experiences of note and further reflection

I’ve had an interesting experience recently, one that continues to ring like a bell that’s been struck. I’m confident that over the coming weeks and months, I’ll continue to listen to and interrogate that ring. But part of what this experience caused me to do is to investigate the foundation of my beliefs.

It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of daily life, of the demands of work and and the personal projects (about which I’ve written enough over the course of days and previous posts), and not to take the time to think about the source of things. And I like to think about the source of things; perhaps this goes back to how I approach my mathematical life, returning to first principles where I can.

So one of those foundation stones comes from a reflection on Buddhism by Stephen Batchelor, where he takes a secular approach to Buddha’s teaching and frames the Buddhist principles as calls to action. The first is a call to understand, namely to understand that a cause, perhaps the cause, of anguish is the disjuncture between the world as it is and the world as we might want it to be.

So consider the world. I watch news on television and I read news, from multiple sources, and themes arise from that consideration. One aspect of this consideration carries echoes of Star Trek.

The Vulcans were at one point in their history were like us, subject to their emotions. Perhaps ruled by their emotions. That brought them to the precipice of disaster, and it was a turn to logic that saved them. So considering the world, I wonder whether we are approaching a similar point in our history. If we take a step back and examine ourselves calmly, perhaps the time has come for us to honestly explore how we think, how our brains work, and then start down the path of working through how we can best train ourselves.

And this leads to an idea. Assume, as I’m willing to do, that we make contact with one or more extraterrestrial species and they are similar enough to us that we can establish meaningful communication. Would we allow them to study human psychology? Would we allow them to understand humans as well as marketing executives and advertisers understand humans? Because I think the answer would have to be no; we wouldn’t be able to take that chance.

Or perhaps, we might think, what could possibly go wrong.

~ by Jim Anderson on 17 July 2021.

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