo erectus (ca. 1.9 mya), archaic humans (ca. 500,000 years ago), anatomically modern humans (ca. 200,000 years ago), and the behaviorally modern humans (ie, us) who suddenly emerged some 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, perhaps "through cognitive, genetic changes".

Empathy and the Theory of Mind are closely related concepts. This supports my view that helping other humans is our fundamental purpose (meaning) in life. The ToM can, however, also be used to gain advantage from understanding other people's feelings and thoughts. Gaining advantage in life over others, has become a fundamental driver of human behaviour (eg, greed).

The pursuit of advantage in life over others has also created a belief of being better than others and ultimately in a Philosophical belief of Superiority and/or Supremacy (eg, ageist, racist, religist, sexist). The flip side of this coin is the human belief in a victim role - winners vs losers. This makes me wonder about the (absolute) moral values in humans.

The main accomplishment of Religion is that they codified moral values based on Love (ie, deity, others, self). Unfortunately, human beings - whether atheist, agnostic or religious -  easily forget these moral values in certain circumstances (eg, terrorism, war). Hence, I do not think, feel or believe that humans were born with (absolute) moral values.

Empathy is still around us on a small scale (eg, neighbours helping out someone in need), and on a large scale (eg, country aid following natural disasters). Empathy is, however, being eroded by the human belief that some people do not deserve our aid (eg, ageist, racist, religist, sexist). Continued urbanization and increasing individualism will erase our sense of tribalism and erode our sense of empathy.

Empathy is not necessarily a moral value as empathy may never be entirely selfless. Empathy could still be rooted in achieving (delayed/future) advantage (egYou Owe Me / I Owe You). Our relentless efforts in gaining advantage (eg, Knowledge, Power), might be what really separates humans from anything else on this planet. This might be my most pessimistic blog ever.

Better Man (2014) by Paolo Nutini - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

She makes me smile
She thinks the way I think
That girl makes me wanna be better

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Humanoid Sapiens (3) - the complexity of reality

Plato once stated that the "opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance". Everybody has her/his own opinion. Few opinions are the same, even when people "share" opinions. It is however extremely unlikely that reality is as diverse as human opinions. This makes me wonder why humans have so many different opinions about reality.

My answer is that reality is too complex for humans to understand. Reality equals perception. Human perception allows for zooming in on details, and zooming out to the Big Picture. Zooming out shows an increasing complexity in reality, which is beyond the capabilities of human thinking.

Our human mind has found a unique way to deal with the complexity of reality. It has created "filters" that "simplify" reality. These filters are also known as the 7 Belief systems (ie, Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science and the Truth). Without these filters, the complexity of reality can be overwhelming. With these filters, life and reality are bearable.

An Awakening is nothing more than losing filters - or belief systems - and realising the vastness of the complexity of reality and appreciating the beauty of its interconnectedness. Expressing an opinion becomes less and less worthwhile as reality cannot be caught in a "soundbite" - unlike beliefs. Silence indeed becomes the logical alternative. 

Another way of looking at the above is that Reality equals Chaos in our mind, as we cannot oversee its immense dimensions, its interconnectedness, and thus its complexity. Human thinking creates Order through the use of human beliefs, or the 7 Belief systems. Without this believed and perceived order, we might go slightly mad (see video below). 

Our human thinking has become the most divisive driver in human societies. The more we think, the more we become divided (eg, doubt, fear). The more we believe, the more we become divided (eg, Politics, Religion, Science). The more we know, the more we become divided (eg, Turkey abolishing Darwin's evolution theory).

There is always a temporary solution for unity: creating Fear in human minds (my 2015 blog). The long-term solution is less beliefs and/or more understanding. This - again - points to a development in which humanoid sapiens will be the descendant of homo sapiens (see my recent blog 1, blog 2).

The Neanderthal existed for about 400,000+ years until about 40,000 years ago. Anatomically modern humans evolved from archaic humans about 200,000 years ago (Wiki). Behaviorally modern humans only exist since 40,000 to 50,000 years ago (Wiki). Is it possible that homo sapiens is already approaching the end of its life cycle? 

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance. Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC)

I'm Going Slightly Mad (1991) by Queen - artistslyricsvideoWiki-1Wiki-2

Monday, 3 July 2017

The Amazon - Whole Foods conundrum

On 16 June 2017, Amazon announced that it will buy Whole Foods Market, a nationwide American grocery chain which is known for its organic produce, high prices, and high margins. Amazon is an online retailer mostly known for its non-food items. It's hard to find any useful information on the expected synergies between both companies. To some extent, it's a conundrum.

Since 2007, Amazon has gradually rolled out its grocery delivery services called AmazonFresh, "targeting specific parts of various metropolitan areas and partnering with local speciality stores for delivery of local items." In March 2017, Amazon announced AmazonFresh Pickup, "a drive-in-type grocery store []. It's a delivery service that lets users shop online, reserve a time to pick up the groceries and have them loaded into their car at the store." (Wiki).

Working with many local and independent partners creates challenges in several mutual departments, like Finance, IT and Operations. It's not always easy to enforce a Service Level Agreement on independent business partners. The acquisition of Whole Foods will solve these issues, allow for an expansion of AmazonFresh Pickup, and create synergies in turnover

On 29 June 2017, several media reported that Amazon is looking at the robotic replacement of thousands of supermarket cashiers and warehouse workers (eg, CNN, EconomistFortune). Such savings would allow Whole Foods to cut its retail prices and attract price sensitive customers. This would first create synergies on direct variable overhead and subsequently in turnover.

Further synergies could be reached in indirect variable overhead by integrating both organisations. This might happen when the acquisition would become successful. Such an integration would however also seriously complicate a future divestment of Whole Foods. Please refer to my 5 February 2015 blog on Shared Service Centers. 

The potential synergies between Amazon and Whole Foods explain why the shares of domestic and foreign competitors dipped since the Whole Foods acquisition (eg, AholdWalmart). Their 5%-10% dip in share price implies that shareholders are worried but still have a "wait and see" attitude. I concur as many acquisitions fail due to a lack of post-acquisition management.

A visit to a robotic warehouse is most impressive (eg, dimensions, speed, volume). I have seen a few in my business career. Considering items like theft, volume and waste, the logistics of low-priced bulk goods must be different from the one dealing with medium to high priced items. The Amazon stock logistics' algorithms may not apply to Whole Foods. 

Amazon has a track record of many acquisitions but only Twitch and Zappos came close to $ 1 billion (eg, CB, GeekWire, TechWiki). The Whole Foods acquisition amounts to $ 13.7 billion, 91,000 employees and 400+ locations. The success of this acquisition will depend on Amazon's ability to apply post-acquisition management. It's unfortunate in this context that CEO's tend to focus on the future and lose interest in the past.

Conundrum (2013) by The S.I.G.I.T. - artistsFBlyricsvideoWiki-1Wiki-2

Sunday, 2 July 2017

The Surest Things Can Change

The Surest Things Can Change (1977) by Gino Vannelli

I love you now
And I never want to change my mind
But love is strange
And the surest things can change
We carry love
More than we can stand to lose
But who can say
The things we feel this day
Are the things we feel in time

Oh how can I be sure
The sun will rise in days to come
And now that I am yours
The world is still for you and I

We carry dreams
Like children in the spring of life
But love is pain
And the purest things can change
Who can say
The things we feel this day
Are the things we feel in time

Oh how can I be sure
The sun will rise in days to come
And now that I am yours
The world is still in cloudless sky
But sad as rain
The surest things can change

Saturday, 1 July 2017

The 45th president and history repeating itself

In 1885, the German Friedrich Trump emigrated to America at the age of 16. In 1902, he returned to Germany and tried to regain his German citizenship. He had lost this for missing his mandatory German military service, while being in USA. Despite his pleas to stay, he was informed that he would not be granted his German citizenship back and that he had eight weeks to leave the country or be deported (eg, CNN, DWGuardianSnopes).

Donald Trump's continued bashing of Germany (eg, German carsNATOtrade surplus) probably relates to his grandfather's banishing from Germany. Donald Trump has an easily bruised ego and he admired his grandfather Friedrich. He is taking revenge on Germany for the "unfair" treatment of his grandfather.

Joseph Raymond McCarthy (1908-1957) was a U.S. Senator from 1947 until his death in 1957. He became (in)famous for his American witch-hunt on anything that related to communism and/or Russia. The accusation of being a communist was enough to destroy someone's life in the 1950's. The TV series The Americans (8.3 in IMDb) is a reminder of that period.

The bipartisan U.S. Senate's Russia sanctions bill is a first step in the revival of a new period of McCarthyism. Wiki: "[This] bill would codify existing sanctions against Russia, impose new ones, and require the administration to get congressional approval in order to lift them." On 29 June 2017, the Russia sanctions bill was - again - approved by the Senate's 98-2 vote after an "unexpected roadblock in the House" (eg, the Hill).

Donald Trump claims there is a witch-hunt against him because RussiaGate is fake news. However, most of what Donald Trump says about himself - or others - is inaccurate, incomplete, and often just a plain lie. Narcissism and pathological lying are closely related. Trump's credibility is zero by now. The magnitude of RussiaGate is so immense that it's likely that a new McCarthy will emerge from RussiaGate and the lives of Trump supporters will be ruined.

The Republican GOP may not survive RussiaGate (eg, hacking, money laundering, treason). Based on Patribotics blog (Rep.) and Palmer Report (Dem.), several high-ranking GOP members are deeply involved in RussiaGate. The GOP might even be dismantled by the courts. It's doubtful whether the moderate and extreme wing would reunite in a new Republican party.

The US political landscape is likely to change following RussiaGate, and perhaps even drastically if/when the Republican GOP would be outlawed. In latter case, the Democratic party would not be able to maintain its unity and would likely split in moderates and Sanderistas.

I doubt Donald Trump and his family members will be jailed in USA. I expect that history will repeat and that the USA will revoke citizenship of the Trump family and ban them forever. Russia may offer them asylum similar to Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Kim Philby.

History Repeating (1997) by Propellerheads featuring Shirley Bassey 
artists 1, artist 2, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2, Wiki-3

Friday, 30 June 2017

Vaccines - the Truth as a Belief system

On 21 June 2017, a ruling on vaccines by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) caused worldwide attention. Pharmaceutical firms were disappointed because of potential lawsuits. The ruling has also been accused of undermining national vaccination programmes (eg, Telegraph). The CJEU ruling was an overdue victory for the French man who was vaccinated against hepatitis B in 1998, developed multiple sclerosis a year later, and died in 2011 (eg, CNN).

When I was born in 1960, my parents must have had little doubt in vaccination programmes as I received all of the recommended voluntary ones for children (eg, chickenpox, measles). As an adult, I renewed certain vaccinations considering my foreign travelling (eg, DTP, Hepatitis A, yellow fever). I did read about the risks and/or side effects. I made a conscious choice.

Vaccinations are generic while each human is unique. From a statistical point of view, it makes sense that on a population of billions of people, some people will suffer from severe side-effects. During my 2 visits to Kenya, I used the anti-malaria pill Malarone. Unfortunately, I belonged to the group of 5% with expected side-effects. Would I prefer running the risk of malaria? Not really.

Both sides of the debate claim that their truth is the Truth. Nobody accepts the ugly truth that both sides are right: many lives are saved and a few people could/will be killed. The Greater Good theory would know the answer: the morality - good or bad - is defined by the end result. Hence, many is better than a few. Utilitarianism would agree: 'the greatest amount of good for the greatest number'.

The CJEU ruling uses a statistical approach: if a significant number of healthy people - with a lack of history of the disease in their family - developed a disease shortly after receiving a vaccine then that would serve as enough proof to bring a claim (without a need for further scientific proof). However, this ruling makes a major flaw in its reasoning on cause and effect.

The CJEU ruling only blames the "defect" vaccine in certain exceptional cases. The alternative is not being considered: a "defect" human being. Once again, vaccinations are generic while each human is unique. A generic drug could never be tested, approved and marketed with a 100% reliability. An "expected performance of 99.98%" might be their best (eg, FDA).

Until the CRISPR-Cas9 technology optimizes our DNA, there is always a risk of a shoddy immune system and an inappropriate generic vaccine. I had no shadow of a doubt when my children were up for recommended voluntary vaccination. It's an easy choice between running the risk of 0.02% side effects and - increasingly - a 100% risk of (future) contamination. 

The bitter irony is that people refusing vaccines on matters of principle, were once quite safe because of the high rate of vaccination. Now that this rate is falling, they suddenly become the victim of people who also refuse vaccinations but based on ignorance (eg, Germany, Italy). 

The Greater Good (2010) by José James - AllMusicartist, FBlyrics, video, Wiki

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Male feminism and female sexism

I am not a feminist. At least that is what I think, as I have no clue how or what a male feminist would look like. Men describing themselves as feminist make me a little uncomfortable. A Dutch guy even claimed that men shouldn't talk about feminism as men do not experience sexism. Latter is factually wrong and that guy must be blind.

For many years, I was also blind towards female sexism. My former girlfriend had to wake me up from my hibernation. Since she explained its signals, I am now finally noticing them. I must admit that I have always seen these signals but never thought about their meaning. Female sexism is sophisticated and probably even an art - unlike male sexism.

The word feminism does not have a male equivalent (Quora). It's antonym is misogyny or hatred of women. The absence of a male equivalent for feminism is suspicious in itself. Hence, this (female) remark in Quora: "The term "feminism" is actually a vague label." I can only imagine that a male feminist must sound suspicious to women.

Loving a woman should make a man a feminist - by definition - but clearly this is not the meaning of the word. Men do not have an understanding how it feels to be a woman. The same applies to women. How could women know how it feels being a man? Men do not often talk about emotions which makes it even harder to understand what drives male behaviour.

I can't even be a feminist as I have no clue what women see in men. I suppose women see different qualities in men than men see in women. My former girlfriend never worried about my wellbeing and was confident that I would soon have a new girlfriend. I did not understand her. I am not an easy person. I am reclusive and don't meet many people. She was very right however.

I doubt that women look for male feminists. If this label is suspicious in male eyes then it must raise red flags in women. At the age of 57, I think women are looking for male authenticity. This might even explain the beautiful 1978 love song "Is she really going out with him?" by Joe Jackson (artist, lyrics, video, Wiki).

Explaining male authenticity may take some effort. Essentially, it means being yourself and stop pretending to be someone or something else. Being yourself is easier said than done. We all wear various masks to cope with our various roles in life (eg, family, love, sport, study, work). Women do however not appreciate the male mask in Love.

Being yourself requires showing your vulnerability. Without mutual communication, forgiveness, intimacyrespect, togetherness and trust, this will usually not happen (my 19 January 2016 blog). Men - and women - often mistake vulnerability for weakness. Making yourself small in the eyes of someone you trust, will make you a great person in her eyes. Greater than you feel yourself and perhaps even greater than you really are. It's just different for girls.

It's Different For Girls (1979) by Joe Jackson - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2