Hope, Love, And Loss — Musings In The Age Of Complexity

The brain is a complex piece of machinery. So complex, some fear that upon decoding the brain’s complexity—we rob ourselves of our individuality. In early 2020, approximately fifty percent of the US labor force still had reservations of AI replacing human laborers. However, most AI experts cite the anxieties towards AI as misplaced. Artificial Intelligence will eventually  take the place of non-creative labor. 

At the bare bones of understanding, AI are human written algorithms that can input  data and analyze peta-flops of data and output the analysis with minimal intervention. 

There is one aspect of human intelligence that may never be replaced— true creativity. It is the type of prowess that seems nearly spiritual in some of us.

Let me explain—

When Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel in Rome so many centuries ago, his work was regarded as a pinnacle of creation. It is regarded as an achievement that will never be re-created. However, if we utilize today’s technologies of large data input and output, his work could be duplicated down to last brush-stroke. AI is now capable of deciphering patterns and reproducing them with ease. Reproducing the Sistine Chapel’s beauty maybe easier than it seems. You and I might think of it as a grand, paint-by-numbers chore for a 3-D printer that reproduces its pre-written program. Take a photograph, analyze each color by its emission wavelength, store it in memory by it physical location on your memory chip, and then reproduce it. 

So, it is easily stated, re-inventing the wheel is not a creative pursuit. Thus, often duplicated but never re-created becomes an axiom.

Inventing the wheel’s replacement is an act of creative genius. 

Intelligence makes us unique — and sets us apart from most of the world. 

If we believe the brain as the seat of human intelligence—knowing how to use it as human’s normally do so —is irreplaceable. We have as yet to make another human that can completely replace itself without another human. 

While it sounds like a bad joke, we are pinnacles in the creative landscape of earth. If we look at the brain size and complexity, whales and certain species of dolphin do rival us and far exceed us. So you might ask, why aren’t they at the pinnacle of creation on the earth? One answer—it takes a great amount of brain power for whales to communicate with each other through the ocean. Whales are known to communicate amongst themselves under water over vast distances. Humanity, while possessing the means of communication, cannot hear another human under water—? Humans need complex devices to communicate under water. Well, so what? 

While the same may be said for humans lack of communication over long distances on land, we have invented many ways of communication. 

The size of a brain is not the only arbiter of inventiveness—the immediate environment of animal while utilizing its brain, is one final arbiter. While whales will die when plucked out of the water for an extended period of time—humans cannot survive under water without breathing apparatuses. 

Human arms and legs give us a superior edge to the animal kingdoms of earth. And evolution is in constant progression, all life on earth changes almost imperceptibly at times. The new, Covid-19 virus is an outstanding example of change on the earth. How it mutated from being a purely animal virus to infecting humans may not be readily understood for several years. Eventually, humanity will gain the upper hand. 

(Aside: While I hope we do gain the upper hand without further loss of life sooner  than later, the present pandemic has become politicized — inducing death in its wake.)

Understanding the human brain is a paramount goal for neuroscientists, the complete replacement of humanity with Artificial Intelligence is unlikely. It is our ability to organize into communities that makes us unique. It is problematic for a group of AI automatons to organize into a hierarchical structure—like a functioning society. AI needs ‘Free Will’ to replace humanity. 

Because we can organize—we defend our communities, giving each member a sense of individual safety. That sense of individuality does not exist in AI —it needs a programmer. 

One goal occupying practitioners of AI, teaching AI to self-replicate. It stands to reason that when AI creates another AI— some may label it as sentient. That is far from the truth. What it does indicate is humanity’s propensity to create. It is a gift —it allowed us to leave the cradle of life and populate the earth. 

The question will arise, will AI ever possess a conscience? We can program it to recognize right from wrong. What stands to be seen: can AI willfully destroy, create, or love. 

That cradle of humanity distinguishes us from all else —we can choose to love, willfully.  

Photo by TravelingTart on Pexels.com

Chemistry and Evolution: Silent Ascent Of Intelligence

Chemical elements, at first glance, appear as abstractions. How often do we, normally, speak of carbon —or even phosphorus in daily speech? And, when someone mentions a chemical process like oxidation of carbon-based molecules—what do we envision? Do we struggle to envision burning embers of cooked meat or do we struggle, even more, to visualize carbon-based  molecules producing carbon dioxide?

After all, chemistry and chemical bonding are primarily explained by a highly theoretical approaches of Quantum Mechanics. The theories, in part, are explained by uncertainties in the measurements of time, velocity, momentum, and position. So, how often do we hear highly convoluted explanations of chemistry that might be better explained in a more down-to-earth terms? The answer turns out to be disappointingly — more often than not!

This makes chemical processes lauded, feared, and often misunderstood. While there is the practical aspect for understanding how the world works, we don’t see practical explanations of chemistry often enough. Chemistry is a difficult science but extraordinarily powerful.

As life evolved on our planet over hundreds of millions of years, fundamental chemistry assisted evolutionary processes putting humanity in the driver’s seat of change. Humanity utilized simple chemical principles to construct hunting tools from hard, sharp stones to harder, sharper metals —making it easier to kill prey. Cooking meat by flame taught humanity to produce digestible protein —making it indispensable to our diets.

Meat-eating gave humanity further means to assert its early intelligence over its perceived enemies. Preparing a meal by an open flame transforms carbon-, sulfur-, and other components of animal protein – cooking animal flesh is one method that our ancestors used to thrive.

SantaCruz-CuevaManos-P2210651b

Once humanity took the reigns of its own evolution, it transformed the earth’s landscape. The planet has not been the same. Cueva de las Manos, Perito Moreno, Argentina. Mariano • CC-BY-SA-3.0

Cooking meals by an open flame is one way that humanity distinguished itself from the prey it hunted. Early humans took ahold of their collective minds and solved the problem re-birth as a trial by fire. They became became the kings of the heap. While their efforts distinguished them as an advancement in their evolutionary growth, the advancement from scavenging for food to hunting prey took many millions of years to be hardwired into their DNA. Instead of scavenging for food –they used their intelligence to overcome disadvantages in their size and strength by overcoming vastly superior predators. It was their brain and evolving, collective intelligence that overcame daunting odds.

Modern Day Hunting and Gathering — Finding Extra-Terrestrial Life

However, in modern times, we think of chemical elements as an ordering of substances in a periodic table. And, when it comes to the origins of life and it’s propagation, we think of only a handful of elements — carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur. Those are the big six for us, at least. While other elements play important roles in life and it’s propagation, without the six above elements we would be hard pressed to identify life if it did sprout up elsewhere in our solar system. The primary reason for our naivete to  alien life is our carbon chauvinism.

Let’s try to think of life other than carbon-based— it is hard to invent life from scratch, especially when we barely understand our own existence. Astrobiologists attempt to understand life’s origins, but the present understandings are still incomplete. While it appears as a science fiction attempt to become Gods— it is far from that. Understanding life is a sacred pursuit to preserve it from ignorance and magical thinking. Luckily,  many don’t normally act like Dr. Frankenstein — even when they are in their most insane moments. Gratefully, so! 

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Man’s search for life among the stars is in its beginnings. Images from upper left clockwise:  An earth-like  system of planets is found at Kepler-186,  in the constellation of Cygnus the Swan. The next image is from the Allen Array of Seti Telescopes in California. The third image is a screen saver computation used to search for ET from radio telescope data at the Arecibo Telescope, the final image is known as the a Drake Equation—used to estimate the number of potential Extraterrestrial civilizations in the known Universe. Composite Of Humanity’s search For Life / Image Credits for  this work are given below.

A big issue holding us from an understanding of any life besides carbon is the energetics of life. Carbon life, familiar to us, happens to be favored at the temperatures of our Sun. Higher temperatures and brighter light rays may produce slight variations of life— but much remains to be understood.

We, presently, seek life signatures elsewhere that would be familiar to us. Look inside any advanced text of inorganic chemistry— we have as yet to find a coherent set of rules similar any carbon-based biology. While there are passing, short surveys on early life and its congeners — chemical and marine biological instances of primitive, early life, is not completely defined. 

We exist in a so-called habitable, sweet zone of the Solar System, an area allowing an oxygenated atmosphere and water to exist in all three forms (solid-liquid-gas). Two requirements for life—oxygen and water—play significant roles but without the other elements life as we know it appears incomplete.

As we embark on saving our own planet from the climate change and our lives from a climate induced pandemic, cooler and more rational minds will prevail. We can’t expect to survive for another century unless we  can understand what drove near the brink of extinction. Perhaps we need to take our cues from different intelligences in the animal world.

By examining  some marine life we notice animal species devoid of egoistic drive or the desire to subjugate other species in hateful ways.  Dolphins and whales possess larger brains than humans. They live together in pods that seemingly communicate almost flawlessly. They have been driven near the edge of extinction by humanity. However, we have as yet to detect in their species the same narcissistic character flaws of humanity. There is no drive to conquer or hate that is noticeable — that is a lesson for us all.  That is a lesson for another time. 

 

SOURCES:

Images—

 


Efbrazil / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

SantaCruz-CuevaManos-P2210651b         Mariano • CC-BY-SA-3.0

Composite Of Humanity’s search For Life / Image Credits from upper left clockwise: NASA Ames/ – SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech, brewbooks from near Seattle, USA / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) / – FRLDEL / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0) / – Drake Equation, By Mohammad Alrohmany – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26520410

Sources for more exploration:

Emergence of intelligence in Whales and Dolphins—
Marino L, Connor RC, Fordyce RE, Herman LM, Hof PR, Lefebvre L, Lusseau D, McCowan B, Nimchinsky EA, Pack AA, Rendell L, Reidenberg JS, Reiss D, Uhen MD, Van der Gucht E, Whitehead H. Cetaceans have complex brains for complex cognition. PLoS Biol. 2007 May;5(5):e139. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050139. PMID: 17503965; PMCID: PMC1868071.

Is Cetacean Intelligence Special? New Perspectives on the Debate. By Alejandro Chinea Entropy and Its Applications across Disciplines in the journal, Entropy 201719(10), 543 https://www.mdpi.com/229844

Ramblings: Nexus of Change, Nexus of Despair? Times of Change-

The Sixties ushered an era filled with changing moralities and priorities. The biggest questions that come to mind from the era — how and why was the decade so impactful? Many who experienced the decade may acknowledge a confluence of circumstances. Firstly, the USA was a hotbed of protests with college-student ‘sit-ins.’ Secondly, the space-race between the USA and USSR was at a peak. Thirdly, the war in Southeast Asia pitted the USA against Ho Chi Minh’s North Vietnamese who were aided by China and Russia, simultaneously. Fourth, the experimentation of teenagers and young adults with psychedelic drugs and marijuana was at a peak. Fifth, the Civil Rights Movement reached a peak –the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 moved the fulcrum of equality for minorities. Sixth, the environmental movement gathered steam and reached new heights — with Rachel Carson’s publication, Silent Spring.

The confluence of events provided a point where change and opportunity to change by individuals was possible. Whether individuals protested the Vietnam war or against unfair practices against minorities, the decade provided an opportunity to anyone who utilized their conscience for change.

However, areas of concern lay in the ease of illicit drug use. As if the US citizen did not have enough to manage on his proverbial dinner plate, beleaguered parents fretted over their own children falling prey to drug addiction. For those who recall the era, outrage and consternation from parts of the government seemed excessive. However, hindsight tells a different story.

Of all teens who start down the path of beer, cigarettes and marijuana –the vast majority do not die a miserable death from heroin overdoses. In fact, the percentage who travel down the path is about the size that lead lives of crime- sadly so.

Addictions can prove deadly. Whether it’s cigarettes, alcohol, intravenous drug use, or opioids, addictions seem to affect a random cross-section of population. When we look at this phenomenon, we also see individuals who appear to be more affected by mental illness. What does this mean?

A generation or two ago, policy makers attempted to explain this phenomenon as a gateway affect. It sounded a bit like this–teenagers with still-developing brains or anyone who becomes addicted to drugs started with introductory drug. The introductory drug was a gateway drug. Over the years, doctors and epidemiologists debated whether the gateway effect existed. In fact, the gateway was associated with alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes, and all too often any of a number of devices that blamed societal ills.

To a cynical or a skeptical observer, such pronouncements from the experts came across as dubious. And, the observers were correct. The latest research offers the more accurate explanation: there is a certain subsection of the world population that is more susceptible to addiction and mental illness than others. It is a product of genetics and the interactions with peers that some individuals are easily drawn to substance abuse.

Gateway drugs affect certain genetic markers that predispose a small section of population to mental health problems. In fact, the gateway concept was formulated as such, it applies to a rather few unlucky souls. No one knew how genetics played in such negative ways with environment. These individuals possess genetic markers that predispose them to addiction and some other mental health problems. Psychologists and other mental health experts term this issue – mal-adaptive way to handle a crisis.

Just take one case in point, we have a healthy child came out of the womb healthy. Here he is -three, five, or even seven years of age. He is subjected to the stress of child abuse. This unlucky person or soul say, tried to adapt to the stress with the only tools and made available to him or her. Now, this child learns to adapt in his or her immediate environment and that was that. However, with the child reaches maybe 20 maybe 18 maybe later only in the mid 20s, he chooses to use cigarettes, gambling, alcohol, or some drug of his choice. He may be a criminal that has serious mental health issues if his genetic markers deem as such. This individual, now branded a loser by parts of society, has to sustain the weight of abuse they he could not as a child. In present instances, this is termed PTSD. While it seems almost absurd to some – there are actual medical cases in which it has occurred. There are so many instances like it, and it is a diagnosis in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for physicians.

This line of reasoning has been apart of the public discourse since the 1960s. It comes across as liberal mumbo-jumbo or just plain bad science to some. However, to others, the scenario comes across as a failure of society to address its own accountability. And, in some ways, all scenarios are correct. The reason is that the cycle continues. People (good people) are impacted from a greater societal ill. We, as a people, need to aid the abused.

How do we address that the issue behind addiction criminality and mental health? It is a true health issue. Not just a mental health issue–given the propensity that any almost anyone can fall victim crime, we need a kinder approach to ourselves. This is not a platitude, but it is one approach that honors the human and does not impose upon him. I’m not asking we all undergo psychotherapy or some kind of genetic enhancement to remove the likelihood of addiction. The best approach is to rebuild how we approach one another. It is the ultimate message behind Christmas, itself.

We need turn away from the culture of hate and turn into a culture of respect and dignity. That’s the first step.

Greener Mars – When We Become Martians?

The latest edition of the American Heritage English Dictionary defines terraform as: a verb that means to transform (a landscape) on another planet into one having the characteristics of landscapes on Earth. [Latin term, terra earth: see terrace + form]

Mars, the red planet with a mythology that speaks volumes, is daunting. While there are notable stories surrounding Martian lore, it is the realities faced by NASA and other space agencies . Mars seems like a littered graveyard of crashed probes. Up until 2014, a full third of any earth launched rockets headed to the planet never made soft landings.

Countless visionaries and entrepreneurs voiced their desires to terraform Mars. While no country or entrepreneur has attempted to send missions to Mars to terraform it, attempts may ensue before the end of the 21st century. However, success in terraforming Mars hinges on important priorities.

  1. Successful understanding of Martian soil and rock (regolith).
  2. Successful manipulation of plant genomes to be radiation-resistant and withstand Martian cold.
  3. Plants need adequate sources of water.
  4. Martian soil may need adequate amending to ensure proper minerals within the soil.
  5. Astronauts must stay on Mars for an extended period of time to successfully implement the endeavor.

Scientists across the world have experimented with simulated Martian soil and performed computations for the past 25 years in the hopes of unlocking the secrets of Martian soil. If you recall Andy Weir’s book, The Martian or its movie adaptation, the lead character is stranded on Mars and grows potatoes to sustain himself until rescued. While Martian farming may occur in the lives of our children, it is decades until it becomes practical.

So, let’s get to the point – how can we terraform Mars?

There are, at least, two methods by which we can farm Mars:

1. Oxygenate the atmosphere first and then proceed to utilize the resources of Martian regolith with genetically engineered plants.

2. Use Greenhouses to grow crops and resources – vegetables, fruits, and hemp. Other uses of synthetic plants center upon genetic manipulations of plant biology to produce medicinal alterations and other commodity-like stuffs.

While the first method seems daunting, it has a sense of a pioneering spirit to it. It will take multiple generations to implement according to published studies. According to Cyprien Verseux and co-workers the first step is to seed multiple acreage of the Martian surface with cyanobacteria to begin an oxygenation of the atmosphere. It is postulated that early Earth had little to no oxygen and cyanobacteria or a related species of bacteria oxygenated the earth’s atmosphere. Life as we know it sprung forth. Professor Verseux and co-workers published their study in the International Journal of Astrobiology in 2016. Their studies delve into greater details of how engineered cyanobacteria can generate hydrogen fuels and potentially greater undertakings to help a Martian colony. In this fashion, multiple missions from NASA, Jaxa, or ESA tend to the endeavor.

Putting greenhouses on the Martian surface to facilitate colonization appears simpler than attempting to turn the Martian planet from rust-colored to an appealing shade or blue-green. NASA utilized the moon to put boots upon it and successfully proved they can do it almost routinely in the 1970s. Furthermore–from the Space lab in the 1970s to the ISS of present times, the international community proved it can work cooperatively to nobler ends. Thus, we get a better sense of the issues in the journal, Genes in 2018. The group of three Australian scientists paint a fascinating look at synthetic plant biology, in the article titled, The Multiplanetary Future of Plant Synthetic Biology.

The present outlook of international cooperation for space ventures appears cloudy from chaotic, nationalistic policies. It behooves nations of the world to band together. Perhaps, in the next decade, the world will understand and re-commit to space exploration as a peaceful undertaking.

Science fiction writers love Mars. Ray Bradbury, Andy Weir, and H. G. Wells encouraged readers to dream and fantasize of Martian aliens or desolate landscapes. The truth of Martian colonization maybe stranger than what he have dreamed or thought we could anticipate –it is a destiny well worth achieving. It may well turn the world stage away from war and terrorism to cooperation and peace.

SOURCES TO EXPLORE
Briando Llorente, and co-workers. The Multi-planetary Future of Plant Synthetic Biology. 2018. https://doi.org/10.3390/genes9070348f

Cyprien Verseux, and co-workers. Sustainable Life Support on Mars–the potential roles of cyanobacteria. 2016. https://doi.org/10.1017/S147355041500021X

American Heritage Dictionary https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=terraform

NASA log of International Martian missions– https://mars.nasa.gov/mars-exploration/missions/historical-log/

Human Rights January

A new year is upon us. As the old year is set to expire, planning and execution of what is important for the coming 12 months should be considered. For me, January is a “Human Rights” month.

Each month, I will pick an individual that I believe epitomizes the best of the human condition (dead or alive). In January of 2018, my pick is Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. is one of my heroes. His views on civil rights and non-violence are an inspiration. His struggles to achieve his goals are well documented. From facing down water cannons and klansmen to dealing with uncooperative individuals from the government, his life is one of a profile of courage and hope (to borrow the phrase from JFK).

While his Dream speech at the foot of the Lincoln memorial is one that many will remember, there are aspects of his inspiration that few heard of nor knew of. He realized that the dream he shared with so many was part of a long nightmare– (the following is taken from a Christmas sermon broadcast by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation):

… If there is to be peace on earth and good will toward men, we must finally believe in the ultimate morality of the universe, and believe that all reality hinges on moral foundations. Something must remind us of this as we once again stand in the Christmas season and think of the Easter season simultaneously, for the two somehow go together. Christ came to show us the way. Men love darkness rather than the light, and they crucified him, and there on Good Friday on the cross it was still dark, but then Easter came, and Easter is an eternal reminder of the fact that the truth-crushed earth will rise again. Easter justifies Carlyle in saying, “No lie can live forever.” And so this is our faith, as we continue to hope for peace on earth and good will toward men: let us know that in the process we have cosmic companionship.

In 1963, on a sweltering August afternoon, we stood in Washington, D.C., and talked to the nation about many things. Toward the end of that afternoon, I tried to talk to the nation about a dream that I had had, and I must confess to you today that not long after talking about that dream I started seeing it turn into a nightmare. I remember the first time I saw that dream turn into a nightmare, just a few weeks after I had talked about it. It was when four beautiful, unoffending, innocent Negro girls were murdered in a church in Birmingham, Alabama. I watched that dream turn into a nightmare as I moved through the ghettos of the nation and saw my black brothers and sisters perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity, and saw the nation doing nothing to grapple with the Negroes’ problem of poverty. I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched my black brothers and sisters in the midst of anger and understandable outrage, in the midst of their hurt, in the midst of their disappointment, turn to misguided riots to try to solve that problem. I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched the war in Vietnam escalating, and as I saw so-called military advisors, sixteen thousand strong, turn into fighting soldiers until today over five hundred thousand American boys are fighting on Asian soil. Yes, I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that I close today by saying I still have a dream, because, you know, you can’t give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of all. And so today I still have a dream. …

The sermon was  broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Christmas Eve 1967

 

As can be inferred by my quotation (below) and passage choices, Martin Luther King Jr. never ever gave up. He understood that to persist in times of trouble, there had to be an overarching sense of purpose in the face of overwhelming odds.

For some of us, individuals like MLK Jr. hold inspiration – although we may not have the same trials— but their life of example is one to imitate. A better version of ourselves.

Lincoln Memorial

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” –MLK Jr.

 

Are we truly free –or do we submit to the paean of the many? Traveling a road less traveled is normally far harder than would appear. Can we sacrifice selfish desires?

A Day in the Anthropocene

While the images like the Aurora borealis (seen below) are common to many of us. A lot of us recognize it as a scientific phenomena – It is one where the magnetic field of the Earth is excited by solar particles of our Sun.

The phenomenon is viewed as beautiful, and feelings of warmth and love are attributed to its viewing.

In many ways, there is a dichotomy to understanding our world. One of feeling and sentiment and one of analytical understanding based upon rationalism.

The dichotomy of the views present a problem– one can be said to think of the world in one of two ways. However, we can rectify the dichotomy. Rectifying the views requires wisdom.

This wisdom we need utilizing both rationalization and emotional/feeling — bringing together both to an understanding.

The present solutions to our problems are based upon concepts of Sustainability. Will we be wise enough to use the Paradigm of Sustainability to ensure that our progeny can thrive?

HOPE and BELIEF in a GREATER GOOD

Can wisdom sustain humanity’s future? Image by John A. Jaksich.

Many problems that require humanity’s wisdom begin with solutions based upon hope. In this present era, it is known as the (era of Man) Anthropocene. It is fraught with pain and anxiety.

This Era of Man is a wake-up call for all.

Whether it is a La Nina driven hurricane slamming into the Yucatan Peninsula or an extreme high tide inundating the Florida Keys, the effects of human-driven climate change will affect more than just local populations.  From journals to popular best-sellers, our planet’s challenges are documented.

Answers for the Anthropocene are based upon Sustainability—

Sustainability is the means of meeting the needs of the present while preserving biodiversity and the natural ecosystems for future generations.

A major issue surrounding the paradigm of sustainability is the lack of a crystal ball that the approach is meant to address. Let’s face it, when addressing the preparedness of humanity to take on disasters of their own making, our own track record is poor. Putting it succinctly: We can not solve today’s problems with yesterday’s technologies.  

I do have hope, however. I will not give in nor surrender.

Ramblings, Statements, and Opinions — Christmas Message!

Ramblings of History

The world has not quite been the same since the multiple jets  hit sites in the US on September 11, 2001 and unfortunately, the terror continues well into 2016.

The jihad  is much like a that of a desperate, cornered beast. Their war on the West can be said to be one of  nomads desperately seeking to turn back time. Let me explain.(1)

When the hordes of Genghis Khan swept from Asia into Europe, their attacks were that of a nomadic tribe seeking to displace the Romans from parts of their Empire. The Romans, for what little credit they are given, were a civilized society. (Yes, the Romans were barbaric but they laid the foundation for modern Western society.)

The hordes of Genghis Khan were a nomadic collection of warriors mounted on horseback. They originated in what is now the Mongolia-China region of the world. Nomads are feudal tribes — they do not farm nor herd cattle nor sheep. They subsist through violence and terror. Much like the jihadists, I believe a fair comparison can be drawn to the hordes of Genghis Khan.

The eventual decay and demise of the Romans had multiple factors, but  the Mongolian horde hastened the Roman demise. The demise of Rome led to a power vacuum where Rome once dominated.

When Christianity filled the power vacuum left by the Romans, it was a natural order of civilization. Christianity (given its merits and faults) helped to stabilize the regions once held by Rome.

Lessons of the Early 21st Century

The military responses of the West against terrorist cells have crippled the abilities of the jihadists — but as the decade wore through the 2000s to 2016– the mood of the public has changed. In Africa, jihadists are still strong; however, much of the world is not concerned with Africa. Presently there a few resources to exploit.

As long as we are incapable to mount a full response in areas that lack economic resources, our actions are mute. It reeks of shallowness

and of greed. In other regions of the world, Nationalism has spurred Nazi sympathies.

And the following question might be appropriate–

Power Vacuums and Political Instability?

Parts of the Mid-East and parts of Africa are still populated with terrorist cells. Much of the Mid-East is unstable, as well.

The Arab Spring coupled with the rise of Nationalistic sympathies seem to have made instabilities though much of the world.

I personally don’t believe that the West will fall. However, what is frightening is the poor humanitarian responses that Nationalistic sympathies seem to have brought. If the jihadists are to be defeated (or at least made to believe differently), they need reasons to do so. And, breast beating hegemony from parts of the US and other parts of the world will hasten further conflict.

We and much of the world are perched for armed conflict–in my humble opinion.

So, what do I believe should be done?

Seek a third path– While much of world seems perched with an unstable attitude and potentially toward war, Nationalistic sympathies need to be assuaged. The fomenting attitudes of Nationalism seemingly are based upon an attitude that says — the former status quo is not good and denying basic human rights to those who are suffering is justified.

Those who are presently fomenting hate need to be thrown out of power….before it is too late.

These patterns were seen prior to WWII– the Axis powers and used them to justify the slaughtering of Jews, gypsies, and many who were deemed unfit… (none-Aryan)

Well, as any student of history will tell you, anyone who does not understand their own mistakes will repeat them.

1. The Ascent of Man, Jacob Bronowski. BBC Publications 1973.

Jacob Bronowski (1908–1974) was a mathematician, biologist, science historian, and author. His well-known works include The Origins of Knowledge and Imagination and The Ascent of Man.

Our Oceans: A Public Dumping Ground

 

Our oceans face a crisis. There are a number of important reasons for concern. The trickle down through the food chain may affect several generations of our progeny.

Sampling the World’s Oceans for Pollution

In every ocean on our planet, we find the signatures of humanity.

On the tiny Pacific Atoll of Midway, adult Albatross birds feed plastic and other garbage to their hatchlings. The skeletal remains of albatross chicks litter the beaches of Midway Atoll revealing a menagerie of un-digested plastic.

Off the coast of Los Angeles county, there is a US-EPA Superfund site, it had served as an illegal dumping ground of DDT and PCBs in the 1960s to 1970s for the Montrose Chemical Company. While its declaration as a Superfund site occurred in the 1997, its present status is still toxic. Recent studies appearing in the journal Environmental Pollution in 2016 find evidence of some coastal fish ingesting DDT and PCBs. The scientists from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, the University of California, Riverside and the Southern California Coastal Water Research of Costa Mesa California report high levels of DDT and PCBs in the sediment, as well.

A schematic from US Environmental Protection Agency that details levels of DDT contamination of sediment off the coast of Southern California. Highest levels are in red, while indigo represents the lowest reported levels of DDT. Image by US EPA.

One place that many would not fathom to believe finding the remnants of civilization is the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. In 2016, it was reported that garbage was found there, as well.

Scientists are now finding the effects of technological excesses in the Arctic ocean, as well. Studies as recent as August of 2017 reveal finding  micro plastics (MP) in sediments and waters of the Arctic Ocean.

It does not take far or very long to notice the effects of ocean pollution. It is safe to deduce the oceans and we face a potential crisis.

PCB Pollution Los Angeles County

A schematic from US Environmental Protection Agency that details levels of DDT contamination of sediment off the coast of Southern California. Highest levels are in red, while indigo represents the lowest reported levels of DDT. Image by US EPA.

Image source: https://www3.epa.gov/region9/superfund/pvshelf/index.html

 

 

What are these ‘Newer Pollutants?’

Finding micro-sized particles ( known as beads from toiletries and micro-sized plastics) in sea life presents a new twist in the  water problem. Because the so-called particles are not readily trapped during sewage treatment processes, many different kinds of sea life are ingesting them, as well. Thus, micro-sized particles are found in many forms of  sea-life: kelp, shellfish, birds, and other fish. These findings have led to a further maturing of technology leading to the new field of nano-toxicology. However, not all of the scientific establishment is on board with the findings.

A Mindset that Allowed Micro-sized Refuse in the World’s Oceans

Whether it is leachate from plastics or micro-beads utilized in toiletries– the un-wanted chemicals are found in almost every species of sea life. As the world forged ahead by utilizing nanotechnology in the hopes of greening the planet, paradigms that were utilized in past technologies still haunt the planet’s population. The mindset of ignoring the repercussions of toxic chemicals was one that was rampant prior to Ecology Movement of the 1970s. Since that time, a majority of the newer generation of scientists have changed their priorities, but complete change is yet to come.

 

 

 

Further Along A Road Less Traveled

The Loneliness by Not Following the Crowd? – A Partial Soapbox Return

When it comes down to it, happiness comes from keeping oneself contented and away from the maddening crowd. When we follow and emulate every trend, we satisfy no one in our immediate circle of concern– but we satisfy those within our circle of vanity. Do you know whom consists in a circle of vanity? – those who won’t affirm the best in us but do affirm themselves in our own reflection. Thus, in this present day of social media phoniness and shallow attitudes – many of us need to retreat inwards. Oftentimes, the allure of social media has carried us away from what we can affect immediately.

One may believe they have found the Holy Grail of Happiness in one instant but is misled by the shallow din and desire to find happiness from the outside. Contrary to popular opinions, happiness and growth start within one’s core and love in happiness are not filled up from the outside. Happiness begins by recognizing who you are and to be true to yourself.

Being true to oneself allows one to be good to heir needs first and the needs others follow. To possess the makings of good self-esteem inside their core, one needs to be flexible with one’s self, and love all life (their life and others). From that juncture, happiness comes naturally and is not from the boisterous din of the crowd. One’s personal spring of happiness can be used as source of renewal when one is crushed by life’s adversities.

Once the core is overdrawn from too much adversity, one needs to follow a road to self-renewal and self-preservation.

Oftentimes, one may believe they have found themselves, but their presence at the gates of truth is illusory.

This path of truth, renewal, and spiritual revival is much like that of a spiritual staircase (if you will)–one may find oneself repeating paths from their past. It is not an illusion or a lie– no one is ever completed. Their path to spiritual happiness is a work in progress.

And, yes it is a Road Less Traveled-

imagesgrail

Some Sources Not Cited –

Arthurian Legend –

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Arthurian-legend

Book by Janice Bennett on the whereabouts of the Holy Grail-

https://books.google.com/books?id=ezsIjNeCkksC&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1&output=embed” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Google Books Link

 

The Sixth Extinction- Ready or Not!

We are in the midst of a sixth extinction —whehttps://jaksichja.wordpress.com/author/jaksichja/ther one believes the biology or not! While there is a book written with a similar title, there are no official announcements by governments or by scientists that the Covid pandemic is a part of a larger extinction event.

Why  do I say this is an extinction event? While the past extinctions have not been as dramatic — we weren’t there to witness them. Although quite obvious, the past geological or bio geological events happened by either one or two means. Global warming caused at least one event and the others were known to have occurred because of asteroid impacts causing nuclear winter type conditions.

However, all evidence points at a man-made global warming issue that has impacted chemical and biochemical events on our pale blue dot. All indications point towards a man-made extinction event.
Whether or not we are ready to believe the opinions of scientists or not, we are in for a very painful time if we cannot heed the word of good stewardship. Good planetary stewardship begins by acknowledging we have many people on one small planet; thus, we have to act as if we respect our neighbor’s physical space and our own as well.

 

While it may seem natural to blame others such as Asians or people we don’t really understand for the existence of COVID-19,  there is strong evidence that COVID-19 has a biophysical origin. There seem to be quite a few viruses that get their start in the Asian continent. Among these, is the swine flu and the yearly winter flu that many people  suffer through almost like clockwork.

https://jaksichja.wordpress.com/author/jaksichja/Let’s try to explain why the Asian continent seems to be a hotbed of viral activity without name calling or bigotry. There are at least three hard, fast reasons for a  genesis of viruses.

(1)

Asia is one of the most population dense parts of the world. When viruses like COVID-19 originate they are easily passed from host to host in population dense parts of the world. Thus, when the wet open air markets in Wuhan province were blamed for the viral outbreak, the blame was ignorantly passed without knowing all of the intricate details of viral epidemiology. (When the Ebola virus made headlines 2 years ago, few blamed African Americans  nor Africans— much more was made of their mysterious origins. People asked questions more readily and cast blame less often.)

(2)

https://jaksichja.wordpress.com/author/jaksichja/Open air wet markets in Asia are not known to be the cleanest nor the safest. Thus, Western standards that are strictly enforced by the US food and drug administration or the US environmental protection agency are absent in many Asian towns and cities. The local environmental conditions are ripe for pandemic like conditions.

 

(3)

The rise in global temperatures causes bio chemical reaction to accelerate quicker. Thus, chemistry in general allows viral genesis and propagation to occur readily. We are in the midst of a perfect environmental storm. Not only has the rise in temperature allowed once dormant viruses to propagate they propagate the genesis rapidly.

———

Areas of the planet that are known to ‘house viral hot spots’ will see an increase of deadly activity.

Putting 1 through 3 from above into consideration, it is no coincidence that within the last 40 years– viral outbreaks are more prevalent. From the Hantavirus to Ebola/Marburg to COVID-19 —what makes this period of time even more frightening is the failure of the educational systems in some parts of the world to help contain COVID-19. When there are so-called “well-educated” individuals calling the virus a hoax or evoking the “word of GOD” as a means to an end of the pandemic — we are in for a long and painful time.

I, personally, dread to hear another public figure blame Asians or the evil spirits as the reasons for the pandemic. When were we so clairvoyant  to discern such truths from reading the Tea Leaves?

Love, Protest, and Insight in a Time of Growth and Pain–

Few who are presently alive will argue against the assertion that president Trump should have taken proactive steps in light of COVID-19. The rising death tolls looming for the US this early April 2020 should be a poignant reminder that we need change in the world. I am not a big fan of death and pain –hey, who is? However, I was present for the deaths of both my parents. I was a caretaker for both of my elderly parents for ten painful years. My mother passed away in December 2008 and my father passed away in June 2015.

While my mother’s death occurred after a brief but brave battle against Lewy body dementia, I never knew what to expect during her battle against the Lewy bodies forming within her brain. I won’t go into how the brain deteriorates from a ‘normal functioning collection of neurons to one of destruction.” However it is not for the meek–even if you think you can handle it from any previous, care-giving experiences. Watching a loved one undergo an agony of confusion and the madness taxes most grizzled care-givers. I can say that from its inception to conclusion my mother’s battle lasted about four years. In hindsight, I never knew what hit me. To this very day, I grapple with the experience. I still wonder why I couldn’t do much more than be present.

About seven years following my mother’s death, my father passed away. He lived to be nearly 101 years of age. While his death was not completely unexpected — he battled numerous issues. From mild Alzheimer’s to diabetes to cancer, my father’s death was emotionally harder on my family but not completely unexpected. My father came to the USA from the Balkan country of Dalmatia (present day, Croatia) in 1937.

While both of my parents are considered to be of the ‘greatest generation,’ their travails may pale in comparison to what is happening in the present-day world.

I believe we may find a potential cure to the common cold at the end of our present journey. And, if that is the case, it may herald a golden age for medicine. Everyday we hear statistics being touted as if they are insurance quotes–

 

For the love of God– all anyone has to do is watch footage of current Intensive Care Units during this crisis. Let me tell you, if this does not scare you, then the potential effects following your healing will do so.

It has been related that the Corona virus will alter lung tissue, heart tissue, and brain tissue too.

However, the caveat is that much of the news is anecdotal– the issue at hand is do you want take the chance of being infected?

 

For me — the answer is NO!

However, I will put my trust in those who have the professional wisdom and integrity to tell us the truth. End of story.

Discerning Real Genius – With a non-Exhaustive List?

Genius is a term that is spoken with a certain reverence and may be reserved for people who seem “nerdy.” However, when I hear the word genius, I envision someone who looks like Ann Druyan or Stephen Hawking or Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Each of these individuals have a certain stylized manner of talking and a seemingly unique personality of presentation. In an age where vanity is prized because of Face Book or Twitter or other form of vain expression, it is too easy to be caught in the trap of appearances. Appearing to be a genius but not walking the talk — is a folly of Selfie Generation.

So, how does anyone discern between fake from real?

The answer to the question for any single person comes from observations of actions and their effects upon the immediate surroundings. For people cited above, their reputations are built from the fruits of their labors. They paid their dues for their successes. Lets first delve into reputations and what can be attained from a good reputation while touching briefly upon bad reputations.

Reputations, good or bad, come by word of mouth. Whether by gossip or pleasant news, individual’s reputation tears down or enhances his self-esteem. However, what needs to be born in mind is we can direct our own destinies. Self esteem, while important, is not the sole arbiter of destiny. Moreover, word of mouth is the cheapest avenue by which to build one’s future. However, in a world in which one’s vanity may be tied to self esteem, it is important to remember our goals or achievements are determined by other means. Achieving goals that are not tied directly to how a person sees himself is harder to achieve. However, it is far better to build one’s self esteem through achievement that builds self pride that translates into self esteem.


Polymath (and genius) are words that few hear on a daily basis. In short, someone is a polymath if he possesses deep and broad knowledge. Being a polymath means you may well be a genius. While few of us ever meet someone who possesses such character, let me indulge you with some individuals who have fit the description in the past and present –Lao Tze, Mozart, Cab Calloway, Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, Bill Gates, Richard Dawkins, Freeman Dyson, John Lennon, I.M. Pei, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Langston Hughs, Hemingway, Eudora Welty, Al DiMeola, and Stevie Wonder(perhaps a Renaissance Man? – it still soon to know) fit the bill of polymath (and genius) — to name just a few. While it is not completely fair to lump genius and polymath in the same category, polymaths are considered geniuses. (However, I will lump the two together for sake of argument in contrast to Renaissance people.)

Then, again, there is another term – Renaissance Man (or Woman). That person goes well beyond genius or polymath. And, the following individuals should be considered Renaissance individuals —Archimedes, Confucius, Buddha, Thomas Aquinas, Sir Thomas More, Booker T. Washington, Harriet Tubman, Roald Hoffman, Benjamin Franklin, Carl Djerrassi, Muhammad Ali, Steve Jobs, Bono (from the Rock musical band- U2), Leonardo da Vinci, Jane Goodall, Gloria Steinem, and Neil deGrasse Tyson (just to name a small handful). The primary reasons for such consideration are the following– each person went far beyond their own field of initial endeavor for an all-encompassing genius (in other areas). They were geniuses who went well beyond their initial endeavors.

While the lists (above) seem short, I believe one can get a sense of what terms genius/polymath and Renaissance Man/Woman actually encompass. While some of the names are not familiar all readers — I will fill a few details:

Cab Calloway is jazz musician from the golden age of jazz (he, like Duke Ellington) were genius musicians (and polymaths within music). Their style of music predated “white jazz music” of that time. In fact, with the exception of Gershwin, most mainstream music was inspired by men like Calloway and Ellington. (And, there are many who were not mentioned.) Stevie Wonder, of course, is a contemporary musician. He, like Calloway, and Ellington, I have grouped into genius (and not Renaissance Men) because they have been “shorted by a racist culture” – sadly so.


The American Heritage Dictionary defines the terms, polymath and Renaissance Man/Woman:

polymath, n. A person of great or varied learning. Greek polumathēs : polu-, poly- + manthanein, math-, to learn.

Renaissance man/woman, n. A man/woman who has broad intellectual interests and is accomplished in areas of both the arts and the sciences.


Sadly, knowledge does not determine status in our world. People with status come from different walks of life. However, if there is one factor that determines status in today’s world it is a large public following. To gain a public following, someone needs notoriety or a “reputation.” A reputation is built from the words of others- and sometimes, a reputation can ruin someone’s life.

In a culture where vanity is now prized over substance — how would you want to be remembered by those who love you and you love the most? It is a fair question!

Welcome Back to the Stone Age: Life During the Impeachment of president Trump

I have been keeping an eye on the impeachment proceedings. I openly state I am not a fan of the current administration — nor any of their actions or policies.

Keeping in mind that Mr. Trump is a polarizing figure, lets attempt to take a better look at potential outcomes from his divisive actions.

                        The Issue at Hand — Divisiveness

Only the strong thrive! The true winners in life thrive under adverse conditions! Suck it up! You go it alone with no one to help you.

When all of the present Administration’s actions are taken p a whole, they have seemingly divided much of American public between Conservatives and Progressives. However, if one takes a good look at who still support the president– many of these individuals have a lot of money,  or seemingly are afraid of losing their status.

Furthermore, what comes to my mind is that these individuals are much like him in deed — if not attitude. They rarely venture to see “How the Other Half Lives” to borrow a phrase from the late Michael Harrington.

When you are poor and have few resources, it is easy to become isolated from peers and those who willingly assist you for your betterment. Unfortunately in times such as these, you have few resources and you will lose hope and eventually the faith that you can rise above your circumstances. That sounds much like a game-plan of tyrants and authoritarian dictators.

In the present era, the rugged individual is praised and lauded by deal makers and certain politicians, alike. One of the biggest issues I have about the rugged individual is that he never truly existed. Perhaps for a few moments, this person thrived while  in the throes of battle… only to go down to defeat from a knife in the back.

All of us in some way or another rely on others– whether directly or indirectly, no one acts alone. If Mr. Trump successfully allows the ‘other half’ to lose faith in themselves, many will turn desperately inward and some will turn to his ilk for help. It is a losing situation.

However, if one observes actions of the Chief Executive of U.S., that is precisely what seems to occur at the present moment. Looking dispassionately upon the results of #45’s actions, it seems as if many of us are left to our own devices as he exerts more control over his personal finances. He acts as if no one mattered except his cronies and himself. Emoluments clause aside, he seemingly acts as if he is the only one in the room (let alone the country, itself).

If he is allowed to go further, he presents a threat to all– both friend and foe alike. We risk an extinction of sorts–

A Potential Solution– Change the Discourse  of Public Discussion?

Former-president Obama was a uniter in many ways–he was community advocate and worked tirelessly to draw individuals from diverse  backgrounds into a common cause. That, in so many words, is the solution to problem at hand. It is,  “We the People who need to seek a Better Union among All of Us” need to come together like brothers.  The divisiveness can be broken if we recognize that we much to gain if we unite as did the Founding Fathers in 1776 to defeat tyranny.  I don’t advocate armed conflict– but we as individuals don’t have put up with bullies nor dictators. I believe there are so many parallels between our plight and that of the colonists that we fail to see that we can tell them NO — I Refuse to Listen to Bullies and Refuse to be Treated as Chattel. Laws have been broken by occupiers in the Executive Branch. We don’t need to be like goats drawn to slaughter.

[Featured image – Stone Age Huts]

Peace

John

Opinion – Rage Against the Light

The Dying Light?

Decisions made in haste yield pain.

Decisions made by the U.S. Administration to launch a space force are ill-conceived but are not ill-advised. Everyday, astronomers and their co-workers find reasons to continue the astronomical legacy started so long ago by ancient Greek, Chinese and Mayan civilizations. While the astronomers of long ago tied astronomical events to earthly happenings, I have to ask myself: what does the present Administration have to gain with a space force? One response to the posed question- the mining of asteroids and other planets for their resources. As the earth becomes depleted of its natural resources, it seems logical to look for resources elsewhere. Moreover, the mining of asteroids for resources could not have come at worse moment in history. The earth ecology is reeling from decades of over mining, abuse towards its living creatures, and a generalized misunderstanding of Earthly stewardship. Understanding the general principles of stewardship would have been optimal prior to launching the Space Force. I cite one overarching reason— the orbits of asteroids within the asteroid belt are governed by gravitational tugs and pushes from the Sun and the outer, gas giant planets. I caution it is speculative (while not wildly speculative).

— while carelessly blasting away (with explosives) at the asteroid belt —or removing or hollowing-out asteroids may disrupt disrupt their individual orbits— I am referring to a greater number than a small handful of asteroids. It could start a cascade of meteors or NEOs that may disrupt earthly routines. I regard the the announcement by the Trump administration as reckless— those are the words that I can say without hesitation.

Furthermore, the announcement comes as the present administration comes under increasing scrutiny. The formal launch of the program occurred the first seven months of 2019. It is the hallmark of the present administration to lie and obfuscate issues that are otherwise critical to the western governments and to the earthly populations.

 

As a US citizen, a writer, and concerned human being, I am dismayed and fearful of the potential damage this president can do to the earth.