Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Celebrity After Celebrities

Although celebrities function as the necessary human face for corporate bodies, they are still loose cannons. They have off days, can cause unwanted controversy and can't be controlled and shaped completely. Corporations still have to work with them and be patient to some degree. Celebrities are also pretty expensive, and they age and eventually die.
Top tier celebrities may as well not exist. To the masses they may as well be virtual, as most of us will most likely never see them in any kind of believable proximity. Eventually there will arise a virtual celebrity capable of fulfilling all the roles and demands our current tabloid royalty face, but without complaint, and for a lot less money too.
They will be able to go to Mars and back, skype us from the ISS, be able to speak any language fluently, have personalities that will be much more encompassing and appealing to more demographics than the sparkling apparitions we currently spend our days looking through in lifestyle magazines.

On a realistic level, the best way I can think of to bring humanity together is the threat of a massive fuck off asteroid that is big enough to destroy the Earth if it strikes, but still small enough to be taken out if we all join forces. This scenario incarnates the mantra "We only get one go at life".

In a similar sense, when the first global virtual celebrity starts encroaching upon and then usurping the role of its meat-filled contemporaries, celebrities as we know them now will become mortals again. Ironically, they'll come back down to Earth and join us plebs in the chorus against worship of a God that isn't real.

Libraries can be Great Weapons against Loneliness and Mental Health related Issues

With sponsored facebook ads reminding us of the 1.2 million older people that will be lonely this Christmas, it seems as though as a nation we're still boldly sailing towards our shared vision of rendering every last public amenity into a commodity or service we have to buy back in order for it to continue to exist.
Libraries are literally the incarnation of learning and education, but more importantly now I feel as though they represent more than just the importance of literacy. They can function as hubs of well-being, social cohesion, tolerance and empowerment too. Literally antidotes to the avalanche of loneliness and mental health related issues we're facing.

Monday, 19 December 2016

We Were Already Living in a Post-Truth World, it's King Just Needed Crowning

We were already living in a post-truth world. Its king just needed crowning. I think it came from the need to go beyond truths. Truths just couldn't convey what we were feeling anymore. They didn't do our feelings justice, and hearing the truth so often made it boring and cliched, so we went beyond it.
Statements that were true like "I'd appreciate it if you could pass me the salt" became "It would be awesome if you could pass me the salt". Volcanoes erupting are awesome. Solar eclipses (although I do think eclipses are happening a bit too much these days) are awesome. Passing salt over the table to pour on one's runny egg is not awesome. If it is awesome to you, then check out a volcano erupting and compare the two.
The truth is boring and cliched because it doesn't change fast enough to keep up with our crazy and sexy lifestyles. It just gets added to slowly over time. The truth is seriously uncool. The truth is a 90's dad in beige Gap Khakis.
So we have to sex truth up in order to make it great again, because the internet made reading and hearing about the truth over and over painfully dull, and humans prefer truth that is playful and very aware of itself. Seeing the truth doesn't mobilise us anymore. Seeing what we'd like to believe is the truth, makes us move. Seeing this self-made truth being crushed will also make us move too.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Taking the Moral High Ground to Win People Over

I don't think taking the moral high ground is ever a good idea, at least not demonstrating it to the person you wish would change their ways. Think whatever you want in the privacy of your own mind though.

I tend to find that it acts in a way that is counter-productive to its aims. Like, if a kid from a working class comprehensive school is eating a processed ham sandwich and a kid from a grammar school comes along and makes him feel bad for not knowing all the reasons why that ham is harmful. Regardless of the facts, it's the use of the moral high ground which makes the working class kid cling to his ham butty even more, because it's part of his identity, although he probably wouldn't see it like that at the time. He loves ham butties and this educated know-it-all is attacking something he loves.

You don't make people change their habits for the better by assuming the moral high ground and expecting them to then see the reason in your arguments. Both sides must feel like they are on the same level and facts about health should be discussed as facts about health, divorced completely from morality and moral judgments.

When people finally put into action the self-help lessons they've been bludgeoning themselves with, they feel like massive cliches.

Friday, 16 December 2016

The Kind of Facebook Conversation I've Been Wanting to Have for a While

Facebook has the potential for some great debates and edifying arguments provided that those involved within the debate remain within the boundaries of the debate and keep there attacks fairly and squarely aimed at the opposing points being asserted.

It's taken a while for me to have one on a subject that was substantial and all parties left feel like they'd not only learned a different perspective, but learned that it was possible to debate aggressively and dialectically and come aware feeling great about everyone there.

Bridget: Sometimes it seems the only road to freedom is through the firing squad of our fears. We are already in God, in freedom, in harmony,, which makes the bullets harmless.

Ben: I sometimes feel like being on the road to freedom is the problem.

Freedom for me seems either individualistic (freedom of expression) or involves the emancipation of a particular group of people (freedom of oppression for blacks), which means that a barrier is automatically created between themselves and everyone else who is not concerned with them achieving their freedom. I never hear anyone say things like Freedom for the World, because it sounds like a contradiction. One man's freedom is another man's shackles.

More and more it seems like the only road that everyone should be travelling down is the road to harmony, as harmony is the perfect synthesis of everything and everyone.

Bridget:  We cannot truly experience harmony unless we're free from all our shackles, our fears. I'm on my way to the plantation.

Ben: I don't think we can all be free in practical terms because someone or something has to be in control, and in many ways I think the feeling of freedom is actually being enslaved to something which is good and nourishing for the soul.

Bridget: Divine Love set us free. God is not the jerk we think he is.

Hermian: Harmony depends on another group or person reciprocating. I can only control my feelings, goals etc. so I am focused on what I can bring to the table of life without attachments to what others bring.

Ben: I think harmony depends upon people and groups having the same goal. They don't necessarily have to reciprocate or reflect back what the other gives on a personal level. Obviously, it would be amazing if they did, but it's about working together perfectly towards the same desired goal. I can work harmoniously with someone I don't even respect simply because we both recognise that our goal or the place where we need to get to is more important than how either of us feel about each other. I think when we put aside the personal for the sake of a higher goal, then a mutual respect can then develop and harmony in its fullest sense can be achieved.

Hermian: Great discussion Ben. My point being that while harmony is an honorary goal, I don't have control over the other party's intent or actions. So I choose to not make it the dominant factor or goal. It's an important one, but justice, and equality, and pure unadulterated love, and kindness all rank higher for me. I respect your perspective

Ben: Yeah, I'm loving this conversation. I think I'll have to take a timeout at this point though because I don't have as solid a conception of things like justice and equality. I always seem to run into examples that problematize everything I thought I knew about them when I feel like I'm just on the verge of understanding.
Love, I also would rank above of harmony, because I think love can make harmony very likely. Harmony doesn't necessarily give rise to love at all, especially in the case of my example above. Having said that, people do kill for love, and will actually try to kill love itself if they feel that the object of their love has too much control over them and they need to be free from it. And so the need for freedom returns once again! :)

Hermian: Killing for love is not love. That's power, domination, obsession and possession. When I love, I understand that the person's right to determine their own destiny and path to enlightenment/alignment overrides my desire to be in their life. Love is freeing - not stifling. At least my version of love.

Bridget: Working out my own salvation is a full time job. All the work to be done is on the inside and whatever progress is made is reflected in the outside. My understanding of Love is reflected in loving. My understanding of us as one is reflected in harmony. The more I understand the higher I reflect, or demonstrate. I can't demonstrate on your understanding of art, only on mine. Understanding starts on the inside. A true understanding of Love is demonstrated in harmony. Not the human kind of love, but Divine Love. My contribution.

Hermian: I guess the point I'm making is that harmony is the outcome of people having the same goals and working towards that. Love on your end does not automatically lead to harmony because it depends on someone else working towards the same goal.

Bridget: Harmony is my individual contribution to whatever is happening around me. We can all be at the same workplace. Working together. I am working toward going on a vacation, you're working towards paying for college, Ben is working towards paying his rent, different goals, but no one is a jerk, we respect each other and work in harmony. Then again we can all be working towards the same goal. But because I have less to gain from that goal I could decide I want to be a jerk about it or not. Harmony is my individual consciousness contribution to whatever situation I find myself in.

Ben: I think that people can and do kill for love. One example would be if an axeman was at my front door trying to break it down because he was trying to kill my son. If I had no other option and that was my last resort, I would probably kill the axeman because I love my son so much. I think it's possible to kill and also sacrifice yourself for love.
I've been learning music theory recently and I'm amazed by how many parallels there are between music and war and peace. For example there is a chapter called "Using conflict and resolution to create harmonies". I almost imagined my music theory book as a manual for making the world a better place!

Bridget: Are you killing for love or for fear. At that moment your stronger emotion is not love but probably fear and anger. A stranger could have done the same thing in that situation knowing that some was in danger. Then again someone knowing the power that love hold over us could stop the whole situation talking the ax man out of it. It has happened.

Ben: I agree with you that at that moment i probably am consumed with fear and it is fear or anger that would enable me to kill the axeman. However, I still hold that I would be killing FOR love. Not with love in me. With fear in me. But in order to protect something I love. It would be for my son, who I love. He is my love. He could be my only source of love.

Bridget: What if your son was the axeman going in to kill your brother whom you also love. Would you still kill for love, or love will find another way?

Ben: I think there are limits to what love can accomplish in the moment. I think love works best over time. But, If I'm trapped in a situation where I have two people that I love equally, but one is trying to killing the other, then on a realistic level I would try to immobilise whoever it was that had the axe and try to prevent a death from happening.

Bridget: Which means that at that moment you're not going to put a limit on the power of love. So we chose when to put a limit on the power of Love. Fear causes us to chose when to put a limit on the power of Love. But in reality if God is love then love has no limits.

Bridget: If God is love then the power of Love has no limits.

Ben: I would love to believe that love had no limits but I don't think it's something you can just choose to believe. It's more like it chooses you to believe.

Bridget: Maybe its more than belief, its understanding. To understand God is to understand love and to understand love is to understand God. He wants us all to understand

Ben: Maybe. I'm in no rush to find out. If it happens then so be it.

Hermian: Best conversation I've ever had on FB!!! Much love! Only love!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Landowner and The Workers (adapted from Matthew 20 - New International Version)

Matthew 20 (New International Version)

A landowner woke up early in the morning to go to the marketplace in a village nearby to find some workers for his vineyard. He found some men that looked strong but seemed like they had nothing to do that day. He agreed to pay them £80 for the day and sent them to his vineyard to start working. At midday, he visited the marketplace again and came across some men idly standing around doing nothing. He asked them, "Do you want to work in my vineyard for the rest of the day? I can pay you £80?" The men were pleased with the offer and hurried off to the vineyard to start working.

An hour before dusk he went out a third time, back to the marketplace, and found 2 men who looked bored with their lot in life. "Would you like to work for the rest of the day in my vineyard?" the farmer said. "I can pay you £80". The men thought the farmer was playing a trick on them as there was only an hour left before the sun would set, but when they realised the farmer was being genuine they rushed off as fast as they could in the direction of the vineyard to  start work.

When the darkness of evening finally fell, the owner told his foreman to assemble the workers in a line, and he would pay the men that worked last, first.

"Thank you for your work today. Here is the £80 that we agreed you should be paid."
"Thank you landowner!" The men replied happily.

The landowner then paid the men who had started working at midday. They were pleased to receive the £80, but not as pleased at the workers that were paid first.

Finally, the landowner paid the workers who had started work in the morning. The men took the money, but then started to grumble and complain that they had been working all day long and had done much more work than the others who started later in the day.

The landowner replied "Didn't we agree before you started work that I would pay you £80 and you were happy about this"
"Yes, landowner" the men replied
"Don't let my generosity make you feel envious of what other men get. You were happy to work for me for £80. You should be happy to receive your £80"

After a few moments the men had calmed down and realised that it was wrong to let another man's good fortune make them feel like they had received bad fortune.

They thanked the landowner for teaching them an important lesson. A lesson which only they had been taught that day.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

An Oculus Experience for Comedians wanting to Confront Nerves

I'd like to develop a virtual reality experience for Oculus where you go out onto a stage in a massive auditorium which is packed out and perform your routine, but the audience just sits there silent without any response. You can hear the occasional cough and bum shift in its seat. After I while you just relax and start staring them out which then turns into abuse just to try and get a reaction from them. Then you decide that you're done with them. You can't be fucked anymore so walk off flipping the finger to an old woman sat in the front row. When you finally make it off stage you hear rapturous applause from the audience.

Asperger's Syndrome and the Importance of Expressing Oneself Honestly

I had a really interesting conversation with a group of people who have Asperger's syndrome about whether or not they found it easier to express themselves online. Several of the comments caused me to think about how many of the obstacles they face mirror those of people who don't have Asperger's, but the ways in which both groups handled these obstacles differed.
When you communicate in writing, you basically are posting something which contains past, present and future. As people with ASD tend to gravitate towards others with similar interests to their own, if they're reading a post which is long and they get to a boring bit they can easily skip to the next interesting part. A bit like taking a remote control out and pressing the fast forward button at someone rambling on about their passion for drainpipe design in real life
One person recalled that they were always the only person in class that would put up their hand if they knew the answer. To them it seemed like "everyone else was too scared to contribute anything to the discussion". Often in lectures at Uni, I watch the lecturer ask basic questions to check whether the students are up to speed on the essential elements of a subject and be met by a hundred blank faces staring back at them.
Often in the real world people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will struggle to respond immediately or need a bit more time to respond so they can gather their thoughts. Being online means that they can take as much time as they need to say precisely what they want to say.
Things got really interesting when on the topic of expressing yourself honestly a person wrote "Without the social programming, I don't think we are as aware of societal pressures. Being partially mind-blind also helps with not knowing or caring as much about what people think.
It's kind of like how humans aren't embarrassed or hyper-aware of themselves around their pets. When there is nothing in your brain that "connects" you to a certain species you feel free to do as you please (not in a bad way). It's like how you can still care what your pet thinks, but also not care. You certainly don't care if your pet thinks you look fat or if he questions your career choice. That's what it's like to have ASD, for me at least."
Another person said "I am the opposite of mind speaking because I don't get exhausted, I just get mad at myself and feel like a coward for not speaking up and I feel dishonest. I also refuse to have opinions about things I care nothing about and I don't have opinions on lots of things so people won't really get an honest answer out of me because I don't care. I don't care what you have on or what you have on your head so I won't really have an opinion about it if nothing is on my mind about it. You just catch me off guard if you ask "What do you think of my hat/outfit?" and my automatic answer is "I don't know.""
Other people were more direct: "I say what I want when I want to. I'm a good person so if I step on someone's toes I assume they will give me the courtesy to explain myself. If not, fuck em."
The most intriguing response for me was by someone who almost saw their Asperger's as a gift, bestowed upon them in order to help them thrive in the new world that is rapidly being created around us:
"I know I am fairly alone in this camp but, not only do I not believe that ASD is any kind of error or aberration to the progress or evolution of human-beings, but I also believe it is occurring for many reasons to point us towards greater advancement.
Regardless of how easy or difficult it is for someone to accept their own nature, transcend a lot of the outdated social norms or ways of thinking and being, I believe those with ASD have specifically chosen to be born in a way where any deviation from authenticity will be acutely felt. They will not be able to lie to themselves or others about who they are, what they think, feel or want.. without experiencing tremendous awareness of this falsity, and it is in this awareness, this driving force to honor themselves, that a lot of anxiety, depression and suffering is born.

Point being, neurotypical and neurodivergent people can both suffer from the sometimes crushing presence of external expectations and standards, but the neurodivergent are coming forward in large number, as a large conscious energy, to move beyond it, to complete a paradigm shift."

Don't Manage Anger. Eliminate It By Articulating It

I like to explode. You have to explode, but it has to be a controlled explosion. A contained explosion, and the way I contain it is through writing. If my anger can be articulated and its essence be captured in writing then guaranteed I will feel 100% better afterwards.
For some people their container or preferred way of articulating their anger is in music, or going to the gym or sports. Whatever it is, I think that you have to feel like you've let something out of you which is equivalent in magnitude to the anger you were feeling.
The world is more and more filled with stewers, who allow their anger to sit and fester inside. Not healthy whatsoever. They can look forward to an unexpressed life followed by an early grave. Stewers I find tend to use vehicles like sarcasm, parody, irony and satire to assert their frustrations, defending themselves whilst simultaneously attacking the thing which they perceive as a threat.
The problem with using these devices is that they seldom leave people feeling like the anger they were gripped by has been fully released, and so it continues to build up gradually over time, albeit at a slower pace until they too have to explode, often in a more dramatic and damaging fashion.
So my advice to people would be to try and find your container or the activity that best helps you articulate your anger, be it a physical or mental activity. Anger is something which requires eliminating from the body, it doesn't deserve to be managed, just translated into something positive.

Friday, 9 December 2016

ADULT SHOP - short story


I went in an adult shop in Birmingham and true to the shop's sign on its store front the place was full of them. Curiously in this shop the adults were allowed to roam freely about the shop floor and it seemed none of them had price tags on. "How much do you cost to buy?" I asked one of the man adults.
He repeated exactly what I said but with a slight upward inflection when saying the word 'buy'.
I'll not bother with that one I thought to myself. I need one that can do more things than just repeat what I say.
The place went silent and I noticed the other adults had started looking at me with their eyebrows furrowed so I began walking towards the door
Ah! I understand what you mean now”, the man adult I'd questioned shouted. "You're looking for someone you can 'buy'".
This time he said 'buy' with an inflection that started low, went up before coming back down again.
This adult must have a very low CPU speed I thought. How it ever made it into production was baffling.
"Yes. That's what I said at the beginning", I replied.
After I had said this, the eyebrows of the other adults simultaneously corrected themselves and they began to roam again which caused me to presume they were all on the same demonstration setting.
"The place you're looking for is about 300 yards down the road as you come out of here. Go under the bridge and You'll have to wait until 10pm for the 'shop' to open”. The man adult's left eye temporarily malfunctioned as he said 'shop'. “It's near the taxi rank"
That's a very unsociable time to open, I thought. The quality of the products must be very high and worth the inconvenience. “What is the name of the shop?", I asked
He paused for several moments before telling me I would know when I saw it.
I followed the man adult's instructions which were surprisingly very accurate and caused me to reconsider the possibility that I might have made a mistake in overlooking him for purchase.
I had read a journal about these so-called pop-up shops and was keen to be present at the moment one emerged. 10 o'clock came and passed but still nothing resembling an adult shop was within view.
At midnight I concluded the man adult had most likely given me incorrect information as a result of a virus. As I turned to head back my attention was drawn to a glowing red light emanating from a small cabin-like building.
"This is definitely the place I thought. The cabin had a window and in the window sat a female adult behind a desk. I looked up at the shop's store front sign and it said Private Hire".

Amazon Go and how Google retaliates in the War for Shopping

This morning I watched a video posted by a friend on Facebook about Amazon Go, a process of buying things which involves you scanning your smart phone upon entering the store and then taking stuff off the shelves and placing them directly into your bag before leaving. Most people will be in awe of such a smooth and effortless transaction as it means less inconvenience for them and no waiting in queues. As society seemingly continues to accelerate at a pace its never known in its history, things that slow it down and hold it back are seen not only as obstacles, but oppressive and eventually no doubt, evil.

I can see Google going much further than Amazon in this game. They will have expected something like this a while back and probably incorporated the idea into their ultimate vision of the shop. When he was CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt in an interview casually announced that Google was aiming to create an algorithm for serendipity, that fortuitous stumbling upon of something which you end up loving. Although Amazon Go is smart, it still requires the consumer to know what they want to some degree, and as is the trend these days, consumers seem to behave as though knowing what they want is an inconvenience that ought to be fixed with technology.

With its masses of bulk data about our preferences, biases and habits, Google I think will have stores where a person walks in, not having any clue about what it is that they want. They'll go up to the counter and the person behind the counter will present them with a box. The consumer is excited by receiving this unknown package. They're excited to get it home and guess what the algorithms have 'given' them. They open the box and find within it something they hadn't even conceived of wanting but are amazed by the how much they do. “It's like magic! How did Google know? Every time I go in I get something I didn't even know I needed.”.

In an age increasingly devoid of an appreciation of introspection and personal self-reflection, Google's algorithms have assumed the role of analyst of our own wants and desires. It knows what we want but didn't realise we wanted, but more importantly, it knows what we will want and desire in the future. And the entire transformation is happening so quietly, without any fanfare because people feel like they are the ones that are being empowered.

If we continue to automate everything we do, even choice itself, then ultimately we become the automated. 


Sunday, 4 December 2016

On Autonomy and the Modern Changing World

It's curious that more and more people are wanting autonomy over their lives while the world around them becomes increasingly more automated. This trend of outsourcing everything we do for the sake of convenience will have to stop if we wish to remain human beings.

On Freedom

I think if someone has a large online following there must be a certain degree of self-censorship involved in order to be responsible as you potentially have a virtual army at your disposal, especially if you are a pop star with fanatical fans.
Unless you're someone like Kanye West, who either doesn't care what people think about him, because he's a sociopath, or he knows that his fans see him as an agent demonstrating the 'no fucks given' attitude they perhaps wished they possessed and so vicariously live through him.
I feel like I have more freedom to say what I feel when I know less people are listening. A little bit like the adage 'Dance like nobody's watching', because there's no obligation to factor into my thinking the consequences of how others will see me.

So the most free I could ever be would be to have no audience at all.

This isn't realistic and even if I disappeared and went off to live in a cave, I'd still at the very least have an audience of one. Myself. I watch and judge my own actions constantly. I might even have an audience of two if I believed in God and God had nothing else better to do.

The only way a person could have no audience whatsoever would be if they didn't have the ability to be conscious and aware of themselves as well others, and I'm not sure that such a person would be a person at all.

I think the audience is more of a sense than a fact. A mental construct. There have been times when I've gone to the supermarket looking like a right reprobate, feeling smelly and unclean, thinking that while I'm checking the avocados to find a good one there is a congregation of shoppers behind me pointing and gasping in horror at my disheveled appearance. But then I look around and notice that everyone is just do their shopping and so I feel fine and normal again.

In the future I can see this understanding of things being used to deal with social pests like internet trolls. I remember an incident on Reddit a few years back where a guy had been posting for two years on the site, but because one of the moderators didn't like one of his posts, his posts were made invisible to the rest of Reddit and the internet, but he could still see them on the site, so he just thought that no one was interested in what he was saying. He finally realised, set up another account and that post went straight to the top. A massive shitstorm then ensued.