Jumping Jesus

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Image from wikipedia: René Magritte's famous painting, subtitled "This is not a pipe"

In The Map and the Territory, we looked at this thought-provoking painting, and we talked about Alfred Korzybski, who gave us this simple but profound quote: "the map is not the territory". He is responsible for a science he called General Semantics, which wikipedia sums up as follows:

Korzybski's work held a view that human beings are limited in what they know by (1) the structure of their nervous systems, and (2) the structure of their languages. Human beings cannot experience the world directly, but only through their "abstractions" (nonverbal impressions or "gleanings" derived from the nervous system, and verbal indicators expressed and derived from language). Sometimes our perceptions and our languages actually mislead us as to the "facts" with which we must deal. Our understanding of what is going on sometimes lacks similarity of structure with what is actually going on. He stressed training in awareness of abstracting, using techniques that he had derived from his study of mathematics and science. He called this awareness, this goal of his system, "consciousness of abstracting". His system included modifying the way we approach the world, e.g., with an attitude of "I don't know; let's see," to better discover or reflect its realities as shown by modern science. One of these techniques involved becoming inwardly and outwardly quiet, an experience that he called, "silence on the objective levels".

Korzybski's work has influenced a number of deep thinkers, including Robert Anton Wilson, who we'll get to shortly. It was Wilson who coined the term "the Jumping Jesus Phenomenon".

In Computers and Consciousness, we talked about the conundrums we are bound to encounter as computers become more and more powerful - if a computer is able to map and seamlessly re-create all of the mental processes of a human being, is that computer conscious? Here's the video for Computers and Consciousness:

A direct link to the above video is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRiYQuisqPM

As you're watching this video, you're seeing scenes from a movie which in YouTube has been called The Singularity is Near. But after further research I see that the scenes are actually from a 2006 three-part documentary series on the notion of transhumanism by Belgian visual artist and filmmaker Frank Theys, called TechnoCalyps. Here's what it says on his website:

The accelerating advances in genetics, brain research, artificial intelligence, bionics and nanotechnology seem to converge to one goal: to overcome human limits and create higher forms of intelligent life and to create transhuman life.

Frank Theys conducts his enquiry into the scientific, ethical and metaphysical dimensions of these technological developments. The film includes interviews by top scientists and thinkers on the subject worldwide, including Marvin Minsky, Ray Kurzweil, Hans Moravec, Terence McKenna, Bruce Sterling, Robert Anton Wilson, Margaret Wertheim, Rael, the Dalai Lama and many more.

This looks like it would be a great DVD set to own, but it appears the program is not available in a format that will play on North American players - too bad! Still the entire series is available on Google Video, so here's all 3 parts. Each of these clips is over 50 minutes long, so make sure you're comfortable!

Here's a direct link to the above video - Part One.

Here's a direct link to the above video - Part Two.

Here's a direct link to the above video - Part Three.

We've talked about the transhuman movement a few times now, in Suffering in the Multiverse and in Computers and Consciousness. And we've talked about the idea that our reality is accelerating in ways that seem entwined with our awareness in numerous entries, including Tens, Google and the Expanding Universe, Google and the Group Mind, The Stream, Evolution's Fast Lane and Boredom and Consciousness. The images I showed behind me in my video for Computers and Consciousness come from Part Two of Technocalyps, which after some shots of scientists working in clean room suits, shows a visualization of our history as a moving landscape - from fire, to agriculture, the wheel, and so on, we start with the innovations very far apart, but as we move through the landscape they become closer and closer together. Futurist/novelist Robert Anton Wilson appears and talks about this concept:

"The Jumping Jesus Phenomenon is my name for the acceleration of information throughout history. I first heard of that through Alfred Korzybski, a Polish mathematician who invented a scientific discipline called General Semantics. Korzybski noted that information was doubling faster and faster, every generation. And he said we've got to be prepared for this, we've got to train ourselves to be less dogmatic and more flexible so that we can deal with change. He took the year 1 A.D. as his basic unit to calculate how long it took for the information available to human beings to double, and it took 1500 years... which brought us up to the Renaissance. Leonardo Da Vinci was in his forties, and the Renaissance was at its height.

I decided to call this unit a "Jesus": so, in 1 A.D. we had "one Jesus", in 1500 we had "two Jesus". The next doubling only took 250 years, so already you can see the acceleration factor, and by 1750 we had "four Jesus". The next doubling took a hundred and fifty years and by 1900 we had "eight Jesus". The next doubling only took fifty years and by 1950 we had "sixteen Jesus". In 1960 in only ten years we had "thirty-two Jesus", by 1967 we had "sixty-four Jesus", and by 1973 we had "128 Jesus", and the latest estimate I've seen is by Dr. Jacques Vallee, a computer scientist who says that knowledge is doubling every year. But I heard that estimate, oh, five or six years ago. I saw something on the net recently, somebody estimated it's doubling about twice a year now."

How can we possibly deal with such an overwhelming deluge of new information? I've talked about the need for quieting our "narrator voice" in a number of previous blogs, including Logic vs. Intuition, Daily Parrying, Are Animals and Kids More Fifth-Dimensional. and in my song "Automatic". Korzybski's work seems to have an interesting connection to the idea that we do better when we can achieve "silence on the objective levels", and it seems clear that the goals of meditation and mindfulness, as ways of dealing with the dizzying amount of change we are now experiencing, can be tied together into Korzybski's theories of General Semantics.

Quiet your mind, stop the needless loops, and enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

Next: Temporal Mass



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