It's the future, Jim, but not as we know it...

There's more to tomorrow than robots, flying cars, and a faster internet.
22C+ is all about Deep Futures, futures that matter. Welcome to futures fantastic, unexpected, profound, but most of all deeply meaningful...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How do you know if you are living your Bliss?


 PERSONAL FUTURES.
 This post is taken from my old blog, but I include it here, as I think it says something important. It covers the central theme of my book, Sage of Synchronicity.

“If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”
Joseph Campbell.

“Most men live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with their song still in them.”
Henry David Thoreau.

Many people, perhaps most, live lives of quiet desperation, as Thoreau famously stated. They drift through life with an uneasy feeling that they are simply not doing what they are meant to be doing, not being who they are meant to be. There is nagging voice, just out of earshot, whispering, trying to tell them something. But the voice, and its mysterious message, is frustratingly difficult to hear. So they just move on, sleepwalking their way towards a future they hope will fulfill them, but never does.

They miss their Bliss.

Are you a bit like this? A lot like this? I certainly once was. But before I get to that, let’s think for a moment. What exactly does it mean to live your Bliss?

Joseph Campbell was fond of telling people to live their bliss. I cannot speak for the late Campbell, but after many years of probing the depths of human consciousness, I have seen that human beings do have an innate capacity to live their Bliss – to discover their soul calling and to embody it. This includes you. You have the potential to live your Bliss.

Let’s be clear on something. Your Bliss, as I define it, is not a goal, not something that you simply envisage, aim for and achieve.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Beach Where Nobody Swims

Last week I asked the million dollar question - or should I say the 8 trillion Yuan question - "What's wrong with this beach?" If you didn't see it, take a look now before you read further (I''m going to give you the answer below).

22C+ member, Nancy, got it right, as you'll note in the blog comments. There was nobody in the water! Discovery Bay is a really nice place, and quite beautiful, but like all of the seaside places around Hong Kong, you wouldn't actually touch the water, let alone swim in it! The reference to Batman refers to the movie Batman Returns, which was partly shot in Hong Kong. There was one scene which had to be scrapped. That was the one where the Caped Crusader was to fly in the Batcopter over Hong Kong Harbour and plunge into the sea. However, after testing the water, it was found to be too toxic, even for Batman!

I call it the 8 trillion Yuan question,because that is how much the Beijing government pumped into the economy after the recent global economic downturn. Much of that money has gone into unnecessary infrastructure projects in the mainland. At the same time, the green budget was slashed by 40%, to save cash. Nobody knows just how much environmental damage has occurred as this money has burned, but I suspect it's more than a little bit. The government sees the environment as being expendable, because economic growth is more important. They are all too aware of the enormous environmental problems facing China, but they care more about the economy; and when you separate economy from sustainable development, there are big problems.

Besides the crappy water, take a look at the picture below, also taken a week ago in Hong Kong. The buildings are across the harbour from where the bride is standing (I hope her future baby will be OK!) That day, air pollution near my workplace was 15 times higher than W.H.O. recommendations, in terms of heavy particles. Large portions of mainland China descended upon Hong Kong and mixed with the local smog, as a result of the terrible drought. That's why the video of Discovery Bay in the previous blog post was a bit blurry - the pollution was bad even out of the city.

What price do we place on our future world, when our failure to practice foresight in the present is negligible?

Here's the shot by Hong Kong Harbour. You won't see this in the tourist ads, I suspect.

Marcus

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Rejected Genius Who Dared Say "no".



INTELLIGENCE FUTURES. Grigory Perelman, has been dubbed the cleverest man in the world. Yet the 43 three-year old Russian mathematician, who lives in a simple two-bedroom St Petersburg flat with his mother, has rejected mainstream science and academia.. In 2006, he was offered - and declined - the Fields Medal, the mathematics world's equivalent of the Nobel Prize. He rejected it, saying he felt alienated from the mathematics community, and that he was "not interested in money or fame". Perelman’s story reveals much about the nature of modern academic culture, its difficulties with the frontiers of knowledge, and the values of modern society. It also suggests much about then way society and culture, and the ways our knowledge acquisition is limiting human futures, and human evolution.

As a child Perelman followed the norms of modern education. His talents were recognised and he was enrolled in an elite maths school. By the time he was 15, he was the best of his age in the Soviet Union.


There is a general misconception that genius is inborn, that intelligence is primarily hereditary an genetic. This is only partly true, and there is wide argument about just how much of intelligence is "nature", and how much is "nurture". My experience has led me to believe that nurture (environment, motivation, and hard work) plays a much greater role in the expression of human intelligence than is commonly presented in the mass media. (1) Perelman’s case reinforces that view.

As a teenager Perelman was completely dedicated to maths, and wanted above all to be the best.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Revisiting the robots




In my last post I outlined the arguments put forward by some artificial intelligence theorists, where they maintained that a reasonably human-like artificial intelligence is about to emerge. I suggested that this is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future. In this post I am going to explain a little more about why I think it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
AI proponents’ understandings of both human and artificial intelligence tend to be based on the reductionist presuppositions of mechanistic science. I believe that at least some aspects of consciousness do not merely emerge from the physical workings of the brain, but operate through it. In particular, the human capacity for integrated intelligence (the psychic realm, to put it simplistically) most likely operates on non-local principles, transcends linear space-time, probably operates with field properties, and is capable of accessing dimensions of the Kosmos that are not even on the map of modern science. Therefore the mind, at least in part, does not operate in the same space-time as machines do.
There is a simple logical inference that futurist James Martin makes upon which his entire thesis rests. He maintains that omputers will be more intelligent than human beings because their circuitry is “millions of times faster than the neurons and axons of the brain.” Yet his logic is faulted.
Firstly, intelligence researchers have already shown that there is an imperfect correlation between processing speed and human intelligence. People who can process stimuli the fastest don't necessarily score the highest in IQ tests.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Artificial intelligence: Robots that think like humans?

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This post is, in part, taken from an upcoming book of mine called Beyond the Frontiers of Human Intelligence

Within the next few decades having a robot psychologist will become popular predicts futurist James Canton (2007). Computers will be capable of making diagnoses of mental problems and issues of well-being. Others have predicted that robots will eventually be better at this than trained psychologists. This is important, because it suggests that robots will be conscious in some way similar to the way human beings are. Personally, I doubt this is going to happen any time in the foreseeable future. Why?

Canton is probably correct that computers will be able to diagnose many psychological problems, and even prescribe courses of treatment and medication. They will probably assume a certain segment of the work of psychologists. However they will not assume it all. How many people will want to sit in front of a machine for fifty minutes pouring their heart out? And how might that same machine detect the depths of the human psyche?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Unlikeliest Futurist (Simon Buckland)

Today's guest blogger is Simon Buckland. Fresh off my comments about Mark Osbourne's video "More" (see two posts below). Simon's post refers to one of the young and innovative thinkers listed in the links at the left-side of the page.
simon
Simon and friend


Tim Ferriss (aka Mr. 4-hour Workweek) might be surprised himself to be listed among the Futures thinkers Marcus lists in his blog. Where people like David Loye - and Marcus himself - are thinking Big Thoughts about personal and social evolution, Tim Ferriss is from many perspectives the latest in a long line of fast buck merchants, with little thought for anything beyond maximizing personal gratification and minimizing the effort needed to achieve it. Reviewers on Amazon have accused Ferriss of "a jaw-slackening disregard for basic ethics, or of being "a 21st Century Snake-Oil Salesman".

For those who haven't read it, Ferriss describes how to "virtualize" the money-earning and routine administrative portions of your life – automating them or outsourcing them to $7-an-hour drones in India – so as to have the bulk of your time free to tango on a beach in Argentina, go paragliding in Montenegro, or whatever else floats your boat or lifts your wings. Nary a work about service to others, or creative satisfaction, or living your bliss – what about sculptors or writers who work, passionately engaged with their material, for 80-100 hours a week?

To make this criticism would be to miss the point of what Ferriss is saying, and the philosophical and spiritual import of his message (even though he himself is operating from a purely rational/materialist standpoint): Life is NOW, not in 20 years time when I have enough money, or a big enough house, or the kids are grown up. His critique of the work-fetishism that pervades Western culture (and increasingly, Asian too) is similarly pointed: for all that the Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule) and Parkinson’s Law are so well known as to have become clich├ęs, the 9-to-5 (or more likely 8-to-6) meeting-office-report-email machine grinds on, inexorable and unstoppable, turning people’s lives into dollars and funneling them up to the tiny minority who already have far more than they need.

Perhaps Ferriss has merely linked to the zeitgeist rather than coming up with an original insight; it doesn’t really matter. Disengaging from the machine-world and from machine-thinking is becoming an imperative not only for any individual who wants to lead an on-purpose and in-service life, but for society as a whole if we’re not to destroy the entire planet – and that realization starts with the awakening of the individual, especially of those who aren’t currently asking themselves these questions. Maybe Ferriss is talking to them more than to the readers of this blog (though his book contains a multitude of time-saving online resources which anyone would find useful); it’s nonetheless a valuable contribution to the debate on what the Buddhists call “right work”. This is a debate that doesn’t occupy nearly as much media space as it should.

Marcus' notes:
I also wrote a positive review of The 4-Hour Work week here: http://www.mindfutures.com/showarticle.php?artid=57
Timothy Ferriss' web site: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/


ferriss
Mr Ferriss uses his head... Why don't more of us give it a go?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What's wrong with this beach?

You’ve got ten seconds to answer the question above? Play the video, and then tell me what’s wrong with this beach? And what has that problem got to do with our futures?

10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1… bzzt!, Time's up!



The beach looks pretty nice doesn’t it? Taken on a warm spring day where the temperature was mid-twenties Celsius, (March 21st), this video is of the lovely little beach in Discovery Bay, on Lantau Island in Hong Kong. Discovery Bay (or “DB”, as it is often called) is where I live, and it’s one of the nicest places in Hong Kong to call home.

Also, there's nothing wrong with the focus of the camera, and the footage was taken about 300m from the lefty-hand side of the beach.

Here’s a clue which might give you a clue about the answer to the question in this post’s title.

There is lots of space in and around Discovery Bay, a very rare commodity in Asia’s World City. Another treasured experience here is the sound of chattering birds. Birds seem to be all over the place in DB. I have been to many places in China, and one of the most striking things for me is the lack of wildlife, and especially birds. Mao Ze Dong once famously extolled his beloved people to “Fell every sparrow from every tree”, and the people seem to have taken that statement literally! Not so in DB.

Haven’t got it yet? Here’s a riddle. What’s sometimes brilliant blue, but usually dull grey, and sparkles like diamonds a few days of the year, and yet is so toxic even Batman wouldn’t touch it in his rubber Bat Suit.

OK, enough hints. In a few days I’ll write again, and tell you what’s wrong in the video (besides bad camera work), and why it is important for our futures.

Marcus

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mark Osborne's haunting short film, "More"

Deep Futures are about deep meaning, and this academy-award nominated short film is a perfect comment on futures that have lost all depth. Although the film shows an industrial work setting, the essence of the society remains the same for the so-called knowledge economy. In seeking to push for more "Bliss", we can lose touch with the child within, and the simple joy of being present.

More reminds me greatly of my resident city of Hong Kong, where ordinary people have become increasingly left behind amidst the relentless drive for growth at all costs. GDP is nothing to be proud of when the soul of humanity has been sucked dry in its endless pursuit of cash and "prestige/status/face".

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Deep Futures: Beyond the Machine


Deep down many images of the future are really shallow. That's  a play on an old joke, but let me explain.

Futures are not simply dry scenarios, not merely the compact, politically correct visions of policy makers and government think tanks. They are the images which fire our hopes and dreams within the present. Futures, whether preferred, probable, or possible, can call us to action, and can inspire us to reach higher and further. Human beings do not respond well to dry, empirical data. If that were the case, data for increasing greenhouse emissions would have seen a much greater shift in consumer awareness than we have observed. We human beings need something to be passionate about, something that gives us meaning and hope, something that brings us into deep relationship with each other, the world, and Gaia. They employ other ways of knowing and permit the use of intuition and exploration of inner worlds.

To summarise, futures with depth contain these elements:

  • They inspire. They instill us with passion, and ignite something deep within us.

Why "22C+"?

For those who don’t know me, and that’s an awful lot of people, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Marcus Anthony, the guy in the picture frame at right. I describe myself as a “futurist at large”, not because I’m obese, but because I’m into free-thinking about the future, and much of what I write about doesn’t quite fit into mainstream academic thought. I’ve written scores of academic articles about the future, and countless more internet articles and stories. I’ve also written two books, both of which address the future in very different ways. “Integrated Intelligence” is based on my doctoral theses, and analyses mainstream and alternative theories of mind and intelligence. “Sage of Synchronicity” is far more accessible to the general public, and is both a serious and fun guide to living your Bliss using intuitive mind, or what I call Integrated Intelligence.

Enough about me. This blog is just as much about us, about our  futures.

Why the name "22C+"?