Bill MacKenty

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I like to write about different things.

The making…

Posted in Blogging Writing on 19 - May 2024 at 03:39 PM (3 weeks ago) 216 views.

The making, the building of a thing...

Nova Lumina is a prominent industrial shipyard located in the outer sectors of the Galactic Core. Known for its large-scale shipbuilding capabilities, extensive mineral extraction from asteroids, and a network of massive space elevators linking the shipyard to its planetary base, Nova Lumina stands as a key infrastructure hub.

The shipyard is a bustling hive of activity. Three massive ship hulls and a dozens smaller hulls are in various stages of construction. Massive scaffolding surrounds each hull, industrial works and manufacturing works are visible from tens of kilometers away. There are hundreds of ships moving around the shipyard.

Close to the power stations, within one of the many machine shops sits a branch of the gearwright guild. It hums with a busy cacophony and at the current moment, gearwrights are carefully assembling an especially complex part of a propulsion system. Large machines and robots work in an intricate and coordinated dance. Always working in pairs, the gearwrights work with careful precision and efficiency of movement.

Not far away from the gearwrights, in a differently lit area stands Sila Maren. She is staring at the propulsion system occasionally glancing at at a floating glowing ember-colored interface. "There!" she says and at once the activity near the propulsion system stops. The gearwrights hold their gaze towards her and the leader of them nods slightly. Sila walks towards the system and begins to move her hands in an intricate pattern and as she does a visible line of energy begins to weave around parts of the system. the energy flares brightly for a moments and then settles into the system. The gearwrights start to measure, with great care, aspects of the system. After some time Sila looks at the system and simply says "this is true", and the gearwrights resume their work.

Sila shifts her feet a bit, bends her knees slightly and adjusts her hips moving very slowly she begins to raise her hands from her waist to her shoulders, and then back again. She repeats this motion a few times and then goes back to more carefully studying the floating interface in front of her.


As things go….

Posted in Blogging Writing on 17 - May 2024 at 10:08 PM (3 weeks ago) 127 views.

Far and away the easiest thing to do is be lazy and not give a shit. a retreat into the nothing...

Liora Kael couldn't be bothered to devote any attention to her phones nagging. Awash in paints and colors, she was immersed in a project to explore the relationship of self and other. "The only way to really see this, is with color", she thought to herself as her phone chimed again. She was paying careful attention to where the different colors intersected and met. She was looking at exploring how our sense of self meets and encounters the other. How they combine at the periphery.

She painted with etheric energies; a hue of blue and teal, and then a hue of something else. She often stopped, breathed and became very still. The smell of paint floated in the air, and the sound of birds singing could be heard through an open window. She watched the colors shift and change; she paid attention to the textures. She waited until there was something to tell her about the next part of what she had to make. This was, of course, part of the process, and part of the creation...the waiting and tension of decision.

Liora cursed under her breath and asked herself if all of this was worth it; her last three pieces barely registered with people she cared about most. Of course it was easy to sell to those who she didn't respect, but for those she looked up to, those she respected? this was her challenge.

Still, though, she continued to create...a connection and touching which made her feel oddly whole; a togethering within her that made her art....possible.

The awards on her wall spoke to her success and impact. Her ability to create.

"Sarah, can you please add a smidgen of holographic nanites to this teal mixture" she said quietly. Her assistant, a young woman responded "are you sure just a smidgen? Maybe a splash, or perhaps a bit"? Liora smiled. "Stop being a pain in my ass" she said with a smirk. Her assistant reached over to the teal paint and gently moved a vial around the paint. Although invisible to the naked eye, the nanites would begin to reproduce in the paint and react to specific energy frequencies, changing subtle aspects of the colors. "I've added the nanites - these are the same ones you used in your last exhibition." Liora gently stirred and poked the paint. "Thank you." she said, and continued her work.

She looked outside her window and it was dark, the birds stopped singing long ago. Her canvas comprised of two shifting figures, each reaching out for the other. The figures were incandescent, and their hands slowly moved in an opposite symmetry to each other. Liora felt her shoulders relax and she put down her brush. "Sarah, some tea please.". "No problem boss!". Not long thereafter the lovely smell of rooibos vanilla tea wafted through her studio. It was late, and Sarah looked down briefly at the floor. "I really need to rest, boss" she said. "of course, of course, sorry for keeping you so late, and thank you again for your help.". Sarah smiled and started gathering her bag, coat, and shoes.


Primitive us, God-like tech. Part 3

Posted in Blogging Writing on 15 - May 2024 at 08:01 PM (4 weeks ago) 99 views.

The Rise of God-Like Technology includes tools which significantly enhance or surpass our scope...

The Rise of God-Like Technology includes tools which significantly enhance or surpass our scope. So far beyond our human capabilities that they can be described as "god-like." These include artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and genetic engineering. Each represents a leap forward in our ability to manipulate and control complex systems, be they digital, mechanical, or biological. AI systems that perform complex tasks such as driving cars, trading stocks, or even diagnosing diseases, which were traditionally thought to require human intelligence. Machines that can execute tasks requiring dexterity and endurance far beyond human limits, from assembling intricate electronic components to exploring hazardous environments like deep-sea or space. The main point here is that the tools enhance our scope way beyond anything we've been capable of realizing prior.Techniques like CRISPR that allow scientists to edit genes with precision, potentially eliminating genetic diseases or creating organisms with entirely new traits.

These technologies promise to overcome fundamental human constraints, offering enhancements in longevity, intelligence, and physical abilities. For example, genetic modifications could one day increase human lifespan or cognitive capacities. As these technologies progress, they provoke profound questions about identity and ethics. What does it mean to be human if our biological makeup can be fundamentally altered? How do we define rights and responsibilities when intelligence and agency are no longer uniquely human attributes? What does it mean to teach and learn if an AI can arguably do it better? We are 100% not ready for this...

Technologies like social media exploit and magnify primal instincts such as tribalism and the need for social dominance, often leading to polarization and heightened inter-group conflicts. Conversely, AI applications in decision-making aim to minimize human biases, promoting more equitable outcomes in areas like hiring practices or legal judgments. There is growing evidence that sustained interaction with technology is altering the way our brains function, potentially dampening some instinctual responses while enhancing others. As technology becomes more embedded in our lives, striking a balance between leveraging these tools and maintaining core human values like empathy and compassion becomes critical. This balance; this nuance, this deep thinking...is absolutely required if we are going to coexist with tools that are better than us in some ways.

It is plausible that continued technological integration may further evolve or alter our brain's structure, potentially diminishing the influence of our reptilian brain or creating new neural pathways. Future interfaces, particularly those involving direct brain-computer interfaces, might lead to the development of new 'instincts' based on our interaction with technology.


Primitive us, God-like tech. Part 2

Posted in Blogging Writing on 14 - May 2024 at 08:04 PM (4 weeks ago) 97 views.

The primary evolutionary purpose of the reptilian brain is to ensure survival through basic mechanisms, but that part of our brain isn't everything we are only part of who we are.

In today’s context, the reptilian brain's influence can be observed in our automatic responses to threats (fight or flight reactions), competitive instincts in social and professional environments, and the subconscious adherence to established routines and rituals. This part of the brain drives our most deep-seated survival behavior, which can manifest in modern settings as aggressive behavior in traffic, assertiveness in boardroom negotiations, or the territoriality sometimes displayed in communal or shared spaces.

While the reptilian brain responds with primitive, survival-oriented instincts, the more recently evolved parts of the brain—the limbic system and the neocortex—handle complex emotions and higher order thinking. These layers of the brain enable humans to engage in reasoned decision-making, empathy, and moral reasoning, which can often be in conflict with the more rudimentary impulses driven by the reptilian complex. For instance, while our reptilian brain might urge us to react aggressively to a perceived threat, our higher brain functions allow us to assess the situation rationally, often leading to more measured and considered responses.


Primitive us, God-like tech. Part 1

Posted in Blogging Writing on 13 - May 2024 at 05:09 PM (one month ago) 199 views.

As we evolve, everything that comes before stays. There are no "clean breaks" in human growth. That is the fucking problem...

The reptilian brain is structurally simple and focused on primal urges, it governs vital functions necessary for survival such as heart rate, breathing, and body temperature. Beyond these physiological roles, the reptilian brain is responsible for more instinctual behaviors linked to aggression, dominance, territoriality, and ritualistic displays, which were critical for the survival and reproduction So much behavior can be attributes to sexual / reproductive mating rituals.... of early vertebrates.

In modern humans, the influence of the reptilian brain is evident in our automatic and subconscious reactions to stimuli. It plays a crucial role in scenarios that call for immediate, impulsive reactions, such as the fight-or-flight response when faced with danger. Despite the evolution of more sophisticated brain structures like the limbic system and the neocortex, which handle emotions and higher reasoning respectively, the reptilian brain's fundamental instincts still underpin much of human behavior, subtly influencing our decisions and actions in ways we are often unaware of.

Despite the meteoric rise of technology that grants us seemingly god-like powers—from reshaping genetics to creating artificial intelligence—the primal aspects of our nature, as embodied by the reptilian brain, continue to exert a significant influence on our behavior and development. These ancient impulses, etched deeply into our neural architecture, persist amidst the waves of digital and genetic transformations, reminding us that our evolutionary past remains a cornerstone of our identity. This is part 1 of an essay which argues that understanding this interplay between our primitive instincts and our advanced technological capabilities is essential for navigating the future, as it shapes not only individual choices but also the trajectory of society as a whole.


Genres of science fiction

Posted in Writing on 09 - May 2024 at 08:42 PM (one month ago) 313 views.

I've been re-reading "Microworlds" by Stanislaw Lem. He has a very opinionated perspective about science fiction...

...Essentially that science fiction must have plausible science! He eviscerates most science fiction as fantasy, and includes a disdain for the latter in no uncertain terms!

I think this book is a love letter to science fiction. That it is so unforgivingly harsh I think speaks to a desire for writers and publishers to seek out and create good science fiction - a genre that can uniquely explore what it means to be human in incredible ways. I think what Lem is asking us to do is treat the genre with respect and gravitas; not to be lazy or to write fantasy and call it science fiction. In this book, we are treated to a literati who has glimpsed what science fiction can be and points to the trash heap (his words) of current science fiction which is churned out for mass profit and mass consumption.

Each of these genres deserves depth:

Lem might say: Speculative science fiction, though often liberated from the stringent requirements of hard science, should not be dismissed as mere fantasy. It offers a canvas to explore the more abstract, often philosophical questions that hard science may skirt around. This genre allows us to ponder 'what if' without the tether of current scientific limitations, exploring the vast potential of human imagination. However, it requires a delicate balance—to wield unreality with care, ensuring that it serves as a tool to reveal deeper truths about our reality, rather than an escape from it. For in these narratives, the focus shifts from how things happen to why they might happen, and what that means for humanity.


Archetypes

Posted in Writing on 07 - May 2024 at 11:39 AM (one month ago) 379 views.

Helpful list of archetypes, courtesy of chatGPT


A lot of writing lately

Posted in Blogging Computer Science Personal Writing on 02 - May 2024 at 09:38 PM (one month ago) 377 views.

I've been doing a ton of writing for an interesting project. I can't wait to share it with you. I've also been developing setting for a far-future science fiction...

So. Much. Writing. I can't wait to share a project I'm working on. It should be ready by next February, and I am very hopeful it will be impactful and important.

In addition to mega-secret project alpha, I've also been developing a far-future science fiction setting lately. Most of the content is here. The idea is to create a universe in the year 7019 - far enough in the future to think and imagine and play with ideas related to who we might become. I'm folding in a space trading game I started working on a while ago (link here) but I haven't started to assign values or abstracted the ideas yet. I am hoping for a book, a computer role playing game, and a table top role playing game.

I start with vague ideas about who we are and cycle out to think about 100 years, 300 years, 1000 years. It's a really fun exercise. I have been thinking about history, and how we have changed (and haven't changed). It's helpful to extrapolate our past into our future.

Of course I have species, planets, events, factions, etc... What I really want to capture is the variety within a setting. It's challenging because the broader the scope, that harder it is to understand what that scope means. I think most science fiction is rather one dimensional - star trek focuses tightly on a bridge and a top-down command structure. Although star trek references a big universe, it only portrays a narrow window of it most of the time. My favorite types of stories are when there is a switching between micro and macro. Tom Clancy's book, Red Storm Rising did this beautifully.

Lots more to say, but I'm thinking a lot about the future these days.


The volume of the fringe…more science fiction

Posted in Blogging Writing on 04 - March 2024 at 08:52 PM (3 months ago) 523 views.

Regular technology users are easier to sequester, easier to understand. Control? Maybe not. But if you are a heavy technology user, you can be nudged...

More thinking about the future, and science fiction.

The United States has about 330 million people and about 231 million social media users (about 311 million people are connected to the internet). To the extent people use social media and the internet, they can be known. They can be observed in an intimate, private, and near-total manner. They can be tracked, followed, and influenced. There is probably a relationship between amount of screen time and amount of potential influence

Much of this nudging, influencing, sequestering, and controlling is in service for the free market. But there is enough political and social nudging to raise a wondering.

100 years from now, if the free market is still free marketing, what might the visibility into our lives look like? Might there be a backlash where people disconnect and delete everything? Might social engineering divorce us so much from our nature that we decide not to be socially engineered?

Or perhaps, might the consequence of control be so high that a shadow war is fought for attention. That activists, social workers, and radicals do everything they can to subvert a message of "more and buy". Might monk-like religious / spiritual pull us away from devices and into actual communion and connection with each other.

Science fiction shouldn't ignore trajectory. And in our current world, the trajectory of personal, technological, and privacy is profoundly impactful.

I end with a quote from which I mostly agree with:

The real problem of humanity is the following: We have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.

Edward Wilson


Transcend and Include - the future will have part of the past in it….

Posted in Blogging Writing on 02 - March 2024 at 08:41 PM (3 months ago) 611 views.

When we think about science fiction, or our futures, we should include Ken Wilber's ideas that evolution and growth transcend and include that which came before...

Science fiction asks us to imagine a possible future, often fantastic (sometimes quite dark) and live amongst the people who take it as normal.

So the good and the bad that accompany us now will most likely accompany us in the future - but it will be different. This is why I think many science fiction writers use a cataclysm as a device to purge the past. But we are still who we are - and moving humans through a crucible of change will not erase our fundamental nature. Aldous Huxley's book Brave New World addresses this through the London Hatchery and Conditioning Center - where this inconvenient human nature is purged and genetically altered. A terrifying future. The point here is science fiction should consider the way humans might evolve in the future.

Ken Wilber's integral theory, which posits that each stage of evolution transcends yet includes aspects of previous stages, provides a compelling lens through which to examine the trajectory of human progress as depicted in science fiction narratives. This philosophical framework suggests that as humanity evolves, it does not simply cast aside its former self but rather integrates and builds upon it, leading to increasingly complex and inclusive forms of existence. Science fiction, in its exploration of future possibilities, inherently grapples with this concept, presenting visions of humanity that are at once radically transformed and deeply familiar.

In considering how science fiction can incorporate Wilber's ideas, it's useful to explore the notion of developmental stages within human societies and individuals that are depicted in these stories. For instance, the genre often portrays technological advancements not just as tools but as catalysts for new forms of consciousness and social organization. This mirrors Wilber's assertion that each new stage of evolution brings about a greater capacity for complexity and empathy, suggesting a future where humanity's technological growth is matched by its moral and spiritual development.

However, science fiction also serves as a cautionary tale, warning against the potential pitfalls of neglecting the "include" aspect of Wilber's principle. Stories like H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine" illustrate a future where humanity has split into two distinct species, the Eloi and the Morlocks, representing a failure to integrate the spectrum of human capabilities and impulses. This bifurcation is a direct consequence of societal choices that favor technological advancement at the expense of holistic development, underscoring the importance of integrating all aspects of human nature as we move forward.

Moreover, science fiction challenges us to consider not only how we might evolve but also how we ought to evolve. Octavia Butler's "Parable" series, for instance, delves into the concept of adaptability as a form of evolution, positing that the future of humanity lies not just in our physical or technological augmentation but in our ability to empathize, cooperate, and coexist with each other and with our environment. This reflects Wilber's idea of integral evolution, where the transcendence of previous stages of development includes a moral and ethical dimension, suggesting that our future evolution will be as much about who we choose to become as it is about the external forces shaping us.

In essence, science fiction, through its speculative lens, provides a rich milieu for examining the trajectory of human evolution in light of Ken Wilber's integral theory. By envisioning futures that both transcend and include our current state, the genre offers insight into the potential paths humanity might take, highlighting the importance of holistic development that encompasses not just technological prowess but also moral and spiritual growth.Spiritual may not directly equate to religious here... As we stand on the cusp of significant societal transformations, perhaps accelerated by technological advancements, the reflective mirror held up by science fiction becomes an invaluable tool for navigating the complexities of human evolution, urging us to consider not just what we can become, but what we should aspire to become.

This essay is my ideas and my thoughts. I used a LLM to help me edit and form parts of it


What about the future, what about science fiction?

Posted in Blogging Writing on 01 - March 2024 at 02:47 PM (3 months ago) 339 views.

What is our future in 100 years? 1000 years?

I'm not sure of course, but it is really fun to think about it.

I am a voracious reader and consumer of science fictionEven early we encounter a problem! The definition of science fiction, science fantasy, and fantasy is pretty nebulous. There are sub-genre's of science fiction. More on that in a bit.. Books, movies, TV shows, video games and RPG's all shape and inform my view of science fiction. I note a few common themes in science fiction:

We could almost say for every piece of science fiction work, there is a different vision / idea about what the future will be like. This is very interesting because thinking about the future, imagining the future, putting ourselves into a future can start us building towards it.

Of course in all science fiction we explore what it means to be human in a very different culture, place and context. Science fiction is a unique genre allowing this sort of placement-of-self.

In the next few posts, I will be exploring ideas around science fiction, and ask for your thoughts and ideas as I do so.


The future of high school computing

Posted in Computer Science Teaching Diary Writing on 03 - July 2023 at 11:00 AM (11 months ago) 1025 views.

Large language models like ChatGPT mandate we change the way we approach high school computing.

This article will discuss the importance of differentiation between software engineering and computer science in secondary (high school) educational settings and the impact of large language models on the former. Without correct understanding of computing, we can't fully appreciate how LLM's change it.

In the 2020 Computing Curricula recommendation, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) states that within the domain of computing, there are five primary disciplines. The reason it is important to understand this is because while there are some shared characteristics between these disciplines, they are different enough to be taught as distinct disciplines.


  1. Computer Engineering (CE)
  2. Computer Science (CS)
  3. Information Systems (IS)
  4. Information Technology (IT)
  5. Software Engineering (SE)

To acquire a deeper comprehension and appreciation of these disciplines' distinctions and interconnections, please refer to the following documents:


  1. Overview of Computing Fields
  2. Field Characteristics
  3. ACM 2020 Computing Curricula Recommendations

For some more serious approachesThere is a lot of noise and hype around AI in education - I tried to find respected institutional research to help frame LLM's within education. to AI in education research, please refer to the articles below:

  1. Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning
  2. Artificial intelligence and the Futures of Learning
  3. The Position of Artificial Intelligence in the Future of Education: An Overview

High schools (and even some universities) often blur the lines between software engineering and computer science, using these terms interchangeably and without recognizing their essential distinctions When your students are applying to university please - I'm begging you - insist they read the actual courses they will be taking. . This conflation creates an ambiguous academic journey for students entering the computing field. While there is some overlap between the disciplines, clearly defined tracks are important in guiding students along the right trajectory.

In numerous educational institutions, students are exposed to programming (akin to software engineering), robotics (related to computer engineering), and occasionally resource management and abstract data structures (pertaining to computer science). Often, the overarching terms used for this education are "computer science", "technology" or "computers".

To make the distinction clearer and prepare students for the evolving world of computing, it is essential to design two distinct tracks within high school computing:

Track 1: Software Engineering

The significance of this track stems from the transformative impact large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT have on problem-solving through programming. Students should be taught the fundamental coding concepts such as variables, control structures, and data structures. However, they must also learn to harness the power of LLMs in solving problems. By integrating LLMs, students can explore innovative ways to create solutions. Essentially, software engineering should focus on basic programming, computational thinking, and the astute utilization of LLMs. I include tools like co-pilot, tabnine, and YouCompleteMe, which use LLM-like technology to vastly improve programming output.

Track 2: Computer Science

The second track should concentrate on the foundational aspects of computer science. This encompasses theoretical data structures, advanced mathematics, and computing theories. The core areas of study within Computer Science include artificial intelligence, computer systems and networks, security, database systems, human-computer interaction, vision and graphics, numerical analysis, programming languages, software engineering, bioinformatics, and the theory of computing.

Conclusion

With the advent of LLMs, it is imperative for the education system to adapt and prepare students for the dynamic computing landscape. While LLMs present extensive possibilities for problem-solving, it is also crucial to nurture the next generation of computer scientists who will forge cutting-edge tools. Equipping students with the right skills and knowledge will be an important differentiator for students entering college and universities.

This article was supported with the use of chatGPT. I used the prompt "please provide your opinion on this article" and then I pasted in the article.


Project management tools

Posted in Blogging Personal Teaching Diary Writing on 10 - April 2023 at 08:35 AM (one year ago) 875 views.

What a mess. Pricing models are all wrong. Trello seems to have the most common sense...

The best advice I've heard about project management tools is they should help you manage your projects, and stay out of the way for everything else. I'm sure there is some witty corollary here...That is, the extent to which a project management system is useful is directly linked to how well it does that one job it should do.

I investigated several project management tools, first opting for locally hosted, open-source projects (my preferred solutions for most problems). I got open project working, but the UI felt sludgy / kludgy. I then joined monday.com and love the UI / ease-of-use but their pricing model doesn't accommodate 1 single user. There is a minimum for three person teams - which is expensive.

I settled on Trello. Which has everything I want and a pricing model I like.

My project management plan for my sabbatical is on Trello.

Customers will only buy your product if they believe that the value they’re receiving is greater than the price they’re paying; otherwise, why would they pay?

Warren Buffett


Sabbatical planning

Posted in Blogging Teaching Diary Writing on 03 - April 2023 at 05:02 AM (one year ago) 928 views.

A rare and welcome opportunity to deeply recharge, learn and reflect...

Next year (school year 2023 - 2024) I will taking a sabbatical (proposal here). 14 years at my current school (American School of Warsaw), 22 years in education = time for some reflection and a recharge. Many of the technical skills I use and teach every day I first learned more than 20 years ago. Technical languages, software development practices, and development tooling has changed quite a bit in the last 20 years! With the rise of large language models and their ilk, it looks like the next 20 years will be even more interesting. I don't think the practice of teaching has changed as rapidly as technology but it also has benefited from years of researchI wonder how much has changed about imparting knoweldge, skills, and lessons in the last 20 years....

Other than technical upskill / refresh I am also looking for some time for deep reflection. I am a fan of a book by Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast & Slow. Taking the time to consider and thoughtfully and deliberately act is wise. I still feel quite full of motivation, ambition and drive. But at 53 years old, I'd like to move deliberately and maximize meaningful impact.

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

Confucius


A mostly terrible time

Posted in Blogging Writing on 26 - March 2023 at 09:49 PM (one year ago) 1019 views.

On being a parent to a teenager...

Being a parent brings the greatest joys and deepest pain. Recently our teenager has been struggling with things many teenagers struggle with On a good day being a teenager is hard... and it's just painful to see someone you love struggle. At the same time I appreciate and value struggle; some things you just need to learn the hard way. I suppose at that moment, just showing up and loving you kid is the best you can do. My instinct is to protect, prevent, and cover my daughter from pain and painful experiences. But in that difficulty arises strength and courage; and it is something each of us must find ourselves.

If your goal is to avoid pain and escape suffering, I would not advise you to seek higher levels of consciousness or spiritual evolution. First, you cannot achieve them without suffering, and second, insofar as you do achieve them, you are likely to be called on to serve in ways more painful to you, or at least demanding of you, than you can now imagine. Then why desire to evolve at all, you may ask. If you ask this question, perhaps you do not know enough of joy.

M. Scott Peck


The faltering

Posted in Writing on 20 - February 2023 at 08:33 AM (one year ago) 915 views.

Steady and true. Steady and true?

Being brave and being brave. Doing the right thing. The whole nonsense of "the greater good" for the greater good - which, to be honest, is for the greater good.  A sisyphean task; should we surrender to the wants of others or live in the self-centeredness of our own ego?

The answer lay in the wise words of Ken Wilber I think he's wise. who posited the truth of things is in both the ascendent and the descendant. That is; to shun the descendent in the name of godly virtue is an error. But also, to practice gaia Sex Magik without abandon is also an error. That balance seems a prescription best filled regularly.


The bear

Posted in Writing on 30 - December 2022 at 05:28 AM (one year ago) 1185 views.

There is a bear with a reputation for being strong and intimidating, but something is wrong...

The bear had verifiable reports of Great Deeds. The bear had big muscles, and was physically huge. At one point, the bear's territory was massive; entire nations lived under his rule. He had untold and unimaginable riches. His music, song, and dance were elevated to the highest places. His science and industry were potent. 

All of this led to great pride for the bear. He would rightly walk with his head high and his chest out. He could exercise influence. He could will something and make it happen. Smart, strong, and competent minions worked hard to actualize the bear's goals. People feared the bear, and this was his source of power and control over many people. Some people respected the bear, some people (comfortable and warm) ignored the bear. 

But somewhere, along the way, perhaps as he became old, the bear became sick. So enamored with his power and past, he didn't support and make ready young leaders to replace him. He didn't adapt or change. He fought wars that had no business being fought. He fell into his cave; afraid of losing his power? 


He could be great, of course, but he isn't, anymore. 



As far as dinners go,

Posted in Writing on 12 - December 2022 at 05:59 AM (one year ago) 536 views.

An hour drive through the first real snowstorm, a spectacular meal, two young effervescent boys, a fire in the backyard amidst the blowing snow, wonderful company and engaging conversation...

We enjoyed a wonderful social connection with friends last evening; a warm home - good food and soup on a cold night. There was much to discuss, and we covered many topics. Ostensibly we were there for the 5th birthday party of one of the boys but really, just to see friends. 

After the soup and food, after the fire outside in the snow, after the conversation - with our daughter asleep in the back seat of our car, I just felt...so filled...

Good company does a body good, indeed. 


chatGPT part 2: how we change our teaching and student learning

Posted in Teaching Diary Writing on 07 - December 2022 at 05:39 AM (one year ago) 544 views.

A high school student asks, "what will I do for work with chatGPT around?"

My seniors students have discovered chatGPT. They (like me) were stunned when they saw it. One student asked me why they should study software engineering when there is a tool like this. 

I agree, this tool changes things, but while it can provide snippets of code, I don't think it can write whole systems with various input, processing and output. Much like visual studio code copiliot, I see systems like chatGPT offering support for experienced programmers.

The key thing is evaluation. How will we know the answers we get from chatGPT (and copilot) are correct? I spoke with our school director, always intellectually curious, who suggested teachers ask students to evaluate a reply given by chatGPT. I think this is where we need to be in relation to chatGPT: a smart assistant who needs to be watched carefully. 

That being said, it looks like intelligent agents are going to become better (much better) at being assistants. This seems to be a plausible near-term future

Our job is to teach our students well enough so they can evaluate / analyze the output to determine if the solution is correct / best fit for the problem they are trying to solve. 


Sabbatical learning - part 2

Posted in Blogging Personal Writing on 03 - December 2022 at 04:46 AM (one year ago) 449 views.

How to best set the stage for new learning?

Part 1 here. With a sabbatical scheduled for next year, I am excited and anticipating some good work to be completed. Being able to coalesce many years of experience to renew learning engagements and refresh my understanding strikes me as a golden time. 

I am not only going to work on "professional Bill" but I will also attend to "personal Bill", where I intend to:

  1. focus on exercise, diet and mindfulness
  2. focus on my garden and backyard - long neglected
  3. focus on hobbies 
  4. focus on friends

I will be reaching out to friends who have taken sabbaticals to learn from them; what they did well, what they didn't do well. I don't intend my learning to stop, but this might be the last time I have for long-term break until I retire.

I can't wait!

As I prepare for my sabbatical I am building mountains of curiosities and interests. "I wonder how XYZ" works. Why is XYZ like that". These types of wonderings prime the pump for engagement and interest in the work ahead. 


update from Poland

Posted in Blogging Writing on 16 - November 2022 at 05:09 AM (one year ago) 599 views.

A Russian missile strike in Poland...

Welcome to the occasional update for the academic year 2022 - 2023.  I’ve lived and worked in Warsaw for almost thirteen years and these are my perspectives about current events in Poland. 

We learned yesterday (Tuesday) there was a Russian missile strike in Poland. The village is located less than 10 km from the Polish-Ukrainian border. It is inhabited by about 500 people, 2 people have died.

There is much we don't know but we know the missile was russian-made, and it exploded in Poland. 

According to Polish press, General Waldemar Skrzypczak stated:

It was probably hit by Ukrainian anti-aircraft weapons and misaligned, or it was misprogrammed and, as a result of various errors, went where it saw a different target. Or she got lost and flew until she ran out of fuel, the general estimates.

(almost all words in Polish have a gender associated with them, hence the word she)

To say the least, things are a bit tense in this area of the world. IF this is an attack, this would trigger article 5, which states:
 


“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
 

This is essentially Poland asking for formal help from the alliance, and falls under a key NATO idea “an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us”. Many things to unpack here:

  1.  Russia is losing the war Ukraine. badly
    1.  Russia's military has been pushed back to pre-February 24 borders, and the Ukrainian military has made stunning gains. If you are interested in non-political reading of the war, I cannot recommend understandingwar.com highly enough.
    2. Napoleon famously quipped:  Never interrupt your enemy whilst he is in the midst of making a mistake. Putin is making a doozy
       
  2. …but there's still a war…
    1.  missile attacks continue, and just yesterday there were more attacks on Kiev, and Russia fired over 100 missiles.
    2. Following a pattern in recent weeks of lashing out far from the front after battlefield losses, Russia fired long range strikes at the capital Kiev, where air raid sirens rang out, two explosions were heard and columns of smoke rose into the sky. The mayor of Kiev said Russian missiles hit two residential buildings (ref).
       
  3. Russia made an uncharacteristically rational decisions by retreating from Kherson
    1. Russian military action has been irrational, disorganized and remarkably inept.
    2. The manner in which the Russian military retreated from Kherson was more careful and competent than what they have done in the past
       
  4. Since this conflict began weapons, supplies and help have been pouring into Ukraine from Poland
    1. but the missile hit a grain storage in a tiny village, nowhere near anything of strategic importance
    2. There are also tens of thousands of American (and NATO) troops / equipment / missile defense in Poland
       
  5. Seems to me the last thing Russia wants if to trigger a war with NATO
    1. Considering their stunning failure in Ukraine, a war with NATO would be unimaginably stupid and result in a catastrophic defeat of the Russian military
       
  6. Please understand: nothing unites the Polish people like an attack 
    1. In Poland, as a rule, there is bickering, complaining and division but when the need arises, the Poles unite at remarkable speed and in remarkable solidarity.
       

We simply pay attention, listen carefully, and get on with our lives as best we can. 


saying goodbye to an idea

Posted in Blogging Writing on 10 - November 2022 at 04:49 AM (one year ago) 436 views.

This is actually a thing...

After more than 20 years of development, I have shut down moderncommand.com, a text-based game built on pennmush. I haven't touched code on moderncommand.com in more than 10 years. Github repo here.

 

Modern Command simulates running a contemporary nation-state. You assume the role of a Prime Minister (or President), and make decisions that effect the lives of millions of people in your country.

 

Technology, social, political, military, and economic issues all reflect events in today's news. You will control and manipulate this world just like real life leaders do; you will issue orders, sway opinions, budget resources, provide a vision and structure for your apt minions to do their work. You will negotiate, order, ask, sign, give, take, listen and talk.

 

Here's the final announcement. My avatar's name was Boris: 

Announcement: Boris shouts, "Thank you, Modern Command."
Announcement: Boris shouts, "you have provided me with many hours and days of escape, enjoyment, and fun"
Announcement: Boris shouts, "it is time for me to move on, but you will always have a special place in my life"
Announcement: Boris shouts, "I am saying goodbye"
Announcement: Boris shouts, "the enjoyment of creating and crafting and making"
Announcement: Boris shouts, "was made possible by you"
Announcement: Boris shouts, "so long, and thanks for all the fish."
 

@shutdown
GAME: Shutdown by Boris
Going down - Bye

 

The purpose of this blog post is to reflect on the grief of saying goodbye to an idea. Moderncommand was a dream for me, made real. I suffered a little bit from perfection; waiting until the game was “just right”. But I was proud of the systems I wrote and the time and effort I put in to make a good game. 

The game was a dream and it's time to say goodbye - this frees me to embrace other ideas and other stories. But the feelings of grief are real. I think when you have an idea you also have dreams about the idea; what it could be, what life would be like with the idea. 

I don't think you can fully move on until you say a proper goodbye. 


No peace without balance of power

Posted in Blogging Writing on 09 - November 2022 at 04:44 AM (one year ago) 423 views.

Personally and politically, this seems like it may be true.

Power is possession of control, authority, or influence over others (source). There are different kinds / types of power, and different contexts with which it exists. 

Peace is not the absence of conflict; peace is about a real balance of power between and amongst groups. We cannot negotiate through a position of weakness, but rather strength. 

I live in Warsaw, Poland. As the war rages on in the Ukraine I see how power (coalitions of power and alliances of power) can create peace, but only when there is a balance of power - that one group is not dominate over another. For Ukraine, the only path to true peace is to fight. I think this may be true for all of us.


The original hum

Posted in Blogging Writing on 07 - November 2022 at 05:08 AM (one year ago) 449 views.

A sound before our mother's heartbeat?

Lithe and moving, lost and ecstatic. There was nothing but the dance. The music flowed through him and he through the music. a perfect connection of sound and movement. He flowed as he flowed, as the music took him, each person did; each with their own call to the sound. 

But everyone on the dance floor was lost (and found) in the sound. The descendent; the earth, the ground, the body were triumphant. It was just perfect movement. 

It started adequately episcopal. 

A Proper Wedding (with People In Formal Attire). A lovely couple, a nice setting. A chuckle and tear as vows were exchanged. Toasts were made. Dinner was enjoyed and some wine was drunk. 

(Some wine was drunk, indeed).

And the traditional party favorite songs, and the traditional party dancing, mostly constrained and happy. 

It wasn't until a few minutes before the last song. Ties had been discarded, shoes had been cast aside, when it just. simply. started. The beat began and people just became lost in the movement, the moment and the move. Made of red light,  a thread emerged on the dace floor and oscillating and the guests just had to follow it; they had the surrender; then came the joy. And then the ecstasy.  The bodies began moving and couldn't stop if they wanted. The light from the thread spread out and everyone who was dancing coalesced. 

The music and dancing consumed them. And as it consumed it sought ground; with feet, with the earth. In a moment they all knew the first sound. Each person knew the hum. The body. The sound of life. 

..and he became, for a moment, fully alive


Early morning

Posted in Blogging Writing on 03 - November 2022 at 05:47 AM (one year ago) 423 views.

The early morning is magic. Quiet, still, and a time to focus prior to the cacophony of the day.

I've always been an early bird. Lately I've been getting up around 4 or 4:30. I get so much work done. 

I should clarify: I don't mean work for work. I mean making progress on things I care about. Giving myself time to focus on personal goals and make progress on growing in a way I like.

There is a cost to this of course. Going to bed early I miss time with my wife, who is a bit of an evening starling. We still connect - but I suppose I get my quiet time in the morning and she gets hers in the evening. There's a balance in that. 

To the morning, to the start of things, to the time of focus and clear thought, free of interruptions, I salute you.