Thursday, August 04, 2011


This is my first post since 2009. It's been a while. I felt like writing as a way to sort out things that have been on my mind. Writing to my old blog seemed more to my liking than to just writing to a word document or to the little spiral notebook I've started carrying around with me.

I feel at this moment rather displeased with myself and uncertain what to do about it. I chalk this up to my lack of planning and self-discipline. It so happens that at the moment I'm here with my 11-year-old son, Eldar, in the resort town of Fethiye, in SW Turkey. In five days time we will head to Budapest, Hungary, where we formerly lived. We'll be there for three weeks. Then we return to Fethiye. The whole summer has seen us jumping around from place to place in this part of Turkey, together and as smaller subunits of our family of three. We've experienced some interesting and beautiful places, to be sure. These included the Patika Yoga Center in the wooded cliffs above the Mediterranean in Faralya, an hour from here. I liked it a lot, a real eco-resort with a genuine emphasis on permaculture and healthy living. Other places we've/I've spent time at this summer have been nice for their natural beauty (Kabak, Butterfly Valley) and for their creative atmosphere (Sanat Art Camp in Kaya Koy), but Patika really came closest to my ideal. Rather few people, no smoking, great swimming, Yoga, vegetarian food, community, etc. I will tell the leader, Erol, that I really love his place and want to be more involved there once we're back. I actually wouldn't mind living there. The trouble is that we'd have to live out of a tent and that could be uncomfortable in the winter with the rain and cold. But if it were possible to rent the house next door where we stayed for some weeks this summer, perhaps that could work. Eldar would have to attend the tiny school up there, but he would get a different sort of education at Patika. I could help Erol build and repair the place in the winter months and Lucia could teach Yoga and do other things. I'll have to find out what Erol's plans are.

It's important for me to make best use of my time in Budapest. It's important for us all to. I need to set up meetings before we go and schedule my time for once we're there. Lucia will be disappointed that we're not to be staying at Sun Palace above from the World Class Fitness Club. She'll have to enroll somewhere else and make best use of her time. If it can be time well spent, then it won't be bad.

I fee it's important for me to use my time in a way that leaves me feeling satisfied and happy. I'm not certain what that is, because I haven't really been thinking much about Budapest lately.

In the art camp I started writing my book. This left me feeling satisfied and happy. Therefore, I need to give myself time to do this. It's a good project for me this year, having recently turned 44. If I wake up early enough, by 600h, meditate for an hour, then write 2-3 hours everyday before eating or practicing Yoga, that should be good. I could start tomorrow here in Fethiye. It could really give meaning to my life. Having a schedule and following it should give me structure and freedom. Sure, there are all sorts of other things that I think I might want to do, but writing this book is the one thing I am most certain of at this time. I still have the resources to make it happen, so I should do it. Excellent! I have a plan.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

the post-human soul

Technology, our problem child without a soul?

Humans' relationship with technology is an interesting one. It can be said that humans invented tools to make their lives easier. That said, this invention gave life to technology. Tools led to machines. Machines led to robots and computers. Today's technology is a world of integrated machines, robots and computers. Technology grows ever more pervasive and complex, all the time consuming more and more resources and power. Increasingly, human beings are employed in service to technology rather than the other way round. It is therefore logical that such films as those in the Terminator series or TV shows such as the Star Trek episode "What are Little Girls Made of?" derive from human anxieties over the prospect of one day being phased out by the very machines we gave birth to and reared. Both these examples depicted a world where technology alone is void without the presence of the human soul. Alone, robots and computers are too calculating and lacking in sympathy, these examples implied, to effectively replace humans.

But could it be that technology will survive human beings no matter what? Is this what Wall-e was about? (I didn't see it.) That was basically the plot of Kubrick/Spielberg's AI. But in AI, the robot boy did appear to possess feelings. But that may not be relevant.

Western Man in Search of a Soul

Much of what gives us humans our character is that while we as a species possess common characteristics of appearence and behavior, we live and function as isolated individuals. While we can communicate and share with each other, we ultimately die alone. Some say - and I may yet agree with them - that while our physical bodies die alone, all that each of us experiences is part of something collective and/or universal. But particularly in the West, there is a powerful notion of individual existence. It is exactly this which makes Western humans human, makes our lives so precious, gives our property value, etc.

What will be the soul of technology?

The way technology seems to be moving, and the direction it apparently *must* move if it is to have a post-human existence, is one of total integration. This would be an existance where every component of technology is part of some larger self-sustaining system full of monitors and checks and maintance and repair mechanisms. We humans have such system, but we a population of physically nearly identical units. Technology is and likely will continue to be a vast array of widely varied components with vast physical differences. The brains behind this technology may consist of individual processors and neural networks, but it would not be easily compared to the world of us humans. But for technology to survive human beings, it needs an overarching consciousness to observe, govern and guide itself.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I just had some cool ideas for Turkey, where we plan to go next January, the start of an 8 month stay. I also had some cool ideas for the classes I'm teaching and some excellent business ideas and discoveries for my time here in Hungary and for our return.

Laszlo Horvath just bought a building that he will make into a university. I think it's a great idea. For its size, Hungary has damned few colleges and university and way too few in the countryside. It could be very useful to pull people I know together on this from McDaniel. Get them involved,

For my communications class, I have a neat way to learn Turkish. I will tell the class that for the first hour of each class we will learn English, but for the second half of each class we will learn a foreign language, starting with Turkish because the Turkish boys missed so many classes at the beginning of the semester.

For my Journalism class, I will show Star Trek episodes this week and discussion will be held afterwards.

I myself would like to open a university here in Hungary at Matraszentimre, Hungary's highest settlement, in the same range as Mt. K├ękes, the *Everest* of Hungary. There is a beautiful old church in neighboring Matraszentlaszlo that could serve as the conerstone building, suitable as a lecture hall during the week and a chapel on the weekends. As the church likely owns the building, we would go into partnership with them and open it as a fee-charging Catholic university. Work study programs would be available whereby students would get tuition waivers and a modest stipend if they do some useful job, and do it well.

In Turkey, I think Lucia should hire old grandmothers in the hills to produce fashion-worthy garments by following the designs of leading Hungarian designers for export to highstreet market locations. Also, in Fethiye I think we should restore the ancient amphitheatre to its original condition and use it as a theatre for the finest performances. I would like to do so with the assistance of Michael Tippin, the man who restored the Flatiron Building in Toronto and many other historical landmarks across the globe. The amphitheatre would draw the finest yachtsmen from around the world into the harbor. It could become a true palace of the arts without the rough nature of other resorts frequented by the four-wheeling, beer guzzling stag party crowd.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Should robots replace humans?

Should robots replace humans? As technology advances, robots could be made to look better, work harder and more efficiently and get along better than we humans do. When a robot has a problem, it can be repaired Humans, other other hand are not so easily maintained. They eventually expire and their performance and appearance both deteriorate over time.

Assuming that robotic consciousness could be advanced to a level that rivals humans', certain issues that plague humans would be rendered non-issues. Humans tend to freak out when they see that the image in the mirror doesn't measure up when compared to the 20-sweep photoshopped image they see on the cover of a magazine. With regular - daily? - automated maintenance, robots could look great all the time.

Other human weaknesses could be programmed out. Jealousy, laziness, anger, greed, lust, hatred, despair and any others would simply not be included in the robots' operating systems.

Naturally, robots shouldn't replace humans all at once. Rather, they could be phased in. Human disadvantages and even strengths could actually be utilized to advance this transformation. Robot models could be introduced on the catwalks with the goal of beating out their human counterparts. Unlike human models, the robots could be "photoshopped" in real life. They would be built and maintained to present the archetypal image of human beauty, better than any human ever could, especially over time. In other workplaces, robots could be built and programmed to replace humans in a process of attrition. Every human would be repalced by a robot (likely fewer robots would be needed than humans) as the humans retire or die. Whether the job be mechanic, athlete or jazz musician, in time there would be not need for humans in the global economy.

Human fears about being phased out of existence needn't be a concern. The last phase of human existence would be rendered more pleasant than any previous period in the human epoch. Robots would systematically clean up the mess humans have made of the planet. They would sort out world peace, renewable energy, transportation, agriculture, education, health care, government, corporate management, what have you. They would always do their best and they would never make mistakes.

The human phase-out could be achieved easliy as all remaining humans could be matched with the optimal robot partners and spouses who would attend to every human need in ways that no humans could. If children were disired, then perfect - perfectly behaved - robot children could be painlessly produced. After a while, human beings would vanish into blissful non-existence.

As for the human legacy, that could be carried out by robots in such manner that would make the human spirit swell with pride. Robots would pursue technical, artistic, even athletic achievement with more determination, perseverence and alacrity than their human forerunners could dream of. Robot astronauts could fly out into the heavans, build space stations and colonies on distant worlds, all in the name of the great humans that came before them. The Earth itself would be restored as a veritible garden of eden, an impeccably managed ecosystem free of human contanimation.

This vision of the future may well represent an inevitability. But I suspect not. Robots will most very likely replace human beings. But the kind of robots and the kind of world they inhabit and govern will depend on the actions of humans today. If we humans truely want the best world possible for our robot successors, we need to play an active role in our own replacement. A simple, yet comprehensive plan should be drawn up. As stated, robots should be introduced into human society unobtrusively in phases. And each robot needs to be designed, built and maintained to be better than the human it is intended to replace, both in terms of performance and ethics. If this approach is taken, the human contribution can be made in a way that oustrips that which we feeble organic creatures currently make on our own. As the mythical Titans were to the Gods, and the Gods to us Humans, we can indeed parent a better race to take over where we leave off.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mountain bound

Next week I return to teaching my classes at McDaniel College Budapest, Intro to Journalism and Public Speaking. I'll also be starting a four-person seminar at Euler Hermes, a credit insurance company. So things will soon get busy.

But I digress from my reflections. It's 28 January and Spring feels like it's on its way. It's rainy and still cold, but not freezing anymore.

John Updike is dead. I haven't yet felt compelled to read any of his work. I'm reading the Little Princess. I shall now got read some more before Lucia turns out the light.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Holidays Over

The holidays are passed. Cindi Rosner, my friend from high school has been visiting us. She came last Wednesday and leaves tomorrow. Before she came, my friend Claudia Raths, the jazz saxophonist from Switzerland was in town for a week or so to bring her son to be with his Hungarian father for the winter holidays. Cindi, Eldar and I went to an expat Christmas party hosted by long-time expat Tom Popper to which Claudia also came, at my invitation. But I see now that you can read about that in my previous post. I can tell now that my stress level has increased since then. The biggest reason for that is that I've had to get back to work. I'm working on a research project now that I realise got off on the wrong track because I failed to negotiate the terms of the work in the beginning. Now I see that the money figure wasn't sorted out and I have a significantly smaller budget than I had thought. And I may have to do a larger portion of the work than I originally thought. But I can deal with this. Meditation will be important this week.

Sunday night I basically pulled an all-nighter getting the text of my interview with Michael Tippin put into order for the BBJ. I got it done and was able to get out to a new Hungarian client in the morning on Monday.

Suddenly money for the coming months is an issue. I had wanted to just teach two classes, both at McDaniel and not teach a course at the Budapest Communications College. Now I'm beginning to think it might not be such a bad idea to teach a single class there. I floated the idea past them about a class on "Freakonomics" and it seemed to go over OK. I'll ask if this is still a possibility.

It's been an experience spending some time with Claudia after some years and then seeing Cindia again whom I last saw over a year and a half ago. Two very different personalities and two very different friendships.

Now Holidays are over and responsibilities begin again. My new Year's resolution was to make better use of my time and to go to Kevin Gardener's Yoga class before the end of January.

How could I make good use of my time today? At two, I shall ring Nenad, then call 3 or 4 real estate people to get useful input for this research. And I'll send some emails. Then I'll meditate at 16:30. Later I'll hang out with Cindi, this being her last night in town.

My impulse is to do all those things I haven't been doing . . . now that I have things I have to do.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day 2008

White Christmas, as hoped for. Just a sprinkling and probably not much down in Pest, on the other side of the river. But up and over here in Buda, high in the hills, we have a sprinkled white frosting on the grass and on the patio.

Yesterday evening we went to a Christmas party at Tom Popper's. Tom is a long-time expat who has a history of holding parties, especially at the holidays.

It started out very nicely, a small crowd of expatriate "orphans" who had no local family and who hadn't themselves gone abroad for the holiday. There were some families with children and some old friends. Eldar had fun running around with the other kids. Perhaps because people tended to drift in and out and because there was no MC - Tom is a great host, but no MC - there were no toasts and no prayers and a lack of esprit de corps. Sort of fractured social affair, like a trip to the pub. Later, after the kids had mostly gone, the mood darkened into a drunken smoky late night at one of the junkyard taverns that many of the stragglers still there pack into. Intriguingly, at that stage, in the hours of the early morning, the party itself was packed. Why is it that the artist/boho crowd take so long to get out? Among the artists there assembled, I'm sure there was talent. But talented aritsts in Hungary, perhaps oppressed by economic hardship and lack of opportunity, tend to be prone to depression and substance abuse, along with proactve social skills and graces.

It was very nice to hang out with my old friend Claudia yesterday. I spent a few hours at her flat during the day and then later - after some convincing - she showed up at the party. Claudia is Swiss, but during a previous period, she spent more than a decade here and the local artist boho mindset had some effect. So she came a bit late. But she enjoyed herself. Another old friend, Pierre, was strangely cold to me. It strikes me as curious how people who run in government and corporate circles tend to be (outwardly, at least) far less moody and generally so much friendlier and engaging than these "real" people.

Today Eldar opened his presents, a big 3 in 1 lego ship, a pair of books, a Popeye DVD, some clothes, Turkish cookies. Lucia got a new video camera and tripod. I got a scarf and an electric razor.

Now it's 27 December. On Christmas Day, the evening thereof, we went to our friends Christopher's and Sophie's place. Christopher is a rock musician of mixed Californian and German parentage. His stepfather, who was there with his Californian mom, is also German. Also there was Pierre, who readers of this blog will remember from earlier entries. It was a great evening. Lucia shot on her new camera Maomi, Christopher's stepmom who is herself a documentary filmmaker for the past 40 years. And Adrian, her German husband was also good for some intriguing footage, telling a story of how the banana that is typically spelled with "b" but sometimes with "s."

Christopher's flat is so cool. The tiles and the furniture and the kitchen and the original art and framed photos on the walls give it a Western US, Central Turkish sort of feel, sort of desert pioneer. Maomi's place next door has its own groovy vibe, lots of pink and red and walls full of framed photos. Great kilims and antique furniture.

I made a lentil and laska mushroom lasagna. Others ate a roast beef. Then there was Sophie's homemade beigli, one with poppy seeds and the other with walnuts. Beigli is a Hungarian Christmas cake, dough rolled up with walnut or poppyseed paste and then baked. Delicious. I had a piece of the spacecake I'd made the night before where I'd served it at the party (I'm also munching on one now.)

Tonight we're off to see some friends perform.