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Copernicus, Darwin, & Turing May 26, 2017

Posted by Dr. Gus Lott in Uncategorized.
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Near his death, in 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus published his book On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres.  Prior to this, mankind was sitting pretty at the center of the cosmos.  The heavenly bodies were deities wandering in divine orbits on celestial spheres.  Suddenly the earth was cast out into the void of space; another wanderer clinging to our star.  The gods, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, and the great king Jupiter, were now neighbors and brothers.  We were now their equals.

In 1859, Charles Darwin published his book, On the Origin of Species.  Before Darwin, mankind was a privileged creature, at the center of creation, put on earth first to dominate and subdue life.  Suddenly, mankind was cast among the herds of life swarming the planet.  The birds and trees became our cousins.  The lions and eagles were distant relatives.  They were now our equals.

In the 1940s, Alan Turing established and applied the new theories of computation and computer science to code breaking and gave birth to the field of modern computer science and artificial intelligence.  We are in the midst of another revolution.  Before Turing, the human mind and consciousness occupied center stage.  The pinnacle of cosmic phenomena.  Rocks, wind, and galaxies were dead.  Somehow we were separate;  Something about souls.  After Turing, anything is a mind.  Consciousness is the act of computation.  Computation is the exchange of energy in any form.  The definition of life is expanded.  That stone or the hurricane are our cousins as well.  The universe has come alive.

It has been a pretty intense 474 years for the human mind.


Jesus was a Buddhist September 21, 2015

Posted by Dr. Gus Lott in Uncategorized.
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I was just about to take a bite of my breakfast taco at a local BBQ place when I heard an enthusiastic voice preaching to some high school boys a few tables down.

“There are only three options!” he stated with a smile. “Jesus was either a Liar, a Lunatic, or Lord.”

The youth minister was sharing C.S. Lewis’ Trilemma; a classic apologetic argument meant to prove the divinity of Jesus.  It is noted that someone claiming to be God was either a liar, a nut-case, or actually telling the truth.  But are those really the only three options?  There is another compelling option that one might consider, but for the life of me, I can’t come up with a word for it that starts with an L.  Lets extend the trilemma as follows: Was Jesus a Liar, Lunatic, Lord, or Buddhist?  I think you’ll see that this additional option makes a whole lot of sense and doesn’t exclude the idea that Jesus was Divine (or that you are too!).

You see, the Original Buddha was a prince who lived sometime around 550BC.  One of the most basic teachings he brought forward was that of Pratītyasamutpāda or “Dependent Origination.”  This was not a far step from existing Hindu teachings where one is to understand a fundamentally monistic model of the cosmos.  That is, that all is one, and that consciousness fragments the world into pairs of opposites (or samsara, the cycle of suffering).  That is to say: Our mind creates the illusion of independent actors.  This leads to the development of ideas like good and evil and individual intrinsic will; fears and desires. The Buddha described a path that one might follow to penetrate the illusion and reconnect with the truth that all is one, or as the Hindu’s say: “Tat Tvam Asi.”

In western terms: “I/Thou art God.”  Dangerous words that will get you nailed up on a cross.

For several hundred years, Buddhism grew by oral tradition and under a strict ascetic set of guidelines later referred to as “Hinayana Buddhism.”  But then an interesting and more viral version of Buddhism began to take form around 150BC.  Mahayana Buddhism (the “Big Ferryboat”) is the most popular version of Buddhism today and holds that it is not enough to seek Nirvana, the understanding of the unity behind the fragments generated by consciousness.  They held that enlightened individuals should go out into the world to help to free all life from the suffering innate in their minds.  These “Bodhisattva’s” have much in common our current image of Jesus from the Gospels.

A few decades before scholars believe that Mahayana Buddhism was taking root, Emperor Ashoka of India unified much of the Indian sub-continent into a single empire and declared Buddhism as the state religion.  He dedicated his life to the spread of buddhism throughout the world and even took his oath of office in Greek, a side effect of the Alexandrian incursion 100 years prior to his reign.  Ashoka sent out missionaries into the world to spread Buddhism into China, Persia, and beyond into Greece and the middle east via the silk-road trading routes.  Some of the edicts of Ashoka, written on stone throughout india are even written in Aramaic, the original language of the New Testament.

Buddhists have quite a history of adapting their philosophical teachings onto existing cultural structures.  It is said that there are as many kinds of buddhism as their are people.  Each comes to enlightenment by their own path.  There is a great sensitivity to the cultural context where buddhist missionary work is concerned.  In Tibet, for example, the existing bone religion of the Himalayas has been adapted directly into that local expression of Buddhism.

So, in the centuries leading up to the appearance of Jesus in Palestine,  there was a massive outpouring of Buddhist missionaries from a unified Buddhist empire in India.  This paralleled the development of Mahayana buddhism, a set of teachings that demanded that enlightened ones should return to the world and teach about the freedom from suffering and sin.  And core to all the teachings of Buddhism is that powerful statement from the gospel of John: “Tat Tvam Asi,” or “I and the father are One.”  These were missionaries who’s central message was that they were God incarnate (and so are you, by the way).

Is it a far step to think that someone claiming to be identical with the divine subsequently showed up with an adaption of the local Hebrew tradition almost identical to the Buddhist middle way?  A dove descended onto the baptized Jesus just as Maya attended the enlightenment of the buddha.  Jesus was born of a virgin (a divine birth) and Gautama Siddhartha was born out of his mother’s side at the level of the heart.  And central to Jesus’s teachings is a path towards freedom from suffering.

So maybe Jesus is both “Lord” and a Buddhist at the same time.  And I’m ok with that.  To me, it broadens the impact of his teachings and affirms his divinity without the need for supernatural nonsense.  It lets me see that there is identity with the divine in me.  And that is what I believe is the biggest challenge with Christianity in the west.  We are to be in relation to the divine, not to identify with it.  That message keeps us in the shackles of sin.  Jesus was trying to break through that idea of relation to the creator and to morph it into an identification.

The Problem of Evil November 29, 2013

Posted by Dr. Gus Lott in Categories, Free Will, God, Interconnectivity, Monism, Myth & Religion.
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But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
-Matthew 5:44-45

Original Sin: The Illusion of Evil (and Good)

Original Sin: The Illusion of Evil (and Good)

The problem of evil states that if God is all powerful, all knowing, and good, then evil cannot exist.  Therefore, something in that equation cannot hold because evil does exist (God allows it or is powerless to prevent it).  Non-theists use this as an argument against God’s existence – or at least reason to reject Him.  Literal-minded theists go through all manner of logical contortions to reconcile this problem; free will being the most prevalent.

A third option exists.  Championed by Jesus and the Buddha and many other shamans throughout history:  There is no problem of evil.  Evil does not exist.

Evil is an illusion and the main source of our separation from God.  It is a product of our nature as humans to build classifications and categorizations of the world around us (it is the inescapable function of our brain).  What the Garden of Eden story tells us is that this kind of abstract categorization is exactly the original sin that separates us from the divine.  Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil and the result was separation from God and the entire world as we know it!

The truth is that a horrific serial murderer is as natural a phenomenon as a hurricane, a sunny day, or a mother’s love for her child.  The mind-machine of the serial killer human merely deviates from what is considered the societal norm.  To apply moral agency (i.e. good or evil labels) to these mechanistic natural phenomena is to miss out on the fact of the interconnectedness of all things as encapsulated by the first law of thermodynamics – the basis of our modern physical model of the universe.

Most importantly, the label of evil cuts off our ability to have compassion or empathy.  How different would our world be if we saw evil for the underlying pain and ignorance that it truly represents?  We could still act to remove it from the world, but we would be doing so understanding that our enemy is another aspect of the same universal fabric (read: God/Cosmos) from which we are formed.  I and He are both identical with the divine mystery.

Loving your enemy, going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, and even hating your family.  How else are we to interpret these teachings?  Jesus did not entreat us to “stop having enemies.”  We can’t do that; That’s the function of our mind and a part of life.   He is helping us to see that we can participate in the illusion.  More than that, by discovering the illusion, we can die to the trap of sin and be reborn into heaven right here and now.

The Hindus inherited an ancient story affirming this idea as well.  Two birds sit in the Tree of Jiva and Atman;

Two birds associated together, and mutual friends, take refuge in the same tree; one of them eats the sweet fig; the other abstaining from food, merely looks on.

What is most scary about this concept is that to act out of this knowledge is to truly take responsibility for our actions individually and as a society.  Evil is no longer perceived (falsely) as a moral absolute, intrinsic to the universe.  Evil is now a relative term which we must own and defend to our fellow humans.  Instead of letting evil be formed in the shadow of our collective subconscious, we shine light on and declare ownership of these labels.

Quite often in our history, charismatic leaders have taken advantage of the subconscious/hidden nature of our models of evil and have easily persuaded us to fear and hate a group of fellow humans.  And they have been so successful because that label of “evil,” in its sinful shadowy form, acts as an anesthetic, blocking empathy.  Imagine a world where the label of evil produces compassion instead of fear and anger.  Take a big bite out of the apple and lets make it happen.

Becoming Christ February 25, 2013

Posted by Dr. Gus Lott in God, Interconnectivity, Metaphor, Monism, Myth & Religion, What Is Life?.

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21

Christ, almost exclusively, spoke in metaphor and parable; here we see that even His most basic declarations of identity with the divine, future of the “second coming,” and His eventual resurrection, are metaphors for forces and events within our psyche.  When Jesus speaks about God the Father and His Kingdom Come, he is speaking about the landscape of our minds!  The God who exiled us from Eden is our super-ego.

That same God, that is each of us, keeps us in sin and death.  There is a gun to our heads, and our actions are motivated by the lash of a whip towards an unattainable model.  But with this verse from Luke, we can see that all of these super-ego structures that move us are fundamentally our own selves.  We are holding the whip and the gun in our own hands. It is that we put a mask on and don’t realize our identity with these forces.  We are the father.

Star Wars: Luke faces his greatest enemy in the cave on Degobah: Himself and his own desire for revenge.  I and The Father are One – John 10:30

When Jesus claimed to be God, he didn’t mean it for just Himself.  He meant it for all of us.  That’s advanced Christianity (for which many are not ready).  We then transcend a relationship with Christ to identity with the divine mystery. And here, the bookends of the story of His life appear as metaphors as well.  The divine birth is a prequel written after the phenomena of His life; a metaphor for the divinity of his teachings.

The death and resurrection are a symbol of a psychological rebirth that is the consequence of his teachings.  Christmas and Easter celebrations are beautiful affirmations of the same teachings and point to forces within each of us.

Happy Easter, Thou Art God

Life is a Flame September 20, 2012

Posted by Dr. Gus Lott in Categories, Free Will, God, Interconnectivity, Joseph Campbell, Metaphor, Myth & Religion, Science, What Is Life?.

Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.

Life Consumes.  How have you learned to relate to this?

Every human that has ever been born has awakened to the same peculiar reality.  Life is a flame.  It consumes to exist.  Whether I consume plant life or animal life, I must live at the expense of other life.  How does a modern intellect deal with this reality?  In fact, it is one of the functions of a working mythology.

Responses to this reality include three major categories: Embrace, Reject, Fight

Nearly all primitive myths embrace this fact as the way of the world and develop seemingly gruesome rights and rituals.  These include rituals of human sacrifice and cannibalism.  It is part of a group of religions that feel that the human microcosm should be in alignment with the macrocosm (the universe).  It’s the ancient attitude born as the original priests of the first human cities to look up at the sky, see the sun, moon, & five planets.  This massive predictable motion of the cosmos drove us to mimic those seven celestial bodies.  So we have 7 day weeks, 7 musical notes, 7 chakras, 7 colors of the rainbow, 7 chevrons on the stargate, 7 days of creation, 7 dwarves…  It’s why the king wears the solar golden crown.  It is an attitude of acceptance of the universe as a machine to which we must align ourselves.  The heart must beat 60 beats per minute, 86400 beats per day, the basis for our system of time.

The compliment to this primitive notion is rejection.  Life is a horrible mistake.  It should not be.  The most extreme example of this are the Hindu Jains.  A Jain will only eat fruit and vegetables that have fallen dead from a tree.  He will wear a mask over his mouth and will not drink after dark to prevent any bugs from being inadvertently swallowed.  He strives to reduce the number of steps taken each day until a nirvanic (life quenching) release.  This attitude of rejection is central to eastern religion.  The cycle of rebirth (samsara) is a trap which we find ourselves in.  The goal is nirvana which is no heaven, but a cancelation.  The Hindu caste system is a tool for rejecting any sense of individual identity.  You are handed your role in life along with your spouse, and your will has nothing to do with it.  By embracing the role you are given (ostensibly by immutable cosmic forces), you will eventually become transparent and no-man (anatman).  The cast system sounds horrific to our western mind, but in this philosophy, it is a tool to support release from this horrific world that should not be.

Finally, in our western culture, we have a more recently evolved and peculiar third way to view the world.  Starting with the evolution of Zoroastrianism in Persia, we are presented with this notion of a battle being waged.  Instead of embrace or rejection, we take the stance that the world can be fixed!  There is a cosmic battle taking place, and the horrors and beauties of the world are a consequence of this conflict.  In Zoroastrianism, it was the cosmic forces of light and dark, Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu, that gave the world contrast.  In the Judaism, it is Yahweh and Satan.  With the humanistic Greeks, it was the drama of the olympians.  In all these myths, the world starts out as a pure light/good/unified place that falls into the realm of categories and opposites (sin).  And in the end, when the battle is done, the “lion will lay down with the lamb” and there will be no more contrast or conflict, just pure light.  In Zoroastrianism, this fall and battle is prehistorical to humanity.  In Christianity, it is a consequence of the action of mankind.

It is from this final tradition (ours in the western world) that notions of free will arise.  That we are intrinsic actors that can participate and effect the cosmic order of things through our actions.  And it is this attitude that seems to be spreading, along with humanistic greek democracy, throughout the world (and has been since before Alexander).  The Hindu castes system have been under assault since the British occupation in India.  And rightly so under the western view of the world.  But at the same time, there is a spread of eastern ideals into the west as well. Yoga and other eastern discipline practices have become a very popular in the west.  And perhaps the best example of this is Christianity itself which has evolved as a blending of eastern and western ideals.

What we do know now is that the cosmos that we observe through the Hubble telescope and our large radio observatories is immensely more complex then that seen by the first priests of Ur and Uruk.  We know that we are a peculiar creation seemingly uncorrelated with the motion of those heavenly bodies but following the same physical laws in our actions.  Relativity seems to be the science of the day, and as such, meaning seems to be something that we each find for ourselves.

How do you relate to the flame inside of you?

Adam and Aham July 24, 2012

Posted by Dr. Gus Lott in Categories, Free Will, God, Interconnectivity, Joseph Campbell, Metaphor, Monism, Myth & Religion.
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Adam & Aham.

Adam is the Hebrew word for man/mankind in the opening chapters of Genesis.  Adam is created by god and receives categorical consciousness (sin).  Woman is made out of him, and he is prevented from eating the fruit of the tree of eternal life by Yaweh (he is cast into the world).

Aham is the Sanskrit word for “I” or “Consciousness.”  In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the Hindu contemporary to Genesis, Aham awakens into the world and achieves categorical consciousness by experiencing fear (of being killed) and then desire for a companion.  He swells and creates woman out of himself.

The names for the self are so similar (A-d/h-am), and the stories come from a similar era (c. 700BC).  Both of these stories represent the basic cultural divide between the eastern and western world.  Our culture, in the west, took this basic notion of a divine mystery and the phenomena of duality/categorical consciousness, and built a mythic tradition based on what Joseph Campbell calls a “dissociation” from the divine.  In the west, we are to be in relation to God.  To be identical with God is the prime heresy (they will crucify you for it).  God created man and we are to understand the universe in relationship to it.  We are not it.

In the east, there exists a philosophy of mythic “association” where the individual seeks to discover a way to extinguish this trick called the ego.  In this philosophy, they say “Aham Brahmasmi” (I am God).  Interestingly, exactly the message that Christ brought to the west.  But this creates a wild conservatism where the eastern world has stagnated (in terms of western ideals, certainly not spiritual ideals).  The western consciousness, with its dualistic attitudes of good and evil, create dramatic individuals who push our understanding of the cosmos forward.  Our Einsteins and Nobels and Steve Jobses and Bill Gateses.  These dramatic individuals are absolutely absent in the eastern world.  There, you are to follow the teachings of your guru as dogma, play the role you are handed at birth (including your spouse) and then go into the forest and discorporate only once you have extinguished any remaining fears or desires within you.

The eastern traditions are fundamentally monistic.  There, the God images are vehicles to assist you in your realization of identity with the divine.  This is a polar opposite concept to the concrete godhead of the west.

And at the same time, we have so much in common.  We both are born with the same human conundrum of categorical consciousness.  But we have dramatically different approaches to dealing with this situation we all find ourselves in.  While many westerners like to explore this new-agey and heretical concept of “Aham Brahmasmi,” they also appreciate the technological world that allows for the integration of cultures that has made them aware of it.  And eastern countries are rapidly tossing off their faceless attitudes in exchange for capitalist individual competition (but with great issues with intellectual property rights).  This integration of western and eastern culture today has been fully enabled by the ego-driven enlightenment world of post-dark ages european thought.

However enticing the “Tat Tvam Asi” culture of the east may appear, I don’t ever feel like I could be part of that culture of faceless non-selfitude.  I like being an I and  I really enjoy the process of building new I’s.  And this is most likely why so much innovation comes from the west.  But these two worlds are integrating and have been ever since they split out of Babalon to when Xerxes and Alexander began trading back and forth from Greece to India.

Western science is the amalgamation that is the kernel of the new world mythology.  Its development is very egocentrically driven with the names of individuals associated with fundamental physical concepts (i.e. Maxwell’s Equations & Newton’s Laws).  At the same time, it is extraordinarily humanistic and fundamentally monistic.  The global culture in our immediate future will represent the best parts of both worlds.  And there are so many common and beautifully different components to each.  It’s great to live in such exciting times!

The Free Will Irony June 6, 2012

Posted by Dr. Gus Lott in Book Review, Determinism, Free Will, Interconnectivity, What Is Life?.

A little more on the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. It talks about the illusion of the self-made man. As I mentioned, Gladwell begins by pointing out that virtually all professional Hockey players in Canada are born between January and April… and goes from there. I highly recommend the read.

We are formed by forces in the world and then we become an expression of those forces acting again in the world. Free will is the idea that you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps; literally. While this is an often used colloquial phrase, we know it is nonsense.

The reason for the hockey player phenomena is that the league cut-off birthdate is January 1, so the people born early in the year are the most physically matured in their classes (when they are young) and get selected out for extra training early on because of their relative performance. This snowballs into pushing them into outlier status. If we can acknowledge the FACT that we are a construct of these kind of external influences, then we can, ironically, take control. We can change the hockey league such that it takes this into account and somehow weights performance based on calendar year birth date when making selections. Then we could have 3 times as many amazing hockey players!

Free will is a dodge. It is a fixed mindset construct that our western culture has fostered. It is a cop-out so that, ironically, we don’t have to take responsibility for our lot in life. With it, we can blame the nature of the world on intrinsic actors instead of accepting responsibility and taking control to create environments that generate beauty.

That’s the trick and the irony of free will. Free will is a dodge to shirk responsibility and lays on guilt and regret in an unending cycle. Rejecting the notion of free will truly allows you to take ownership of the world while freeing yourself from the notions of guilt and regret. It also allows you to have compassion where free will does not.  When viewing individuals as confluences of a myriad forces, how can we not feel compassion for them, whatever their actions?

I find it funny how backwards the idea is.

Book: Outliers May 10, 2012

Posted by Dr. Gus Lott in Book Review, Complexity, Free Will, Interconnectivity, Monism, Popular Culture, Science, What Is Life?.
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Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, is a thought provoking read.  It explores success stories in terms of not “who they are now” but “how they got here.”  It’s based around the fallacy of the “self-made man” who can “pull himself up by his bootstraps.”  This argument is identical to that of the free will concept of the intrinsic actor.  It exposes a person as a network of opportunities and relationships and their success as an expression of an ecosystem and not an individual.  The notion of an intrinsic identity capable of acting “in spite of” an environment is counterproductive, but enticing.

Gladwell begins by illustrating how the vast majority of professional canadian hockey players are born between January and April.  A surprising fact that illustrates the way that an arbitrary cut-off date for league membership can provide the slightly older (i.e. those born Jan 1) with a leg-up that starts a cycle of access that propels them into higher leagues.  If you were born on December 31st, don’t even bother.  There are many other thought provoking explorations of this effect and Gladwell asks a compelling question: If we could have a hockey league that selected without such arbitrary filters in place, we could have 10 times as many skilled professional hockey players (or a thousand more Bill Gates’s).

He also provides compelling evidence that hard work leads to success.  If you want to be a master, you have to get your 10,000+ hours of practice in.  There are virtually no examples of masters who haven’t put in the work and even fewer of those who have put in the work and didn’t become success stories.  The Beatles played 8 hours a day for several years in strip-clubs in Hamburg before they got their break.

The attitude of the self-made-man is exactly the free-will having intrinsically-motivated oxymoron common to egocentric western culture.  It’s a violation of the basic rules we understand about the universe: “You can’t get something from nothing.”  When we look at individuals as self-made, as if they pulled themselves out of their own navel, we cannot learn and grow towards success.  When we recognize that individuals (including ourselves) are networks of relationships and not intrinsic actors, ironically, we can truly learn and grow.  When we realize that we are identical with the ecosystem of our unique histories, we can take ownership of our lives, and achieve whatever we want.

Augmented Reality: Google Glass April 20, 2012

Posted by Dr. Gus Lott in News, Popular Culture, Robotics, Technology.
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Augmented Reality is the next game changer

Recently, Google announced the upcoming release of a wearable personal augmented reality system code-named “Google Glass.”  The concept video illustrates the goal for the system to act as an overlay of metadata on the world.  These glasses represent a weak form of augmented reality where data is merely overlain on reality without any association to the scene.  This is a good step in the right direction, but there is so much more!

Augmented reality is the next big game changer, along with autonomous vehicles; But not like these glasses.  Real augmented reality will be able to project patterns onto your eye such that they appear registered with the world as you move your eyes or your body.

Amongst other things, real personal augmented reality will enable true 3D holography.  Instead of developing expensive, dim, and high powered micro-projectors to create 2D and 3D images in the world, each one of us will merely don our personal glasses and access the 3D data file.  Low power lasers will raster patterns on both of our eyes with depth disparity such that we perceive a real 3D object in the world.  The patterns will be modified to track the motion of your eye and the motion of the scene as the wearer walks within it.  We will be able to point and walk around virtual 3D objects that appear to be there with us for all users to see.

We will get rid of the need for tiny screens on our phones.  The true AR goggles will be able to overtake your entire visual field with a better than IMAX personal 3D experience.  Live action games will take on an entirely new meaning when people, in the world, can see metadata and costumes digitally rendered on their teammates and competition.    Kids will be able to truly fire laser blasters at digitally rendered dragons soaring above their homes.

Military users will be able to see the location of friendly units and augment their visual field with intelligence and extra-sensory information.  A soldier might overlay a thermal video stream of the scene onto their eyes or receive live translations of a villager’s words as a thought bubble over their head.

Then there will be the battle for advertising.  Augmented reality systems of the future will be able to detect advertisements in your environment before you do.  They will be able to remove or enhance them.  Billboards could be deleted from your visual field and other adds could take their place based on your selected data feed.

Any number of layers of information will be accessible to us with much higher fidelity than we achieve through the puny portals of our modern personal phones.

Achieving such registration requires cutting edge computer vision algorithms that simultaneously map an environment and localize a moving camera within that environment.  Once the camera’s location is tracked, the data may be registered within the model of the world and projected into a model of the eye in order to determine the pattern that must be projected.  Such algorithms are currently brittle but amazing advances are being made.  This is a unifying technology that will replace cellular phones, the television, blu-ray, and e-books.

The future of this technology is bright.  It means that we can move towards a more natural world with less clutter and relegate the gaudy and grandiose visuals and data feeds of a modern society to a digital overlay that we all carry with us.

Stranger than Fiction February 15, 2012

Posted by Dr. Gus Lott in God, Interconnectivity, Joseph Campbell, Metaphor, Myth & Religion, Popular Culture, Science Fiction.

Harold Crick & Luke Skywalker

You may have missed this lovely film from 2006 featuring Will Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal (amongst others).  Stranger Than Fiction is a playful expression of the hero’s journey within a paradoxical literary backdrop.

Harold Crick is an IRS agent who’s life is dramatically intersected with that of a beautiful baker and several others.  Harold’s wristwatch also plays an important role.  There are many parallels to other hero myths.  I’ll draw the parallels to the original Star Wars movie from 1977.

Dustin Hoffman plays the mentor/Obiwan Kenobi role.  He guides Harold through his adventure and has a special relationship with the “enemy.”  He is the lifeguard at the university swimming pool, an important motif about the guardian of the subconscious mind.  He also has a privileged relationship with the antagonist as a literary scholar.

Harold’s wristwatch is the guardian that can’t speak our language, but guides the hero and protects him.  This parallels the role of R2D2 in Star Wars.  They are both avatars and guardian angels connected to the higher purpose.

Harold is cast into his adventure by a voice in his head narrating his life and which forecasts his death.  His house is destroyed by a wrecking ball and he is forced to live with his friend in a space-ship like apartment much like Han Solo’s Millenium Falcon after Luke Skywalker’s home and family were destroyed.

Ana Pascal is the parallel of Princess Leia.  She is the rebel against the system and her bakery acts as a crossover point for Harold in a manner similar to that of the Mos Eisley Cantina.  There are all manner of crazy people babbling crazy talk or yelling “Get bent tax man!”  Harold and Ana’s relationship is much more moving and intimate than Luke and Leia’s (they aren’t brother and sister).

Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) and Penny Escher (Queen Latifa) are Darth Vadar and Eiffel’s apartment is the Death Star.  Eiffel shares a special psychological bond with Harold.  She created him (i.e. father and son).  The writing of Harold’s life takes place in a stark black and white environment symbolizing the idea of dichotomy and sin where there is death.  This is similar to the motifs inside the Death Star where there were stark metal walls and troopers in black and white.  Eiffel and Escher work closely together to kill our hero, and in the end, send him to his death.

And just as Skywalker faces death and is reborn, Crick faces his death and embraces it and is reborn into a beautiful new world filled with cookies and life.  It is a beautiful story.